"God showed me something small, no bigger than a hazelnut, lying in the palm of my hand… and it was round as a ball. I looked at it with the eye of my understanding and thought: 'What can this be?' And it was generally answered thus: 'It is all that was made.' It was so small I thought it might disappear, but I was answered... everything has being through the love of God." --Julian of Norwich

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Food and Me, #4: On Corn and how it is in everything.

...And I needed to be ready to do anything in order to have the willpower to give up corn!

I was still feeling miserable when my mom came to visit me in August of last year.  In fact, I had lost a whole week out of a six week class and had to apply for extensions for my papers.  I didn't think of myself as sick, I just had headaches sometime, so it really got my attention when my health was holding me back from my school work.

When my mom told me that migraines are frequently caused by food allergies, I was interested, but unconvinced.  From what I've read about migraines (especially on nytimes.com) there is very little that doctors can do to treat migraines.  It seemed too easy to say they could be cured by avoiding a certain food.  Besides, I've always kind of resented picky eaters, and I was convinced that allergy sufferers were another kind of picky eater.  But after a little preliminary testing, Mom and I decided that I was probably allergic to corn, and I decided to try to eliminate corn from my diet. 

It seems easy, right?  I don't eat that much of the yellow stuff, maybe a couple corn-on-the-cobs a year and sometimes some frozen corn or corn bread.  I did eat a lot of popcorn, but I was pretty sure I could survive without it.  I knew to avoid corn starch and corn syrup (including the high fructose kind) and found that these were the foods that would immediately give me a headache if I had them.  But after a month of somewhat half-heartedly avoiding all these things, I still had headaches.  So I thought that maybe I should do some research about corn allergies online.

What I discovered was stunning.  There are so many more foods with corn than I ever dreamed!  Here is a picture of all the corn-laden products I had in my house at the time I checked the website:

Needless to say, I started to become a little overwhelmed.  My wheat flour was contaminated with corn (same milling machines), all canned goods (citric acid), any condiment made with white vinegar, things with "natural" sweetener xylitol (including most chewing gums), breads, even shampoo and conditioner!  For a complete list of trouble ingredients, check this website.  The documentary King Corn also discusses how corn is in many of the foods we eat today.

I have made long, slow progress against the allergy.  I was used to cooking for myself, but not to the extent that I now had to.  Everything had to be made from scratch with the corn-free substitute ingredients that I found.  There were no short cuts and there were very few restaurants where I could eat at with confidence.  I was also constantly finding new things that I was sensitive to, as I eliminated corn and became more sensitive.  So I found it really hard to enjoy food.  I was pretty hungry for a couple months.

But the good news is that I've gradually found foods I can eat with confidence and many of them are organic or local brands that perhaps I should have been eating in the first place.  But my supermarket-trained obsession with the getting the lowest price and the best deal had been holding me back (I'll explain this a little in the next post).  Clint and I aren't rich, but when we find healthy food that is nourishing, it's worth it to spend the extra little bit. 

And I've also found that it was worth it to spend the extra time that it took to make our food.  At first I found it very exhausting and frustrating.  Many of our favorite recipes from the past few years were no longer useful.  I felt I was starting over again from the beginning.  But the work researching groceries, trying new recipes, and plain old cooking and washing dishes has continued to have the effect of planting my feet on the ground.  I'm not just a mind who happens to have a body, but a whole person.  Taking care of myself, my body, is important work, and it teaches me about God.  And in the last month I've been convicted that it's just as important to eat slowly and enjoy my food.  Food is not just fuel for my machine, it is a good gift from God.  I have a new-found gratefulness for my daily bread.

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