Support the Work

If you have found the information on this blog useful, enjoyable, candid, or inspirational ... help keep it reader supported, journalistically driven, available to all, and advertiser-free. If you are able and inspired to do so, please consider a subscription to this blog. You can drop a dime or two every month, every year, or whenever you feel moved.

It will keep me writing, gathering facts, and interviewing the experts.




Parent / Sponsor



Join The Email List

Get Tastiness to Your Inbox

* indicates required

A blog about all things allergen-free and delicious

Entries in mother (2)


Love & Belonging Through Bread & Tea

My maternal grandmother

Making Someone's Presence Valuable

My maternal grandmother was a baker.  She had passed away when I was around 12 years old at the beautifully ripe age of 92.  I only knew her for a short time, yet her presence in my life was large and loving.  There was a wisdom, a naughtiness, and the knowledge that she could (and would) take on any life circumstance and make it right.  Navigating the bizarre and the trivial, she charted the world to her course and no one else's.  I remember invading her world often, and whenever I did, she always found a way to make my presence valuable. 

It's no wonder then, that when I find myself tossed about by life or the fickleness of friends, I think of her.  She was a faithful spirit who suffered no fools. 

Many years ago when she lived in her house on Leonard street, she would regularly invite us over for tea.  My mom, my sisters, and I would dress properly, and then walk up the steps to her home.  It was rather formal and mysterious, this "going to Grandma's house."  I couldn't quite wrap my mind around the simple fact that my mother had a mother, and that this woman lived by herself.  I thought it strange that she was "old", and did not understand what "old" really meant.  I just knew that my sisters were "much" older than me (and they never let me forget it), and that my mom was much older than my sisters, which meant that Grandma must be very, very old, indeed. 

Grandma receives a teapot from my sisters, before I was born.

Grandma gave birth to her last, my mother, when she was 49.  Her first child, my aunt, was 22 years my mother's senior.  She had 7 more children in between.  These numbers were incomprehesible, and my mom has always looked freakishly young for her age which confused things even more. Today I watch in utter bemusement, as the faces of my nieces and nephews consider this puzzle between their moms, grandmas and aunties.  A puzzle that adults can only pretend to have deciphered.   Grandma was a mystery.  Age was a mystery.  It still is.


An Unlikely Tradition

Besides bearing a freakishly young-looking youngest, my Grandmother also made freakishly amazing Dutch pastries.  The tea... well...I've never tasted orange pekoe tea like Grandma's.  That spicy, slightly flowery scent and the forbidden-grown-up taste became part of my DNA, its detail brewed into my memory.  Grandma gave us each our own cup, my sisters and I.  We were a part of her house, and as we grew up, our tea cups grew up, too.  My first was the tiniest tea cup I had ever seen.  But with Grandma, I never, ever felt small.  Even that tiny teacup made me feel like I belonged.  It was my size, after all.

My first "tea" cup

As a food allergic adult, I have never felt that I could transform the flakiness of her Banket (almond roll), or the doughy goodness of her Olie Bollen (Dutch Fritters/Donuts) into a gluten-, yeast-, and dairy-free version that would do her justice.  My grandmother was a true talent and became a resourceful single mother when my mom was but seven.  She milked her own cow (Bessy) and was also no stranger to food allergies.   When my mom had an allergic reaction to Bessy's milk, she bought a bunch of goats.  She used this "new", alternative ingredient without missing a beat. 

 My mom and her goat, Molly

After I grew up and moved away, I would fly back into Grand Rapids to visit, and sometimes would find my mom and Grandma's  oatmeal chocolate chip cookies in the kitchen.  These cookies were my favorite.  When I couldn't eat them anymore, I thought, "No big deal.  It's just cookies."  In a sense this is very true.  Then one day I saw my mother's furrowed brow mulling over "gluten-free" boxes of this and "dairy-free" bags of that and I had a moment of profound realization.  It wasn't just about cookies.  I thought that I had to actually surrender my grandmother into the abyss of my allergen-free world.  I was secretly mourning the loss of, not cookies, but precious memories and with them some sense of real belonging.  But by transforming a favorite, traditional recipe into one that her daughter could eat, my mother was honoring a sacred food tradition.  Food traditions have a spiritual importance, even if carried on in an unlikely way. 

I haven't yet been able to alternatively duplicate many of my Grandma's toughest recipes, but I've been able to adapt this Dutch Cinnamon Bread that my mom used to make.  When the cinnamon wafts through the house, it brings me back to my mom's kitchen and always, for some reason, reminds me of my grandmother.  I offer this recipe to you as I carry a family food tradition into my world of alternative ingredients.  I hope that Grandma would feel loved and be proud.

My Mom, about the same age as my Grandmother in her portrait at top

So on this Mother's Day, I appreciate my smart and generous Mom.  She taught me how important our ancestors are to us and kept us connected to her brothers, sisters and mother for as long as she could.    I also remember my Grandmother.  I never wanted to leave her table.  Thank you for teaching me that love and belonging can come through something as simple as bread and tea.  Even in a memory.  Even if it's gluten-free.


About Elisabeth

Writer, owner of Blue Pearl Strategies, and lover of all culinary delights, Elisabeth is a Tender Foodie. She started The Tender Palate, a website for foodies with food allergies where she consults with experts from every area of the Tender Foodie life. She believes that everyone should live deliciously and have a healthy seat at the table. Find her at and



A MOTHER'S STORY (PART I): The Subtle Signs of Autism & the Long Road Ahead

The Long Road AheadAs we close April, Autism Awareness Month, I thought it appropriate to end it with a beginning.   This is the first in the series of articles written by Kari, a mother of two boys, including a 10 year old son who was diagnosed with Autism.  When Kari approached me with her compelling story, I asked if she would be willing to disclose it so that other parents could potentially learn from the path that she has taken.   The Mt Sinai Children's Health & Environment Center, has recently published a List of the Top 10 Chemicals Suspected to Cause Autism and Learning Disablilities.  The CDC has reported a 78% increase in reported cases of Autism Spectrum Disorder since 2002. This rapid increase not only indicates that many more lives are touched by this disorder, but that there is more than genetics involved -- like the environment and perhaps how food is manufactured.

I thank Kari for her willingness to let us into her life, and take us through her journey from discovery to what has helped her son thrive.

-elisabeth veltman

KARI'S STORY - In her own words


If I had to choose one word today to describe my feelings about my oldest child, it would be "proud".  My son will be turning ten in just a few short months, and six years ago, a few months before his fourth birthday, he was diagnosed with autism.  

Like most mothers, I sit here in amazement as I think about how quickly the time has passed.  Unlike most mothers, however, the words to describe my feelings about my son and his condition throughout most of his childhood would be drastically different than theirs would be.  Now, I choose, "Proud", because I've seen what he has accomplished.  But for many years, "Worried", "Frustrated", "Angry", "Defeated",  "Determined", and "Confident" would have been much more accurate words.

I feel that our story is unique.  A lot of things fell into place for us.  It's a story I've been wanting to share for years, but never knew how.  I always thought that my son should be the one to tell his story someday, if he chose to.  At this point, he knows about his diagnosis, and recovery, but he isn't ready.  Because I feel like his story could help others, I have decided to tell it.  I promised him that I would respect his privacy, so for that reason, I won't be using his real name.  


It wasn't until the time Caden was about two years old that I started to worry.  Before then, I had plenty of excuses for why he wasn't talking.  He was incredibly agile and I remember being told that kids put a lot of their focus into one area of development at a time.  From the time Caden started walking at 9 months, he was as steady as they come.  I don't ever remember bandaging a skinned knee.  I can clearly remember him running down the hill in our neighborhood to go trick-or-treating at 15 months.  He was always on the go, and I guess I just assumed that he was too busy to talk.  There were warning signs, but his pediatrician didn't seem concerned at all.  At his one year well check-up, I was asked if Caden was pointing.  I told the doctor that he wasn't, and he just shrugged it off and said, “Well, you need to work on that”.  Did he think I hadn't been pointing and trying to teach Caden all along?  I guess not.  He didn't seem worried, though, so neither was I.  

By the time Caden was two, words were starting to come.  I can't remember how many he had, but there were just a few.  He was, however, developing some other skills that made it clear to us that he was very smart.  He loved to spend time in our driveway having me write the alphabet repeatedly.  He would say “A” and I knew what to do.  I was in my third trimester of my second pregnancy and I swear I spent that entire summer bent over drawing with sidewalk chalk.  If I wasn't writing the alphabet,  I was drawing  shapes.  I would draw everything I could think of and then shout one out to him and he would happily run to it.  My driveway was a colorful mess and my neighbors were so entertained by Caden's abilities.  I was still perfectly content with my little guy's development.  


It was also around this time, during my second pregnancy, that I started to worry about Caden's behavior.  It was clear that he couldn't understand most of what we were saying, so there was no explaining anything to him.  He couldn't follow directions and he couldn't be reasoned with at all.  We spent a lot of time that summer and fall playing outside with the other neighborhood children.  Well, when I say “playing with” I really mean “playing near”.  Caden rarely acknowledged the other children.  He was much more content to lay on their driveway, rolling cars and trucks back and forth.  It was a great neighborhood with tons of kids.  Caden was the youngest so I didn't realize at the time that this lack of interest in other children should have been a red flag.  What I did realize, however, was that the kid was getting to be a real handful.  Every single time that it was time to go home, he threw tantrums so violent that one of the neighborhood dads had to carry him home for me.  He was so big and strong for his age and too much for me to restrain at the end of my pregnancy. I was growing more and more concerned about how I was going to handle Caden AND his new brother who would be arriving very soon.  

Caden was 27 months old when Nolan arrived nearly a month early.  Aside from the expected chaos of a house with a toddler and a newborn, the transition went fairly well for Caden.  There were no signs of jealousy or anything out of the ordinary.  He just went about his business as usual for the most part.  I remember that he would get a bit irritated when Nolan would cry, but luckily, Nolan was a pretty easy baby in those early days.  We were lucky to have family come stay with us to help for a few weeks.  By the time we were on our own, it was nearing the end of fall, so we pretty much just stayed cozy inside.  This was fine by me because I wasn't sure how I would handle the “time to go home tantrum” that had become all too familiar.  It was rare for me to venture out with both kids by myself.  I would often wait until my husband was home in the evenings before heading out to the store or to do much of anything.  I was also incapable of getting Caden to nap.  He still needed a nap, but he just couldn't calm himself and I didn't have the time to lay down with him and help him relax and drift to sleep.  My husband was a real savior during that phase and would drive home from work during his lunch break to help me with this.  

My confidence as a mother was starting to suffer and I was starting to question why my day-to-day life seemed so much harder than the lives of the other mothers I talked to.


One day stands out in my mind as being a turning point for me.  I had taken the boys to the pediatrician where Nolan, who was about five months old, was diagnosed with an ear infection.  I decided to stop at Wal-Mart on the way home to pick up his prescription, instead of waiting for my husband to pick it up on his way home from work.  What a mistake!  We had to wait about 20 minutes for the prescription to be prepared, so we picked up a few groceries. During this time, Nolan started to get extremely fussy. The kid was absolutely screeching!  He was screaming and crying in agony and that prescription couldn't get ready fast enough.  I regretted my attempt to multitask as I looked at the check-out lines, but decided not to abandon my half full cart and make a run for it.  As we stood in line, I picked up the baby in an attempt to comfort him and it was at that very moment, possibly sensing my inability to do anything about it, that Caden started picking up my groceries and angrily hurling them.  Produce on the floor.  Canned goods at people's heads.  It was pure chaos and I must have looked like a deer in the headlights.  I fought to get Nolan back into the cart quickly, while simultaneously trying to shield him from Caden AND pay for my groceries.  It was at that moment that an older couple approached me and insisted on helping.  I'm not one to accept help from strangers, but at that moment, my life was falling apart and I was desperate.  My child was out of control and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it.  They took over for me.  They pushed my cart full of groceries and crying infant to my car as I wrestled Caden through the parking lot.  By that point I was sobbing.  I somehow managed to get both boys into the car, drove out of the parking lot, but had to pull off the road.  I was shaking, frantic and scared.  I called my husband and told him that I needed help.  

Not just his help in that moment, but I needed help with Caden.  

This couldn't be right.  


Read Part II of Kari's story, "So This is Autism"



 Why Children with Autism are Often Picky Eaters (by Melanie Potock, MA, CCC-SLP)