Good morning everyone,
Over the weekend, I found some time for nestling into a corner of our sofa to leaf through the pages of a magazine. I never expected to find what I did, but as is certainly the nature of life, something pops up when you least expect it to. The best part was, and call me superstitious, but it felt like the universes’ forces and energies meant for me to see this particular article. What a wild world! (Thank you Cat Stevens, now known as Yusuf Islam, for the 1970 hit “Wild World“.) What was I reading? The bimonthly magazine, Alcalde that is distributed by Texas Exes. The article I read was “Uncommon Sense“, written by Rose Cahalan, which can also be found on the Texas Exes website or in the hyperlink above. Below you will find an excerpt from the piece.
One day in fall 2007, Christine Ha tried to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich—and she couldn’t do it. A year earlier, Ha had prepared an elaborate Thanksgiving feast for her family, but now she found herself throwing the sandwich away in frustration as she wiped jelly off her hands. “It was so depressing to go from making fancy dinners to being unable to make a sandwich,” she says. “I thought I would never cook again.”
Ha was losing her eyesight. It started after her sophomore year at UT, when the computer screen at her finance internship had unexpectedly gone blurry. The next four years were a haze of doctor’s appointments and inconclusive tests. Eventually Ha even had to quit her first post-grad job in software consulting.
After she was finally diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disorder called neuromyelitis optica and told she would lose nearly all her vision, Ha says she felt a measure of relief. “I’m the kind of person who needs a game plan,” she says, “so finally getting a correct diagnosis after four years was a starting point.”
She decided to try cooking again, with the help of a vocational counselor who coached her as she relearned basic skills. Before long she wasn’t just making peanut-butter sandwiches, she was cooking multi-course dinners—only this time with the aid of a talking thermometer, Braille labels on her stovetop, and extra-long oven mitts. The diagnosis also spurred her to change careers.
Read the rest of the article HERE!
In this article, Rose Cahalan–the author–begins by explaining Christine Ha’s experience with making a peanut butter sandwich with just enough detail that we are able to immediately empathize with the story. We continue reading to find that not only is Christine a lover of the culinary arts but she is also a lover of the written word. Because of this, I knew I would be thinking about this story for days and I had to find a way to share. My blog seemed like the perfect place!
One of the first aspects about this story that struck me was the most obvious subject-matter, cooking, but more to the point, cooking without sight. Though my knife skills are improving daily with more precision and ease, I certainly make mistakes and I’m able to SEE those mistakes. Christine’s ability astounds and encourages me to challenge my other senses more. Yes, I’ve seen videos of big name chefs who speed dice without looking, but the ability to artfully use their knives takes confidence that is built up with years of practice coupled with the ease of knowing they could look down for accuracy at any time. All of this to say, when you love something enough–however illogical it may seem to others–find a way to make it work!
Next, I was struck by the manner in which the piece addresses, subtly, that we are all forced to relinquish power at some point in our lives. There are times when the circumstances that surface this ‘release of power’ are more unpleasant for some than others, and oftentimes, not our choice. In the world of food, there are many certainties–produce tastes better when it is in season– and uncertainties–will the frost this winter ruin the crops? However, it occurred to me while reading this piece that very few of us recognize what an amazing gift it is to be able to transform a semi-ordinary bundle of veggies into a gourmet meal for yourself or a group of people. And aren’t we all convalescing due to the abrasions of day-to-day life? It would be easy to let such a traumatic event turn oneself into a surly person, but Christine’s story implies just the opposite.
On a more personal level; I can say I have not yet experienced anything as traumatic as what Christine Ha went through, however I have certainly had, and still have, obstacles on my food journey. Reading her story has made me all the happier I haven’t thrown in the flag. We only have one life, and it is our choice to make the most of it, whatever that means to you. Close your eyes and envision the role food plays in your life, whether it’s on an activism level or right in your backyard. Allow yourself the gift of self-appreciation, as we all do this too seldom.
I hope when you read this culinary adventure tale, you will be just as captivated and moved as I was. Inspiration shows itself when you least expect it and in the strangest places. Thanks world for not letting me down!
Tell me about a hardship or road block that interrupted your food journey and how you were able to move beyond it or what you are still doing to overcome the set-back. And remember…bite responsibly!