Molly’s Tummy Troubles
(Kristen Feighery is joining Culinarians’ Chronicles as a regular contributor. She will tell us about her adventures in searching for and preparing the best recipes for her family, and she will share some of those recipes. Welcome Kristen!)
About five years ago, my sweet daughter Molly had some pretty intense stomach issues. Actually, unbeknownst to us, they were always there but after eating Halloween junk, they made a grand entrance and refused to go away. She threw up every few days out of the blue. She had stomach pains constantly. She either couldn’t go to the bathroom OR the bathroom had to be in sprinting distance. She cried every night and every morning and didn’t want to leave us. It was brutal and heartbreaking and exhausting, and no doctor had any definite answers.
Allergy tests showed us nothing but a very mild dairy allergy. We visited an integrative doctor who immediately took her off dairy and gluten to try to get the inflammation down in her body. I learned that nearly all chronic illness is caused by inflammation of some kind, so that had to be the first thing we tried.
After a couple months off dairy and gluten, which was hell on earth for an 8-year-old, she was making very little progress. We replaced practically everything in her diet, and ours, to be supportive, and NOTHING was helping.
One evening, I gave her some popcorn to munch on while watching a movie. After scarfing down half the bowl, she ran downstairs clutching her stomach and heaved up every last kernel. I was in shock! I promptly called my doctor friend who sadly informed me that Molly needed to come off corn. Apparently, corn is numero uno when it comes to allergens, and it is in absolutely everything. EVERYTHING! My doctor buddy instructed me to get online and look up every name for corn-based ingredients and to prepare to be shocked.
Well, shocked doesn’t even come close. There were probably over 100 names for corn. I printed out my handy little list of names I’d never heard of before and went straight to my pantry to see if any of those little buggers were in the massive amount of gluten-free products I’d bought for Molly.
Oh. My. Word.
Every processed gluten/dairy free food in my pantry was loaded with corn. Maltrodexin, citric acid, dextrose, monosodium glutamate, xanthum gum, lactic acid (what?), sorbitol, ascorbic acid, caramel coloring and on and on and on…all from corn. Oh, it gets worse. Corn is one of the most highly genetically modified crops in America, almost 95 percent of it. It’s cheap, hardy, and plentiful.
I walked into my bedroom, closed the door, lay on my bed in the fetal position, and cried. I think I may have even sucked my thumb a little.
After what seemed like several hours, but was probably only a few minutes, I put on my big girl mommy pants and got to work. I quickly learned that to keep my child dairy, gluten, and corn free, I was literally going to have to make everything from scratch. I owned a little shop in Davidson, so my time was limited, to say the least. But, I was on a mission. If there were anything I could do to lessen my daughter’s suffering, I was going to do it. I scoured every website and book I could get my hands on and made recipe after recipe after recipe. More than half tasted like dirt and ended up in my trash. But, the ones that worked? We kept. And, little by little, my recipe collection grew, and my family slowly got used to our new normal way of eating.
Guess what? Molly got better. And, when I say ‘better,’ I mean in ways I never imagined. Within a week of being off corn, her stomach pains went away. And, after she got over the utter humiliation any 8-year-old would feel when every other kid in their class is having corn syrup filled ice pops, and here comes your mom with dark chocolate mousse made with avocado and dates, she actually started requesting my recipes and refused to eat anything else. She even taught herself the names of corn ingredients and read the backs of packages to make sure they were ‘clean’ enough.
We had always thought Molly was just a ‘sickly’ kid. She’d had ear infections so badly that her eardrums would pop. If a kid in her class had the sniffles, Molly would get pneumonia. And, for six weeks every year when the dreaded green pollen made its triumphant appearance, Molly would ooze green snot, have daily coughing fits, and wear black circles around her eyes. It was miserable. But, after only a few months with our new normal, we started noticing something amazing – she wasn’t catching every bug under the sun any longer. Everyone in our house might have a cold and Molly wouldn’t catch it.
We even had to stop and really think about the last time she had been sick since we were so used to her being sick all the time. But the most amazing thing? Spring came and went with its curtain of pollen and Molly didn’t so much as sneeze once. It seemed that once the inflammation in her body was gone and her body wasn’t constantly fighting itself, it could defend her the way God meant for it to all along. We were floored. And complete believers in eating clean.
Now, five years later, Molly can have pizza at a friend’s house and not get sick to her tummy because she’s healthy. She comes home, eats clean again, and all is right with the world. She can have fun snacks and a little ice cream (with lactaid) and cotton candy once in a while, as long as she gets back on track the next day. And, although I am now a true believer in healthy eating, I have to admit I would have smiled politely and secretly rolled my eyes at anyone who insinuated that food had that much of an impact, unless we had lived through it, which, indeed, we did and still are. And honestly, this way of eating is not as hard as you think. It just takes planning, time, and a willingness to protect the ones you love most.
So, since it’s summer and I’m sure everyone is enjoying their nightly marshmallow roasts, I’d like to share my homemade marshmallow recipe. Yes, they taste like heaven and roast just as well as any store-bought variety. And, I have a whole neighborhood of kid testers who will back me up on that!
3 Tablespoons gelatin (grass fed is best)
1 Cup warm water divided into two 1/2 cups
1 Cup Maple Syrup or honey
1/2 Teaspoon Vanilla (optional)
Dash Sea Salt
First, line a 9×9 casserole dish with wax paper and have another piece handy.
Pour your gelatin and 1/2 cup of the warm water into your mixing bowl and mix just until combined.
Add maple syrup, the remaining 1/2 cup water, salt, and vanilla to a separate pot and bring to a boil. Set a timer and continue boiling at medium or medium low for 8 minutes (very important), stirring occasionally.
After 8 minutes, slowly add the syrup mixture to your gelatin mixture, while your mixer is running (a countertop mixer works great here but a handheld can be used, as well). After all is combined, continue mixing on medium/high until a thick ‘fluff’ forms. This takes 8 – 10 minutes. Once fluff is achieved, immediately pour the mixture into your 9×9 inch pan, making sure your wax paper is in place.
Once the fluff is in your pan, use your second piece of wax paper to smooth and push all fluff to the sides so it fills the entire dish. Leave on your counter 20 minutes or so to set.
After the fluff has set, use coconut oil (or butter, or any other fat) to lubricate a large knife. Pull the top wax paper off the fluff and lift the fluff out of the dish by the bottom wax paper. Use your greased knife to cut into cubes and store in the fridge for several days, although my kids scarf mine down so fast, we never know how long they would really keep.
After cutting the cubes, you could sprinkle them with powdered sugar to keep them from being sticky. I dip each of our marshmallows into a bowl of arrowroot. It’s tasteless and doesn’t add any sugar to the mix.
And now chow down. Don’t feel guilty at all about it.
Kristen Feighery is a self-taught folk artist, originally from southeastern Kentucky. She spends her days painting anything not nailed down (and some things that are), chauffeuring one daughter to sporting events, having tea parties with the other, and writing a blog. She's also married to a rather large Irishman and has a pub in her house. Really.