A wooden crate filled with baby turnips pulled me into a farmer's market stall. A friend and I had been wandering the market aisles, swimming in the current of late-comers who were scrambling for what was left of the week's apricot crop and new potatoes, and amid people sauntering with freshly made falafel sandwhiches and pupusas, with dogs scrambling for Dropped Things underfoot.
Against the flow, on the wrong side surely, I was on the hunt, wandering back and forth and side to side; this was not a planned pursuit in any form or manner. One farmer's stand had a man out front offering samples of his harvested fare, and my hunted game -- beets.
He was shouting that his beets tasted "just like chicken." I took a sample. Strangely, It tasted like a beet. For good measure, I took another sampling -- a golden beet this time. Still, it was a beet. No taste of chicken. No subtle hint, undertone, aftertaste, or nuance even. It was a beet. Thank God.
Somehow, this reminded me of Willy-Wonka's complete three-course-meal gum. Would a little nibble of this quite normal looking beet, turn into a chicken cacciatore or masala? A breast roasted with rosemary and garlic perhaps?
The first year I was diagnosed with celiac disease, I felt socially awkward. I still do, but the initial plunge was a jostling awakening to the fact that life was never going be the same. There was no cure. Family and friends were told and were understanding. Yet, social gatherings always put me ill at ease. Explaining about my gastrointestinal workings or rather lack thereof, seemed uncouth party talk.
As much as I believe in talking about celiac and as passionate as I am about creating awareness, sometimes I get tired. I get tired of explaining why I am borderline paranoid, and what happens when I'm not...when lackadaisical eyes miss a crumb. It isn't comfortable physically nor emotionally.
And so, on occasion, I pass for a gluten-eater. Like a shadow puppet, I mimic the surrounding hands. I push things around on a sparsely populated plate. I fork over my portions to a trusted friend when no one is looking. My sense of smell has heightened immeasurably through noticing nuances from which I must abstain. I ask to smell portions of which I do not partake, and family and friends have grown accustomed to my hovering nose above their plate. Olfactory explorations lead me to a deeper knowledge of the world, even in realms no longer tasted.
During just such a social gathering mimicry, there was a shredded beet salad offered. Not desiring to stage a public inquisition of the cook and her ingredients, I took note. This looked interesting.
That night, at home, I safely recreated what I had seen. I let my hand lead lead to my mouth, and I experienced more than smell...I tasted...