I’ve spent every single holiday with my family.
We’re food people, a mish-mash of Portuguese
(my father), Irish and Italian (my mother).
Getting together means an abundance of
homemade food, some decent wine, strong
coffee and rolling laughter.
When I was diagnosed with Lyme Disease at age
12, my family’s relationship with food changed.
I could no longer eat wheat, cow’s milk-based
products, beef, eggs, soy nor many other foods.
Looking back, I feel really sorry for my parents.
There were very few allergy-friendly replacements
for childhood favorites back then. They must have
My parents grew up preparing and enjoying
food. My father’s mother made her own bread in a
brick oven, plucked chickens, slaughtered pigs and
created endless meals from scratch. My maternal
grandparents were Yankees practically just off the
farm. Nana instinctively knew what kinds of foods
would serve as medicine, feeding me sautéed bitter
greens and strong broths. Poppa would slice up
chilled oranges to boost my vitamin intake.
After the diagnosis, which I have struggled with
ever since, holiday gatherings were different for
me. I waited a lot for other people to finish eating,
since there was so much they could eat and so little
that I could. My parents and three siblings are
incredibly supportive, and to this day will bend
over backwards to feed me. I grew not to miss
most “forbidden foods.” Once I experienced how
dramatically they affected my health, my taste buds
But I always, always missed one dish: the ravioli
and meatballs that Nana and Poppa make for
Christmas Day and Easter. They hand-knead the
dough, crank it through an old-school roller, and
press each batch. A roast with all the trimmings
is our main course, but it rarely gets touched:
Everyone goes for the pasta.