“Mama, do you want some pizza?”
I’m bustling about the dining room, looking at baking books for ideas. Danny’s in the kitchen, cooking up something. This is what we do, the three of us, when we’re in these rooms. We’re cooking.
Lu spreads out the Toy Story plates, red plastic teapot, and black bakeware we bought for her at Granny’s Attic, the thrift store here on the island. Every time we go, she finds another 25-cent item to add to her pink refrigerator. She loves bringing out the bowls and tiny whisks, the frying pan and polka-dotted tea saucer, the lemons and that avocado we should have eaten days ago. She has set up shop. She’s ready to make pizza.
“Mama, what would you like on your pizza?” she asks me from across the room.
“Well,” I say, as I turn down The Music Man soundtrack playing on the iPad. “What do you have?”
“Let me see,” she says, in a slow thoughtfulness. “I have tomato sauce in this pan, fresh mozzarella here, and some burrata over here. Would you like any of those?”
“I’ll take burrata, please. What are my other options?”
She reaches for the lime. “How about this? If I squeeze it on top of the pizza, it might taste good!”
“True. That would taste good. Are you going for a Thai-style pizza, like the food May makes?”
“Yes! Like the Thai restaurant! I need some lemongrass.”
I suggest cilantro, some coconut milk. How about roasted chicken? Danny and I look at each other across the room. Hm. This isn’t a bad idea, really. How about a Thai roasted chicken flatbread pizza soon?
“Mama, your pizza is done. There is tomato sauce, burrata, apples, raisins, lime, and chicken. Would you like it now?”
I reach for the plate, then I pull back my hand. “Hey honey, is this a gluten-free pizza?”
“Of course!” she shouts. “I want you to eat it!”
Lu has grown up in a house without gluten, even though it seems she can eat it. It’s safer for me if there isn’t the fear of cross-contamination from grocery-store wheat bread and packaged snacks in the kitchen. So we’ve raised Lu on the food we eat: whole foods, in season, playing with flavors, and on the table in time for dinner. She would eat pasta every day if she could. She eats Jovial pasta, happily. She doesn’t miss the gluten.
She doesn’t know that most people think gluten should be there to live a good life. She eats the food we put in front of her. (Well, except that week she refused to eat peanut butter, until we figured out she had eaten a piece of peanut butter toast with sunscreen on her hands. She was convinced that peanut butter tasted like sunscreen.) We got lucky. And maybe we had something to do with it. This kid loves food.
She loves me even more. She is careful to kiss me on the cheek if she has eaten something with gluten in a restaurant. She sometimes says that she can’t eat gluten, since Mama can’t. (I remind her that she’s fine and she goes back to eating a hamburger with Daddy on the other side of the table from me.) And she always offers me a slice of gluten-free pizza at her restaurant.
“Thanks for my pizza, my love,” I say, as I mime eating the air. “Wow, this is good pizza, kiddo!”
She beams. “I’m a good cooker, Mama. Aren’t I a good cooker?”