We eat our meals at an old oak pedestal table. It was one of our first big purchases as a married couple. The table came with a small extra leaf. Years and years ago, we pulled the table apart and snapped the leaf into place. And then we never took it out again.
Today, six of us sit around this table. The baby (now two years old) recently began refusing to use her high chair. She wanted a spot at the table, and we just managed to give her one.
I imagine the table was in good shape, despite its age, when we first brought it home from the second-hand shop in Bryan, Texas. But, at some point, a large crack opened up in the pedestal. It runs straight from the underside of the table down the whole length to the four curved legs.
Studying the crack, I cannot understand how the table continues to stand, night after night, receiving without complaint the burden of our hunger.
I am not sure when the crack first revealed itself. Was it at six months, when a bottle of formula gave him hives? Or was it earlier, in that first pink spot of eczema?
By the time our older son was two it had become a fissure in our lives. That was the year I picked up a voicemail with his father’s frantic voice. When I returned the call, he wouldn’t answer, and I drove the whole way to the hospital not knowing if the epi-pen had saved our little boy’s life. Or not.
Now that he is eight, I can retrieve an epi from the kitchen cabinet or tote bag, uncap it, and jab his thigh in five seconds flat. I did it this summer without crying or even raising my voice. It was only after that I noticed my hands would not stop shaking.
We were scrimp-and-save college students, but when we replaced our particleboard hand-me-down with warm wood and scrolled legs we set a course for our lives we still follow.
These days our commitment to hospitality requires more flexibility. More creativity. Either we seat a few kids at the island countertop, or we eat in shifts. Kids first. Adults after.
For years we served ourselves and our guests “normal” food and gave our son something else. We no longer do that. In part, this is because our son is older and knows when he is being excluded. In part, this is because it requires more work. An important consideration now that we have four children.
But there is another reason, too. More and more frequently, for reasons I cannot fathom, our guests arrive with special diets. Illness or allergies or lifestyles have demanded that they give up this, that, and sometimes, more than that.
These guests are often embarrassed. They do not want to cause trouble. But I tell them all the same thing. You have come to the right table.
What I do not say, perhaps need not say, is that our table and our lives have cracked right through. It is frightening, painful, and a daily inconvenience. But it has led us to a spacious place.
A place of good food and even better company.
Dietary restrictions can seem extra restricting during a season dedicated to festive food and hospitality. But this time of year, God’s goodness to me and my family tastes exactly like these decadent, nourishing, allergen-free treats. With a few of these in my freezer, I don’t even miss the dairy- and wheat-filled Christmas cookies of my childhood.
You can find quite a few recipes for no-bake coconut balls online. Our family’s favorite version is adapted from a recipe published at The Nourishing Gourmet.
- 2 cups finely-shredded, unsweetened coconut
- 4 Tbsp coconut oil, melted to liquid
- 6-8 Tbsp raw honey (or any honey you have on hand; even maple syrup could work)
- 2 cups chocolate chips or coarsely-chopped dark chocolate (we use dairy-free chips)
- Stir together coconut and oil in a medium-sized bowl.
- Add just enough honey to help coconut form a ball when you squeeze it in your hand.
- Use your hands to form about two dozen bite-sized snowballs.
- Place on a rimmed cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and freeze until hard. This might take an hour, but we often cheat and start working with the snowballs after 30 minutes.
- Once the snowballs are frozen, melt your chocolate in the microwave or in a double boiler.
- Use a fork to gently toss each ball in the melted chocolate until completely, though not too thickly, coated.
- Return the snowballs to the parchment paper and freeze or refrigerate until the chocolate has hardened.
- Enjoy immediately or store in the refrigerator or freezer.