Today I am leaving for Connecticut.
I haven't been back to the East Coast in six years. The last time was in January of 2004, when my parents and I went back for a week to enjoy Manhattan and so that I could get the remnants of my belongings from my former roommate. I went to Fordham University for two years, but life had slammed me to the curb so hard that I decided it was best for me to crawl home to California to recuperate.
On that last trip, I met with my dean at Fordham, whom I had sent a card from India stating that I would not be returning in the fall semester of 2003 for my junior year. He was very nice when he met with me, and he told me that I would be able to resume at Fordham any time I wanted to. I saw a few of my old friends, but by that point our lives were so different we didn't have much in common anymore.
Now I'm returning, but to much kinder company. For the bulk of our trip Serrano and I will be staying with his maternal grandparents, Nanny and Sarge, who I spent a lot of time with last summer when they visited for two weeks. Since my only surviving grandparent has been haunted by dementia for over ten years, I was very touched when they told me that I could call them my grandparents.
Being the protective boyfriend that he is, Serrano warned them that I can't eat any dairy or gluten. Fortunately for me, this is a family that has become accustomed to accommodating food sensitivities. Serrano's cousin realized a couple years ago that she felt infinitely better if she didn't eat gluten and dairy. Habanera, Serrano's mom, and Poblano, Serrano's brother, are lactose intolerant but cheat occasionally and have both tried eating gluten free. Nanny also has problems with "the lactose".
Nanny is Lebanese and Sarge is Sicilian, and they both love to cook. It's a family trait, as far as I can tell. What was amazing to me was when Serrano told me that he and Sarge went over every dish they plan on making for us while we're staying with them. Serrano told them to buy Quinoa pasta for Pasta Fagioli, told them to try using Quinoa instead of wheat germ in Nanny's tabbouleh and kibbe. He's helped them figure out how to make each dish gluten free so that I can enjoy everything along with everyone else. Sarge even called each restaurant he plans to take us to and asked if I could bring my own pasta or if they have gluten free pizza crusts. Serrano's brother Pasilla lives in Manhattan, and we're planning on spending a few days in the city with him, so he emailed me a list of Yelp gluten free restaurant reviews so that we have choices for eating out.
Needless to say, I'm very touched by the effort they've all put in to helping with my food restrictions. It can be such a struggle, but it's wonderful to know that I won't have to worry about what I'm eating. This way I can enjoy each meal, and I can focus my attention on spending time with everyone, not worrying that I'll be doubled over in pain later. I do plan, however, to learn how to cook Nanny and Sarge's renowned dishes. Hopefully I can convince Sarge to make pasta sauce from scratch, which is so much better than store bought. I'll share what I learn with you, since the best recipes are the ones that are passed down.