When Touch Is Forbidden, Food Becomes My Love Language

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by Emma Schmitz |

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Last June, my parents and I stayed in a house in San Francisco while my mom, Diana, recovered from a single-lung transplant. Note that this was 2020 — the year of COVID-19.

Because I was visiting from my own home hundreds of miles away, I had to take precautions to protect my recovering mother as much as a caregiver possibly can. This meant avoiding physical contact with her, wearing a mask around her at all times, and making sure not even a speck of dirt or invisible bacteria were on the hands that made her food.

When touch is forbidden, food becomes my love language. This part was an easy transition for me because I frequently play in the kitchen in my life back home. My foodie mom has unintentionally trained me to have high expectations when it comes to food. I was introduced to French cuisine as a kid, and had the immense privilege of enjoying five-course meals by Michelin-starred chefs before the age of 18.

This equation doesn’t quite add up when you live on a regular person’s budget. When Michelin-starred is the ideal, restaurant-quality is the standard. Thus, I find myself in the kitchen often, making the creative dishes I don’t want to pay someone else for — my version of a small child’s sketch of a Rembrandt. 

My parents know this about me and expressed that they were excited to have me cook for them. I told them they were very nice for saying that, and that they would soon find out I kind of find cooking to be a chore. (Much like writing, I have to do it to feel human, but it’s hard to maintain a routine!)

I was worried about having to cook within my mom’s new dietary restrictions. My style of cooking is to fly by the seat of my pants, thinking up recipes from whatever’s in the fridge and cupboard. Not exactly a chef who follows guidelines or restrictions.

Oddly enough, my mom actually grew up on saltines and Velveeta cheese. No matter how elite her taste buds are now, she still has a hankering for humble and comforting processed foods like brick cheese and “real” mayonnaise, which it turns out fit within her new meal plan.

My mom’s dietary restrictions as a recovering lung transplant patient can be summed up as: When in doubt, cook it out. No raw fish (goodbye, sashimi), no rare steak (now it must be sinfully seared to death), no soft, unpasteurized cheese (oh, the humanity!), and no sliced meat from the deli (unless you heat it up — bon voyage, cold cuts!). My pregnant best friend joked that she’s on the same diet as my mom, and she’s not wrong.

Giving yourself restrictions or structure is essential for growth. Adapting to new guidelines forces you to evolve, devise other ways, think differently, and grow as a person. I could’ve viewed cooking for my mom as an annoyance, but I had literally signed up for it (her eligibility depended on her caregivers signing an agreement), and who am I to turn down a good family meal?

My mom could view her new nutrition plan as a burden that prevents her from living the life she used to love, but she’s the kind of person who would balk at the thought of taking anything for granted after receiving the gift of a new lung.


Note: Pulmonary Fibrosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Fibrosis News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary fibrosis.


Diana avatar


And what a great chef she is! ❤️


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