(Photo by Barbara Horn on Unsplash)

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Charlie is one week back from having dual eye surgery.

Because the rest of everything she is going through isn’t stressful enough, she also had full lens replacement on both eyes last week due to abnormally progressive cataracts. She was the youngest patient in the place by a good 20-odd years when I dropped her off for her appointments. In fact, she was basically the age of most people dropping their parents off for the procedures she was having to undertake.

Gallons of eyedrops, several shots in the eyeballs, two incisions, and a week later, she is back sitting at her desk in the city, squinting at three computer screens flanking her desktop. Meanwhile, the Accidental Nutritionist team has settled into their food-making regime across town, shaving off 50% of the prep time with better organization and job-duty assignments.

Research is heavy and constant, and Jamie is forever opening new tabs on her computer with reference materials going something like 18-tabs deep. I have no idea how she keeps any of the sources straight, but she seems to, while marking up legal pads of paper with her notes, ingredients, and more questions to be investigated next.

Technically, we are three weeks into the experiment, but she took the entire first week to research where to start and how we might break down the meal planning, leaving Charlie to one week of egg whites, black beans, and 8 ounces of lemon pepper chicken, she manufactured on her own. It was apparently nutritionally on point but flavorfully brutal, and lost her 5 pounds.

Since then, Jamie has stepped in and built salmon salads, and patties, made three kinds of fresh green beans, roasted citrus asparagus, sweet potatoes, two chickens, slow-cooked three kinds of pork, manufactured taco kits out of romaine lettuce boats, made three adapted curries, brought in Italian, Mexican, and Moroccan flavors, riced, smashed, baked and flavored eight heads of cauliflower, spiced three kinds of beans, adapted chickpeas into croutons and meat substitutes, noodled sweet potatoes and zucchini, adapted pasta and pesto sauces, and invented a dessert parfait from almond butter, sesame seeds, non-sugared berry compote, and almond flour which I christened “Fruit Yay.”

…And Charlie has lost another 10 pounds.

We are now three weeks into our four-month journey. Jamie is learning to write recipes (of a sort) down for essential further research, testing, adaptations, and meal replications. Charlie is reporting back on each taste-testing based on reheat values, textures, flavor adaptations, and additional preferences. I am on food prep slice-n’-dicing and clean-up, while also building this site and starting the blog. Eventually, I will be prying actual recipes from Jamie’s reluctant hands, and sharing her research with you as we go along, understanding that we are far from the only foodies juggling some kind of extreme nutritional predicament for which there is no single source to go to for help.

…As Jamie says,” There are zero excuses for being boring about this, no matter how intense the restrictions are.”

If we can offer any ideas along your quest as a jumping-off point, feel free to grab and play away. Also, please share any new inventions you think would be helpful on our journey as well!

Happy trails, all!


Some essential books in use:

When it comes to single-ingredient restrictions and pairing ideas, this kid is king!
Same team, same basic idea — this is more for the us’ than Charlie
If you don’t already have this glorious collection of artistic and culinary joy, you want it. Trust me.

Some essential (and ongoing) inspirations:

  • Anything by Nigella Lawson. She is inventive, evocotive, has a cookbook collection to die for, and loves to put experimental twists of flavors in to enhance the ordinary to extraordinary. (She has several shows on YouTube as well)
  • Dear and wonderful Stanly Tucci. He has two “must” books, and as a foodie cooking for a family with a variety of eating restrictions and preferences, he is a great place to check in for keeping meats, dairy, and starches out of Italien cooking.
  • The Tiny Chef. Because he is sheer joy. Whenever you need it. (You may say you watch for the kids, but it’s not really true.)