Against the Odds


On a recent lazy afternoon, I was looking through posts on my favorite food blogs and saw that one of them—Pastry Affair—was having a giveaway. I entered, partly because I wanted the prize—a fancy blender—but I was also taken with the content of the particular post, a recipe for almond milk accompanied by a discussion of the writer’s (Kristin Rosenau) severe dairy intolerance. Pastry Affair is a fairly mainstream baking blog, one which rarely includes posts tailored toward specialized diets. Its recipes are full of cream and butter, so I was shocked to learn that Kristin can’t eat most of the food she makes for the blog, that even small amounts of dairy make her extremely sick.

My own approach to food writing is more selfish. I write about food I can eat and bake things that fall within the limits of my restricted diet. I was diagnosed with IBS only two years ago and went gluten free a year after that. I’m still new to all of this restriction and I struggle.

Despite having learned to make gluten-free versions of most of my favorite foods I often slip into self-pity when I find myself in a social situation where these options aren’t available. I hate not being able to have a slice of wedding cake, a casual piece of pizza, a coffee shop sandwich.

Sometimes I can see my new food guidelines as a challenging adventure, but more often I view them with frustration. Reading Kristin’s post, I was struck by her poise, positivity, and risk-taking. I left a comment, entered the drawing, and waited.

That week, while waiting for the results of the giveaway, I felt excited. I thought about the recipes I’d make if I won the blender. It had been a long a time since I’d won anything; it had been a long time since I’d entered something, at least something that wasn’t decided at least in part by merit.

As I kid, I loved entering contests and I remember winning my fair share. The prizes were never anything big, usually just a coupon or a t-shirt, but winning was exciting. There was something about entering contests, about hoping for something, against the odds. Taking a chance, believing in possibility, was like dreaming, like magic.

Fairy tale magic is often about overcoming impossible odds. The heroines take on tasks that are beyond their means. A girl must spin straw into gold, or sort lentils from stones, or find a place east of the sun and west of the moon. These impossible tasks are somehow always completed, and hearing these stories as a young girl instilled in me a belief that I could achieve impossible things.

Somewhere along the way, I stopped reaching for things that seemed impossible. I started believing in the odds. I became practical. But this practicality, while safe—and even useful—is limiting. It keeps from a great many losses, but also from the potential of winning. I’d like to break free of it, to bet on myself.

In that spirit, I’ve started entering all the giveaways and raffles I can find, as long as the entry fee is less than a dollar. I mean, I can’t totally give up on practicality J





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