There are a few sacrifices I’ve had to make since H started his low FODMAP diet, but one of the hardest was having to drop alliums from the repertoire, or at least the more frequent forms of them. No more onions, no more perfectly pureed garlic. So while we can still include the green stalks and leaves of various things like leeks, spring onions, garlic, etc, the flavour is undeniably different, and the ingredients simply don’t behave in the same way.
At the same time, I still want us to enjoy the same foods we did before as much as possible, because it’s tough for a teen to stand out sometimes, to be the “difficult” one, and the more I can do to normalise his dietary requirements and make them accessible for people to prepare, the better it will be in future for him and others on the same diet. So, much as I used to do for coeliac-friendly food at the shop in London.
H has always counted roast lamb and mutton among his favourite dinners, and now we’re in Yorkshire we’re lucky enough to have a phenomenal butcher at Keelham Farm Shop in Skipton, where they buy in locally-raised meat that has incredible flavour. And it doesn’t get much better than a whole shoulder of mutton. I’ve used this recipe for both dinner parties and simple family lunches, and it’s one of those glorious dishes that offers a huge reward for relatively little effort: 15 minutes of prep and you’re pretty much done until you have to cook the accompaniments, which themselves can be pretty low effort if needed.
Today, it’s just the three of us in the house for dinner, which means we’ll also get to enjoy a pile of leftovers. I write this as the mutton is slowly filling the downstairs with delicious smells, and knowing I’ve the rest of the afternoon free for a little gardening, and to pack away summer clothes that have barely been used this year. It’s time to embrace autumn, and this dish, served with fresh, seasonal vegetables, is a wonderful way to celebrate the arrival of colder days.
I want to talk about socks. I’ve spent years of my life considering them a necessary evil, or silently cursing as I end up with a rash around my ankles courtesy of my allergy to elastic. They’ve been interchangeable, almost disposable, as the sock monster collects his tithe and leaves them bereft, forced into settling for a lesser mate from dogged pragmatism, or just plain fear of the bin.
It would be fair to say that socks are not a favourite garment of mine, or weren’t until the last pair of shop-bought, allegedly hypoallergenic socks had me itching within minutes and I realised I was going to be stuck with tights and knee highs forever. Well, unless I did something about it.
I came to yarn crafts comparatively late in life, when asked to buy a book as a gift for a friend’s daughter so they could learn crochet. My hugely talented granny had tried on numerous occasions to teach me and my best efforts looked like I’d given the yarn to one of my cats, so I was doubtful a mere book could teach anyone in isolation. I bought one book called ‘Kids Learn to Crochet’, and figured that if it could teach me, I would buy a copy as a gift, along with some starting supplies.
Years have passed since then, and I love to crochet for the colours, the textures, and the calming action that can help me deal with moments of mental health crisis in the way baking used to. And when one day I spotted a sale on sock yarn, I wondered whether I might be able to overcome my sock problem by learning to knit my own. The worst case scenario was having more lovely yarn to crochet with. so I bought it and hoped it wouldn’t just end up as a shawl.
I took almost a year before trying. Part of that was lack of time, part lack of mental space to learn and concentrate on a new skill, let alone understand a pattern. And partly an inability to prioritise my own needs when determining how best to use my time.
Today, another pair of socks has come off the needles, and I love wearing them, especially against my rather sober navy dress and black tights combo that is my go-to comfort outfit for those days where migraine lurks in the back of my skull, threatening to come out and play with the least misstep of food, drink or activity. They feel like they’re giving two fingers to the migraine, as well as cheering me with their colour. And should I be forced to hide in the dark later, my socks are no longer an irritant, but a friend providing warmth and comfort.
So now my socks are some of my favourite clothes and have become a process in themselves, from seeing a beautiful yarn – and giving it a squish and a stroke – to watching the pattern develop as the rows progress. The much-feared Kitchener stitch that I was convinced would defeat me is now an ally signalling the readiness of my socks. A new sock day is a celebration, like meeting someone you instinctively know will become a friend. And here they are, fresh on my feet. Happy sock day to me.