When I found myself newly single, I started spending a lot of time baking. I love not only the taste and the smell of it, but its underlying message: that no matter how bad things may look in the beginning, they can always turn out with the right combination of energy and time. In an age when society seems bent on casting out gluten, I often joke with my kids that I should make us t-shirts that say, “All Gluten, All the Time.”
It was while munching down on some of my home-baked goodies that the boys asked the dreaded question: when was I going to start dating?
“You don’t have to concern yourselves with that,” I dismissed uncomfortably. “If I want to date someone, I can do it when you’re with your dad. There’s no reason for it to affect our time together.”
My youngest son frowned. “I felt a pain in my stomach when you said that, Mommy,” he told me.
“Yeah, Mom,” chimed in his brother. “I don’t think that’s right. If you date someone, we want to get to know him. Besides,” he added with a shrug, “we like meeting new people.”
And there I had it: my sons’ express permission to search for romance. Not that there were many prospects.
One man who seemed like a nice fellow sold drinks at a local farmers’ market. I had been working on an opening line for a while. I had an idea for a business opportunity that would pair his drinks with the baked goods of another vendor at the market. This is how a corporate lawyer flirts when she finds herself single for the first time in her adult life: she tries to impress the target with her instinct for joint ventures and strategic alliances.
One hot summer’s day at the market when the boys were momentarily distracted, I took a deep breath and approached the drink guy. I complimented him on his fine refreshments and asked if he knew the baker a few stalls down, because I had an idea for them to partner together.
“Can’t do it,” said the drink guy abruptly. “I don’t eat gluten.”
I was thrown off script. “Well,” I pointed out nervously, “You wouldn’t actually have to eat the gluten …”
“Nope,” he said briskly. “Not interested.”
I’d been struck down. I don’t know how long I stood there before my youngest son tugged at my arm. “What’s wrong, Mommy?” he asked, seeing the dejected look on my face.
We walked away from the drink stall. “Well, honey,” I said, “The drink guy seems like a nice man to get to know but it turns out he doesn’t eat gluten.” My son’s face fell. “Not only that,” I added, “but he doesn’t make friends with people who do.”
His jaw dropped. “But Mommy, you LOVE gluten!”
“You’d rather date a man who eats only gluten than a man who eats no gluten, right Mommy?”
There was a clammy five dollar bill in my fist that I had intended to spend on drinks. Instead, we walked over to a young man who was selling warm loaves of artisanal dark rye bread and bought a loaf. When we got home, my kids broke it open and devoured it like it was a chocolate bar, savouring the dense graininess of it in a way those Wonder Bread makers don’t want us to know is possible.
“Drink guy out,” one of my boys proclaimed loudly, giving a big thumbs-down.
“Bread guy in,” said the other, raising his thumb up high.
A few weeks later I was walking down King Street when I came across a gentleman friend I hadn’t seen in a while. “You should visit,” he invited.
“Okay,” I replied, “I’ll bake something –”
He put up a hand as if to censor me. “It would have to be gluten-free,” he stipulated.
I turned and walked away.
Babble by Anita Odessa