Root Vegetable Chips + Root Vegetable Fries

turnip and cutting board

I should start by saying this: I am grateful to be writing this post today—not just because of the lunch of rainbow root vegetables or afternoon of hours spent photographing them that it represents, but because, about a week or so ago, pacing the floors at 2 AM while alternating between holding my sides and massaging my temples, the idea of writing a food blog post—or really, cooking or caring about cooking—seemed like something I might never be able to do again.

spices for root vegetable chips

I can tell you now that the pain was from a kidney infection, developed from a UTI, and it came complete with stones and intense throbbing and a weakening of my desire to live, to be honest with you. I’ve never experienced anything like this. I joked to some friends in passing this weekend, how can someone have that much pain and not get a baby at the end of it! But really, it was bad. I would look at pictures of me and Tim in the office, on our honeymoon or baking a cake last summer, and I would think, who is that happy girl in those pictures? Was there really a time when I didn’t feel this much pain? and I couldn’t remember what that felt like.

root vegetables and cutting board

What made this particular pain so difficult, I think, was its duration, lasting, at least in some measure, for over ten continuous days. This was no 24-hour bug or weekend flu; it felt unending. Under the weight of it, I grew more and more weary, more and more discouraged, and eventually, more and more aware that this infection was no longer just physical.

root vegetable rounds

In “When the Darkness Will Not Lift,” (which you can download for free online), John Piper writes about C.H. Spurgeon, a well-known preacher from nineteenth-century England who tasted depression caused by physical pain. Martyn Lloyd-Jones says of Spurgeon,

That great man was subject to spiritual depression, and the main explanation in his case was undoubtedly the fact that he suffered from a gouty condition which finally killed him. He had to face this problem of spiritual depression often in a most acute form. A tendency to acute depression is an unfailing accompaniment of the gout which he inherited from his forebears. And there are many, I find, who come to talk to me about these matters, in whose case it seems quite clear to me that the cause of the trouble is mainly physical.

Gout, it so happens, is closely tied with kidney pain (among other things) and so when I read these words, I found great kinship with Spurgeon, particularly in the way in which his experience linked physical pain with spiritual depression—that’s what this was for me.

matchstick root vegetables

It’s not that these days were without comfort: Tim was as supportive and wonderful as you’d expect him to be, my true partner in healing, making me special drinks and running to the store and reading the Bible to me in bed and massaging my back to help me fall asleep at night. Several of my friends were praying for me. My dad was pure compassion on the phone. There was this series of posts that fed me truth when I needed to hear it.

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But we were supposed to go to Baltimore last Wednesday, just for the night, on a trip we’d planned months ago because of $37 Southwest flights and a generous wedding gift from my brother, and then we couldn’t because I was in too much pain.

But we are just newly married, still practically honeymooning, and things this difficult aren’t supposed to happen when you’re tasting so much happiness.

But why are we dealing with this when other people aren’t, people who are able to enjoy life and care about what they’ll wear today and get excited about their baby’s first birthday or a promotion at work or a new recipe they’re trying.

These familiar voices are not a new affliction, but over the last few weeks, they’ve been more persistent. Maybe you know them too? They’ve kept me in bed, they’ve kept me from the blog, they’ve made heavy my heart.

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And while fighting them can be tiring, I am glad to tell you that at times when you least expect it, light breaks.

Because there comes a moment, amidst the small everyday choices of “waiting patiently” that involve getting out of bed to see the sunshine, of asking for help from the One who understands, of doing some dishes, of smelling some fresh air, when you’re surprised to see, not that you’re cured of all discouragement for good but that, at least, you want to spend time in the kitchen again, you’re enjoying chopping carrots and parsnips and turnips and sweet potatoes, you’re ready to write a blog post.

And you do.

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Fennel Nettle Iced Tea

fennel nettle sweet tea

Today is September 2. September 2! Tim and I are getting married in 44 days, as in next month, six weeks from tomorrow. Yesterday, September 1, I went to a dress fitting. I stood in front of a wall of mirrors and looked at myself, standing next to a tall blonde woman with a thick European accent who tried to sell me a $350 veil, and I thought, look at me! I’m wearing a big, white dress! And then I thought, look at me? I’m wearing a big, white dress?

bulb of fennel

Tim comes over most nights and we make dinner together. Wednesday, it was brown rice pasta covered in olive oil, chopped heirloom tomatoes and lime basil (thank you, Angela!), hunks of sheep’s milk feta that melted into a cheesy sauce, salt and pepper. Last night, it was a roast chicken and broccoli, and now I have stock simmering on the stove. After we eat, we sit on the air mattress I have set up in my living room as our makeshift sofa, and we watch TV on the flat-screen my brother gave us (!!) and fall asleep until a show ends and wakes us up, and Tim leaves, and I go to bed.

fresh fennel

A couple times this past week, I’ve been woken up (at 1 AM, at 4 AM) by my late-night upstairs neighbors arguing. The first time, it was so startling, so surreal, I just laid in bed, my heart racing, wondering if what I was hearing was really happening. The second time, I realized it was, and I wished someone else were hearing it, too. Last night, I recognized that someone was crying.

fennel tea

We have a to-do list, me and Tim, a long one. It’s filled with tasks to accomplish before the wedding, and every time one of us says or thinks, man, I wish we were just married already!, I remember the list and think of all the things separating us from then, and I say something very unhelpful to Tim like, Why didn’t we elope?

making tea

And another night goes by, and another day, and I go thrifting with my future sister-in-law and find a $7 chair and a $9 chair and a gorgeous $7 crock for our future umbrellas, and our house becomes more and more of our future home, and Tim and I make another dinner, and we bake another batch of cookies and, we make reservations for our honeymoon.

fennel tea

It’s in this new almost-home that a company asks to send me some fresh fennel and then surprises me with an entire case (!!), so then there Tim and I are, standing side by side, making a big salad and cooking the leaves in a tea, while he’s talking about the health benefits of fennel and how it’s good for your immune system, your colon, women’s health.

And it’s in times like those that it hits me, just like when we’re eating dinner on our hardwood floors or laughing about how we have to jiggle a toilet valve every time we use the bathroom, I don’t want to forget this. Any of it.

Someday far from now, when we have furniture and a garden and a long history of sharing the same last name, when we’ve already done holidays with both families, when these simple beginnings feel faded and almost not real, I don’t want to forget how nice it was to be at the threshold of sharing life together. I don’t want to forget how all the changes—in the pain as much as the bliss—were so new, so unexpected, so constantly surprising. I don’t want to forget they were good.

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