<editorsnote> Nerds, meet my buddy Lillian. She and I met at SXSW this year where she gave me this EPIC STRAW COWBOY HAT!!! I swear, I heart it so much it hurts. Either way, Lillian is a big food nerd with oodles and oodles of food allergies. She’s here to talk about her life, love, and all things through her two sometimes four eyes. I only have one more thing left to say … HIT IT LILLIAN!!! </editorsnote>
My name is Lillian Medville and I’m allergic to gluten/grains, dairy, cane sugar, and soy. I’ve struggled with these four food allergies for years. It’s taken me more or less six years to figure out that I had them, and then another 10 years to figure them all out.
But even once I figured them all out, managing myself around food didn’t really become any easier. Rather than a source of comfort and a social glue, food had become something that kept me a part from my friends and family. I always needed to have a special meal. And even with a special meal, I didn’t feel comfortable eating with everyone else, partially because it made my difference so obvious (which I wanted to avoid) and partially because by this point, after years of food being so complicated and punishing, I so much anxiety around food, that the experience was rarely enjoyable anyway.
At a certain point (about a year and a half ago). I just couldn’t take it anymore. I was tired of seeing food as the enemy. I was tired of feeling deprived, always being around food that I couldn’t eat and wanting what I shouldn’t have. And I was very tired of always getting sick. So I bit the bullet and started making my own food. I realized, that if I wanted to eat it, I’d have to make it. And that single thought changed everything.
But starting to cook was scary. I had to bulk order all these new ingredients (like blanched almond flour and coconut flour) sight unseen. And all of these other very specific ingredients that I, of course, could never get all in one place. Following recipes for the first time can be dicey even without restrictions, and I looked around for people who were doing a cooking show with my kind of ingredients, but it just don’t exist. The gluten-free people all use flours that I can’t use. The vegans use tons of soy and gluten. The raw people don’t use ovens.
I had gone to NYUʼs Tisch School of the Arts for acting, and I had been auditioning here and there and working in small independent ﬁlms, but was tired of waiting for someone else to choose me. I wanted to do something of my own. And I was getting more and more interested in learning how to feed myself in a way that actually felt good for the ﬁrst time. So I bought a camera, read the manual obsessively for a month, asked a friend to shoot with me, and started my own show.
Now let me be clear, this was all new to me. I didn’t know how to edit video. I didn’t know anything about producing a show or social networking or marketing, but I started anyway. I decided to call it Lillian’s Test Kitchen, not only because it is an experiment in cooking, but also because it is an experiment in lots of things, from dealing with the emotional issues that come up with food and food allergies, to asking health questions I don’t know the answers to, to finding new unknown bands to feature on my mini episodes, to finding out if coconut sugar and agave are interchangeable in that pancake recipe.
I’m trying to be open to everything the world offers me as long as it doesn’t make me unhappy and I’m not allergic to it. I have found the experience to be challenging, rewarding, humbling, and scary. But I guess that’s normal when the point is to try things for the first time and not know what I’m doing or what is going to happen next. But that, along with being healthy, and finding joy with food and life even with dietary restrictions is what my show is all about.