I stood naked in my husband Vic’s office on a sunny afternoon. I had taken a fast shower after working in the garden. My wet hair was wrapped in a towel, but the rest of me dripped on the rug.
“I know what I want. I want to be a nutritionist,” I said. “I will be a nutritionist.” I spit the words out, loud and fast, so they wouldn’t slip away.
Vic turned his office chair toward me and grinned. He knew I’d been fishing for my next step. Our youngest son was starting kindergarten and I needed a project. I hadn’t thought about studying nutrition in years, but I came to Cornell in 1963 to major in nutrition. Instead, I was hijacked by anti-Vietnam war politics, marches on Washington, and “Hell no, we won’t go,” so I majored in government with a focus on Southeast Asia.
When I stood naked in Vic’s office years later, nutrition was already my passion. All I had to do was notice how I spent my time. I grew organic food, cooked beautiful balanced vegetarian meals, stored food for winter, and kept my family healthy. I believed in the healing power of food.
Monday morning, I got on the phone. It was mid-summer. If I hustled, maybe I could begin in September. If I let it slide, it might fade into the land of lost possibility.
After tracking down various options, I discovered Empire State College, part of the State University of New York focused on independent learning. I enrolled, got an advisor, and began planning a program combining university science and nutrition classes and alternative nutrition courses with tutors and Omega Institute seminars.
That’s how I found myself dressed but feeling naked in the front row of Chemistry 101. I stopped breathing as I read through the first quiz. I was stumped by simple high school algebra. Without algebra, I couldn’t learn chemistry. My intuition felt precariously close to collapse.
“It was the hardest class I ever took,” Vic said when he told his side of the story. Even though he was a physicist and hadn’t taken chemistry since he was an undergraduate, he knew how to teach math. He endured my emotional frustration and admired my dogged will. I solved problem after problem, got stuck, felt defeated, got help, and kept going.
My diligence earned an A+ in chemistry lab. Clothed in an apron, I was at home with titration and exact weights and measures. I followed directions and added one careful drop at a time to my test tubes. I measured and took notes. The freshman and sophomores spilled liquids, smoked the room with overheated Bunson Burners, fudged the details, wrote slapdash lab reports, and left early. They wanted to go to soccer practice. I wanted a good grade in chemistry, a nutrition degree, and a new career.
I’ve remembered Chemistry 101 many times since Vic’s death. In 1981, I moved past failure and fear of flopping. I plan to do it again, this time without Vic’s help.
Now you know why there’s a large section of my website devoted to practical and reliable nutrition. In the bone health section, you’ll find more about food. Look in recipes for vegetarian favorites. I hope you enjoy an easy summer favorite found in Cooking a Bowl of Italian Heaven.