How guacamole helped me make the connection between my body, food and joy

One particular guacamole recipe solidified the idea for Alexis Hillyard's YouTube channel Stump Kitchen, a place where she and her guests celebrate body diversity, gluten-free vegan cooking and the amazing, unique ways humans move through the world.

"It's really lovely to get elbow-deep in your food!"

For Alexis Hillyard, cooking and her YouTube channel Stump Kitchen celebrates her diverse body.

Canadian Comfort Food Cookbook showcases the diversity of recipes that satisfy Canadian bellies — and the stories behind them.

Edmonton's Alexis Hillyard is the star and creator of Stump Kitchen, a joyful YouTube cooking show that celebrates body diversity and gluten-free vegan cooking, which she took up after being diagnosed with a gluten intolerance. Here, she shares the guacamole recipe that got her started.

So why guacamole?

Guacamole is the first recipe that I really made my own as I started gluten-free vegan cooking. I asked my close friends for their family guacamole recipes and I took what I liked from them and made my own version. This made my recipe seem so full of love and really connected me to my community.

I love celebrating my diverse body and using my stump in really hands-on ways. - Alexis Hillyard  

When you're making guacamole, how do you feel? 

Guacamole really helped me make the connection between my body, food and joy. The recipe requires me to be very "body-on" with the ingredients. I got to really feel the food and my body, particularly with my stump — I was born without my left hand. I get to juice the lime, scoop the avocados out of their skin and mix everything together with my stump. It's really lovely to get elbow-deep in your food! I feel so good when I make it — super zen.

What has cooking regularly — and on camera — done for you?

I would say that I felt much less connected to my body and emotions before cooking [regularly]… and less connected to my "spark." Cooking amazing gluten-free vegan dishes and creating my YouTube channel Stump Kitchen brought joy back into my life. I have been dealing with depression for the past two years and the channel was a big self-love project. As soon as I started editing the footage, I saw how funny, joyful and free I was with my body and the food on camera. It was life-changing. It lifted my spirits. It's funny that I needed to see myself on camera to remind myself of these things!

And your relationship to your body? 

My relationship with my body was always pretty positive but now it's like I am really settled in my own skin. After starting the show I fell more deeply in love with my stump and my body, including my belly and body hair. People always stare at my stump, they have all of my life. This has always affected me in different ways — some days I don't mind and others I feel like shrinking away and hiding. But now when people stare I am quite comfortable with it. I may even catch their eye and smile, or engage them in a conversion. I hope that the show helps people become more aware and informed about 'stumps' and limb difference so that they don't have to stare as much. Let's be real, no one likes to be stared at.

We like stereotype-busting around here. What can you tell us about vegan life in cattle country?

For me personally, I'd say that vegan life in cattle country is quite similar to being gay in cattle country. There are many places where being vegan is celebrated, and there's lots of awareness and restaurants that cater to my needs. But there are other places where I don't feel comfortable telling people that I am vegan for fear of retribution for my veganism, as if it was a personal attack on the cattle industry. I have definitely experienced both sides of that coin! However, I think that the knowledge and appreciation for veganism is definitely growing. For me, I like to accept the fact that everyone has diverse diets and reasons for eating what they eat, and I respect that!

What's the best part of cooking on Stump Kitchen? 

I love celebrating my diverse body and using my stump in really hands-on ways. My stump has always been something that I've loved so much about myself, but the show is like an extra visual reminder that I am unique and that I love my difference.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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