Welcome back! When I last left you, we were discussing drawing lines,
making those vital, personal decisions regarding what prepackaged foods we would and would not consider safe to consume.
Did you bring your bowl and spoon? How about your running shoes, a little more of that rum, and a GF antacid tablet? It’s time to follow our grains on a nail-gnawing trip to the manufacturing plant, while keeping a sharp eye out for sources of cross-contact. Here, we may either be having breakfast, or making a fast break from prepackaged foods altogether (that’s where the running shoes and the antacid tablet come in).
The rum? That’s just for you, my friend. Because I believe in you.
And because you may need it. Trust me on this one.
Read more As individuals with celiac disease, we must make decisions on a daily basis as to what we consider safe to consume.
These choices are deeply personal, based upon our own positive and negative experiences. The levels of trust we are willing to put into other people, other kitchens, and other products vary widely between us.
When it comes to drawing lines we refuse to cross, each individual with celiac disease is faced with his or her own consequential decisions.
Read more (Edited by GF Lex on 03/13/2016 to amend broken links)
Perhaps I approached my celiac disease diagnosis with a unique perspective.
My symptoms were certainly not unique. As a young woman, I felt weak and generally “sick” most of the time, I was often disoriented, and I was retaining massive amounts of fluid. I suffered from severe indigestion, irregular bowel habits, and worst of all, bloating: my stomach was so distended that I agonized over the sensation of it stretching. Most intensely, I experienced a stabbing, cramping pain in my gut that worsened when I ate, and never went away. It reminded me of the way an ulcer would feel, and though I was incredibly hungry, nothing I consumed could ever sate or soothe me.
I was certain my number had finally come up. At age 21, I felt in my heart that these symptoms meant that I had cancer, and that I was going to die.
Why did I jump to this conclusion? Well, for one reason, I am incredibly paranoid. Another reason, however, was my unique perspective. Read more For me, the fog did not roll in as I stood at the prow of a great ship,
peering toward the midnight shore. It was pierced by no guiding beacon drawing me forth. Nor did I walk into it as it cloaked a serene meadow. The sun did not cut it, and left no glistening jewels of dew upon vast expanses of rolling green.
No, for me, the fog arrived surreptitiously. It edged its way into my consciousness with the subtlety of a thief. It rolled in over my vocabulary, my memories, and my associations. It cloaked my orientation, my recognition, and my alertness. And by the time I noticed how hazy I felt, I was already lost within it.
After a diagnosis of celiac disease, the fog became a part of my life that would clear only to condense once more, clouding over so much I had taken for granted, and would never visualize with complete clarity again.
When a celiac disease diagnosis leads someone to consume gluten-free versions of baked goods,
one of the first things that person may notice is that they taste “different.”
If that person then begins cooking with gluten-free flours, he or she may realize that these gluten-free confections taste this way because non-wheat flours behave in wildly variable and seemingly unpredictable ways. Proteins and starches must be combined in distinct ratios. Mixing times and resting frequencies are, themselves, mixed-up and arresting. Some flours will produce a cake with crumbly edges and a completely collapsed, gelatinous middle. Some will fashion flat, stone-like biscuits. Some create breads that appear edible until you attempt to slice them, at which point they crumble away into pebbly piles of wasted ingredients, ironically reminding you of sand through an hourglass, and the precious time you have wasted attempting this tremendous baking failure.
The science of flour mixing can be intimidating, and gluten-free baking is a skill that tends to alienate those attempting to learn it. Flours can be expensive, making failures costly (not only monetarily, but also in effort and hard-won self-esteem). Learning to cook (and especially bake) gluten-free by either mixing your own flours or using a purchased mix, however, can lead you to discover not only what kind of food you are able
to make gluten-free, but what kind of food you want
to make, gluten-free. Each gluten-free baker’s journey is a personal one, often fraught with failures, always laden with lessons, and occasionally rewarded with the successes that will lead to the path one wants one’s cooking, one’s food, and one’s health to follow. Read more (Edited by GF Lex on 03/13/2016 to amend broken links)
By the end of 2014, I was feeling decidedly… weird.
Diagnosed with celiac disease 12 years ago, I was accustomed to the odd, painful sensations and myriad systemic disruptions that come with accidentally ingesting gluten. As a patient who also bears additional autoimmune diagnoses (Ulcerative Colitis and autoimmune autonomic nervous system damage), I am likewise used to flare-up symptoms, to localized and generalized pain, to low-grade fevers, and to the ever-present “brain fog” that has integrated the word “huh?” into my expansive vocabulary far more frequently than I had ever dreamed possible. But by the conclusion of last year, something was definitely askew, well outside the norm of my decidedly abnormal physiology.
Dog-tired, disoriented, and weak, I stumbled into my physician’s office one afternoon to have some tests run. A few days later, I received the results I had been waiting for.
“This is pretty bad,” I remember the nurse saying, my vision blurring as I gazed across my bedroom with the phone to my ear. “We’re going to have to shoot you.”
The first breeze of summer sparks something unique in each of us.
The primal awakening, however, the closing of our eyes, the deep inhalation as the nearly-forgotten wind caresses us once more, remains universal. Summer tends to incite a hunger in us, it inspires a search for something deeply desired.
When that breeze hit me this year, I realized almost immediately that I needed something. And though I was not sure what at the time, I knew that it was something satisfying, something stunning. Something tempting, something tantalizing. Something my heart understood before my head could even discern its motives. I realized only after the road began unfurling behind my little red sedan like a great gray river that I knew, that day, where my impromptu one-tank trip was taking me. A place I wanted it to take me more than anywhere else in the world.
Not to the beach, glowing with sun and seduction, not to the bar and grill, pulsing with song and spirits, not to any other hub of symbolic summer romance. The sweetness I craved I knew would be fulfilled in only one place. At Jam Gluten-Free Bakeshop.
At the NEOCN Vendor’s Fair in April, I had experienced the pleasures of this establishment for the first time, though its reputation had preceded it. I had spent weeks admiring (Well, alright. Ogling.) the tantalizing photographs on Jam’s Facebook page, images of such a shifting array of exemplary baked goods that by the time I actually had the pleasure of meeting the proprietors of this lovely shop, the first (and only) words out of my mouth were a heartily sighed, “Oh, Jam…”
Let me introduce you to my summer crush. Read more
In the celiac universe, the profusion of gluten-free products is constantly expanding. We now have access to almost every conceivable type of prepackaged food in several forms, from several brands. And several of them are actually palatable (and affordable).
For those of us who choose to venture into the world of gluten-free cooking and baking, however, a slew of daunting obstacles still looms before us. Initially you may feel as if you’ve landed on another planet in which the laws of physics no longer apply to your space-age flours, and in which you no longer recognize your seemingly NASA-copyrighted ingredients (xanthan gum, anyone?). Alternately, you may believe you’ve plunged down the rabbit hole, and that the brown cube served on a tea tray before you that looks like a brick, feels like a brick, and frankly, smells like a brick, cannot possibly be food, despite the “eat me, I’m gluten-free bread” tag riveted firmly to its side. What is a gluten-free baker to do to bring one’s cooking back through the wormhole and onto this temporal plane?
The world of gluten-free blogging has expanded equivalently, and the Alice-like disorientation people with celiac disease can experience here can become quite curious indeed. Read more