Jan 21, 2011

Going Gluten-Free

The news
It's time to come out of the closet...I've gone gluten-free. After several years of increasingly bad health, painful stomach cramps and other horrible digestive issues, increased migraines, fatigue, debilitating joint and muscle pain, memory loss, foggy headedness, clumsiness, loss of coordination, walking into walls... the list goes on, I decided to go gluten-free temporarily to see if it made a difference. Mind you, this was after years of doctors telling me that I had IBS and handing me another prescription. None of them seemed concerned by the cause of all these symptoms. I didn't want to medicate the problem, I wanted to solve it. Most of all, I wanted to be healthy again. I wanted to be me again. I also did an independent test to see what those results would be. They came back positive for gluten as the culprit. So I wanted to know for sure.

With fantasies of one day going to pastry school, I didn't want going gluten free to be the answer. But I had to know. I could not continue feeling so bad and compromising so much of my life. I decided to do a 3-6 month gluten-free experiment. Mostly, I was hoping to rule it out, even though that would leave me with no obvious solutions. Going gluten-free was not as easy as I thought. It took months of research and reading and investigating to begin to understand how to eliminate my gluten exposure.

But it worked. I've gotten better. Much, much better. Initially, I was kind of bummed. No more of my newly discovered favorite pizza at Little Deli. No more traditional baking. No more of my all-time favorite chocolate chip cookies or shortbread. No more food in Asian restaurants using soy sauce in their foods and marinades. No more treats from Rebecca Rather's Rather Sweet Bakery. No more naan bread in Indian restaurants. No more going into a restaurant and thinking I have the liberty of ordering what I'm in the mood for. Now I have to ask if they have even a single safe item I can eat and hope it's not cross-contaminated. No more spur of the moment dining out with friends (I have to do research first to see if it's safe) or be limited to the short list of places I have already checked out and I know are safe. Ugh.

OK. Now that I've gotten that out of my system... Here's the good part. I. FEEL. BETTER. So much better. It's a slow road back and it's not over, but almost all of those symptoms listed above are gone or going. And it feels so liberating to start feeling better and leave some of those symptoms behind, that I can let go of all those favorite foods that were making me sick and be glad to know how to feel better. I've also worked with a nutritionist to educate myself and improve my healing and recovery.

The blog
I started this blog as a way to continue to learn about food, to share recipes and to improve my photography skills. For years, I used to produce a series of recipes cards for the holidays to send to friends. It was a fun way of sharing the recipes I had tried throughout the year and that had become favorites. I would experiment, sometimes for years, with different versions of a particular dish, until I found THE ONE. You know, the one you know you'll never want to give up. The recipe you'll reach for over and over and you know your search has ended. Like the chocolate chip cookie recipe or the shortbread recipe that I mentioned earlier. It was fun to find those and share them with friends.

But I always had trouble limiting myself to the dozen or so recipes that I had to narrow it down to each year. Even with that number, the production of all those cards was quite something. This blog was a place I could share many more of those recipes that became favorites, but I could do it all year long. And they'd be archived and available anytime on the web. No more remembering recipe cards or making a list. I even use the blog archive on my iPhone at the grocery store to look up an ingredient list to make sure I'm not forgetting something. I hope other people do too.

So now, I'm going to be taking a fork in the road. I'm going to leave up my old recipes for those who can enjoy them. But I'll be making things gluten-free from here on out. For many recipes, this won't make any difference or not much of one. Sometimes the solution is to simply sub in gluten-free tamari for soy sauce or using gluten-free pasta instead of wheat pasta. So I'm glad I can still share recipes with everyone. Where it will really be different is in the baking. I'll be exploring a whole new world of baking gluten free. And I'll also be working of making gluten-free versions of those old baked favorites already in the archive.

This process has made me realize that even though I thought I knew a lot about food and was making healthy choices, I still have so much more to learn. Food is fun. But it can also be nourishing. It's supposed to be anyway, if we make the right choices.

I also have to share how incredibly inspired I have been by reading the books and blog of Shauna James Ahern, the Gluten-Free Girl. I can only aspire to her eloquence and her open-heartedness in her life and in her explorations of good eating. She has boldly and bravely and gracefully forged a path that makes the transition for others like me so much easier. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

I have also been overwhelmed and inspired by the stunning photography of Aran Goyoaga of Canelle et Vanille. She has recently made the transition to going gluten-free and with such style and grace, I can't help but be completely seduced by her images and recipes.

Locally, blogger and gluten-free chef Jessica Meyer of ATX Gluten-Free has been a wealth of local information and tips on eating gluten-free in Austin. She's putting together a gluten-free pizza fest on her blog in February. I can't wait. Pizza is the thing I miss most.

And I have to give a shout out to my buddies Kim and Leslie. They have both gone through this transition ahead of me and shared valuable information and resources that made things so much easier for me. Bless you both. And thanks to my sweetheart for so gracefully giving up the gluten in our house and always being so incredibly supportive. I am a lucky girl.

OK. This is way too much about me. Let's get back in the kitchen. More tasty treats coming up.

P.S. For more info on symptoms related to gluten sensitivity and celiac:
symptom guide from Gluten Free Works

No comments: