Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mothers Day

What does this cake have to do with Mothers Day, you may be asking? Absolutely nothing. But, thanks to the good people at Betty Crocker, I was able to whip up my first from-a-box gluten free cake when I needed it in a hurry this past week. And it was pretty darn decent (as from-a-box cakes go).

But, really, what does Mothers Day have to do with gluten free? I’ll get there, folks. Patience. (Hahaha! I don’t have any patience, but you must with me. This is my blog and I can do whatever I want!)

So, Mothers Day. Not one of my favorite days of the year. Don’t get me wrong—I have a great mother and many other women in my life who have been mentors and examples and, for all intents and purposes, mothers to me. Growing up I knew lots of women who were bitter about Mothers Day. These women ranged in background from those with fertility issues to those who never married to those who had awful childhoods with abusive parents. I always thought it was stupid to be bitter about a day intended to celebrate the people who helped bring us into this world and the many other people who helped us navigate this crazy life. And I determined that I would not be one of those old, bitter ladies.

That has been a difficult promise to keep through the years, especially as a 30-something childless woman in a church community that emphasizes the importance of motherhood. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t jealous of my friends having growing experiences with their children that I will never have. And I would not be quite truthful if I said those bitter feelings didn’t creep up every May when I dread the second Sunday of the month.

This year, in an attempt to stave off the usual bitterness, I started to think about all the mothers who have made my transition to gluten free eating a much easier experience. So, even though I have never (and may never) experienced the fierce mothering instinct which drove most of these women to do what they’ve done, I can (and will) revel in the benefit their instinct has been to my life.

First, my own mother: after learning of my diagnosis with Celiac disease, she ran out to Barnes & Noble prepared to buy the place out of all the gluten free cookbooks in stock. Thankfully, she restrained herself and instead spent hours poring over the various options. Knowing her practical and independent (and stubborn, too—but she didn’t quite use that word) daughter, she carefully chose a cookbook with (as basic as you can get for gluten free) recipes for many of the everyday items I would be giving up, like bread, pancakes, and pie crust. She also delivered the book as a gift that said, “I thought you might like this. But here’s the receipt if you want to choose something for yourself.” I loved it and use it many times a week. Thanks, Mom.

That very cookbook was designed by Jennifer Cinquepalmi, a now-renowned writer, baker, and advocate in the Celiac community. Her motivation for experimenting and creating relatively simple yet tasty gluten free versions of the ordinary foods her family liked to eat? Children diagnosed with Celiac disease. Her desire to be a good mother drove her to create and share recipes that now make my meals much yummier. Thanks, Jennifer.

I mentioned in an earlier post the tireless efforts of my high school friend Anna Dailey McCartney, who along with other concerned parents, was instrumental in getting passed the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004. Again, it was Anna’s desire to keep her young allergic son safe and healthy which motivated her to do so much research, writing, speaking, and campaigning to pass this important law which makes label reading (one of my new favorite pastimes—NOT!) sooooo much easier. Thanks, Anna.

And to all my many mother friends out there, Happy Mothers Day. You may not be my mother but I honor your service to mankind and to me, personally.

Sunday, May 1, 2011


Trust. A five-letter word. Easy to spell. So hard to do.

Why do I have trust issues, you ask? I don't know. I was not abused as a child and, aside from the ordinary relationship skirmishes that are an important part of growing up, I have not experienced significant betrayal from anyone which would lead me to have a lack of trust in others. But, for whatever reason, I just...don't trust people.

What does this have to do with having Celiac Disease and being forced to go gluten free, you ask? Since changing my diet five months ago (yikes--can it really be five months?), I have been forced to trust people. And it's been an exceptional learning/growing experience for me. Allow me to share just a few of the many examples I've recognized over the past few months:

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A new friend who I hardly knew offered to make a gluten free apple crisp for snack at our book club. I had no reason to trust that this woman would do it right except for the fact that she seemed very sincere in her desire to do something nice for me. So, without asking for an ingredient list, I scooped up a spoonful and marveled in not only the delicious dessert, but the genuine extension of friendship which the dish represented.

For my birthday a few weeks ago my boss presented me with darling and delectable homemade gluten free cupcakes to celebrate. I could have questioned her but I opted to stuff one and then two cupcakes in my mouth and sing their praise. My boss doesn't know much about my health condition, but she did research and found something that I could eat and the whole office could enjoy.

I must exercise a whole different kind of trust when I eat out--which I do way too often. This kind of trust involves TOTAL STRANGERS! Before I eat in a restaurant, I research whether they have a gluten free menu or at least an ingredient list on their website. Then once I choose to sit my behind in their facility, I have to trust that the restaurant will actually prepare the food the way they say they will. I must trust that the server actually remembered "no croutons" from the inception of my salad and didn't just scrape them off at the last minute before arriving at my table.

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Many folks in the Celiac community would tell me I'm a fool for trusting as I do. They tell me I must be extremely cautious about what I do with my food and that I shouldn't trust anyone else to do it for me to ensure that I don't eat so much as a bread crumb of gluten which could cause more damage to my digestive system (not to mention make me sick & miserable again). While I believe in adhering to the science behind my disease, I also believe that the trust in humanity I have acquired is invaluable.

I'm grateful for the myriad of friends and family who have reached out to me by way of sharing recipes, baking and buying me special treats, giving me expensive flours, and offering their concern. At the onset of this experience I posted that I detest unsolicited medical advice; I can't say I love it now, but I better recognize that people are offering it because they care. They want to find a way to relate, and so they offer up whatever they can to relate to my experience. For that, I am grateful. And this new-found trust in my fellow man? I hope it's here to stay at least as long as the Celiac Disease is.