21 Feb 2008

Going against the grain

It’s nearly a year since I was diagnosed with coeliac disease. I can’t quite believe it has been that long, but similarly it feels like I have always lived gluten free (GF). Initially, I utterly refused to be defined by my condition, not wanting to be labelled as a fussy eater. But, as the year gently passed, I have come to understand and accept my lot and see it as an opportunity.

I have to acknowledge that I did not do this alone. After diagnosis, I applied my usual tenacity to the problem, searching for inspiration in any form. In all honesty, I was pretty disappointed. Having developed a passion for natural, organic and local food over the years, I was looking for more than the recommendations and free samples for awful, chemical heavy mass manufactured gluten free breads and cakes.

Over the next few months, and after wobbles where I wondered why I was trying to go against convention, I came across stacks of American resources and blogs on the internet, but one sang out to me – Gluten Free Girl.

Shauna James Ahern, who has been writing her blog about living gluten free since 2005 approached the condition with such a positive and passionate energy, that it lit up my life. Despite the title of her blog, she is not defined by her condition, and so many of the posts are just about how much she is enjoying life - inspiration to anyone. Meanwhile, I was refusing to compromise on my well established food principles of eating local, seasonal organic foods, but with the majority of manufactured gluten free foods laden with salt, sugar and chemicals - that can’t even be classed as food - I felt I was truly going against the grain.

Reading the Gluten Free Girl blog entries encouraged me to see I could do it differently and to stick to my guns.

Putting her book on my amazon wishlist, my partner hastily ordered it for me, knowing that it would provide further guidance and inspiration for eating naturally gluten free, away from the computer and in the kitchen. Thankyou for that Jack. Now my mother is reading it. My aunt had coeliac disease from childhood in the 50's when the condition was barely recognised and lived off a monotonous diet, with 'cake bread' as we called it a feature in every meal. I refused to believe that I had to eat a boring diet, and took on the challenge to find the thousand of things I could eat.

The other day, when waiting for another home baked GF cake to come out of the oven, searching for naturally GF recipes in my piles of recipes books, it dawned on me that getting diagnosed with coeliac disease was biggest blessing in disguise. Having this disease has given me the confidence and reason to reconnect with food again, placing me firmly back in the kitchen. Granted, I have always been in the kitchen since generating ideas for our suppers always falls to me – not that I am complaining - but now I am always peeking in the oven, searching through my stacks of books for naturally GF recipes, and even adapting recipes that aren’t.

I have realised that I am happiest when thinking about food.

I don’t know if I would have got to this place of acceptance and enjoyment so quickly if I hadn’t found Gluten Free Girl. So thank you Shauna. You helped me see I could still eat amazing food and you continue to be a source of inspiration, with great recipes and wonderful heartfelt tales.

Also, I would just like to thank those of you who have supported me over this past year, especially Jack - for apologising every time a waiter delivers delicious looking bread, and no longer eating such things at home. Also, to my mum for her dedicated xantham gum search party …oh and the meringues!

So, take a look at GlutenFreeGirl for a lovely story or a new recipe - that happens to be gluten free. Recommend it to those with wheat intolerances, coeliac disease...in fact anyone. Enjoy it for the pure inspiration that shows you can always do things differently.

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