Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Changes: The gluten-free journey

I believe everything happens for a reason, and it occurred to me recently that everything has been leading up to this moment.  Almost five years ago, I put my career on hold so I could dedicate my time to my family.  The decision to leave the field was a complicated one, but I'm thankful every day that I had the courage to follow my heart, and I've never once regretted it.  As my family of three turned into four, my career as a stay-at-home mom emerged.  Clearly I love being domestic, and being home has given me the opportunity to explore and experiment in the kitchen, and share this passion with my two girls, who cook with me often.  We've moved toward making more and more of our own food, cooking from whole foods, and making healthy eating a priority.  Some have questioned why I bother making our own bread, yogurt, granola bars, etc., but to me it feels right, and I feel great knowing exactly what we're eating (and what we're not).

A little over a month ago, the luxury of making our own food became a necessity when my daughter was diagnosed with gluten intolerance.  Only weeks later, I was diagnosed with Celiac disease.  After watching my daughter suffer through not feeling well, the opportunity to get her feeling better was a welcome relief.  However, we then came to realize that gluten is everywhere, and in everything.  No longer could we rely on grabbing a loaf of bread at the local store if I didn't get a chance to make one, or picking up pizza, or stopping at Dunkin Donuts for a bagel.  Now, and forever, our diets are altered, and for both health and financial reasons, we need to rely on ourselves to make our own food.  With concerns ranging from cross-contamination occurring in a restaurant, to the cost and inconvenience of making a special trip to the health food store to buy a loaf of gluten-free bread (over $7! For a tiny loaf!) I came to the realization that self-reliance is going to be the safest, most cost-effective way to go.

The most comforting part of this journey has been the reaction of family and friends.  I've lost count of how many people have provided encouragement, reminding me of my love of cooking, my willingness to cook new things, and how comfortable I am in the kitchen.  "If anyone can do it, it's going to be you," so many of my friends have said.  And in those moments, it occurs to me that perhaps this is why I chose to stay home, to start building a mac-truck-sized binder of recipes, to learn how to make my own of this, and that, and that.  I didn't know it, but I was getting ready for this moment-- our next chapter-- gluten-free.

With the help of a few wonderful friends, who have shared their endless knowledge and ideas, and a handful of really great gluten-free cookbooks, we are back on track and moving forward.  We still have some kinks to work out, both with getting final diagnoses on some health issues, and figuring out how to make (or where to buy) this or that, but as a family, we're excited for the journey ahead.  My goal right now is for us to continue living how we've lived, and enjoying what we've always enjoyed, but in a healthier, more thoughtful, more purposeful way. We are gluten-free, but not grain-free, and we're experimenting with exactly what that means, where it will bring us, and what lies ahead.  I'm excited to be sharing it here with you.

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