Tackling a life-changing gluten-free diet head on...
by Sandra J. Leonard
Please allow me to introduce myself...Sandra J. Leonard. (Oh, the J. stands for Joan.) If you will permit me, I would like to take this opportunity to tell you a bit about myself. First off, I am a celiac, have celiac sprue disease and am on a total gluten-free diet (no wheat, rye, barley or oat grains) for life. It was just short of my 50th birthday when I was finally diagnosed after being sick most of my life. I have to admit it is great to feel so good all the time now.
After finally being diagnosed, going on a gluten-free diet and regaining some of my health, I felt a strong urge to be around other folks that also had celiac sprue and were on gluten-free diets. I had seen the name of a person from my town when reading an article in a national celiac newsletter. I was able to locate her and met my first person with celiac disease. She in turn, knew other celiacs in the area.
That is how the very first support group meetings came to be. Most were held in the living room of my home with other celiac friends, with a sharing of recipes and delicious gluten-free tastings. This little support group grew right out of the living room and has been meeting at a local area hospital for some time now. Hence, the Celiac Sprue Support Group, Ohio Miami Valley Area (Dayton and surrounding areas.) was formed and I officially became the chairman.
Upon being diagnosed and informed that a gluten-free diet would be my new lifestyle for life, my thoughts were...."All my illness problems finally had a name...how bad could a gluten-free diet be?" The 'cure' sure sounded simple enough....I only had to stay on a gluten-free diet for life. What could be so bad about that...no drugs to take...just that gluten-free diet bit and I would be feeling good as new. It would be a snap.
The next person I saw was the dietitian..."Like WOW!" was my first comment after she explained a bit about just what a gluten-free diet really was. "What do you mean I can't have all those things to eat?" I stated firmly. "A person just can't get along without things like bread, cakes, cookies, pizza and good things like that to eat....I just can't eat rice and corn stuff for the rest of my life."
After having a good cry, feeling very sorry for myself and very alone, I decided I had better do an attitude check. I really had to try to stop thinking so negatively about all the foods I couldn't have on this darned gluten-free diet and must start to concentrate instead on all the good healthy foods I really could have on this diet.
Well that was back then and today I do know that you can be on a gluten-free diet and have many delicious things to eat. Many health food stores have gluten-free products available. Mail order companies selling gluten-free products have doubled just in the past few years. And last but not least are those of us who enjoy making our own tasty gluten-free baked treats.
I love to cook (and eat too) so felt very confident that I could just start making some treats that I could have. I rushed off to the library to find some cookbooks that would have recipes for rice flour, after all, I was ready to start baking. I came back home empty handed and with a frowny face. There was no information under celiac sprue, celiac disease, gluten intolerance or rice flour recipes. There was that darned negative attitude again...made myself head back to the library to seek further information. It was suggested that I look under allergy related cookbooks. "I never would have thought to look under that heading as I don't have an allergy, I have an intolerance." I quietly informed the librarian. I returned home once again, this time with several cookbooks and a smiley face. I hadn't yet found out about the really good gluten-free cookbooks that were available.
How quickly I learned that of all the gluten-free recipes I tried, most all came out very heavy, dense in texture and quite gritty in taste. I would love to meet the people that tested some of the recipes I tried...do you suppose they really ate the end result? I doubt it. Probably weren't on a gluten-free diet either. Memory still brings to mind my attempt at making favorite spice cookies. The aroma coming from the oven was wonderful. The longed for first bite, was another story...it tasted like a mouthful of sand with some spices thrown in! AWFUL!! Gee, is it any wonder that darned negative attitude was trying to take over?
That was then and this is now...this little checklist works for me.
Do put on a smiley face and do an attitude check.
Don't wait until the last minute to bake that dessert when company is coming.
Don't be afraid to experiment a bit.
At times there will be failures just because the baked item is gluten-free, no other cause except to say that it is sometimes the way of gluten-free. If you can accept these few statements, your gluten-free baking will become a lot more successful.
Earlier I stated that I love to cook (and eat too). I started cooking at the age of 9—10 years of age. This was done under my mothers supervision and guidance. As my experience grew, I might be asked to place a roast in the oven, clean vegetables and put foods to cook at proper times. This in turn lead me to help with meal planning and shopping. Finally came the day for me to prepare a complete meal. It wasn't long before I was doing much of the cooking because I enjoyed it and my mother didn't really. My experimenting started early...I was always wanting to do something different...not eat the same meals all the time. Guess I was a bit of a maverick even back in the early cooking days.
When I married, my husband was in the Air Force and stationed in Colorado. We both lived in and around New York City and the Long Island area, lots of ethnic communities and foods. I quickly learned that if a specialty food was wanted, I better learn how to make it as most were not available. My husband chose a 26 year career in the Air Force and we traveled the world over during his military career. Food/cooking/eating are shared by all cultures...a common bond. Having lived in various locations has given me a better understanding of food and cooking. Friendships are made, barriers broken when people share their love of food. My love for cooking has grown greatly.
Sandra J. Leonard was editor of The Gluten-Free Baker Newsletter a quarterly newsletter of home kitchen tested gluten-free recipes. The Gluten-Free Baker Newsletter, Suite A, 361 Cherrywood Drive, Fairborn, OH 45324-4012 (This address last verified in 2003).
Also check out Bake Deliciously! Gluten and Dairy Free Cookbook.
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This page modified February 2007
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