My favorite thing about gluten-free...

...is the food. I know that sounds somewhat strange. Most people who know about my celiac diagnosis or who hear that I'm gluten-free are so sorry for me because of what I'm missing. They say things like "I could never do that" and look at me with pity for the absence of pasta in my life. Relatives check in and ask how it's going, managing my new diet.

Sometimes, just because it's what they want to hear, I'll mention a few of the things I'll never have again or talk about how eating in restaurants has become so complicated.

But the truth? I've never eaten so well. I don't miss anything so far. I've never paid so much attention to my food, where it came from, or how I combine things, and there's an unexpected joy in it.

I found the lists (which are a wonderful service, and I don't mean to denigrate them at all!) of GF and non-GF foods extremely overwhelming. It's so much simpler to buy whole, unprocessed foods - foods that are just one ingredient! - and not have to worry.

My local farmer's market is my favorite store - when I buy pork or beef (or elk!) - I have a conversation with the family (often parents and kids) who raised and took care of the animals that will become my meal. They tell me exactly what the cows ate and how they spent their days. I love the pork from one family farm and while I'm sad to learn there won't be more until October, I feel no qualms about enjoying the meat I just bought since I know that the reason there won't be more is that they're waiting til the animals are ready, following the cycles of nature.

The vegetables and fruits are the same way. And herbs! No need to worry if gluten, in one form or another was used to keep dried basil from sticking if I'm washing and chopping it fresh from a garden with the dirt still on it. Beyond the wonderful world of fresh herbs, some of my favorite discoveries are Pattipan Squash, Beetroot, and watermelon.

Well, ok, I'd definately had watermelon before, but I had no idea how good for me it was (increases amino acids free arginine and citruline, excellent source of vitamins A, B6, and C, and also has vitamin B1, beta-carotine, calcium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, and iron, the potent antioxident lycopene-over 4x/serving vs. tomatoes!) or that juicing the whole thing (rind, seeds, and flesh) made a wonderful, thirst-quenching juice! In China, the seeds are apparently a common snack when roasted, as popular as sunflower seeds. I've got to try that! This morning I had a watermelon smoothie with breakfast. Yum.

Beets were a revelation. I hated them as a child, from the can, dying my mashed potatoes a horrid shade of fuschia and tasting like ... ugh. Fresh beets are a whole other thing. It's like a different vegetable-they can be juiced, sauted, and the greens too.

Pattipan is a squash, that looks like a small, pale acorn squash in shape and can be used like a zucchini. It tastes, to me, kind of like zucchini but more flavorful and slightly peppery. I've been stir-fying it in grapeseed oil with a Herbs en Provence style blend. Last night, I mixed in fresh peas, prosciutto (admittedly not local, but GF! with only 2 ingredients - the second being salt), sprouted mung beans, fresh basil, salt & pepper, and leftover brown rice. It made the best fried rice I've ever had.

I could go on and on - and I probably will here as I discover other foods. I'm still not healthy and it will probably be a while until I heal, but I feel better about what I'm eating than I ever did before going gluten-free. Being aware of what I eat (to be GF) has made me pay attention to food in a new way. I feel, paradoxically, set free by my 'restricted' diet. Food isn't just fuel, it's become a true pleasure.


The Incredible Edible Egg

Last night I got home late from a meeting (no, summer doesn't mean no work for profs!), and was starving. Hunger and appetite are new things for me; I think it's been about four or five years since I last felt hungry!

So, I needed food fast. The fastest thing I could think of? Eggs.

I seasoned some organic polenta with fresh ground Himalayan salt, fresh ground black pepper, and Herbes aux Provence. I fried the polenta in Grapeseed oil while warming some corn tortillas in my toaster oven. Once the polenta set, I added two organic, cage-free eggs, and the tortillas torn into pieces, along with some additional salt & pepper. Finally, I threw some Trader Joe's salsa verde around the edges.

Yum. This is my new favorite fast meal.


How did lunch get so complicated?

I just got an email about a workshop I have to attend in August at my college. It'll be small, but will including all the deans as well as my cohort of new faculty and some experienced faculty.

The workshop is scheduled to take place over three days and includes three lunches at three different places.

I haven't been to a restaurant since my diagnosis. These aren't places with GF menus (ha! around here), but since they're all in my small city, it would be could to build relationships with them.

But I'm scared ... not just of being glutened, or the amount of prep it's going to take to make the meals work, but of sticking out.

I went to a workshop at the end of June where lunch was sent in and brought my own lunch. People, of course, asked questions. It ended up being big topic of conversation over lunch. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm happy to talk about celiac ... I'm an educator by avocation after all ... but I don't want to be only "celiac girl", I also want people to be aware of my teaching and research. And, oh yeah, maybe me as a person too.

Especially to the administration. One thing that worries me is that someone who gets into their head that I'm sick or hard to deal with and how that could affect my career. These people I'm eating with are the same people deciding about job renewals and tenure. I don't want them to think I can't handle things or that I need to be treated differently. At another job, I had an allergic reaction to air freshner used in the building. The department thereafter saw me as 'bubble girl' and it became an enormous production. So, on the one hand, I don't want anyone over-reacting.

On the other hand, I don't want people not taking this seriously either, since I do need special accomodations for things like these lunches. Also, this summer is not as productive in terms of research and writing as I had planned because of being sick (I was hospitalized for a little while too).

Apparently I want it all. I wonder if others worry about their jobs and people's perception of them as they deal with Celiac, especially this line between hey-I'm really sick! and this is serious and not wanting to stick out.

I need to find the 'elevator answer' - a quick blurb that explains and walks the line. And, somehow sound like I'm still doing a lot this summer without killing myself with the pressure and letting it still be ok to rest.



At the end of May, I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease. 'Celiac' isn't just the name of a disease, it also a noun ... as in, 'I am a celiac.'

I'm in my second year teaching on the tenure-track at a small liberal arts college in a small city. So, I'm a professor too.

I'm new to both these things--celiac and being a professor--and both seem so much about my identity. I can't just do my job, I have to 'be' a prof and, certainly, I can't just eat anymore. Food has turned out to be the center of my health, and, at least for this summer, the center of my world. Celiac Disease has a steep learning curve and you have to do the work for yourself.

You know the saying 'you are what you eat'? I'm working on thinking about celiac as a wonderful opportunity for that to be a positive and affirming statement. One danger I can see in CD is that it can lead to you becoming what you don't eat - defining yourself by the absences in your life, all of the multitudes of I can't ... I want to try to reconnect with food.

Last year, it was fuel (bad fuel, apparently! Maybe leaded in an unleaded system? Can you tell I don't teach internal combustion?!). I ate out a lot and many, many Amy's frozen dinners. It was still a healthier year than I've ever had in terms of eating because I got rid of caffeine, soda, fast food, and most heavily processed chemical foods. But I didn't cook, working fourteen or sixteen hours and trying to teach, research, write, publish, and, well, the multitude of madly important tasks that suck up time.

In the past month, I've cooked more meals than in whole past academic year. They've been pretty simple, as I'm still healing, and dealing with nasty amounts of fatigue. I also have a broken oven (although it's amazing what a toaster oven can do!) which I hope will be fixed tomorrow.

So, I'm going to try blogging as I discover celiac & academia and figure out how my life is going to work.