Print Edition: March 5, 2014
“I’ll have that gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, wheat-free, soy-free, and corn-free please — oh, and did I mention I’m vegan?”
It seems everyone has one of those friends — well, acquaintances — who absolutely love to draw attention to what they are eating, or rather what they are not. They love to shop at overpriced grocery stores like Whole Foods, and turn up their noses at anything that isn’t “local.”
They generally love to overzealously share their opinion — which you didn’t ask for — about your food choices, and they certainly do not hide their disdain when you forget and accidentally offer them a piece of bread to go with their free-range-organic-chicken-and-rice-noodle soup.
I know far too many members of this group, and unfortunately get lumped in with them because I have a autoimmune disease called celiac.
It’s not a fad or a trend, and it’s certainly not a lifestyle choice — it’s my life. Before I was diagnosed with celiac disease, some of my most enjoyable meals consisted of a good glass of craft beer and a hearty piece of french bread.
I’ve since learned to live without.
Celiac disease causes my immune system to cross-react with the tissue in my small intestine — I’ll save you the delightful details, but Wikipedia sums it up nicely: “The only known effective treatment is a lifelong gluten-free diet. While the disease is caused by a reaction to wheat proteins, it is not the same as wheat allergy.”
So as much as it bothers me, I have learned, when I sit there and listen to someone go on and on about how they aren’t “eating gluten,” to take a deep breath and bite my tongue. The reality is, the more obnoxious they are about what they eat, the more obvious it is to someone like me — the cross-contamination queen — that they have no idea what they’re talking about.
It’s the loud ones who go out for sushi and dump soy sauce on their salmon roll — GLUTEN! It’s the loud ones who buy the $6 bag of GF, DF, EF packaged cookies as a “healthy option,” and don’t bother to read the label on the back that says, “may contain gluten,” — or the various other processed ingredients that aren’t good for you — GLUTEN! It’s the loud ones you run into in the lunch room eating a burger — GLUTEN!
If you ask me, cutting gluten out of my diet changed my life. It made me feel healthier in almost every area. Would I recommend minimizing your wheat intake? Yes. Eating more vegetables, and being aware of and avoiding unnatural ingredients? Yes and yes! Would I kill you for a doughnut right now? It’s very possible.
I need to eat the way I eat because when I don’t, I’m hurting my body. Celiac disease is not my master status. It is not my soap box, and it is not my anthem. Food is just food, a medium for socialization and community. It can bring people together and comfort us when we’re sad. It’s an outlet for creativity.
But again, unless you have a severe health condition, food is just food. It should not define who you are.
So, for all you obnoxious gluten -free band-wagon jumpers — put down your french fries, they are cross-contaminated. I promise.