After years of suffering from a host of odd, awful, and chronic illnesses, I discovered I was one of those people who cannot eat gluten. Ever. Again. For the record, gluten is a protein found in wheat which in some lucky people causes an autoimmune reaction and a host of crazy-making symptoms. In 2009 I stopped eating anything containing this nasty little protein and suffice it to say, since this paradigm shift in my life, I have been much happier and healthier!
I’m not going to go into the details of what happens to people who suffer from celiac disease. Google them if you are curious. . .they are not pleasant, and they are not pretty. All I have to say is that if you have health issues that just don’t seem to go away whatever you do. . .look into food allergies, celiac, and or/ gluten intolerance as the possible culprit. It’s worth a shot, and could change your life for the better. I can’t explain to you why large numbers of people are going gluten-free. There are doctors and scientists out there claiming it could be linked to everything from ultra-hybridized wheat crops which contain more gluten than ever, to herbicide and persticide use. There are many good books out there on the subject, like Grain Brain by Dr, David Perlmutter, for one. I’m no expert. All I know is I was very sick, I stopped eating gluten, and I stopped getting sick.
When I stopped eating gluten, the future of Thanksgivings seemed bleak. But lo and behold, more and more people are finding out that they can’t eat gluten (not because it’s a fad, because it makes them sick. . .this is called a “trend” and there is a big difference) and there is a whole industry out there full of AWESOME people who make gluten free cooking fun and easy. One book that literally saved my life was Shauna James Ahern’s, “Gluten Free Girl and the Chef.” She gave me hope, and truthfully, you have to be willing to pay a little more for some of this stuff, like the GF rice flour mixes, brown rice pasta, and sandwich bread, but I have noticed over the past year or so that the demand for GF foods is increasing, and the prices are going down a bit. Plus I almost never go to the doctor anymore, except for a yearly check-up. So I save money in health care costs. . .for sure.
There is a meme going around that says something like: “Holidays: Tis the Season to have your Life Choices Mocked at the Dinner Table,” and not to sound like a negative-nelly, but OH BOY is this true. People say things like “Oh you can’t eat that, too bad, it’s soooo good!” or “Can’t you just have one bite?” or “Is gluten free a choice for you or are you just trying to lose weight?” “You’re so skinny, you need to eat more!” or “Isn’t it just another fad?”
Yeah. The good news is I have a super-awesome significant other, Ed, who loves to cook and is always up for a challenge. He makes the best gluten-free fried chicken this side of the Rockies, or probably anywhere because I had never even heard of anyone making it until he did it. He also makes these things called “Cheddah-Biscuits” which are gluten free and nobody ever notices. He made a dozen of them and served them at a barbecue recently and they were gone in about 20 minutes. (There were five of us.) Even more special: My mom keeps gluten-free snacks for me at her house, my boss always buys me a gluten free cookie for meetings (everybody else gets donuts), and our best friends Emily and Josh always serve gluten free dishes whenever they have us over. I never even asked them to do this, because I would never expect anyone to go out of their way to serve me gluten free food. . .they just did. That’s why they are our best friends!
So after spending T-Day at other people’s houses a couple of times and having to avoid food or eat to be polite (and then sick later). Ed and I decided to do our own GF Thanksgiving every year and just invite people to our house. We make sure the turkey has no additives, because some brands actually inject a flavor solution which contains gluten! By the way gluten is UBIQUITOUS, it is in EVERYTHING from beef jerky to soy sauce and salad dressing, primarily because food producers have discovered it increases the shelf-life of processed foods. So I am vigilant about looking for it. If you or anyone gluten-free is just starting out and you are confused, please contact me because I am an expert Gluten-Detective. . .
Anyway. . .
On T-Day I make DELICIOUS stuffing with GF breadcrumbs, and we have Waldorf salad, Cheddah-Biscuits, green-bean casserole with GF onion rings on top, mashed potatoes, yams, gravy (thickened with cornstarch instead of flour), cranberry sauce, and even apple and pumpkin pie with GF crust. NOBODY NOTICES they are eating gluten free food. Of course I put out some other stuff for those who can eat it in the form of crackers and rolls, because I’m not trying to deprive those who can partake. . .but the bottom line is even though I am Gluten-Free, Thanksgiving is FUN again, and I owe it all to my compassionate, understanding family and friends, and of course my sweetie Ed, who is gluten free by proxy most of the time, since we cook together and eat together almost every night. And this is a guy who loves bread! I am so grateful for his support.
Happy Thanksgiving Everyone! Ed is smoking the turkey this year. . .I can’t wait! If you want the GF Cheddah-Biscuit recipe, give me a shout! Or join me next Wednesday at 10AM on The Healthy Hornet, streaming on KSSU I’ll be sharing it then.