Our choices in foods that we eat each day have a great deal of effect on our day-to-day health and how we feel, even for someone without Celiac disease. So being a Celiac can make it even more challenging. You wouldn’t think omitting something from your diet would be so hard and challenging. But, try to do this when your eating out, dining with groups of people, attending events revolving around eating and drinking, etc. Even when taking necessary medications or supplements. Of course, today it’s much easier than it used to be. However, we still have to pay attention to everything we put in our mouths–constantly keeping your eye on the ball, so to speak! It takes diligence and will power.
When I was diagnosed with Celiac disease in the mid 1990s, there wasn’t much known about it. It was believed to be a pediatric diagnosis only that was considered hereditary. Also, the market wasn’t flooded like it is today with all the gluten-free choices we find in stores and in many restaurants. At the time, I was very limited and felt isolated from eating out with friends. I even had to sit apart at events involving food for fear of cross contamination of foods making me sick. Often, I had to resort to eating before I went to an event and watch others eat when I got there! Then, I had to offer an explanation as to why I wasn’t eating. It was unsettling to say the least. So, I was so grateful when the market and restaurants started catering more to people like me. I wasn’t alone and isolated anymore. I was thankful I finally knew why I was so sick. I had Celiac disease!
I didn’t always understand the strictness and severity of it, but I was so grateful I had wisdom to prevent feeling so awful every time I ate. It took years to realize how strict I had to be. I now had to be mindful of everything that went into my mouth–everything from medications, to vitamins, to lipstick, etc. The more strict I was, the more healing that took place. Unfortunately, with Celiac disease comes other autoimmune diseases. The longer it goes undiagnosed, the more damage there is to the gut and your immune system. I ended up with two other autoimmune diseases , Sjogren’s disease (rheumatoid disease causing dry eyes and mouth), and Hashimotos disease (thyroid disease). Once I realized the seriousness of the disease, it was incentive enough to strive for gluten-free living.
And so as time went on, I was beginning to find more public awareness of the disease and gluten sensitivities in others. Restaurants began to catch on, and many became aware and were willing to oblige with the cross contamination effect on Celiac disease. They were willing to go that extra mile to ensure the safety of the customer. As I mentioned before, grocery stores were stocked with so much gluten-free food, I no longer felt deprived as an outsider.
In the midst of me adjusting to all this, a really neat thing was happening. I was learning to be a master chef at cooking gluten-free everything. I reached a point, where anything I wanted in a main dish, desert, etc. I could take and turn it into a gluten-free dish without compromising taste and even looks. I began trying my recipes on family and friends, and the comments were always the same. I would hear, “I couldn’t tell that it was gluten free, and you’re an incredible cook.” Hey I was inspired! So, I began collecting family recipes that I got from my mother. What a treasure I found in them! Authentic, family recipes originating from Europe where much of my family was from. Some came from Italy and some from Russia. You see, both my grandmothers spent time with me while cooking in their kitchens, starting when I was very young. I learned from the best. I loved it, because I loved them. They were my role models, and I was so blessed to have them. I loved preparing food with them. Some of it was the art of the cooking, and the other part was just being with them. The dishes they prepared were not only incredible, but they were also healthy as well. Okay, maybe the more healthy ones were on the Russian side, now that I think of it.
My other grandmother, on my father’s side, cooked a lot of Italian food that was amazing. Her best friend from Italy opened a restaurant in downtown Boston back in the 1940s. She and her husband used some of my grandmother’s recipes. What an inspiration to my grandmother that must have been! However, many of those recipes, while incredible in taste and looks, tended to be high in calorie and fat. Italians love taste, but seldom worried (especially back then) about carbohydrates and fat content. This probably explains all my grandmother’s ailments and her early death from diabetes and much more. We do suspect she had Celiac disease too. She had an awful lot of symptoms and health issues similar to mine. And, Celiac disease is known to be hereditary and runs in families! They (medical professionals) say that it tends to run in Italian and Irish families. Of course my genealogy has Italian descent, no Irish!
Today, I love to duplicate her recipes with modifications, without sacrificing flavor! When I cook with those special recipes now though, and enjoy the loving memories, I tone it down on the fat. With Celiac disease also can come lactose intolerance, so sometimes I will use dairy substitutes that are gluten free. But I have to tell you, it’s not the same! I like to go with real Formaggio (Italiano for cheese), authenticity, and flavor. As long as I don’t eat dairy too often, I do okay, thank the Lord!
So, how do you cook using less fat and the right types of sugars and make it gluten free? This is what this blog (later to be a book) is all about. Stay with me as I share, little by little, family recipes and photos and stories of the old days. I will bring it all into a place where we can enjoy and even have fun cooking Senza Glutine (Italian for cooking without gluten)! I loved spending time cooking with my grandmothers and my mother, and I will love sharing those wonderful recipes with you, too. It can be so much fun and rewarding converting delicious recipes into gluten-free food without sacrificing flavor. The food is not only delicious but safe to eat as well! So Salute! (to health) And, let’s begin! Thanks for sharing in this with me. Iris