“You will feel like you have the flu.” That is the best description a doctor has ever given me for a Hashimoto’s flare up. Before I heard that, I just always thought I was crazy. Now I know that sick feeling, the joint pains, the swelling in the throat and overall inflammation is caused by my immune system reacting to Gluten. I happened to learn this unnerving little tidbit just before our trip to Paris. I had very mixed feelings about this revelation. On one hand, I was thrilled to know what was wrong and how to stop it but on the other; what is Paris without crepes, croissants, fondue, and baguettes. It turns out…. It’s still awesome!!
We attempted to go to a place that serves gallettes, savory crepes made from buckwheat so that I could have a crepe (though now I realize they probably also have wheat flour and would contain gluten). Crepe Story, a place that we have been to several time and love, was closed for repair so we checked the trust Lonely Planet app on the iPhone and found that Pain Vin Fromage, which had been recommended by a friend was close by. Ryan asked if I was sure and I said, “what the heck! I’ve been eating gluten all this time. I may as well go out with a bang. And that I did! The picture below is from my last intentional gluten-filled meal. It was the most amazing fondue we’ve ever eaten. What better way to celebrate my new gluten freedom?!
We usually don’t eat a lot of obvious gluten sources on a daily basis. Our diet at home is typically very healthy and low in breads and pasta. However, when we travel, we like to enjoy the local cuisine, which often means breads and pasta. So, to “celebrate” my new gluten-free diet. We thought I’d go out with a bang!
When we returned from Paris, I read everything I could find on gluten intolerance and about what I could eat. We shopped and I found lots of gluten-free items that I can eat. I began cooking more of the healthy, naturally gluten-free meals that we ate already. I ordered new cook books. I tried new recipes. I made mistakes. I learned.
I learned the lesson of cross-contamination, which caused a fit that would make any 5 year old proud. About 30 minutes after eating my favorite veggie chips, my usually bony fingers turned into fat little sausage fingers and I felt nauseous. We went back through everything I ate that day and when I checked out the label on wheat-free chips, I noticed there was a warning (in English) that disclaimed the fact that the delicious chips were made in a facility that processes wheat gluten. Apparently, that is a no no!
It’s fest season in Germany. There is some festival for something every weekend. Fests mean beer and food. Luckily, I don’t like beer but I do love food. I was surprised at how easy it was to pass on the crepes and other gluten-full foods. I really didn’t mind at all because I knew how I would feel after. This also afforded me the opportunity to try new fest foods that I hadn’t tried before. I had potatoes covered in mushrooms and chocolate covered fruit on a stick. Let’s face it, it’s not a fest until you’ve eaten something on a stick. It turns out, I got lucky on this one because some chocolates do have gluten. I’m still learning….
I’m reading a book now called Gluten-Free Girl: How I Found the Food That Loves Me Back…And How You Can Too. I love this book because the author shares my view about the need to eat gluten-free. For someone who loves food as much as I do, hearing that I’m gluten-intolerant could have been a nightmare. However, because I love food as much as I do, I’ve decided that it is an opportunity to try new foods and new cooking methods. Finding out that I’m gluten- intolerant in Europe, where everything is bread and pasta and creamy gluten-filled sauce isn’t as bad as I first thought. Being in Europe also means easier access to some of the most amazing cheeses in the world, spices from Indian and Africa abound. If I needed an excuse to go to Morocco to shop in the spice market, I’ve found it. If I really need an excuse to drive to France on the weekend to get real French brie, I’ve found it. Sure, I have to eat that brie with apples or a freshly baked, homemade gluten free baguette but the point is I can still eat the brie!
For the past month, I have been cooking gluten free and learning as I go. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve made mistakes. I’ve ended up eating a pepper covered baked potato in a restaurant that could not understand or accommodate my request. I made myself ill by drinking Starbucks light frappuchino for three consecutive days before Ryan helped me figure out that it was the frapps that were making me sick. I’m sure I have a while to go before I’m no longer afraid to order in a restaurant. I know that I will have challenges like always being prepared with tasty gluten-free food in situations where it may not be available. I’m not overlooking those challenges. I just choose not to let them be an obstacle to enjoying our last year living in Europe.