At the risk of losing a few readers who rely on me for gluten-free and allergy-friendly wisdom, today I'm coming clean.
An Allergic Foodie has made some mistakes. Some really, really bad mistakes.
To my defense, that little piece of paper the allergist handed me listing twenty foods that may contain gluten was a joke. Please also keep in mind that in addition to having to eliminate gluten from my diet due to celiac disease, I am also allergic to soy, dairy, corn and a host of other foods and spices. (Like vanilla and nutmeg. Who's allergic to vanilla and nutmeg?)
Eliminating multiple foods from one's diet is NOT easy. Especially when you don't have any nutritional science background (unless you count several attempts at Weight Watchers) and your cooking skills involve opening a box and adding water.
Here are a few of my favorite blunders (I find it fun to sing this line to the tune of "Here are a few of my favorite things"):
I thought "Wheat Free" meant "Gluten Free."
Yes, I ate several packages of Newman's Figs before realizing they were full of gluten. I mean if you can't trust Paul Newman, who can you trust?
I followed the three-second rule: "Those croutons were only on the salad for three seconds!"
Doesn't matter! A nanosecond of cross-contamination will make me sprint to the restroom as if my feet were on fire. By the way, at Outback Steakhouse "Sheilas" means ladies' restroom--found that out the hard way.
Didn't know that spelt was gluten.
The week I found out I had celiac disease I bought a big loaf of spelt bread. After all, it wasn't "Wheat Bread" so it must be gluten free. And it tasted like cardboard, so it must be gluten free. Spelt caused me to crawl under my bed for seven days. Not exaggerating.
Didn't know barley was gluten.
Put this soup on your MOST NOT-WANTED LIST. Do it now.
I skimmed ingredient lists.
This was back in the days when I thought I could buy foods that contained more than five ingredients. I also hadn't yet accepted that I needed reading glasses (now I keep a magnifying glass in my pantry!). I also hadn't gotten my PhD in nutritional studies. Okay, I still don't have a PhD, but I think I'm pretty darn smart about food allergies and celiac disease. Read my post What Is This in My Food?Maltodextrin. Smart, huh?
I was shy in restaurants.
I'm an introvert. I don't like to make a fuss. I don' t like to draw attention to myself. These are not good characteristics for someone who eats out a lot and has many special dietary requirements. Here's how I ordered the first few times I ate out after diagnosis:
"Just bring me a vegetable salad with olive oil and lemon, no bread, no croutons."
Here's how I order now:
"I have allergies and celiac disease. So no gluten, wheat, soy, dairy, or corn. Did you write that down? Let's see, I'll have the burger with no bun, no cheese, and please don't cook the meat in butter, and use a piece of foil on the grill. And can you make sure the fries aren't cooked with other fried foods, or in corn or soy oil. If it says vegetable oil, it may be soy oil. Read the label. Do you make your catsup in-house? I can't have corn syrup . . ." You get the drift.
I paid a "Wellness Coach" $500.
C'mon, who wouldn't pay $500 to rid themselves of multiple food allergies and celiac disease? After my first appointment, I got home and checked the ingredients of the Miracle Shake that was going to cure my leaky gut. Contained gluten and vanilla! I'd been scammed! Any one out there interested in buying a case of a Miracle Shake that will cure your celiac disease and/or food allergies? I'll throw in the box of Magnetic Clay Detox Bath Beads that will also rid your body of evil toxins. (Note: There are some good wellness coaches out there: just make absolutely sure she/he is qualified and has a background in food allergies and celiac disease.)
I stopped drinking vodka.
Stupid, stupid mistake. People who I called friends told me vodka was made from wheat, not from potatoes as I'd always thought, so I tearfully said goodbye to martinis. But then I read on a reputable website that distilled liquor was okay for celiacs. Hooray! I celebrated with a Cosmo or two or three (I know, Cosmos are so outdated, but I just can't find a martini I like better. Suggestions?)
A side note: Chopin Vodka is made entirely from potatoes and has become my vodka of choice. (Okay, so maybe I didn't give up ALL vodka in those early days).
I'll stop here because the experts say blog posts should be kept short to retain reader interest. The point to my admitting these early-diagnosis mistakes is this: Learning to live with celiac disease and food allergies takes practice, patience, perseverance and maybe a pair of reading glasses. But in time, you will become a pro--and you will start feeling good!