You probably read the title of this post and rolled your eyes. It's possible you thought, "Oh Jeez, another post about how gluten is killing us all". I promise you this is not that kind of post. Although gluten will slowly kill me and my daughter, if you aren't intolerant or allergic, then you're safe. It won't kill you.
I went on a gluten free diet in 2002, which to most gluten free people, that is basically the stone age. Back then there were no such things as Gluten Free Menus, Gluten Free Girl Scout cookies, or even Gluten Free aisles in grocery stores. If I wanted a gluten free cookie or cake, I had to make it myself, and it usually was a disaster. In the stone age gluten free baking required seven different flour, things like xantham gum, and twenty five eggs. Okay, maybe not twenty five eggs, but pretty damn close. My point is, being gluten free back then was super hard. I took my food everywhere, which isn't really different than what I do today, but back then there were very few restaurants that I would eat at in fear of cross contamination.
In November, the Hubbs and I came to the conclusion that Caitlin needed to be put on a gluten free diet. After years of stomachaches and headaches, I knew we had to try it. I'm gluten intolerant and I have been my whole life, unfortunately I didn't realize it until I was a twenty four year old adult. I didn't want years of pain and anxiety for Caitlin, so with nothing to lose, we went gluten free. The transition wasn't incredibly hard for us, since I knew exactly what to buy and where to buy it, and now since gluten free has become a "mainstream allergy", you really can find gluten free items everywhere. Now most companies make it easy for gluten-free-ers and put big shiny labels on their years old products that say Gluten Free. Awesome right?
Super awesome until I've realized that even though we are out of the "stone age" with gluten free products, there is a dark cloud that hangs over the Gluten Free community. I read so many articles where I can hear the author rolling their eyes. Gluten Free is the new "fad" diet. It's the excuse to be "difficult" at restaurants. It's the new "fat free". And I totally get the bad vibe, when I read other articles by Gluten Free bloggers, that ask the gluten free community to petition things like Nascar Commercials and Food Companies who refuse to certify this thing or that. Sometimes us gluten free folk can look like a bunch of assholes.
Look. I'm not the organic gluten free mom. And if you are and you are reading this, awesome for you. My daughter and I are gluten intolerant. We are not Celiacs, but we can totally sympathize with them. That said, my kid eats Cheetos and Fritos, both gluten free, but also full of chemicals I can't pronounce. I buy Gluten Free mixes from both Betty Crocker and Krusteaze. I buy hot dogs and lunch meat that are marked gluten free, but aren't marked organic. So what? I'm feeding my kid. She likes it, and if I can find it at Walmart, well Amen to that. I can tell you that I am the mother who walks into Whole Foods with one kid eating a salad and the other toting in McDonald's chicken nuggets. I once told Caitlin I would buy her a GF cookie mix at Walmart in the baking aisle at Whole Foods and everyone turned around and stared at us as if we were on fire. And I just wanted to yell, RELAX ASSHOLES, this is America, and I can't afford your mixes at almost six dollars a box.
My point is, why are we acting like a bunch of assholes? What does it matter if we eat organic or gluten free or none of the above? It really doesn't. I guess I've just noticed that when I announce that I'm gluten free or my kid is gluten free I get this look like I'm the asshole. And I promise you I'm not.
I'll admit that having to eat around an allergy is hard. But we do it, because we aren't assholes. Birthday parties, school parties, dinner parties, and even Girl Scouts are hard when you have to take your own food, but we do it anyway. I would never expect that someone have something for me or Caitlin to eat. Why cater to the only person with a food allergy in the bunch. Maybe it's because I've been brown bagging it since I was a kid, but I'm always prepared with gluten free food or snacks wherever we go. Ask any of last year's Elevate attendees, I took both my lunch and my dinner, and it was no big deal, for any of us.
I'm not overly sensitive. I'm not offended by the Nascar commercial with Nick Offerman from the Office, who says that the Founding Fathers would hang their wigs in shame that we are a nation afraid of gluten. I thought the commercial was funny. Because I can laugh at myself, and my allergy. You have to be able to laugh at yourself when you spend five dollars for a box of gluten free cookies, or eleven dollars a pound for almond flour. It's also why I don't go to the Olive Garden and complain about things like cross contamination. I know better. You are going to get some gluten in a restaurant who's claim to fame is a never ending pasta tour. I don't expect the room mom or the teacher to provide gluten free snacks for the party, and I don't expect the cafeteria to serve gluten free food.
I do, however go to restaurants that I believe are "safe". Restaurants that I am familiar with, and know their menus pretty well. The family and I will try new restaurants that advertise fresh ingredients and I always talk to the manager if we are unsure of any menu items. I've been known to leave double the tip or triple if we have been extra difficult. I have open and honest conversations with servers and tell them our food allergies and ask for suggestions on what to order that will make every one's life easier. We double buy cake mixes and cookies and understand that at some birthday parties we will just ask for ice cream. So far this year I have bought a doughnut pan and a Twinkies pan, so that my kid can participate in the class parties. We get that we have to be our own advocates, and that we cannot expect to find gluten free everywhere we go. Although it is a little easier now, I won't be starting petitions any time soon. I get that "gluten free" seems like a fad, but is more of lifestyle for us now. And how can you be mad at a diet that will force you to eat French Fries and milk shakes at most restaurants that don't have gluten free menus?
I also educate my daughter on how to make decisions in my absence. I tell her that chocolate or vanilla ice cream is usually safe. French fries and baked potatoes are safe. That when in doubt, choose the Cheetos. I give her as much information as her seven year old gluten free brain can handle, because mom can't be everywhere all the time. And if my kid gets "glutened" it will suck, but we will deal with it. I'm not going to call the news channels or attempt to sue the school district.
Why? Because we are not assholes. We went Gluten Free because it was right for us and our health. Caitlin has had less headaches and stomachaches. Her attitude and anxiety have had a major overhaul. Do we still have mornings that are filled with tears? Yes. Are they fewer and farther between? Hell yes. And the greatest discovery since going gluten free? She sleeps better, in her own bed. At first we thought it was a coincidence, but after the few times she's been glutened, we realize that going gluten free has made it possible for her to get a good night sleep. That alone has been worth every five dollar loaf of gluten free bread.
I would never say that Gluten Free is the only way to be. I still buy Kraft Mac and Cheese for the gluten eaters in this house. We still go to restaurants that have questionable contamination standards. This year we will have two birthday cakes, one gluten filled and one gluten free. Because gluten free was our choice, and for us we chose well. It works for us. But that doesn't mean I expect it to work for everyone else.
So yes. I'm gluten free. My daughter is gluten free. We pay almost four dollars for Gluten Free Oreos. We pay almost five dollars for a doll sized loaf of bread. We spend half my pay check at Whole Foods some weeks, and I have been known to spend twenty dollars at Starbucks on protein packs and waters. But it was delicious and saved our "hangry" selves that day. I'm grateful that we are no longer in the stone age for gluten free snacks on the fly.
One day in the near future, no one will care that I order salad dressing on the side and burgers lettuce wrapped. They will just think I'm another dieter, watching my carbs. Which is fine, I'm always watching my carbs, but I swear, I'm not an asshole.