I found out about 9 months ago that my body does NOT like gluten. Gluten is basically my favorite food – bread, cookies, pasta (oh, pasta…). The little places it hides… in sauces and syrups and beer. They are all of my favorite things. Or, i suppose, they were.
As a chef, I defined myself by them. The quality of pasta that I hand make, or the breads, or that perfectly textured apple pie filling.
Now they comprise this huge category of things that I can’t have, and that really, I shouldn’t even be around. I had unknowingly been slowly poisoning myself since I was a kid.
I admit, I have not been tested for Celiac disease. When I started my elimination diet cycle to figure out what was sending my digestive system into turmoil every day I started (and finished) with gluten and all of it’s hiding places. I’ve seen such a dramatic improvement (and have also seen the effects of accidentally gluten-ing myself) that I can’t fathom going back to eating gluten for 30 days to be tested.
All of these favorite things of mine… they seem to have been the root of chronic issues that I have had for decades. Literally. I’m 32 years old now … I have been battling chronic anxiety and depression since I started high school. I’ve had cronic inflammation in my feet, ankles knees, spine and shoulders since college. I blamed dairy for all of my digestive issues. I stopped eating ice cream and drinking milk… but still had all the same problems. Not to be too graphic – but I couldn’t eat a meal without having to be near a bathroom within 30 minutes. It was brutal. I was exhausted… not just tired, fatigued to the bone … for years on end. I blamed it on the stress of being a chef. Alas, gluten.
Within seven days of eliminating gluten, my digestive system returned to a normal pattern. Within two weeks, I felt well rested for the first time in years. I was downright energetic in the middle of our most taxing season of the year here at the ski resort. Within a month, my anxiety was at a lifetime low and my plantar fasciitis was all but gone. I stopped using the anti-inflamatories, the CBD oil, the caffeine (ok, i still love my morning coffee, but hey, who doesn’t?). I started drinking milk with my (gluten-free) oreo’s again.
So why exactly am I telling you all of this?? This blog hasn’t really been a place where I have shared things that are this personal in nature. I’m telling you, dear reader, because “the gluten thing” has reinvigorated me as a chef. It’s forced me to find ways to work around gluten and with new substitute products. It’s forced me to change my perspective.
Nearly 3/4 of the menu for my new restaurant is discretely gluten free. The remaining 1/4 is comprised of things that can either be made to be gluten free, or gluten is an essential piece of the puzzle… like tartine and pasta. But I’m working on those pieces. Hard. I’ve been working on gluten free fresh pastas (pretty successfully) and on gluten free sourdough bread. I took the first successful batch out of the oven today and ate almost half a boule. It’s sour. and dense. and moist. and crusty. and glorious. Truth be told, it’s a little too dense, but I feel like that’s easily solvable.
What I think it all boils down to, what I think the point is, why I’m sharing… is to tell you not to let tough breaks get you down. I spent a long time after my realization – months – lamenting the loss of my favorite foods. But I’ve managed to turn that around into a positive outcome for myself and for all of the gluten free people in my community. I’ve discovered things that I didn’t think I would like, and learned to work with new products. My drive to learn has been reignited … my creativity is flourishing and I’ve left complacency behind me.
It’s appropriate timing, with the opening of our restaurant this summer, but most of all, it’s been a positive life change. I hope that someone else going through a big change like I did will read this someday and know that it’s going to be ok.