Gluten Free is Not for Sissies

have your gluten-free cake and eat it, too

Your voice is about all you need to keep your Celiac or gluten intolerant self safe.  Don’t be afraid to use it. Stand up. Be counted. The very important FDA gluten-free labeling proposal is still open for comments. Not sure what to say? Go to 1 in 133 here and learn more. Feel free to write your own comments or join the group letter which says some pretty important stuff (I did).

Here’s the thing.  You have to have a spine to be able to walk among the gluten world and maintain a GF existence. All of us face challenges eating gluten-free – and sometimes they come from the strangest places.

Years ago Cap’n Awesome was touched beyond measure when his boss made him a beautiful flourless chocolate cake for his birthday.  The whole crew gathered to sing a boisterous chorus of happy birthday and dig into the beautiful cake. His boss proudly declared to everyone that the whole cake had only two tablespoons of flour in the whole thing!  Cake knife midair, Cap’n Awesome pedaled fast through his brain to find something to say that would not offend the boss.  Fortunately he has a great sense of tact and explained why he couldn’t eat it. But his boss was truly incredulous that only two tablespoons in an entire cake could make a Celiac ill.  He trusted the answer, but didn’t quite believe.

Recently I ordered take-out Pad Thai from Whole Foods and told the person I was a gluten intolerant so that they would know to be extra careful.  I assumed that of all places Whole Foods knew how to be gluten-free safe. Then incredibly I watched as he lowered the rice noodles into the water.  The only pot of water.  I asked if wheat noodles were cooked in there. Why yes. Yes they were.  But not at the same time as rice noodles.  You get the picture.  I canceled the order much to the server’s annoyance and told him that is not an especially useful practice for keeping gluten-free orders safe.  His response was to shrug and move on to the next person in line.

Last year at a well-known local restaurant Cap’n Awesome and I ordered breakfast eggs and explained that no bread should go near our plates and that we could not eat any gluten – and the server nodded.  A friend turned to the server and told him that a little bread wouldn’t kill us.  Then that friend turned to the others at the table and said that it was just a fad we were going through. Our order arrived with bread on top of the eggs.  Imagine how much fun that was telling the server that not only did the order need to go back, but they had to redo it entirely.  Our friend laughed the entire time.  Let’s just say the friend is now in the remote acquaintance category.

Just this year, my own brother said that I shouldn’t have to eat a gluten-free cake on my birthday – I should go for the real thing.  As if a GF cake I would make would not be a real thing? Too bad he did get a chance to eat the cake in the photo.

What’s a newbie to do?

Easy.  Just do it.  Being sick is not worth caving in when the going gets tough.  You’ll learn that.  And it takes time and quite a lot of patience with yourself and the learning curve – but you will get there. But in the meantime, surround yourself with support even it’s totally virtual and make sure you supply yourself with tasty GF foods. So much food is naturally GF anyway – so it isn’t all that difficult.  But to make up for the things you used to eat that contained gluten, decide what it was about it that you loved and find a way to recreate it GF.

That is why I have a baking blog.  I love baked goods.  I love bakeries.  I love cake. I love cookies. I love pastry.  I used to love bread more than I do now, but I still enjoy a little bit now and then.  I’ve worked for a long time to get some of these recipes right so that there is no feeling of deprivation when I eat, say, a chocolate chip cookie.  Or a chocolate cake.  Or a custard filled cream puff.

Time?  You say you don’t have time to cook or bake gluten-free?  I say you don’t need all that much time.  Make a couple of batches of cookies on the weekend and freeze the dough in serving portions.  That way during a busy week all you have to do is pop some on a baking sheet and you have fresh cookies.  Do that over a few months and you will wonder why you ever liked anything but fresh cookies.

Sandwiches? Buy Udi’s or Rudi’s or even French Meadow or Katz.  All good breads.  They make great sandwiches if you toast up the bread slightly.  There are more GF breads emerging at the market than I can count. Some are awful, and some are excellent.  Try an Udi’s plain bagel for a burger bun.  It works quite well with a slab of cheese and a slice of bacon (not for the faint of heart!).  Grilled cheese on any of those breads is worthy.  If you get a chance to go to Bob’s Red Mill in Portland, they have their own bread for sale in the freezer.  It is fabulous.

Use the virtual world to help guide your way while living GF.  On LinkedIn there are Celiac groups.  Find Celiac resources on Facebook and Twitter.  Read great GF blogs and walk through their links.  On Facebook GF pages, don’t be shy.  Ask questions.  Those who have gone before you will have answers.

And remember – every single time you stand up for GF in the public forum, whether it is at a restaurant, or in a deli or grocery, or even with the FDA – you stand up for millions of others.  But most of all you are standing up for your own good health.

And at the heart of it all, it is good health and good food we want. We can live quite well without gluten.  Because we are not sissies.


  1. Barb White says:

    Wow what an inspiring blog. I have been GF for almost 12years now and have struggled. 2009 was my first holiday away when I didn’t get sick. Things are getting better and people in general are becoming more educated. No one invites me for dinner without asking what I can have now. It’s pretty good.
    I had the cancer scare this Spring and that is dealt with now so it’s on to bigger and better things.
    Gotta say the only thing I really miss is thick chewy foccacia. That will just have to be a fond memory. :0]

  2. I get so tired of having to talk about being celiac anytime I eat out or eat with someone new. And I get so tired of comments from FAMILY members (e.g my sisters who are in their 40’s!) that “I’m ruining Christmas” because I will no longer bake my old whipped shortbread recipes or because my mom now makes gluten-free sugar cookies.

    And then, there’s a day like today. When my gluten-eating boyfriend takes me out for breakfast to our local gluten-free cafe (yes, the ENTIRE cafe is safe!) and actually enjoys his gluten-free waffle with me. And there’s the whole online community of support and great blogs like yours that take the sting and the loneliness out.

    Thank you … and hooray for the amazingness of Gluten Free birthday cakes!!

  3. LOVE this, inspiring and so true, hooray for the GF birthday cake indeed! And for the freedom that is having our health back!! This post inspired me to write my own post, in the blog I literally started a week ago and it really felt like my first real blogger moment! I linked to your post, hope you don’t mind!


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