Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Happy celiac awareness month!

As you may have heard, we're now a week in to Celiac Awareness Month! By this point, you've probably seen a lot of posts using this awareness to urge people to get tested and get their family tested, as the disease has a strong genetic link and is present in almost 1% of the population (in case you didn't know that - I do still run into plenty of people who believe it's "super rare" based on outdated info)! 

But what if you've already done those things? Or what if persuading family members to get tested is easier said than done? What if all the awareness-raising suggestions you see just feel too big for you right now? 

So, I decided to come up with three smaller, more approachable things YOU can do for celiac awareness this month:

1. Make your community more accessible for celiacs by educating others about how to reduce cross-contamination. This can be as simple as suggesting to your local food co-op about organizing bulk bins so the rice and beans are very far away from gluten items (I've done this, and it worked!!) or politely asking detailed questions about preparation when you go to local restaurants.

2. Lead by example: I don't know if you've had this experience, but I've encountered many people over the years who acknowledge they may have some degree of sensitivity, yet avoid getting tested because they think they'd have to give up everything good. Yikes! Few things are more frustrating than someone saying "I'd rather be sick than give up bread' - especially when you know that being celiac doesn't mean giving up bread at all (as you can tell from a look through my site)! So, maybe this month share some good GF food with someone who could be helped by seeing that living GF doesn't have to be difficult or mean missing out.

3. Build community by meeting and supporting fellow celiacs. For most people, the single most difficult part of a restricted diet is feeling left out and standing out when you don't want to - making friends with other food-sensitive people is a great way to help prevent that for you and someone else! Find some people who you can go out to restaurants with, swap recipe tips with, or even have potlucks with and all feel normal together. 

A great opportunity to do that third one is coming up in less than a month for those of us in NC: the Triad Gluten & Allergen Free Wellness Event will be held on Saturday, the 2nd of June, at the Winston-Salem Fairgrounds. (Yes I know that's no longer May, but it's pretty close...) I will be there giving a talk on GF breadmaking. Hope to meet some of you there! I also have 4 tickets to give away - please leave a comment with your name if you would like a ticket or 2!

P.S. I have a really really exciting announcement coming up in the next few weeks, so stay tuned!

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Reflections and resolutions

As of a few days after Christmas, it’s now ten years that I’ve been gluten-free. That’s well over a third of my life! I had fully intended to mark the occasion with not one, but two new recipes that were not only seasonable and festive, but also of the traditionally-French persuasion that has been an inspiration for my baking since the beginning. But (as life has tended to do these last weeks-months-years), life got in the way of being able to fine-tune these recipes in a timely manner (really, there are only so many failed bûches de noël one can stand to make before deciding that whatever comes out of the oven this time will be the holiday dessert, no matter how it looks!) - and so, by the time Christmas came and went (so quickly!) both of these recipes were still in something of a rough-draft stage: pretty enough to photograph, plenty good enough to eat, but not quite polished enough to post. 
Bûche de noël
Buckwheat pain d'épices
Funnily, that says a lot about how far we - the gluten-free community - have come in these ten years: back then, anything reasonably edible and presentable was cause for celebration and sharing the recipe would be a matter of course. Now, we have the luxury (perhaps even a little bit of a duty?) of being perfectionistic, because we’ve collectively proven that things made of buckwheat and beans and chestnut and millet and potato and rice and sorghum can and should be every bit as good and as real as those made from wheat and rye. And so I give you pictures for now, because while these things were good, I know they can be better. It didn’t happen in time for Christmas, but it will happen. The bar for victory is higher, and that’s a good thing. 

So, this New Year’s Day, I propose a resolution for the celiac/GF community: going forward, let’s remove phrases like “too good to be gluten-free” from our vocabulary. Clearly, if we’re saying that about something, it’s good and it is gluten-free. There was a time when that may have been surprising. Now, though, we have more than enough examples of beautiful and delicious breads, cookies, pastry, and cakes to show that this phrase has lost its relevance. Is it harder, does it take longer to fine-tune a recipe? Maybe. Is there still a lot of bad GF food out there? Yes, of course. Will baking disasters and terrible recipe attempts still happen? Oh yeah. But it’s easy for us to forget, with the larger learning curve we face with our flours, that those disasters and disappointments happen to wheat-bakers, too. And yet, still we all seem to keep being surprised when something is good even now that "too good" seems to have become more of the norm than the exception. So, GF bakers and GF eaters: this year, let’s resolve to stop perpetuating the stereotype. Here’s to a year of baking and eating and sharing things that are exactly good enough to be gluten-free, and getting even better all the time. 
Good bread. Gluten free.