Friday, May 9, 2014

You Have To Start Somewhere

We're not doing this because we want to lose weight. We're not doing this because it's trendy.

We're doing this because we have to.

Two weeks ago, our four year old son was diagnosed with Celiac Disease. For those who don't know, Celiac Disease is an auto-immune disease that affects the small intestine and can lead to any one of dozens of symptoms. It is caused by the body's reaction to gluten, a protein strain found in wheat and other related grains. Essentially, my son can no longer eat anything containing these grains (flours, derivatives, drinks, etc.). The buzz-word for this lifestyle change is 'Gluten-Free'.

Fortunately, it's a good time to have to go Gluten-Free, as the diet has become the new, trendy thing to do to improve your health. The number of companies making Gluten-Free foods, or versions of previously wheat-based foods using other grains and starches has grown by leaps and bounds. Supermarkets now have Gluten-Free sections. The internet is full of Gluten-Free recipes to make the transition as easy as possible.

Unfortunately, thanks to people like these (seriously, how hard is it to Google 'Gluten!?), many companies and restaurants are now touting their food products as being 'Gluten-free' to gain the business of the 'Gluten-Free As A Trend' crowd, even though their foods are not Gluten-Free enough for a person with Celiac Disease. Just because it's not made with Gluten ingredients doesn't mean it wasn't prepared next to, or cooked on the same surface as, an item with Gluten. It's pretty hard to know who to trust with the Gluten-Free label.

After being tested, my wife and I found that neither of us has Celiac Disease, but we still decided that our home should go Gluten-Free for the sake of our son. This is not as simple as throwing out the flour, Goldfish and pasta. The whole kitchen was cleaned and any cookware, utensils, plates and kitchen gadgets that couldn't be thoroughly cleaned were donated and replaced. As a guy who is very, very proud of his pizza crust recipe, bidding farewell to my pizza peel and stones was a sad day.

My wife and I are foodies. We love to experiment with new ideas in the kitchen and come up with new recipes. We love eating out at good restaurants (we tend towards non-chain, local one-off places, particularly gastro pubs) in and around Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, Maryland. We definitely enjoy good craft beer (see: gastro pubs). For us, ordering Gluten Free at a restaurant is relatively easy:salmon with a potato and vegetables is an easy thing to do, as long as nothing is topped or marinated in a Gluten-containing sauce or cooked along side Gluteny (Is that a word? It is now.) items. For our son, whose diet is mostly grilled cheese sandwiches, french fries (if they're fried in the same oil as breaded items, they're out) and chicken tenders, restaurant nights just got a lot more difficult. Do they have a Gluten-Free menu? Do they keep the Gluten-Free foods away from the rest of the menu items and cook them on separate cookware? How well do they follow their Gluten-Free process?

This blog will be about our adventures and experiences in removing Gluten from our lives without changing our lives as much as possible. We'll talk about our experiences with how different restaurants around us treat the Gluten-Free mandate in a portion of the menu that is usually an afterthought: the Kid's Menu. We'll talk about our own kitchen experiences and any other life events that involve the Gluten-Free label. But we'll try not to rant... Celiac Disease isn't common knowledge for everyone and you can't blame people who don't have it for not being knowledgeable about it. We're just getting educated about this disease this too.

So I have a new pizza peel and pizza stones, but no new pizza crust recipe I'm happy with (I need yeast and the ability to throw something in the air).

Challenge: Accepted.

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