If we ONLY viewed food in this manner, I have no doubt in my mind that we would be facing far less disease (mental and physical). Food, after all, has the power to both fight disease and contribute to disease.
But --- (BUT) --- most of us do not view food only as "how can it best serve my body."
Food is Joy
Food is Disgust
Food is Comfort
And... Food is a Memory
Every year, since I was married (the first time), we took turns with family holidays. In 1996, it just happened that we went to both our parents’ houses, four hours away from each other, for Thanksgiving weekend, my favorite holiday. Family—it means the world to me. While I know I had stomachaches and far too many trips to the bathroom, and even remember an emergency stop at a rest-stop on the way home (I wasn’t diagnosed with celiac yet), my memory is of those two family gatherings. It was about the people, the smells from the kitchen that filled the house, the food, and yes, even the clean-up afterwards.
What a gift that Thanksgiving was. We didn’t know it then, of course, but it was the last Thanksgiving we would have with either of our moms, and honestly, with either of our families to the extent those two very special meals provided.
When November arrived, my determination was in providing a traditional Thanksgiving that included the stuffing I had every year as long as I could remember, as well as pumpkin pie, (and gravy!). While the gravy part of the “must haves” was because I simply like gravy, the stuffing and the pumpkin pie were big-time memory foods. I remember the bread drying out on cookie sheets over-night and a variety of pumpkin, mincemeat, blueberry and cherry pies lined up on shelves at my parents' house. My mom made her own crusts, and they always looked perfect. All those sights and smells, combined with the hours of playing cards and so much conversation made for a memory I cherish. (Of course, when you get family together, it’s not always this storybook great time, but I am choosing to hang on to the memories of warmth and love.)
So now I had to be gluten free, and I was determined to continue the Thanksgiving food traditions I grew up with. An on-line celiac support group led me to Bette Hagman’s cookbook, The Gluten Free Gourmet, which I went out and purchased right away. I made her French bread recipe, but attempted it with a hand mixer. OH MY GOSH! I had dough on the walls and up into the blender so deep that I don’t think I ever did get it completely clean. It was frustrating and yes, I did spill some tears over it. But the bread itself tasted great and the stuffing I made from it turned out just like it was supposed to.
As for the pies, I never was great at it before, always buying the pre-made frozen crusts, but those I made with the recipe from the same cookbook came out pretty good. (By the way, I went out and bought a Kitchen Aid mixer after that Thanksgiving and have used it 100’s of times since. NEVER regretted that purchase!)
It's NOT just about the person who needs to be gluten free!
For those couple years before I was diagnosed, Red Lobster seemed to be our restaurant of choice, starting out with the spinach artichoke dip as an appetizer. If you want to know why this transition to gluten free can be difficult sometimes---this is why. Christmas 2000 dinner---Red Lobster. That “memory” food, spinach artichoke dip, seemed to be safe for me, and I was assured by the manager that it was. It was brought to the table and everyone was ready to dive in. But then I was told that the chips were fried in a shared fryer. OUCH! The risk of cross contamination was far too great. I was SO wishing I had brought my own.
This disappointment wasn’t just mine; my poor kids! The sadness on their faces over the fact that mom couldn’t join in was so clear, and it made me want to cry more for them than for myself. But then….. (and get the tissues out for this)----the server brought out chips they made fresh. They used a clean skillet and fried those babies up just for me. My kids couldn’t enjoy that tradition without mom….but all was made right in the world because now I could. That memory is forever cherished.
Making New Memories
We can create NEW traditions (and new memories). The first restaurant I discovered to be a “safe zone” (that I learned about through a local celiac support group) was Nacho Mamas in St. Louis. The combination of safe food, yummy food, and being there with people I like to be with, makes this a super special place to eat when I’m with my (now adult) kids.
The memories and traditions my granddaughter has of baking cookies with grandma or making pancakes in the morning after a sleep-over are gluten free. Of course the fact that they are "gluten free" doesn't matter, but they are our forever memories.
Food memories from current holiday and family traditions are now always gluten free when at my house.
Change can often come with resistance, but by not allowing the low times to over-shadow the highs, you can make it over the hill.