This weekend I read "Gluten Free Girl" by Shauna James Ahern. I came across Shauna's blog a few months ago while adding a variety of gluten-free to my Google Reader account. While I am not employing a Gluten Free diet (yet), I am awaiting the test results from my food sensitivity testing. The gluten free blogs that I read have wonderful ideas for cooking and the authors have an amazing passion for food. They inspire me and I am actually excited to get the results for my tests because I feel like it will open the doors for a variety of foods that I can eat without worrying about the effects they have on my system.
Shauna is no different.
Prior to be diagnosed with Celiac Disease, Shauna ate a variety of bread, pastries and gluten-filled items and had no idea that those items were behind her constant and incurable sickness. Once a blood test confirmed her diagnosis she stopped eating gluten for good. Gluten is found in many foods including wheat, barley, rye. For people like Shauna, even a tiny amount of gluten (a contaminated utensil or kitchen surface for instance) can cause her to become incredibly sick.
When faced with such an immense challenge, some would be fearful of food; instead Shauna embraces it. Her book and website include a wide variety of gluten free recipes, all of which could be enjoyed by people who normally eat gluten. Items like lemon olive oil cookies, chicken thighs with pomegranate molasses, and butternut squash soup with smoked paprika make my mouth water just thinking about them! Shauna prides herself on finding fantastic ingredients and she exudes incredible passion for food in her recipes, fabulous writing and beautiful photographs.
Her book reads like a conversation with a great friend; you're always able to catch up where you left off, but stop along the way to tell stories from your life that have happened to get you to the present. She talks about her childhood and her family's affinity for all things processed (which I can completely relate to). The book covers her illness prior to diagnosis as well as the freedom she was granted once she knew that the gluten she was eating practically daily was the toxic substance that was making her so sick.
It was great to read about her feelings before and after her diagnosis. While Celiac and Crohn's are very different, it was nice to read something I could relate to. While being diagnosed with a "disease" can be very scary (even the word disease carries such a negative tone) it also means answers. Answers lead to solutions. I have only a couple of people who I can talk to who understand what it's like to have a major condition and everything that comes with it - the doctor's appointments, tests, medications, restrictions etc - it was really nice to read about Shauna's perspective on the whole thing.
Shauna talks about how she met her husband just before she gave up on online dating. "The Chef" was a perfect match for her and even has turned his restaurant into a glorious gluten-free place where Shauna and anyone with a gluten intolerance can eat safely.
Shauna has the word YES tattooed on her wrist and I think that the tattoo in itself really exemplifies her attitude for food, writing and most of all her life. While she lives Gluten Free, her diet isn't free of much else and Shauna has really opened her eyes to the possibilities with food that await her. Gluten Free Girl is a wonderful book for anyone wanting to learn more about Celiac, gluten-free living, or for anyone who shares a passion for food and cooking.
It is estimated that between 1/100 - 1/200 people have Celiac worldwide. You can read more about Celiac on the Canadian Celiac Association's website