If you'd told me ten years ago that I would be trained as a chef with special focus on healthy eating, food theory, nutrition and gluten free foods and that I would write a website to help other people on their gluten-free journey, well I'm not sure I'd have believed you. But here you have it.
As a lifetime student of
food, nutrition and natural health, I decided shortly after my own celiac
diagnosis to make it formal and enrolled in the Chef Training program at George
Brown College in Toronto. George Brown is the premier culinary school in
Canada, it’s kind of like our Cordon Bleu. There I learned more than I ever
imagined there was to know about food from basic cooking techniques that allow
you to cook by smelling and tasting your food rather than relying on recipes,
to food theory and nutrition so I could know what ingredients to choose, why they
work and how they work in your body. I
also chose several electives that focus on gluten-free and healthy alternatives
that can help me to help you on your celiac journey.
All of this was sparked by the need to get much closer to my food and control the ingredients. I guess in a way I kind of panicked when I got that diagnosis. I hadn’t realized that despite my preference for natural and homemade, I actually relied a lot on prepared foods; mostly in the form of bottled sauces and dressings and many of those pre-made products contain gluten. I fear that most of my contemporaries are the same. In a generation, we’ve lost the ability to truly cook and have outsourced that to a greater or lesser degree to large companies who are only too happy to do it for us. The ingredients they chose are not about making our food more healthy for our bodies. Instead they are about making the processing more efficient and pushing our evolutionary buttons by adding way too much sugar and salt because these things taste good and make us crave more. But the price we pay is not only in dollars, we pay with our health. I’ve learned that there are many families who really don’t cook at all. They rely on boxes and packages and takeout and rarely cook a meal from scratch at home.
I believe sweeping change is coming in most every aspect of our food system from seed to table and it’s my desire to be part of the change.
This site is about making it easier for you to cope with your celiac disease but in a very specific way; by getting back to the basics and eating real, fresh, wholesome food that you cook yourself.
I grew up in the city but my roots are in the country. My grandparents owned a farm near Bancroft in Ontario’s Ottawa Valley and my family would make the drive there every other weekend because keeping connected with family was important to my Mom.
Image by James Quirk, Accent on Photography, Bancroft, Ontario, Canada
Pretty much everything that went on the table came from just a few feet away in my grandfather’s garden which he tended like it was the only thing in life that was truly important. Rows of sweet corn, hills of potatoes, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, radishes, asparagus, cabbage, and so on. And not one leaf ever saw a molecule of pesticide. Grandpa was organic when organic wasn’t cool. “If a bug won’t eat it why would I?” he’d say.
My grandmother’s kitchen was a classic country kitchen. Huge wood stove at one end and when I was still quite young, the electric stove made its appearance at the other end. The tiny fridge held a bottle of milk, a block of cheese and two store bought condiments: mustard and ketchup “because the kids like it”. Everything else was homemade: relish, applesauce, jams, jellies, pickles, the list goes on. Bread was made from scratch twice a week. Soup came from a pot on the stove, not a can. And sauces were made from the wonderful meats and vegetables slow roasting in the oven. I doubt “locavore” was even a word then but you don’t get much more local than that.
This is why, when in my twenties and after four miscarriages that doctors couldn’t explain, my friend handed me a book called “Folk Medicine” by D.C. Jarvis M.D. it all made sense. This book was written by a man who grew up in Vermont much the way I described above. As I read about the people and places where he was raised the pictures in my mind were of that farm in the Ottawa Valley and the people there. As a result of Dr. Jarvis’ teachings I went on a regimen of apple cider vinegar and honey, and less than a year later gave birth to my beautiful daughter, Sarah.
Having been steeped in ‘natural’, ‘organic’, and ‘local’ as
a child (without the 21st century lingo and all the attached
political baggage) I just always accepted as obvious that what nature produced
was better than anything humans could synthesize. I rejected the notion that margarine was
more healthy than butter or that artificial sweeteners were an acceptable
substitute for sugar. All the nonsense about saturated fat made no
sense to me. After all, my grandfather
spread bacon fat on his toast and lived into his nineties. (I know, gross)
As I progressed through my twenties and thirties, I generally followed a healthy diet and felt well, except for a few nagging issues that crept up and eventually demanded attention. After my son was born I developed a nagging case of eczema that after several years of investigation and eliminating soaps and scented lotions I finally got under control. During my pregnancy with my daughter I developed rather severe lactose intolerance and a few years after that required gall bladder surgery. Then as time went on I’d notice my tummy was ‘unhappy’ much of the time. I tried eliminating coffee as I’d heard that was hard on the digestion, but that caused only minor improvement. My finger nails were always soft, I continued to have acne well into my thirties and forties and over time developed uterine fibroids.
After the gall bladder surgery I began to have difficulty swallowing my food. It was like a spasm in the area where my gall bladder used to be and the food wouldn’t go down. For years I controlled this by chewing well and sipping water during my meals, but eventually it got to the point where meals were interrupted by my need to go to the bathroom and throw up my food. My husband insisted I go to the doctor.
Of all the things I thought could be the cause of my problem, the absolute last thing I suspected was my healthy whole grain bread! When the doctor gave me the requisition for the celiac test I almost didn’t go. “This is ridiculous”, I thought. I eat lots of bread and pasta and I don’t feel sick specifically after those things. But I went. And the rest is history...
In my other life, I’m a retired project manager. I worked for nearly twenty years for a major Canadian financial institution. I’m married to my best friend and soul mate, Jim. Between us we have five grown children and two grandchildren. This has been a journey for all of us as family life always is. Since my own Celiac diagnosis, my son thought for a while that he felt better and could focus better on his studies without gluten so he tried to eliminate it from his diet. My daughter has severe eczema and although she tested negative for celiac she eliminated gluten and dairy from her diet for several years with mixed results. Both have gone back to eating gluten. It is a difficult diet to follow. So we're all learning as we go and making new discoveries every day. As we do, I'll be sure to share them here.
All the Best,
If all this back to basics and let's get healthy together stuff appeals to you and you'd like to see more, here are a few places to start.