I once had a friend ask me “What’s the hardest part about eating Gluten Free?”
“The freedom.” I said.
“The freedom?” he asked.
“Yeah, the freedom to just eat whatever you want, whenever you want. I can’t just grab a sandwich or a slice of pizza, if I’m in a rush. Everything has to be planned.”
I was living in Berlin when he asked me what I missed most. My advice to the gluten free consumer: Don’t go to Berlin. Or know that food will be your greatest challenge. I love Berlin. I adore Berlin. For everything: the people, the art, the city. But I have to admit, the food was damn near impossible to manage. Germany is, after all, the land of sausages, bread, and beer.
I’m not one of those gluten free people who cheat. I don’t say, “Oh, I can’t eat that,” when it’s convenient, and then eat a delicious piece of bread, when I can’t help myself. Anything with wheat, barley or rye is out. I am actually celiac; it will kill my insides if I eat wheat products.
Living in Berlin, there wasn’t one particular moment where I thought, “Ughhh, I hate this! My life is so hard!” Overall, the challenge could be managed. It was the little, irksome moments when the pangs of hunger took over, and I couldn’t think straight. The days of long travel, when my friends grabbed a ‘wurst’ at the local stand, while my stomach growled. Those moments when the supermarket was closed, so everyone went out, and I debated if I could find something to eat at a restaurant. Nothing catastrophic. Simply irksome.
Back in the states, it’s a different story. It is about a million times easier to eat gluten free here. It can be equally challenging, however, dealing with people who are grossly uninformed. (This has improved over the years) When people ask, “So, what can you eat?” my mind automatically jumps to all of the snarky comments I could say. However, I often reply, “Actually there are many options out there for me.”
Or when I go out to grab a coffee with an acquaintance at a pastry shop, and they are munching on their cake, and apologizing that I can’t eat even a muffin. I picked the bakery, I knew I couldn’t eat there. I’m fine. Don’t look at me as if I’m a sad puppy. I am truly not saying this to make you more comfortable.
Don’t be one of those people whose friends cheat on being gluten free, and ask, “Well, can’t you just have a little bit?” No. I can’t. If someone has a peanut allergy, are you going to propose that they only have a little peanut butter? I didn’t think so.
I live vicariously through smells. I luxuriate in the aroma of cakes baking, or cookies straight out of the oven. I eat food that I enjoy, and if I wanted that cupcake, I would have proposed meeting at a gluten free bake shop.
Stop throwing the pity party at people who can’t eat gluten. We are fine. But we would get through life, a little more easily, if you didn’t ask silly questions. I can eat cake with the best of them.