Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 in Review

It is December 31, 2010. I never thought I would survive this year. In January and February, my health started crashing. In the early spring, I started rounds of various tests to discover what was wrong. I even signed a power of attorney and living will. My family and I had these serious conversations as I could feel my body weakening and shutting down. I went through life in a daze, unaffected by everything surrounding me and eating carb-rich meals to try to gain weight before falling asleep before it was even dark outside. My tests, for the most part, just asked more questions and it was not until I woke up from a colonoscopy in May did a doctor ever mention gluten to me. (And then I had to run home to google what it meant…) During my gluten filled months, I took this picture on my camera phone to prove to my family that I was okay - see? I was smiling while at the beach. There were many days before my diagnosis when I would just walk to the beach and sit. I couldn't do anything else, except maybe listen to music, for several hours. My friends rarely saw me and at one point, over a month went by without talking to my best friend.

Now, I am a picture of good health. I have energy, an appetite, and lots of energy. I used to have an average of six to eight migraines a month; in the past six months of being gluten free, I’ve had a grand total of one. My life completely changed through food. I used to hate eating because I never really tasted my food. Now, I’m excited to cook and experiment with new flavors. I am very fortunate to have friends that are also foodies. Last night, three of us went to Whole Foods and spent almost two hours just wandering around the store, looking at all the food and even splurging on some great finds (dairy free mozzarella anyone?). A year ago, I was stage managing in theatre and most of my meals were eaten at a desk or while working. Now I am retired from the theatre and enjoying my food and am eating at a kitchen table (after taking pictures, of course!) or dining out at one of Chicago’s many accommodating restaurants.

For me, my year truly started in June when I eliminated gluten from my diet. Since then, I have cooked with vegetables I did not recognize at a farmer’s market, picked vegetables and fruit from my mom’s garden and created delicious meals, learned to cook fish, baked cookies that failed and succeeded. I went to a Pampered Chef party and ate a flourless chocolate cake (and purchased quite a few new gadgets.) My friends and I had a dinner party celebrating the sweet potato and another vegetarian tofu night. I went on a cruise with my family. My best friend Eliot discovered that he is gluten intolerant and my younger sister was tested for Celiac disease. I’ve had pizza, pasta, and sandwiches. I was glutenized from meats and cursed every gluten hangover. When two of my friends got married, I ate gluten-free homemade egg noodles at their wedding (the best noodles I have ever had, too!). I dined out with friends...lots of times! I read so many stories and blogs of other people with gluten intolerance and Celiac disease and have met people with similar stories in the most random places. I shared food with my coworkers and my baked goods were quickly eaten. I started having regular dinners with Eliot and he taught me how to balance a knife, cut a bell pepper, and use Kosher salt. My culinary skills are being sharpened by him, The Food Network, lots of blogs and my Chicago Public Library card. Almost all of my broths are homemade. I’m eating foods like macaroni and cheese and fried chicken that I thought I would never have again. I've had foods I never heard of before like quinoa, spaghetti squash, and polenta. I've become one of Chipotle's biggest fans. I started with pretty uninspired dishes and moved towards some really tasty and beautiful meals. I adapted some recipes and I did it all in a studio apartment with a kitchen barely big enough for two.

And I was on TV. My non Celiac gluten intolerance story was shared on NBC news in November in Chicago. Hopefully the story and this blog can help spread the word that gluten intolerance can stand alone from Celiac disease and more doctors recognize this in their patients sooner so no one has to suffer. (And I look a lot different than the empty girl in the above photo, don't I?)

My cabinets were purged, and ultimately, all the gluten that Eliot and I had was donated to a food pantry over Thanksgiving. Goodbye, gluten!

So what will 2011 bring? More food, more pictures, and a lot more original recipes and I start to really experiment and play with baking as well as cooking. And if Eliot has any influence, more bacon.

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