Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Blog Entry 150

"I have a blog."
"What's a blog?"

Does an explosion of recipes, pictures, stories, challenges, dining out adventures, and all things gluten and dairy free but still delicious on the internet count as a good answer?

I've been blogging for just over a year now. I started writing when I went gluten free and had no idea what the hell I was doing. (Note: I still don't always know what the hell I'm doing. I'm just a girl with a camera and a computer with internet connection.) Already dairy free, adding another and stronger food intolerance was a blow to me. How was I going to eat? Was there anything left to eat? But I had the trade off of having constant gluten reactions in recent memory. If I had not reached my lowest point health-wise, it would have been more of a struggle for me to rethink how I eat. I know what even the smallest trace of gluten does to me and I do everything I can to avoid it: obsessively washing my hands before eating, maintaining a gluten free kitchen, playing it safe while eating out, asking questions of people preparing my food or calling manufacturers, reading about the gluten free lifestyle and news constantly, scanning the grocery store aisles to see if a gluten free label popped up on anything new.

So why blog?

This is entry #150. I went into the blog with the intention of taking some pictures, writing some recipes, and keeping track of what I'm eating with the target audience being my mom and only writing about ten entries. She saw how much food was cut from diet when I eliminated dairy and I did not want her to panic or worry about me. I'll show my mom that there are some things I can still eat and that will be that. Heck, I can even put my creative writing major to a practical use.

I've had over 5,000 hits in the past year - some from countries I have never heard of, much less countries that my mom (intended target audience) has visited. Somehow I became a source for if smarties contain gluten or lactose (they don't) and for Royal Carribean cruise dining (awesome experience!). Hundreds of people saw my embarrassingly bad attempt at using a bell pepper as a sausage bun. My voice is out there in the gluten free world and beyond. There are hits from people just looking for recipes and lo and behold, they found the allergen friendly version! (I wonder if they made it gluten free...) One of the most surreal moments was when I found my blog images on google. That's when I knew I needed to step up my game and make sure that the presentation was also lovely. Being on the local news (local being Chicago - I still think this is surreal) telling my story about being non Celiac gluten intolerant (ncgi) elevated me to the next level only months into my gluten free journey.

So why the title "Living Lactose and Gluten Free in Chicago" and "windycitycooking"? I'm a Chicago girl - born in the city, raised in the burbs who returned to the city. When I chose my blog address, it was on a whim and I liked the ring to it. I wasn't sure if I was going to always be lactose free (maybe I would grow out of it?), so purposefully avoided mentioning dairy in the address. At the moment, I have no intentions on trying to make dairy part of my diet again. I have small plans for trying small amounts of dairy so I can have something made with butter and know my cross-contamination concerns. Fortunately, I am able to tolerate goat and sheep cheeses so I'm technically not lactose free. And "Living Cow's Milk and Gluten Free in Chicago" just doesn't sound the same... I am grateful to be living in Chicago where I have access to resources and an abundance of grocery stores. Restricted diets aren't easy, but living in the city has made it much easier.

The key phrase is in my tag line is LIVING. While on gluten, all of my energy was being taken away and I felt horrible. I would miss work, spend days in bed, and just want to curl up in a ball and stay there. I passed on every social engagement and literally just worked, saw doctors, and slept for months. I describe being gluten free as the lights coming back on for me. Something flipped a switch and the world changed. Energized, healthy and excited to live (and capable of staying awake past 7pm!), I was ready to take on the world. But first I needed to conquer my diet.

Now that I have gotten a better handle on the cooking and dining out aspect of being gfdf, I'm excited to get back into the kitchen and play with flours and start baking more. My culinary confidence has grown and my repertoire has increased a hundredfold in the past year. I'm still excited to develop recipes, take pictures of my food, and write about it. Without my blog, I do not think I would have walked into a restaurant again. While dairy free, I was terrified to eat out (people put butter in everything). I needed a mindset adjustment and this blog helped make sure that I was not deprived on this diet.

Thank you for reading my blog! Whether you are a first time reader or long time follower or my little sister (hi, Val!)! I'm excited that you are here and I hope that I can help inspire you to lead a full and healthy life - whether or not you are gluten and dairy free.

If you use Twitter, be sure to follow me! Windycitycookin

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