June 18, 2010

Lessons Learnt

In my page ‘Gluten Free ‘ I mentioned the assumption that medical practitioners are now better prepared and knowledgeable in providing information to their patients then they were in the past. As a result, I was quite surprised when my French teacher mentioned that she’s also gluten intolerant and was at a loss of what to do. I couldn’t believe it. It had been ten years since I discovered I was wheat intolerant and the information available now is amazing, combine that with the products those with gluten sensitivity have available to them and I’m a pretty content person.

She was diagnosed fairly recently so she hasn’t been at a loss for too long, but nonetheless, she’s been frustrated and disheartened in not knowing what to do. Her doctor gave her the address for the Canadian Celiac Association and figured she’d take it from there. Luckily she shops at a nearby natural food store, so she’s found some items, but overall she hasn’t had much success. While I don’t know everything there is to know about the subject, I want her to be better informed. I care about those around me and so; some of our lessons have turned into me teaching her, which is fine by me because I’m using French to communicate. Ironically, although being gluten free is about information, it’s becoming more apparent that being gluten free is also about learning. And in our lessons together we’re discovering things that one has to learn in being gluten free.

One of the first lessons has been what we can and can’t have and I would say that the second is just as important as the first. If one dwells on what they cannot have then they will be consumed by it and won’t be able to move past it and onto what they can enjoy. It’s like the Rolling Stones song ‘You can’t always what you want’. In doing this one needs to learn to read the list of ingredients, which will become regular routine.

Patience is needed and often it needs to be learnt. One may not be able to always find what we need or want, nor eat where we want. One may need to improvise. Also, the products one picks up may not be that great and instead of giving up, one needs to keep plugging along trying something new.

Price can sometimes be infuriating, especially when you know the ‘regular’ product is a third of the price. Shopping around looking for a better price will also become routine as being gluten free can have an effect on one’s pocketbook if one allows it to.

Options are out there. Products are more widely available and can sometimes be found in places you least expect. Learning to cook and bake gluten free can be enlightening. One discovers new things, foods, and flavours. One can find new places to visit and shop, and sometimes, one can gain new allies in this journey.

Reading the list of ingredients becomes a part of life, and when one forgets (like I did the other day); the resulting experience becomes a quasi-helpful reminder. One needs to read for those taboos, plus any finished product that the product in your hand may contain that also contains those ingredients that need to be avoided.

Sometimes the best way to learn is to ask questions. I have gotten over the fact of feeling like an idiot or a pain in the ass; because I’m not and nor are those who suffer from gluten sensitivities. But, there is a catch: one still needs to be nice and polite. There’s an expression something like: It’s easier to attract bees with honey than vinegar. Even if the answer is not what one had hoped for, at least you have a touch more knowledge than 10 seconds before.

Carrying snacks can mean the difference between going hungry and eating something that will make one ill. It may happen (and it usually does) that you are without something to eat and all that is around you are taboo foods. One can either go hungry, and feel ill and tired as a result, or pull a snack from one’s bag and feel content until something better comes along. I finally learnt my lesson and always carry a few healthy and tasty GF snack bars in my purse wherever I go.

My most recent ‘learning moment’ was regarding expiry dates on packaging. It had never occurred to me to look for those until I came home with a fabulous box of GF cookies that I like and were hard as a rock. Seeing the confusion on my face, the Honey asked about the expiry date (I’ve got a smart man!). Lo and behold they expired months ago (I dipped them in tea and treated them like biscotti). New lesson learnt: expiry dates don’t just apply to fresh products like cheese and juice.

Learning how to cook or experimenting in the kitchen may help you stay healthy and keep your options open. Many of the things one enjoys may contain gluten so finding some recipes or useful cookbooks may help keep those favourites in one’s life. It could be simple like pasta and tomato sauce or a soup with added chopping skills. Recipes can get you started, but your only limited by your imagination.


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