When I first decided to eat gluten-free, I had no idea what that would mean. It was a random decision that became permanent once I realized how awful I felt when I tried to eat gluten again. But one of the aspects of becoming gluten-free that I never realized was that it would set me apart. As anyone who eats differently than the mainstream knows, our social lives often revolve around food. And when you can't eat with everyone else, it changes your perspective.
Luckily, the gluten-free lifestyle has become much more mainstream, and even in the two years I've been eating this way, I've noticed a difference in how people respond to hearing that I'm gluten-free. People are much more aware of what it is now, and I assume that will only improve with time. Of course, I still get the occasional blank stares, but I can only imagine how hard it must have been for others who have been eating gluten-free much longer than I have been. If you're starting out now, you're in a good spot because there are so many more options available to you.
However, having a gluten-free aisle in the grocery store doesn't take away from the fact that you'll feel isolated sometimes. There will be moments when you'll be in a social situation and look around at everyone eating, and feel a bit lonely. Those moments will come less and less, but they'll still happen. Which is why building a gluten-free community is so important. It was my intention to write a whole post on this, but my dear friend, Debi, just wrote a post saying everything I was thinking. So I'll let her tell you why it's important to be a part of a gluten-free community.
By the way, I've only ever met Debi online - through our blogs, through Facebook and Twitter. She is a part of my gluten-free community, and if you're reading this, then that means you're a part too. It's a community that comes with a lot of perks: free recipes, tips and advice, support, and friendship. Definitely take advantage of the wealth of knowledge being shared online!
Speaking of taking advantage, I have definitely soaked up as much as I could from this community. My first pitiful attempt at gluten-free baking (I simply substituted rice flour for regular flour in my lemon square recipe) would have been ten times better had I known about all of these gluten-free blogs. Since then, everything I've learned about cooking and baking gluten-free, I've learned through recipes and tips I've found online.
One of the first blogs I noticed was one called The Gluten-Free Dish, written by a fabulous woman named Debbie. It took me a while to try one of her recipes, but I kept going back to her blog. Her style was like mine...that is to say, she had as many food sensitivities to deal with as I did, and knew how to get creative. Eventually, Debbie and I became friends on Facebook (see the power of the online community?) and she was always there with a kind word or gesture of support. In fact, when she made this cookie recipe, I was delighted to see that I could easily adapt it to my needs, and she admitted that she had been thinking of me when she came up with the recipe. How's that for community!?
I decided to "adopt" Debbie last month as part of Adopt a Gluten-Free Blogger, the monthly blog event started at Book of Yum, encouraging bloggers to get to know each other and try out new recipes. Her pecan sandies had been calling to me, so I whipped up a batch - seriously, they were really easy to make - by substituting the pecans with sunflower seeds. The result was amazing, and because the ingredients are so healthy, I enjoyed these with breakfast for days, eating some on their own and crumbling some into my oatmeal. Sadly, I didn't get to make any of the other recipes I had bookmarked, but I'm still planning to, starting with Debbie's Chicken Stew and Dumplings. Once I get caught up on school work, it's the first thing I'm going to do!