My name is Betsy; I was born and raised in Maine but my family and I make our home in North Texas. I have spent time in nearly every region of our sweet little country and you will see those food memories reflected in a lot of my cooking. The other thing you’ll see reflected in my cooking? My Celiac Disease.
For 28 years, I lived as a regular foody who loved to eat and enjoyed going out and dining at any restaurant of my pleasing. Fried clams in Maine? All day, gimme some crinkle fries too. Sushi? YAS. With the fake krab and the soy sauce which is basically main lining gluten? I’ll take two. Burgers, Pizza, Sandwiches, Pasta…if it was battered, I ate it. How I didn’t weigh a quarter ton was beyond me. But, it actually wasn’t that mysterious. Suddenly, seemingly overnight, I was ill. At the time, my husband and I were in the baby stages of dating. You know, where you really want to impress someone, always have makeup on, your hair did, and wore high heels because it was Wednesday? I was so there. Until it was New Years Eve, and I was so sick. Finally, after my fourth trip to the bathroom, he asked if I “needed something”. Yes, I’ll take all the Imodium in the world. (And he married me, y’all!) I was pretty ill for 6 whole months before I visited my GP to chat about my symptoms. He was relatively clueless as to what could be causing me to be in such a way and punted me straight to a gastroenterologist (GI). The GI was the kindest man. He listed to me go on for 20 minutes about indigestion and bathroom habits, joint pain, and chronic fatigue. At the end, he said, “I’m sending you for some blood work and based on those results we will most likely schedule an Endoscopy and a Colonoscopy. I think you most likely have Crohns disease, Colon Cancer, or Celiac Disease…” He sort of trailed off while I got hung up on the C word; he insisted he felt it was not cancer and more than likely Celiac disease and I said, “well, I hope to shit your feeling is spot on.” He didn’t even smile at my poop joke. So, I had the lab work done and a few days later, he personally called me. My blood-work was positive for three Celiac antibodies; in order to confirm the diagnosis he would do an endoscopy and check out my villi. Villi line your small intestine and are the body’s bits which absorb nutrients from food. Celiac disease causes your body to turn on itself and destroy the villi making most people with undiagnosed Celiac disease malnourished. Guess what? I essentially didn’t have any villi. I was vitamin and nutrient deficient in half a dozen things which required a year of supplement injections. SO, there I was, about to turn 29, and required to completely and entirely change my diet. I had heard of Gluten free diets because certain Hollywood starlets had made it the most recent fad diet but I really didn’t know anything about them and certainly didn’t know how to best incorporate a GF diet into my life. Also, going out to eat can be extremely difficult on a gluten free diet. Many restaurants sweetly claim to have gluten free options but have no concept of cross contamination. What is cross contamination? Think of it like this, would you eat off of a plate that had raw chicken on it? Nope. It’s same for gluten. My food can’t touch a surface that has stored, cooked, or even touched gluten or else I risk illness for dayyyyssssss. Not worth it. Thankfully, here in our immediate area we have some amazing restaurants who take great pains to be celiac friendly but not everyone is so lucky. So, I took my project back home.
Growing up, meal preparation was a family affair, our kitchen was truly the center of our home. For my 18th birthday, my parents gifted me with a knife skills course and cooking basics class. I learned the five mother sauces, how to break down animal protein, dice, slice, chop, sauté…you get the picture. My parents had gifted me with a nutritional foundation. I began voraciously reading culinary textbooks and cookbooks. I quickly learned that A LOT of gluten free replacement food is generally processed crap. Turns out when you remove gluten, in order to make something slightly palatable (and have decent texture and cook normally), you have to add fat, sugar, salt and God knows what else. Before I figured this out, I gained a quick 10lb which I immediately cursed my crappy gluten free food for. So, that’s how this all happened. I wanted to make my family great meals which also happened to be gluten free. My husband says he genuinely can’t tell the difference and I probably wouldn’t have started blogging if my friends and family hadn’t echoed the sentiment.
A year ago, we built and moved into a new home and for his birthday, I bought my husband a Traeger Wood Pellet grill as a birthday gift. I don’t think he’s touched it yet but I use it weekly. I have fallen head over heels in love with this grill. We joke that if we divorced today, I would get the grill. (Don’t worry Mom and Dad, we’re good! Love you, babe) Because it’s tremendously easy to use and produces excellent quality smoked and grilled foods, I incorporate the Traeger into a lot of my cooking and you’ll see that. I’m not quite a pit master but I’m definitely master of my own grill!
Anyway, that’s a baseline for us to start from. I like to think of this process kinda like that big ole bumble bee. Wings that physically shouldn’t be able to lift it, bumbling from flower to flower, hoping to get lucky and find a good one. Hopefully, as I bumble down this path, I’ll hit on a good one that you learn from and enjoy. If you do, please like, share, comment, encourage to squash my ridiculous insecurities. 😉