Gluten Free Girl Hugged Me

Does that mean anything to anyone else besides me? Yes, THE Shauna James Ahern, or to the gluten free world: Gluten Free Girl, hugged me. ME. Okay, this post is about the gluten free world, not a recipe, not even a review. I’m kind of gloating here, but I also want to say what it meant and why it mattered.

I should start off by saying that name-dropping isn’t my style and it rarely impresses me. I’m from Los Angeles: if I played the “I’ve seen so and so” game, you’d lose. It’s not fun. And I feel like people think I’m trying to impress them, so I don’t do it. Except that once I saw Sidney Poitier. That was amazing and I’m not ashamed to say it. And we do play “guess who I saw” in my family. I digress. A lot.

This weekend was the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) conference. I’ve never attended this, but my mother’s been going for many many years. It is an opportunity for the food world comes together in all its various forms. I’m sure there is some more fanciness as the food movement continues to move more and more into the spotlight (a whole different topic), but ideally IACP is about much much more. This year it was in Austin. And SFC was the beneficiary. Alas, that didn’t mean anything as far as badges and getting to attend. Solely my ED had a badge and she passed it around to us as need be. The very last day of the conference I texted her, “purely for personal reasons I would like the badge to see Gluten Free Girl”. So I got it.

Shauna’s talk was called, “Why Gluten Free Matters” and I really had no idea what to expect. What did happen was that everything she said made sense. It was like she looked into my eating world and said everything I’ve wanted to (or have). She spoke about how infuriating it is when people say “well it’s just a little bit of flour” and about how we can’t afford NOT to be picky and particular. It’s not up to the chefs and servers to decide out how my week is going to go as far as the pain I will be in. And most importantly she spoke about the GF food not being “weird” but being a way of eating. A way of life. There’s nothing strange about a roast chicken and brussels sprouts. It’s not a “niche” or a “fad”- it’s simply “a different way of eating. It’s just good, real food”. Yes, Shauna it is.

Ooh and she also spoke about the significance of Gluten Sensitivity. I do not have the auto immune disease called Celiacs. I DO have an intolerance and I went through the unpleasant tests just to be sure (do you think I’d give up bread without scientific proof?). She spoke about the realness of that. She also spoke a bit about her symptoms and issues. Man did I know what she was talking about! One thing that got me thinking was the “just a smidge” and the “cross contamination” issues. I do cheat on dairy. I do not cheat on gluten. It scares the bejesus out of me. But I do eat the spicy tuna rolls at Whole Foods and suddenly now I am wondering if there is soy sauce in there. I don’t care about “cross contamination” but perhaps I really should. It’s a build up. I can’t trace the pain immediately, but when I do have pains or problems now I curse the world thinking, “I can’t eliminate anything else. This is not fair!” But perhaps it’s because I’m not as strict as I need to be. If it’s a build up and I have 5 batches of fries all fried with the onion rings over a week or 2- well then perhaps that explains why today I am at home with a heating pack. I’d rather be more strict there than have to worry about what else I can’t digest.

I know at least my dad reads every one of my blog posts. I wonder if all food bloggers wonder if there are any other readers out there. Shauna verbalized the sentiments I say every day to my colleagues and friends, “just try it”. Not, “just try this version of what you used to like.” You can try to replace the food you used to eat, but it’ll never be the same. This is simply a different food. And what an affliction to have- where the cure is SOLELY to change your diet?!

After the lecture, my mother introduced me to her. We spoke briefly and as I started to feel bad for the other folks waiting for a signature, I told her that hers was the very first blog I was referred to, 2 years ago when I started this oh so interesting gluten free journey. Hers was the one that allowed me to realize there would be real live people to help me and real live recipes (and no, I had not really read or followed a blog ever before) that I could follow. I told her that, and she hugged me. Not a 1-armed lame hug. A real hug. My mom said we both looked like we were about to cry.

When I was introduced, Shauna told me that I was the face she looked at through the lecture because it was obvious I understood what she was talking about and nodded in agreement with every other sentiment. It’s true. She told me I had a great face. Yes, she said that to me. Truth is, I don’t always follow her recipes and blog, but oh it means oh so very much to know there is an online community. AND that the community I am now (reluctantly of course at first) a part of, has welcomed me with open arms. We hob-nobbed later that night at Boggy Creek over BBQ but it didn’t feel like I was socializing with the famous, as sometimes happens now in the food world (don’t get me started), I felt like I was talking to my peers. I gave her my card, she had a million others. But perhaps she’ll remember my face nodding in agreement.


About Salts Kitchen

I write. I eat. And I cook. I write about what I cook and eat. I love finding new foods, being inspired to make something I've never made, and most of all I love feeding other people things that they have never tried before. I like disproving myths about food and what it means to eat well, to eat healthy, often on a budget, and for some of us- to eat with a bunch of food allergies (and still eat well!).
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5 Responses to Gluten Free Girl Hugged Me

  1. amelia saltsman says:

    What a beautifully written, heartfelt essay. I’m sure you speak for many when you describe what it feels like to discover you are not alone, that there is a network out there of shared experience, understanding, and even, advice. Your piece is about so much more than being or not-being gluten-free. It addresses the universal need for community and the importance of reaching out to find it, and that’s something everyone can relate to. Brava.

  2. Trey says:

    Great Post! I really enjoyed reading this. I read about the conference in the paper last week. I hope it was awesome and the people not from here saw how great our little (growing too fast) city is. Cheers!

  3. Ralph says:

    Also, you are eminently huggable.

  4. I am nodding in agreement, very well written. I read your mom’s tweets as she was listening to Shawna speak, I would have loved to have been there. I’m so glad you got to meet her and tell her what she meant to you.

  5. daniella says:

    This is great! I didn’t know you went Gluten Free. I try to and probably should. This is inspiring! Keep up the great blogging. Hope to see you soon.

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