One lazy Sunday morning, despite a restless night of sneezing and fever, I decided to find a gluten free bakery called Baby Cakes whose owner I met at a health food store a few days before, so I ventured down the streets of China Town, past Little Italy, not knowing exactly where the place was located and after a long refreshing walk down Broome St., I finally saw a sign.
I’ve come to the right place. Walking in, my face instantly brightened at the delicious aroma of fresh baked gluten and wheat free pastries. While perusing the colorful variety of muffins, cookies and cakes, every cell in my body was suddenly filled with joy and rapture.
I forgot about my bad mood and the flu I’ve been battling for the past two days.
Not surprisingly, I ordered every kind of gluten free item in their selection, from the cornbread to the banana bread to the chocolate bread. Sitting there, indulging in this luxuriously soft and wholesome comfort food, while sipping on a cup of herbal Yogi tea, I said to one of the workers “I feel like I just found gluten-free heaven!”
You might be wondering why I was so determined to come to this place to begin with. Well, the answer to that is a long one. After many years of suffering from hypoglycemia, depression, food allergies, and fatigue, my doctor discovered that I was in fact intolerant to gluten, the protein contained in many commonly-used grains such as wheat, barley, rye, etc.
This realization opened up a new world of possibilities for me, as I started experimenting with going on an “elimination diet” by simply avoiding gluten containing foods and learning to substitute them with foods that my body can digest.
Of course, it involved a lot of learning about how to cook and bake gluten-free, a substantial financial investment because gluten free flours and mixes are far from cheap, and the hardest part of all: having the clarity of intention and discipline not to binge on the foods we all love so much, including pizza, pasta, croissants, breads, etc.
Occasionally, I would “cheat” and every time, my body would let me know that the only person I was cheating was myself.
If I started my day with a croissant or some other pastry made of white flour and sugar, by the afternoon I would be in a slump. My head would be in a fog, my mental processing slow, I would feel tired and sleepy, unmotivated and unfocused. As if that weren’t enough, I would mentally berate myself for having eaten of the “forbidden food”.
It was especially difficult when I visited France last September and felt obligated to start the day with a fresh loaf of white bread and coffee. If I even mentioned my gluten-intolerance, the reaction I would get was a compassionate sigh. This would be followed by a very provocative argument for why this is not as important as I make it out to be. After all, the French are a healthy bunch, and their diet largely consists of gluten-filled foods.
Regardless of what anyone said, my body’s intuitive intelligence knew that this wasn’t going to work for me, at least not if I wanted to feel good. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a gluten-free bakery to be found, even in a city like Paris.
My vision for the future is to help pave the way in transforming the “alternative” into mainstream and making gluten-free and healthy food options available to all who are interested. Suffering is a choice, and we can all choose not to subject ourselves to it by enjoying a piece of heaven right here on earth.