I hope you have a Sarah.
As grumpy and disgruntled and downright irritable as I can get when it comes to gluten, I have to grudgingly admit that it isn’t the worst thing in the world. There are things that make dealing with celiac disease bearable and even enjoyable, and one of those things is this: Sarah.
Now, I don’t know if you have a Sarah in your life. (If not, I highly encourage you to find one, because they are AWESOME!) If you have one, then you will know exactly what I am talking about. So, what is a Sarah?
Well, Sarah is a friend of mine. (and NO, you cannot have mine….you will have to find your own!) When we were in the hospital with my daughter (the first in our family to get diagnosed with celiac disease), Sarah and her husband, Scott, and their son came down to visit. They brought things to help us pass the time, keep our daughter occupied and entertained, and food for us to eat. They spent time with us.
After we got out, they brought a gluten free meal to our house. In the years since, they have hosted numerous meals, from casual dinners to full-blown parties – and you want to know something? The entire meals at these events were gluten free. We were the only celiac people (that I know of) invited to these events, and yet everything except the beer was gluten free (and there were even some GF beers for me, if I was so inclined.)
It is here that I should mention that Sarah and Scott are foodies. They are excellent cooks and bakers, to the point where if it were financially feasible, I’m sure Scott would gladly become a chef (and all of mankind in proximity to his restaurant would benefit). I should also mention that they have a kitchen that they have been itching to remodel for a long time. I know they want more cabinet and counter-top space, and they would really, really love a dishwasher. So, when they make an entirely gluten-free meal, we aren’t talking about dumping a box of GF spaghetti in a pan and opening a jar of Prego. No, we are talking about elaborate, delicious, tasty, full-blown MEALS.
While I was drowning in GF overload, trying to process day-to-day GF living, Sarah was buying cookbooks, reading blogs and websites, and experimenting with flours in her kitchen. Scott was calling to find out in certain things were really gluten-free or if they were at all at risk for cross contamination. Can I stress that NO ONE in their family needs to be gluten free? Can I add that when we are not there, they eat gluten?
These are not people who are embracing a dietary change in their lifestyle for some fad, or for health reason, or because they saw a story about it in a magazine. These are people who have made space in their small kitchen to store gluten-free flours, made time to read gluten free cookbooks, and made elaborate gluten free meals solely because they care about my family.
Yes, Sarah (and Scott) have witnessed the panicky look on our faces when people are eating gluten around our daughter. They have seen our frustrations at trying to explain to restaurant workers about cross contamination. They have been with us on this roller coaster ride and instead of taking a step away, or dismissing us as being over-zealous, they have gone above and beyond to give us the ultimate gift.
No, I’m not talking about the awesome food they make (although truly, that is an awesome gift). I am talking about the peace of mind that comes from knowing that my daughter can run around and play at their house and not end up with Cheerio dust stuck to her fingers. I don’t have to hover over her, or hover around the appetizers in case someone touches something with a utensil that has touched gluten. I don’t have to worry that she or I are going to get sick after being there.
And even more than that peace of mind? They have given our daughter (and myself) the gift of normalcy. Tobe able to go somewhere and have such implicit trust in their understanding of the disease that I don’t even have to bring it up. To my fellow ceilacs out there, I ask you this: When is the last time you ate a meal outside of your home where you didn’t have to use any of the following words: celiac, gluten, cross-contamination, gloves, or flour? You might not even be able to remember such an occasion. Me? Why, it was just 2 weeks ago, when they hosted a dinner for 12.
When I hear celiac friends talk about how their extended families lack compassion and understanding of the disease and just don’t “get it”, I feel for them. I wish that their families would have a higher degree of empathy for what they are going through. And barring that, I hope that they have friends who make up for this shortcoming. And if they’re lucky enough, I hope that they have the ultimate alternative to this: I hope that they have a Sarah.