Vegan and gluten free sure raises a lot of eyebrows, questions and conversations, but it can also abruptly end a conversation with a long, “hmmm” followed by silence. Or my favorite, whole wheat pasta and fish are OK right? For me, following a plant- based diet was by choice and something that gradually became who I was, but excluding gluten came out of the blue, overnight after a recommendation by an acupuncturist. Looking back, the four or so years it took me to becoming fully vegan seemed like a luxury compared to becoming gluten free within minutes of being told to stop eating wheat. My Italian blood boiled like a pot rumbling and awaiting the pasta to join it. Within minutes of hearing, “wheat is an inflammatory and so bad for you” my memory began to scan my pantry: pasta no, rice yes, soy sauce out, this continued until I made a virtual counter filled with all the nos and the cabinets filled with surprisingly yeses.
Satisfied with my list and newly arrange cabinets. I carried on with my day, first stop, annual Bastille Day wine and cheese at my moms. No one knew why we celebrated this holiday, except for a reason to get together, drink wine and make my Francophile mom embrace her Paris college days past. In recent years I would normally enjoy the evening drinking wine and having ‘just one more’ slice of baguette with a vegan block of cheese that resembled nothing the French would call cheese. But now, now I had to sit, think, scan labels, Google “gluten free wine”, ” does vegan cheese have gluten?” Oh boy, my work was cut out for me.
A few Google searches later and I was satisfied, the wine would be fine, vegan cheese OK and just avoided the bread. After a mini pity party I was back on board, this is doable. But then, the first social BBQ. Gluten free beer, check, but paired with no gluten free, vegan burgers? Oh dear, my vegan and gluten free worlds were quickly colliding and I settled on a seltzer and offering to drive and allow my husband to enjoy some glutenized (a term we endearingly made up for me) beer. After a few seltzers, I nudged him, said our goodbyes and opted back to the wine party, despite the baguette and crackers, it had less gluten and no meat- better of the two options.
The next few days consisted of mostly replacing sauces and jars with the gluten free alternative, sulking when I learned my favorite vegan curry wasn’t gluten free and slowly accepting I could no longer eat the vegan go to seitan. But I was feeling better and woke up in no pain for the first time in years. As hard as this might be I was ready to feel better and cut out the gluten.
The next few days proved not as hard as originally thought, my favorite local sushi place had gluten free soy sauce, I trained my eyes for quick label scanning and the pain 100% better, could it be too good to be true? It’s amazing how quickly you can get used to not being in pain and forget the past. My new lifestyle started to jade me and I found myself a new sceptic to my new diet that was helping me. I became succumb to the Italian bread at my dad’s birthday dinner at a local favorite Italian. How bad could one piece of bread be? Well the bread led to pasta, which led to desert and followed by pizza and with the gluten indulgence the pain shortly followed. I woke up the next morning un able to move at all, my back was numb and the pain strong, I knew what to do, vegan gluten free it was.