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27 June 2007

building a gluten-free community

gluten-free pasta from Piccolo

Over the past two months, I taught four gluten-free cooking classes at PCC, here in Seattle. Each class was a revelation, at least for me. The chance to teach people how to sear fish well — halibut dredged in a black rice flour — thrilled me more than the lesson on indefinite pronouns ever could have. Since I started living gluten-free, and particularly since I met the Chef, I have learned more than I ever dreamt possible about food. Being able to share some of that with other gluten-free folks is still making me beam.

Of course, I have so much more to learn. Thank goodness. By the time I teach more classes for PCC in November, there’s no telling what I will be talking about, my hands flying in the air. And there’s a possibility that the Chef and I will be teaching classes together, soon. But that’s for another time.

As much as I loved talking about food, my favorite part of every class was story time. (Of course.) In each class, I asked those who were participating to share their stories. Why are you gluten-free? How long have you known you should be gluten-free? What led you to this class? A few simple questions unleashed floods of moving moments. I stood in front of everyone, in front of gas stoves, in gorgeous classrooms, amazed. There was the 78-year-old woman who had been diagnosed with celiac at 72. Or the young woman who is gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, and her boyfriend who sat beside her, wanting to learn how to cook for her. The public relations woman, a powerful professional woman, who broke into tears when she talked about how long she struggled before she finally learned her own story. We all have stories, and I was so honored to hear them.

We all need community. But if you are living gluten-free (or dealing with any food allergies, I imagine), it feels imperative to have a community of good-hearted folks around you. This gluten-free life — no matter how glorious — can be difficult if you go it alone.

This is why I was honored to participate in a conference call with fellow gluten-free bloggers and Alice Bast, head of the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, and Anthony James DiMarino, Jr., M.D,, National Foundation for Celiac Awareness Physician of the Year. The call was sponsored by Revolution Health. Dr. DiMarino investigates the complexities of celiac disease, in all its permutations, and he was generous enough to share his knowledge with us. Even though I write about food and love, and sometimes don’t even type the phrase “gluten-free” in an essay on this site, I never forget this: I have celiac, and I must live gluten-free.

If you would like, you can hear the transcript of this conversation by clicking here. You can hear my goofy voice, as well as the compelling questions of everyone involved. Listen to the interesting possibilities of pro-biotics, as well as the difference between celiac disease and gluten intolerance. I was fascinated, and I think you will be too.

The good people at Revolution Health not only arranged this conference call, but they are having a virtual health fair on their site. If you roll over the little button for the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA), you could help this wonderful organization to win $10,000. Please, go there and help us win some money for celiac awareness.

After all, we are all in this together.


At 12:24 PM, Blogger Kristin said...

Shauna - you are such a gifted writer. You just blow me away.

At 3:11 PM, Blogger sweetpea said...

Shauna, the phone conference was amazing! I just want to say that for many of us the gluten free bloggers are our gluten free community! In particular, for me, you are a great positive force! I am grateful to live in MN so that I can easily see one of the greatest physicians in digestive health care, Joe Murray @Mayo. I am grateful that from the get-go I focused on what I could eat, not what I could not eat. I am grateful I can afford good food, grateful I can access the health care system and have resources like your blog. Your sure making your way into the big league, and we owe you a world of thanks! Keep up the great work, it is leading you to experiences you never imagined! You have so much to look forward to, a GF wedding, a wonderful honeymoon and hopfully a world wide book tour. Please know how grateful I am that you continue to take time to blog and share your beautiful photos, stories and knowledge!

At 4:26 PM, Blogger sweetpea said...

Oh, one more thing . . . Have you discovered coconut flour yet? OH MY GOSH IT IS WONDERFUL. Want to loose that gritty taste of the rice flours (which have been very kind to us, however. . .) give it a whirl. I am sure you will be delighted.

At 6:48 PM, Blogger moonshae said...

Thankyou for inspiring me. Your blog has been my inspiration even since my natropath suggested gluten intolerance over six months ago. Thankyou for showing me the silver lining. Thankyou for reminding me that once upon a time I wanted to be a writer. Thankyou for reminding me that to be a writer, all one needs to do is write!

At 8:03 AM, Blogger Samatakah said...

A couple months ago, I attended a fundraising event partially hosted by sister-in-law. My brother and I are both allergic to peanuts (I go into anaphylactic shock; he gets really really sick to his stomach) and I cannot tell you **what a relief it was** to know that none of the snacks would have peanuts in them, not the bowl of mixed nuts, not the cookies, not the Thai appetizers.

But you probably know what that relief feels like.

At 10:45 AM, Blogger ~Kat~ said...

I hear you on the need for a community... especially when you have children, as I do. CD can be so isolating and frustrating *(I swear, sending my son on playdates feels like sending him into a mine field...other parents just don't understand!) I have tried to start a Yahoo group, (no takers) and put signs up at our local health food stores (again, I guess people can be shy?) but my need to hafve other parents to just CONNECT with, share with, is so great that it hurts sometimes... I hate feeling like nobody understands. I hate having to be a rubbernecking parent at every school function- talking to the room moms "can he have ice cream? How about just the cone...can he have the cone?" do they seriously NOT GET IT?????
Okay- deep breath... I don't want this to be a rant... I just want to cheer you on in your mindfulness of community :)

At 3:08 PM, Blogger Sheltie Girl said...

Shauna - The conference with Revolution Health was delightful. It was wonderful to hear everyone talk about celiac disease/gluten sensitivity/gluten intolerance.

At 4:10 PM, Blogger Calli said...

Shauna, you rock. You've inspired so many of us. Even those of us that aren't fully there yet with the whole blogging and being part of the community thing. *raises hand*

Sweetpea, how do you use it? I tried to make muffins with it once - but I bungled it horribly... they were spongy grease balls. What did I do wrong?

At 4:57 PM, Blogger Hiro said...

I meant to post this earlier! A few weeks ago, my husband and I stopped to let someone use the crosswalk before turning onto Madison down in Madison Park. The man crossing the street was clutching a plastic bag full of greens of some kind and he was on his cell phone. He was strangely familiar... I grabbed my husband's arm and squealed: "The CHEF!" Sadly, my husband is not an avid blog reader like me, so I had to explain.

He was smiling and laughing, deep in conversation. I'm guessing you were doing the same on the other end of the line. :)

At 1:54 AM, Blogger Vibrance said...


I made the black rice crusted halibut for my boyfriend and his parents and they *loved* it. It was a huge hit!

I really enjoyed your class and will likely see you again in November. listening to the stories around me motivated me to finally get tested. No results yet -- I'll have the in a few weeks.

At 2:19 PM, Blogger Karen Morgan said...

Dear Shauna,

My name is Karen Morgan and I just wanted to tell you that I have added you to my links list. Check it out!

Kindest Regards,

At 11:51 AM, Blogger Tanaya said...


Which PCC, on Aurora? I'd love to know if/when you have other classes in the area. We ended up on Capitol Hill, but I'd definitely travel a bit to take a class. tanaya

At 9:08 PM, Blogger M&Co. said...

My son is eating Gluten Free/Dairy Free and Feingold Stage I. I tried your Peanut Butter Cookies and they were so good we ate all of them up and he was asking for more. That hasn't been happening a lot lately. Thank you.


At 9:31 AM, Blogger Caminar sin gluten said...

¡Hello Shauna!. Es un placer (gracias a la tecnología), poder disfrutar de tu blog, que hemos enlazado en el nuestro con traducción directa, ya que nuestro ingles es pobre.


Ana y Víctor.

At 11:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shauna the phone conference was wonderful, and I agree that you are a great positive force!.

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