Sometimes the irony of life can really kick us in the butt. Or maybe in the tummy. We love something, maybe too much. And then we have to give
it up, to walk away…to change everything. Or so it seems. I am writing
this because I have to. I am a writer by inclination and sometimes in the past
I wrote for work. It is what I do to explain myself. To come to grips with
situations, to communicate to those I care about on topics I can’t seem to do
verbally. So, I hope it might illuminate for a reader or two what it feels like to lose a dear friend. Silly of me but I thought I would always have this friend…. no not a lover or girlfriend but my bff….wheat!
I grew up a small spindly kid with a love of toast with strawberry jam, baloney and butter sandwiches and my mother’s delicate yet rich bread pudding. She baked big loaves of white bread twice every week, from scratch. The whole house was scented with the intoxicating perfume of yeast and wheat. I remember the fresh butter I made with cream from the cows and my mother’s purple grape jelly on a thick cut slice of warm, tender crusted white bread. I did long for Wonder bread at school lunch times but only because all my friends ate it. I wanted to fit in and that fat baloney sandwich on Mom’s crookedly cut bread gave me away as not able to afford the sleek slices of store bread my friends were contentedly munching on.… I grew up to be a baker on weekends…to make bread when it snowed, when my family visited, to bake dozens of Christmas cookies, and to carry on the traditions of my mother who was a fabulous baker winning prizes at fairs. I thought baking was how one showed love for family and friends. I did a LOT of it. And I enjoyed eating my own baked goods and pasta. I was proficient in angel food cake from scratch, in various flavors of crisp biscotti, and my pies were flaky engineering marvels of creamy fruity goodness. All meant to be shared and devoured by anyone crossing my life’s path. Gone. In the blink of a blood test. Gone…
I digress…. My story starts with some elevated liver enzyme levels and progresses through myriad tests as though I was Alice slipping through the looking glass to a medical wonderland of CT scans, biopsies, ultrasounds and endless blood work. It ended two weeks ago with a positive finding for celiac. The unthinkable had happened. I had to face a reality without wheat. Without rye bread sprinkled with caraway seeds. Without pasta topped with any number of beloved sauces. Without barley soup full of fresh cooked vegetables. Without farro and green bean vinaigrette salad. Without gravy and without chicken piccata. I felt like the bottom had just dropped out of my menu. A gynormous hole had opened and all the wheat fell in never to be seen again. How could I be happy? How could I eat good food without my best friend, wheat? It seemed beyond the scope of possibility to eat tasty food without a bit of wheat ever appearing on my plate!
So now I know I have celiac disease and the journey to wheat free begins. It begins as many new things do with disbelief, with some measure of denial and then acceptance and the making of plans to carry on, minus my dear friend wheat. I have some real doubts that this will be successful or enjoyable but onward the journey goes as I cannot go back to the ways of wheat on most every plate of homemade food
Republished in March 2014, originally published February 2013 on Patch.