Since 1997, we have been students of the gluten-free (GF) lifestyle. My daughter Gina has been coping with a life threatening food allergy to wheat and our family has been watching her manage this difficult diet for the last sixteen years. Back then it was much harder to find GF items than it is today and we are thrilled to see that the market has exploded with so many interesting choices. Sadly, this explosion is due to the thousands of people who have discovered they are suffering from a serious condition, Celiac Disease.
When it was time for Gina to start school, I found myself explaining what it means to be allergic to wheat to the point of exhaustion. People just didn’t seem to understand that wheat flour is in just about everything kids eat. We (Gina and I) thought it would be helpful to write a story about what it means to be wheat or “gluten-free” so that we could educate her friends and our family about why our little Italian girl couldn’t have pasta, bread or pizza. The disbelief came most passionately from my Nonna (Italian Grandmother), there were so many times I had to explain how Gina was deathly allergic – stopping her from feeding her home cooked meals to my little girl. Then explaining that cookies, crackers or cupcakes were off limits, people thought she was the unluckiest (and freakiest) little kid on the planet!
I now find myself wondering, was Gina the lucky one? Staying safe away from gluten while the rest of us were putting ourselves at risk? I’m not a doctor and do not pretend to be a clinical expert on the topic of gluten intolerance or celiac disease. My experience is practical in nature, I am a parent of a child with a life threatening food allergy to wheat with 16 full years of experience. I also know that gluten intolerance and celiac disease are very real and a dietary problem for one out of 133 people. Sure, it’s a trend maybe for some, but make no mistake, it’s serious enough for every restaurant and chef to take VERY seriously.
The good news is that things have really changed for us and the choices for living gluten free are overwhelming. The choices are now vast and abundant – even in our local restaurants. glutenfree219 is here to help point out what you CAN eat when dining out in the 219 area code – The Region of Northwest Indiana. We are also on a mission to build awareness at our local restaurants while exposing the leaders who are modifying and carefully preparing meals to the best of their ability even though they do not operate in certified gluten-free facilities. This website is about managing to the best that we can but always being mindful that unless we make the food ourselves – we have no guarantees.