Well friends, this year's family picnic marked the one year point in my gluten free journey. Last year at this time, I was thinking along the lines that cutting most of the gluten from my diet would alleviate symptoms of several conditions with which I was struggling. I hadn't yet realized that the gluten was not simply exacerbating those problems, but rather causing them in the first place.
Thinking as such, I headed to the 2009 Turner Family Picnic with the idea that I had been so good about cutting out gluten for the whole week that I could go ahead and have some of the delicious baked goods my cousins and aunt passed around. I ate fried chicken brought by another aunt, dutifully stripped of it's coating and skin, but with no regard for the fact that this did not at all guard against cross contamination. I gleefully consumed brownies, cookies, sweet breads and the like, all the while praising myself for my restraint the entire week leading up to this day which allowed me to enjoy these treats.
That evening and for several days to come, I saw the consequences of my error in judgement in the form of stomach cramps, a resurgence of the psoriasis on my knees, a flare up of the acne like condition on my cheeks, sluggishness and many other symptoms I which had been miraculously absent from my life the week before. That day, I promised myself I would never again knowingly cause myself to feel that way.
It's been a year, full of learning and making mistakes, trying new foods and discovering some truly wonderful, naturally gluten free foods, which I might not otherwise have tasted. In the past year, the one lesson most important in my life is one the Boy Scouts have been telling us all along. Always be prepared.
Whether I'm planning ahead for a quick and easy dinner after a late day of work or class, or packing for a family gathering, preparation remains the key element to a successful, low stress day. With that in mind, I began preparing for today's picnic yesterday. I baked Betty Crocker gluten free chocolate chips (add in a little guar or xanthan gum for better consistency) and cornstarch brownies. I cooked the rice pasta salad from my Lil's gift bag, and I took out chicken burgers and OMG's burger buns from the freezer. Before leaving this morning, I wrapped each burger and each bun in a foil package so they could be cooked on the grill beside everyone else's food.
After explaining to my cousin why I needed my food to remain in the foil, and knowing that everything else was ready, I had the easiest day in a whole year. How amazing it felt heading into the meal knowing that I would not need to fill up on chips or cheese to hold me over until I got home (I've done that on less prepared days). When the food was ready and we all gathered in prayer, I offered my own silent gratitude for the gift of foresight, which made the entire day a breeze.
I made a meal of chicken/Swiss cheese/honey mustard burgers on gf buns, pasta salad with corn and black beans, and potato chips, with a dessert of cookies and brownies which matched those being passed around by the wheat eaters.
The simple joy of planning ahead allowed me to enjoy my family, the nice weather, and a delicious outdoor meal. Now, if only the mosquitoes hadn't taken advantage of all those things...