In the 17 years my daughter, Amanda, has had celiac disease, she has come to view the gluten-free diet as second nature. She does not spend a lot of time fretting about the foods she can't have.
In one way she is lucky that she was diagnosed when she was only two, both because she did not go long with undiagnosed celiac disease and suffer the consequent intestinal damage and because she did not develop a love for foods that are hard to get exactly right in a gluten-free form.
She eats a lot of naturally gluten-free, healthy foods and has a favorite bread that we always make at home. We have a few tried-and-true cookie recipes. In restaurants she orders simple meals and if nothing else seems to work she is pretty satisfied with a salad.
But this afternoon we headed to Sweet Sin Bakery in nearby Baltimore to try out their new lunch menu. I can't really describe what a pleasure it was to watch Amanda's excitement at being able to sample the all the soups, order the entree of the day, and then fill a bakery box with an assortment of cupcakes to take home.
The staff, including co-owner Richard D'Souza (whose wife Renee is the gluten-free pastry chef who makes all the baked goods) couldn't have been nicer or more attentive. It would be one thing if we were the only ones in the cute little cupcake shop/restaurant. But customers came in at a pretty steady flow, toting carry-out lunches of Thai chicken and coconut rice, savory soup or a cupcake.
Amanda, a college student who has been known to leave all her gluten-free cookies at home when she heads back to school after a break because she doesn't want to eat a lot of sweets, couldn't wait to pick from the enticing selection of cupcakes displayed like jewels in the bakery case. In the end, she picked the birthday cake cupcake because it had such pretty pink and orange decorating sugars sprinkled on top, plus German chocolate, raspberry, cinnamon, and caramel apple.
She actually had the dilemma of what to choose for a change.
For that I am thankful to Sweet Sin and all the other places like it across the country. If you are gluten free and have a little restaurant or cafe or bakery that meets your needs, count yourself lucky. Despite the growth in all things gluten free, there are still many places where people can only imagine what it's like to order a hot delivered gluten-free pizza, choose from an array of gluten-free sandwiches for lunch at a deli or enjoy a gluten-free cupcake at a local coffee shop.
The economy has put a whammy on many mainstream restaurants so you can imagine the challenges faced by small gluten-free establishments. I urge you to support these gluten-free businesses. Usually, you will get great food and service - as we did at Sweet Sin.
Amanda's father and I raised her to never let celiac disease stand in her way when there is something she wants to do. We did whatever was needed so she could go to birthday and pizza parties, travel to Spain to visit her friend's family when she was in middle school, choose a college that would best help her achieve her career goals and live in the dorms like other freshmen.
I've come to expect her to be very matter-of-fact about what she can and can't eat. And she is.
How nice that at lunch today she did not have to be.