Monday, June 27, 2011

What's your gluten-free space like?

I’m leaving New York on Wednesday to attend the Gluten Intolerance Group’s annual Education Conference, being held at the Gaylord Palms Hotel and Convention Center in Orlando, Fla. It will be my first trip to Orlando, Disney World notwithstanding, and I’m looking forward to meeting old friends and learning new things about the gluten-free life. Some of what I learn will wind up in Gluten-Free Living, our national magazine, or on our various communication channels including Facebook, Twitter and our upcoming e zine, debuting shortly.

Cynthia Kupper, GIG Executive Director, and I go way back. We remember the way it was back then – but I’m sure we will both keep our reminiscences to a minimum. Hearing the “old folk” talk about the old days does little to help the “new folk” cope with the challenges of gluten-free living.

Except for this aspect: The various modern communication channels of today make it so much easier to spread the word quickly. But some of the questions we receive remain the same. Over our several modern channels, we still get asked about vinegar (was always safe…should never have been questioned). Just this morning, I received an inquiry about the safety of vanilla (also safe). And certain other common ingredients never go away. That’s why we recently posted a white paper, still available on our website, called “Top 10 ingredients you really don’t need to worry about.”

One of the first things I will do at the GIG meeting is give a “demo” at 9 am Friday morning in the demo area of the conference. I'll give a (very) brief history of Gluten-Free Living, go over a few of the “quandaries” that never seem to get resolved, and look toward the future and where I think we are headed in terms of food, testing, labeling and research. Suffice it to say that this “new” gluten-free world we live in is generations ahead of the “old” gluten-free world we old folk talk about. That’s probably all I’ll say about the old world – and all you need to know!

That said, I do realize that we all inhabit our own little gluten-free space. My contentment with gluten-free living was achieved after years (now pushing 20 years) of trial and error. So I’m thrilled that I can find gluten-free pizza, or eat out more easily, or pick up gluten-free items at my local supermarket. But not everyone just getting started is as sanguine as I am.

Just this weekend, I met with a relatively newly diagnosed celiac on an aspect of our magazine unrelated to following the diet. Let’s just say he is not the happiest GF camper on the planet. He is frustrated by the challenges involved in living gluten free. He would much prefer to go back to his old life and not have to worry about his digestive system or the items he drops in his shopping cart. Mostly he wants a slice of pizza that tastes just like the one he, a native New Yorker, remembers getting from his local pizzeria. I’m with him there. I miss gooey NY style pizza-by-the-slice. But I have learned to be as happy with what I can get now as I was with what I used to get in my gluten-eating days. It takes time to reach this level of gluten-free contentment – but by golly I got there and everyone can!

So I hope those of you attending the conference will come to the demo and to our booth and introduce yourselves. Much of the demo will be given over to a question-and-answer period where we can talk about whatever you’d like. At the booth, I’ll be able to also chat about whatever you’d like. I might even ask you a few questions about the gluten-free space you inhabit and how comfortable you are in it. The more I learn about you, the better I can make Gluten-Free Living.

I look forward to meeting as many of you as possible.

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