By: Wei Qing Lim
I felt restricted. After two months of living this way, I vowed to not let the GF life hold me back. I wanted to start taking my gluten-free(dom) by the horns!
Three years ago, nutrition labels were extremely foreign to me. I had no desire to read them and had no idea what they meant. Fast forward to 2020— after an unfortunate trip to the doctor in my sophomore year of college, my test results deemed that I was allergic to gluten. (Also, just a disclaimer-- I am not a healthcare professional and did not take nutrition classes in college. This is my personal experience with gluten intolerance and it may differ from others!)
Before I was diagnosed, I ate to my heart’s content. I conquered the freshmen DC (Dining Common) and always got my money’s worth at Korean BBQ. My favorite food was noodles of any kind, and I also indulged in bread, pasta, dim sum, kimchi jjigae, and the like. Being gluten intolerant, of course, came as a shock. I had no idea what gluten was, and I was upset to be stripped of something that I enjoyed so much. However, I also experienced some relief, because there was an explanation for why I felt terrible after eating. After scouring the internet, I learned that gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. Eating gluten-filled food can cause an immune response and lead to inflammation for people with gluten intolerance.
The fear of eating the wrong thing began immediately. Eating at restaurants became a stressful experience for me, so much so that I would only eat at two places and order the same meal at each.
No longer was I able to spontaneously walk into a restaurant and eat anything on the menu. I would have to plan and scour the menu to look for gluten-free options before I agreed to eat at a certain place. As a strong ‘P’ on the Myers-Briggs who loves to “go with the flow” of things, I felt restricted. After two months of living this way, I vowed to not let the GF life hold me back. I wanted to start taking my gluten-free(dom) by the horns!
Since the start of my journey, I have ventured far from cooking only lightly seasoned foods to fun curries (thanks to Trader Joe’s Red Curry Sauce!) and my ultimate achievement-- making dumplings from scratch! I am constantly challenged to be creative with my meals, and if I want to eat something that is not gluten-free, I’m eager to come up with ways that it can. My friends who love to cook have also been my sources of inspiration and often make gluten-free foods for their food challenges. I have enjoyed many of their food challenge products, which range from GF croissants to gluten-free breaded chicken wings.
Of course, I’ve had my fair share of mistakes. There was a brief albeit life-changing period in time when I believed I was no longer allergic to gluten. This belief system came crashing down when I ate an entire bowl of yakitori don (a Japanese dish with grilled chicken over a bed of rice, all of which are marinated in soy sauce) and suffered for the following week, surviving only on kombucha and sliced apples.
Ultimately, I have learned that eating gluten-free does not have to mean you’re eating less enjoyable foods. Exploring restaurants that I would have never come across otherwise has been a huge plus. I’ve discovered amazing gluten-free places like “Siblings” by Pushkin’s, and Delta of Venus, my favorite brunch place of all time! While I still yearn for the day I get to eat a “real”, wheat croissant, I am content with eating some equally delicious, gluten-free banana bread in the meantime. To my fellow gluten-free friends, you are not alone-- let’s choose to reinvent the GF life and take back our gluten-free(dom) together!