This morning you went to Whole Foods and stood in front of their ‘gluten-free’ section. They have a huge refrigerator case well-stocked with all kinds of wheat-free selections, from waffles to burritos. A dear friend of yours is stuck at home with a bad summer cold, and you are picking up some grocery items for her. You never realized how limited the selection was, for those folks who have celiac disease.
Wheat is everywhere, even lurking in many hidden ingredients in packaged foods. You know of at least five people in the past year who have been advised to go on a ‘gluten-free’ diet, mainly in order to avoid literally gut-wrenching pain.
As you stand there studying the boxes and bags, a young woman age sidles up and looks at you, askance.
“You too, huh?” she sighs.
“Oh, well, I’m shopping for a friend.”
“Lucky you.” She plucks some waffles from the freezer. “Syrup hides the gummy flavor,” she offers, and walks away.
The gluten-free manufacturers, you surmise, basically rely on rice or corn. Rice appears to be the mainstay. After picking up some waffles, you decide to go and explore the rice and nut crackers, and pick up three different brands to buy-all with cheese flavoring. You steer over to the pasta and see numerous choices. Your friend, Heath, has told you that the rice pasta is not bad, especially doused with marinara. Toppings and sauces may be key here, you think. You pick up a plastic box of gnocchi–which is basically potato dumplings. On down to the boxes of rice. Heath said that one of her favorites is a quick risotto called Lundberg, that comes in about 10 different flavors; you get Butternut Squash and Alfredo.
You head to the produce area. After stocking up on fruits and vegetables, you choose a variety of potatoes: fingerling, yukon, new and sweet. You quickly roll past the bakery, and grab some dark chocolate and Haagen Dazs.
Munching on your own bag of rice cakes, you drop off her bags of groceries. Heath is in her robe, and keeps her distance so that she doesn’t spread germs.
“What do you eat for lunch?” you ask, setting the bags on her kitchen counter. You can’t imagine not being able to eat something as simple, as basic, as bread. Much less fun breakfast and brunch foods: pancakes, French toast, most cereals (Heath said she already had ten boxes of Rice and Corn Chex), pastries, souffles, cakes, cookies. She had told me not to buy gluten-free cookies. What’s the point? she’d asked.
“You get really tired of eating salads,” she said, sneezing. “Thank so much for grocery shopping.”
“I ran into another woman in front of the gluten-free case.”
“Five years ago there was basically not much to choose from, but now there are so many people out there now who have been diagnosed with this,” Heath says, “that lots of grocery stores are opening up gluten-free sections and restaurants are offering gluten-free menus. Now, even at my church, they offer a gluten-free communion wafer.”
“That’s wonderful,” you say. “Hang in there. I’ll talk to you later.”
She walks you to the door to let you out. You turn.
“Heath, can’t you sometimes just eat a big bag of Doritoes?”
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