By Jackie Ourman
I have always loved food. Loved to cook. Loved to talk about food, think about food, read about food. You get the gist. Food + Me = Love! But recently, my relationship with food was challenged. My love turned to fear.
One of my children was diagnosed with life-threatening food allergies to peanuts, most tree nuts and sesame, while another child was diagnosed with celiac disease, along with the same allergies. Shortly thereafter, I was diagnosed with celiac disease (my mom was too!). Looks like we’ve been living with these issues for years and had no idea! When you have celiac disease, you can’t eat anything that contains gluten, which is primarily found in wheat, barley and rye.
Where life-threatening allergies are concerned, the only options are to refrain from eating those foods, educate, advocate and carry epinephrine. Shortly after my son’s diagnosis, I became a member of the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network and utilized many of their incredible resources to wrap my arms around all of it.
After educating my children and myself as much as possible, advocating for them in our community and witnessing the immediate health benefits of a gluten-free diet for my son (energy, growth, happiness), the fear lessened a little bit. I started to get more creative in the kitchen. Instead of focusing on what we couldn’t eat, I focused on what we could. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by the impact these issues would have on my children throughout their lives, I felt empowered and responsible to show them they could live full, happy lives and love food despite their dietary restrictions.
We are a family of 5 and my husband and third son (yes, 3 boys!) do not have allergies or celiac disease. I try to keep things varied, healthy and delicious for all. My goal for the food I prepare is that it doesn’t ever taste like it’s missing anything.
What started as a quest to help my own family became a mission to raise awareness about these issues and help others as well. I enrolled at ICE to learn as much as I could about food, recipes and the realities of working in busy restaurant kitchens. I graduated from the Culinary Management program in August 2012 and am currently enrolled in the Culinary Arts program. I absolutely love it!
Celiac and Allergy Friendly Epicurean is a blog I created to chronicle my journey. I share recipes I use at home, adapt recipes I learn in culinary school, highlight experiences dining out with celiac and food allergies and share resources I have found helpful in and out of the kitchen. I’m excited to have the opportunity to share some of this information with you on the ICE Blog and hope you will enjoy my perspective on the Culinary Arts program as a student who is gluten-free and allergy-aware.
Jackie was also recently nominated for “Top 25 Foodie Moms” on Circle of Moms. You can vote for her every day through June 4th.