Celiac Disease and Memories

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As diagnosed celiacs, we’ve all gone back and forth with ourselves and even with one another as to what that one gluten-filled food is that we miss. After being diagnosed with celiac disease, sometimes our tastebuds and attachments to food draw us back to something we had a child and now we can’t because we have celiac disease and have to eat 100% gluten-free.

I have been diagnosed with celiac disease since the middle of 2008 and in all the years that  have followed, I have found amazing gluten-free food and gluten-free food that is comparable to food I used to eat before my diagnosis and I have found some of my favourite childhood foods have always been gluten-free. Having celiac disease and eating food is always an intense roller coaster of emotion. In all the years of being diagnosed with celiac disease I have an deep emotional connection to food. Sometimes people talk about smells that trigger memories; mine are usually food related.

The smell of black pepper on cooking eggs reminds me of my grandmother.

The smell of steak cooking on a bbq reminds me of my grandfather.

Minute Rice; my mom.

So on and so on. Everyone has those kinds of stories and feelings. Looking at this short list (which is just the tip of the iceberg), any of these can be made gluten-free, and are in fact gluten-free. So, these memories can always be recreated, but what about those that are kind of lost in the transition of the mind. Sweet memories that can’t be unlocked anytime soon?

Having celiac disease can present a host of negatives. Mainly food negatives. But sometimes they can never be helped.

This is my story…

Many many moons ago, years an years before my diagnosis of celiac disease. Actually, i’m not even sure I was in my 20’s at this point. My father and I had spent a little while at my grandmother’s house because she had recently passed away. It was a difficult time for some of us, but in someways brought us a little close together. One particular night, my dad had went to the closest McDonald’s for dinner and got himself some food. In a time before constant cellphone usage and the word ‘text’ barely existed the way it does now, my dad purchased me a Big Mac meal.

I wasn’t around with him at the house when he got it, nor was I around when he ate it. I was just up the street with my aunt and cousin doing aunt and cousins things. Maybe watching a movie or talking; point is, dad got me dinner. He called the house and said he left it for me in the microwave.

When I got home, to my grandmother’s house later that night, the Big Mac meals was in the microwave waiting for me. Dad was a sleep, and he had gone out of his way to buy me dinner when I wasn’t there and put it aside for me to eat later. It was late at night and I still ate it.

One thing I have found is that celiac disease outs a lot of my food choices into perspective. There is an old saying “A moment on there lips. A lifetime on the hips” and with celiac,  you could say something like “Gluten past the lips, gives you a case of the shits”. So, the choices I currently make as a dedicated 100% gluten-free eater are all in perspective. I wouldn’t go out and eat a Big Mac now; it’s not gluten-free. I wouldn’t eat whole wheat bread again because its easier to get and cheaper. The diet is perspective. I eat 100% gluten-free because it keeps me healthy, some don’t get that. A little bit of gluten WILL harm you. If you have celiac disease, its best to be positive about it and eat 100% gluten-free.

The smell of an hours old reheated McDonald’s Big Mac meal, coupled with the taste and memory of me eating at the table in the kitchen, alone, at night, reminds me of a time when my father and I bonded and spent time together and had a good time, regardless of how tragic it was. I have a healthy emotional connection to memories that are coupled with food. I could have a Big Mac meal and reclaim the memories that I shared with my dad. I won’t have one because that choice will put me in a category of bodily harm and cause serious damage to my insides and possibly prevent me from operating like a member of society. Celiac disease took my ability to relive this. There isn’t a time in all these years that I haven’t thought of that memory and the Big Mac moment hasn’t been a huge part of it.

Having celiac disease isn’t voluntary. Maintaining a gluten-free diet, even when it’s absolutely necessary, is. Looking back at the relationship between food and memories can be tough knowing that your celiac disease hampers the ability to truly relive them.

3 Responses

  1. Janet Warren

    I so know exactly how you feel! Growing up in Philly I have deep roots in food. When they told me I had Celiac, I was floored. But as a fighting Irish-American I keep on keeping on;)

  2. It was 1997. Can’t remember that night as my mind was probably somewhere else. Kind words though.

  3. It was 1997. I don’t remember, as i probably had other things on my mind. Nice that you remembered.

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