Non-food objects, like meat…for some people, that’s gluten

Posted: March 26, 2011 in nursing & health

I’ve been vegetarian for a long time.  I did it gradually, which strikes me as a good way to make a habit last.  It’s been:

  • 26 years since I’ve had veal  (I’ve actually only eaten it once in my life, at age 14.)  (Then mom told me what it was.)
  • 20 years since I’ve had beef
  • 17 or 18 years since I’ve had fish (never really liked it much)
  • 16 years since I’ve had chicken
  • 15 years since I’ve had shellfish

I think for much of that time I was decreasing the animals I ate, I thought of my diet as becoming meat-less.  Semantically, a subtraction, a whittling away.  I looked at veganism (vegetarian minus eggs and dairy) as more subtracting.  (Going to return to the vegan topic again soon.)

Mark is a vegetarian, too.  He went cold broccoli 25 years ago.  When I settled in with my sweetie and started doing that nesting thing that people do when you start needing to make meals for two, I realized that neither one of us regards meat as food at all.  It’s sort of in the category as flowers, or types of wood.  I can sometimes appreciate the smell of well-seasoned meats, and it doesn’t incite any sort of hunger or appetite.  The idea of eating it isn’t nauseating, it’s just alien.  (With the exception of that one time at a certain person’s wedding, and after a lot of champagne..) I don’t eat flowers.  (Yes, yes, sugared violets and roses, but how many times a decade do you do that?)  Or say, sandalwood.  Or pine needles.

The smell of cooked meet isn’t as nice to me as pine needles.  But in the breakroom at work, I can look over at somebody else’s lunch and appreciate that my coworker cooked a nice meal for his/her family and has good leftovers.  I just don’t want to eat it because it isn’t food.  Animals are just not food to me.  But it doesn’t bother me that animals are food to others.

I don’t know when I made this switch in my thinking, but I’m sure it was gradual.  My diet isn’t a any-noun-less.  It’s big and varied and full of vegetables and rices and grains and flatbreads from a dozen different countries and nuts and fruits and all these herbs and spices that can be in an infinite variety.  And it’s fun!  I didn’t know that my lazy cooking for one thing for so long, that there was this other creative outlet I could try, and enjoy.

The reason I say this is a girlfriend of mine just got a formal diagnosis of celiac disease.  I have two other girlfriends who are gluten intolerant, too.  And both of them still struggle with this, because, well, who wants to live bread-less?  (And one of them has other allergies on top of it, too.)  I don’t have a thorough understanding of what the list of foods that do make celiacs sick, and what doesn’t.  I get that accepting this allergy is a loss.  I chose to go without meat.  My friends aren’t choosing to go without gluten, because I’m sure they’d much rather be able to eat it than not.

She’s blogged about how great she feels on a detox diet, how much energy she’s had (and it’s apparent from how much blogging she’s been able to do, be a mom of two little ones, and work full time).  I was so happy to hear how well she’s been doing.  Seems like a part of that had been how she’s been giving her body the foods it wants and needs.

Perhaps it’s naive, but I’m hoping she, and my other friends with celiac, adopt ‘gluten-free’ similar to the way I’ve adopted ‘meat-free’.  The diet isn’t defined so much by what it lacks as what it offers….that it’s as big and wide and varied with a zillion different choices, too.  It’s my hope, anyway.

I feel sad for my friend who just got the diagnosis.  My heart goes out to all of them when we come across a food they want and cannot eat.  But I think people feel sorry for me when I don’t eat hamburgers at a BBQ, too.  Which is very weird to me, because I think they’re missing out on my fabulous portobello shroom I’m snarfing.  *shrug*

Maybe gluten’s different, and it’s a poor comparison.  I dunno.


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