JEFF TIEDEMAN: Against the grainJoin celiacs, others in taking annual Gluten-Free Challenge.
A lot of people — myself included — don’t think twice about what we eat.
But for people with food allergies such as intolerance to gluten, “normal foods” like pizza, chocolate chip cookies and homemade bread are off-limits.
My cousin, Tim Menard, an admission counselor at the University of Minnesota-Crookston, is one of those people. Tim, along with several of his siblings and his mother — my Aunt Rosemary — have celiac disease, an inherited, autoimmune disorder in which the lining of the small intestine is damaged from eating gluten and other proteins found in grains such as wheat, barley and rye.
They are among the 1 in 100 Americans affected by the disease. (In Grand Forks, Red River Celiacs Gluten Intolerance Group (redriverceliacs.org) offers support.) Many more are gluten-intolerant.
I called Tim after getting an email announcing that May is Celiac Awareness Month and that May 21-22, the Second Annual Gluten-Free Challenge will be held (sponsored by Pamela’s Products, a gluten-free food company, and the nonprofit Gluten Intolerance Group).
More than 1,500 people signed up for the 2010 challenge to eat entirely gluten-free for one weekend, with the goal of bringing families and friends back to the dinner table — together — to empower people to learn more about this easily treatable disease and to bring awareness to the choices faced by those who adhere to a gluten-free diet.
(To sign up for this year’s challenge and to get coupons, giveaways and more, go to the website, www.goGFchallenge.com.)
Tim said in recent years, things have changed a lot for celiacs. Major supermarkets and food outlets (including Hugo’s on 32nd Avenue South and Amazing Grains on DeMers Avenue) have gluten-free equivalents of everything from pizza crusts to doughnuts, buns and cakes. And several local restaurants (including Texas Roadhouse, Outback, the Blue Moose, ’l Bistro at Canad Inns, Mamma Maria’s and Giuseppe’s) cater to nongluten diets.
Rhombus Guys and a few other pizza places offer pizza without gluten crusts, and Wendy's even has a hamburger that is wrapped in lettuce — without a gluten bun. Burger King and Dairy Queen give celiacs their burgers in a container with a fork.
All of this is important because food is so much more than sustenance. To quote Pamela Giusto-Sorrells, founder of Pamela’s Products, it’s about family, friends. It’s holidays. It’s birthdays and special events.
And we shouldn’t take any of those for granted.
Tiedeman is food editor at the Herald. Reach him at 701-780-1136 or toll-free at (800) 477-6572, or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.