First, before I move forward with today’s post, I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the unbelievable outpouring of love that came in response to my last post. I sat down to write that post mostly as a cathartic outlet for myself…and I’m just humbled by the number of heartfelt messages and beautiful emails I received. I read every single one and trust me, I cherish each and every kind word, memory, or humorous comment shared. Especially since many of them were from people who never knew my dad, it’s comforting to know that his example and legacy live on to inspire others even all these years later.
Now, onto what’s next. Yep, here we are in March and that means 2 things: I’ve made it through my least favorite month of the year AND it’s almost spring. At least that’s what the calendar claims…apparently someone forgot to clue in Mother Nature. However, what it also means this year is that Ash Wednesday is almost here! And thus so is Mardi Gras AKA Shrove Tuesday AKA Fat Tuesday AKA Fastnacht Day (Yay for PA!!) AKA Who Knows What Else It Can Be Called Day??
Interestingly enough, Ash Wednesday and I have a bit of a meaningful history now. Last year, in late January my crazy “what used to be gluten-induced” symptoms returned with a vengeance. I was the doctor once a week with a double dose of bronchitis and sinus infection that just wouldn’t go away, even after some rounds of antibiotics. I was exhausted all the time, sometimes I even had to rely on my stool to make it through my afternoon classes. Despite my insistence that I was feeling “glutened” again but I swore I hadn’t been around gluten, my doctor was convinced it was just my poor, mixed-up immune system attacking the wrong things in overdrive…because that is sometimes the reality of life with an autoimmune condition. Well, Ash Wednesday arrived. I skipped my normal morning coffee (which at the time always included milk) and breakfast. Aside from the gluten-free host I received at mass, I hadn’t eaten anything all morning. Now for those of you who are practicing Catholics, I imagine you know how you’re usually feeling by lunchtime on Ash Wednesday. You’re hungry, you’re famished, you’re reminding yourself to unite your suffering with Christ and you’re swearing that you’ll never forget how much He loved you again…and that you won’t take the gift of food for granted either. Yeah, sure, and if you’re anything like me that lasts until approximately 12:08 AM when you run to the fridge and grab a snack…because technically it’s Thursday now.
Well, not last year. By lunch time, I was feeling awesome! I was more energetic than I had been in weeks. My stomach didn’t have that dull pain that had come on so slowly that I hadn’t really noticed it was back until I actually spent a few hours without it. My head felt clearer…and though I was still tired, it wasn’t the same kind of “I can’t even formulate coherent sentences right now” brain fog I’d been battling for weeks. And then sure enough, dinner rolled around and I prepared my one meal of the day: a delicious veggie omelette (with cheese). Within an hour, I was fast asleep on the couch holding my stomach and spent a good hour around midnight debating whether the tightness in my chest was severe enough to warrant an ER visit or not. (Fortunately that time it wasn’t). As the weeks of Lent passed, my suspicions grew as without my morning cup of coffee (that was my Lenten sacrifice last year…I know, it was crazy) I was feeling much better in the mornings than I had been.
So why did it take until I ended up covered in hives on Easter Sunday and ended up at Urgent Care to figure out dairy was the culprit? (Well, casein more specifically). I don’t quite know. Call it denial, call it easier said then done to figure out (I really had forgotten about the cheese in my Ash Wednesday omelette so I was convinced it was eggs at first), I’m not sure what to say. What I will say is that it’s not as simple as eating a trigger food and suddenly feeling horrible and knowing what the culprit was. Likewise, it’s not like you stop eating one for a day and you dance around like Sleeping Beauty waltzing through the woods. It takes so much time to heal…and it sometimes takes hours, or even days, before eating a trigger food starts to manifest itself in new, strange ways. (Those of you with eczema, skin rashes, or frequent cold sores but claim you have no food sensitivities, you really should start a food journal. You’d be surprised how many of those are due to trigger foods.)
So, yes, it took me 6 weeks to figure it out. But if it hadn’t been for my Ash Wednesday fast and my Lenten coffee sacrifice, let’s just say the saga could have played out for a lot longer than it did. Once my doctor heard those stories, even she realized I better get back to the specialist for more food trigger testing. Now this year, Lent is going to be a bit trickier. As is my traditional Shrove Tuesday pancake feast. But fear not, I’ve been planning for this. So here are some important tips to celebrating this week…and then surviving Lent on an already-restricted diet. And just remember, no one on this Earth has the right to judge you…so do what you think is right for you.
1) Make yourself some pancakes, donuts, or even a you-safe milkshake on Tuesday. The rest of the world will be devouring their fastnachts, their drenched-in-butter pancakes, and their too-good-to-be-true milkshakes…you want to be able to join in the fun! Especially if you were gifted the snow day and delay this week, you’ll have plenty of time to cook.
“It’s Still Not OK that I Can’t Eat Krispy Kreme..But This Makes It A Little Less Painful” Donuts
2/3 cup rice flour
1/3 cup tapioca flour
1/8 cup potato starch
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. guar (or xanthan) gum
1/2 cup cocoa powder
3/4 cup brown sugar (or I used coconut sugar)
3/4 cup sugar (or the equivalent amount of agave, sweetener of your choice)
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder (or the corn-free substitute)
3/4 tsp. baking soda
3/4 cup boiling water
*I also added some coffee to my batter…delicious!*