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5 Foods to Live For

Chocolate's gotta be on the list, right?

Yes, it's Meme time again and this time around I've been tagged by Susan at Fatfree Vegan Kitchen to declare my 5 Foods to Live For. Asking someone who must live gluten-free due to celiac disease to list five foods to live for is an ironic and thorny question. If she had asked me, say, ten years ago, my list would have sported Italian semolina pasta as my number one. Following a close second? A tie between a crispy crusted French baguette and a chewy, salty rosemary foccacia- dipped in number three, extra virgin olive oil. Fourth would have to involve chocolate, perhaps a dense, rich slice of Devil's food cake. Number five?

Suddenly I'm feeling a little woozy.

This has-been (once upon a time) list ought to be named, 5 Foods to Die For. In some other incarnation I'm sure it is. Celiac is that serious. Yup. It can tumble you downhill so fast you'll be cringing- more than usual- at thinly veiled envy, er, I mean, compliments (Wow, you look amazing! Bitch. What are you- a size zero?) and discussing plans with your husband on how he'll look after your sons once you're gone.

Gone? he will ask with a raised eyebrow and a glint in his eye that begs to spark the levity he knows from experience simmers just beneath your gloomy inscrutable surface. You're not going anywhere, he declares with a bear hug, wrapping himself around your alarmingly bony shoulders.

Learning at mid-life that in order to survive you must be gluten-free every single day for the rest of your life is a mixed blessing. Yes, it's a relief. You haven't woken up in the third act of some Stephen King movie titled, Wasted. There is, finally, a reason you can point to. A culprit.

And the cure? The cure is simple, the doctor will tell you. Avoid gluten. And? you ask expectantly. There will be a shrug, followed by, You'll be fine. The depth of this nutritional advice is astounding, you think to yourself in utter and complete awe. Out loud, you murmur, Oh, okay, glancing at the faint remnants of powdered sugar on his charcoal wool trouser leg.

Finding five foods to live for is easy for me. After five years of living gluten-free I have forgotten what it is like to eat and live spontaneously, to stop, on an impulse and try a new bakery or a new cafe or the new restaurant in town. I must read every label of every single food, every ingredient that goes into my mouth. I make grocery lists in my sleep. I pack food for even the shortest trips away from home, knowing there will be nothing safe I can eat during an emergency. Well, if I'm lucky- a bottled water in a vending machine.

Eating now is sober business.

It's not just something to do on a whim, or out of boredom, or even, politeness. Every single food choice has to be conscious (How Zen, you think to yourself, chewing your brown rice. Maybe Buddha was a celiac?). For those of us intolerant to gluten, each bite we take is either healing or destructive. It's as simple as that.

And this is the hard part. To regard food as a possible enemy, as something adversarial, even life threatening, like some nasty virus or invisible bacteria, can turn any food loving girl's concept of nourishment and pleasure upside down. In fact, it is the antithesis of pleasure (unless you happen to be a masochist).

No, it's not easy to be even a quasi-foodie or comfort-foodie like me, when you have to keep your guard up. Strict vigilance isn't exactly, um, sexy.

Luckily, I was born with a resiliency and fluidity that has served me well in my life; and I have adjusted to my limitations and the stringency of living gluten-free. I still have foods I adore. I get pleasure from cooking. Sharing meals with those I love is as important now (if not more so!) than it was before I learned about celiac disease.

And after some minor and major adjustments, food has become equal to pleasure once again.


Food Bloggers Five Things to Eat Before You Die


So, without further ado, my 5 Foods to Live For - aka Five Foods to Eat Before You Die Meme - are:


1. Roasted green chiles- fresh from a New Mexican roadside stand
2. Garlic- rubbed, minced, chopped, roasted
3. Extra virgin olive oil- organic and fruity, from Italy
4. Wine- both red and white, from velvety dry to clean and crisp
5. Tomatoes- in every shape and color and size, raw, cooked, and sun-dried

Wait, wait! But then there is organic dark chocolate and sweet potatoes and blueberries and peaches and vanilla bean and fresh corn tortillas. Sigh.

How lucky can a girl be?

Rather than tag five others (the bloggers I've asked have already done it - shows you how late I am getting into this) I invite readers to post their own list here (in comments) and write about it- especially those living gluten-free.