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It is a funny thing to think about. One word. Celiac. What did it mean to me the first time I heard it? I remember the day actually. I was working as a physical therapist and treating a woman with multiple medical problems, including celiac disease. Being such an avid home baker myself, I remember thinking of all of the other things I would gladly give up instead of my weekly chocolate chip cookie fix (as if I would ever be given a chance to barter for my food allergy of choice…).
A few years later, when I was pregnant with my son, all sweets and baked goods started to make me feel sick. I assumed it was just the typical morning sickness so I labored on up through labor. In an unexpected turn of events, I ended up having a very traumatic delivery, resulting in a long road of recovery from a nerve injury.
As many of my medical issues got better, I started to notice that some things just weren’t going away, and if anything, they were getting worse. I am sure many of you are familiar with these symptoms of gluten intolerance - skin irritation, headaches, increased nerve pain, fatigue etc. And, like so many of you, I tried the traditional medical approach to sleuth out the cause of these symptoms without a lot of success.
Luckily, I was being treated by a very astute acupuncturist and he suggested I look into food sensitivities, especially gluten. Initially, I was in complete denial that this could be the cause. I believe that is probably the reaction of everyone when they first hear that gluten should be eliminated from their diet. After everything else I had been through, I was sure there had to be another reason – and it would be one that didn’t affect my desserts!
After my initial resistance to the idea, which was completely erased by how great I felt without gluten, I dove into the gluten free lifestyle and took a whole new approach to baking. I bought all the books, I tried to recreate all of my favorite desserts and I had a pantry full of miscellaneous gluten free flours. I was making some headway, but then through another twist of fate, my really good friend, and very talented pastry chef and instructor, Lexie Justice was also diagnosed.
Drawn together by our love of food and fun, and our unbending belief that mediocre desserts should never be eaten just because they are gluten free, we started out on this adventure we call The Last Crumb Bakery…
The best part of this story is the “happily ever after” ending. Not only did I get to keep my chocolate chip cookies AND feel better, I also gained the best apple pie I’ve ever tasted; bold ginger spice bread and tantalizing pecan shortbread that make any afternoon cup of tea feel like an indulgence; rich chocolate cupcakes with luscious vanilla buttercream that outshine any of their gluten-filled cousins; delicious pizza crust that has elevated our Friday pizza nights to “artisan”; and the list goes on and on. Who knew that in order to open the door to a higher level of deliciousness I just needed a food allergy and an opportunity to work with my wonderfully talented friend Lexie?
All that being said, I am not strictly defined by the label gluten free. So, here are some other tidbits that make me, me.
- I love numbers and spreadsheets and anything that has to do with numbers and spreadsheets. In fact, if something doesn't initially contain one of those two things, I will find a way.
- I love to talk to people. And I do it quite well with great velocity. In fact, when I try to slow down so everyone can understand me, people ask if I am from North Dakota or Minnesota.
- I loves to share good stories with strangers and friends alike. Actually, what is a stranger?
- CRAZY OBSESSION WITH PLASTIC WRAP.
- Some days are more important than others in our business and on big cooking days where we need a “win”, I wear my lucky Blondie shirt and pigtails. How could the gluten free universe resist throwing a little luck our way?
- I am convinced that I am taller then Lexie. However, if you know that I am the blonde in all of the pictures, you can see it is clearly not true.
- I hum a lot, especially when nervous. I am also sure Lexie can guess the song even though I will never sing the words.
- I am a magnet for flour and stickiness. You think I am kidding – I have driven home from a night in the kitchen only after changing shirts because what is stuck on me should not be introduced to the car.