On Sunday, October 24th in Philadelphia something fantastic happened. People with Celiac Disease and Gluten Intolerance ate a lot of food! The fact that they ate a lot of food is not what was so great. What was so great is that that they did so without fear of eating gluten containing foods regardless of what they sampled! Imagine having to tip toe through life in fear of ingesting something that can harm you physically because you suffer from a disease or intolerance issue you were unlucky enough to have? Now imagine going to an event with food vendors from near and far who understand you, your needs and want to feed you…sounds awesome to me! That’s exactly what happened on this day in Philly. Here is how it all came about…
The event was organized by the NFCA (National Foundation for Celiac Awareness), who is one of the leading organizations in helping to drive the awareness of Celiac Disease and improving the quality of life for people who are diagnosed and undiagnosed. They have been working incredibly hard for many years raising awareness and have been my “go to” resource for REAL FACTS regarding Celiac Disease ever since I began my blog.
The NFCA brought in a multitude of incredible vendors and professionals. Everyone from product manufactures to restaurant chef’s and physician’s who were all there and for the same purpose, to show us that gluten free food can be just as incredibly delicious as any gluten containing foods. I of course am already fully aware that gluten free foods can be delicious and healthy, as I am lucky enough to be able to cook incredible dishes and make my family very happy in the process. However, for some people, cooking may not be their forte. While others who are newly diagnosed, may be excellent cooks, but don’t know where to start now because a good majority of the products they were using to cook with contain gluten. So this event was the perfect place to learn new tricks, try new products and find a better way to live a happy and healthy life.
Upon arrival, I was greeted by the friendly staff of the NFCA. It was so great to finally see the faces of the people who are on the other end of the bevy of emails that go back and forth between us...I think they were just as excited to meet me as I was to meet them! As a member of the media, I was quickly given a run down on what the highlights of the day would be so I didn’t miss out on anything. As being the food junkie that they know I am, I was also given a “you have to try the (food name) over by the Beer Garden!” and I did. In fact I think I may have actually tried everything from every vendor and need to put in a good 30 minutes extra at the gym this week to shed the extra poundage. My daughter Gia, who was with me, had no problems finding room for all the generous vendors who were handing out cookies and deserts, but she was actually more partial to the savory food dishes this day and kept going back to the Rudi's Bakery table to grab grilled cheese sandwiches. BTW; did I mention how easily I found the GF Beer Garden? Oh, but I did….
Rudi's Bakery hard at work with a customer
After congregating with some fellow writers and members of the NFCA at the Beer Garden to compare some quick notes, it was time to continue onwards. All throughout the event, I was most impressed with the restaurants that came out to show off their gluten free culinary creations. It was really great to have samples of their dishes which were savory and delicious and the best part of all being, I didn’t have to cook it. One of my biggest peeves when we go out to a restaurant that has gluten free choices on their menu is that the food is typically lacking in flavor and texture, but at this event that kind of food was not present. There were choices like lamb pâté, crab cakes and braised veal! These dishes were packed with flavor AND texture! They were all so good that I seriously forgot which ones I wanted to go back to and re-sample…instead I just went back and re-sampled all of them. Oh well, another 20 minutes on the treadmill.
The food vendors ranged from pre-made pizza to scientific quick bread (really!), hot dogs to hoagies, cookies to cakes. I was able to try new items and also got to meet people whose products we already use at home. I even got to see the goddess of gluten free cookies again, Jill Brack of GLOW, who had her husband Regi on hand diligently manning the GLOW table. I seriously have an addiction to Glow’s Gingersnaps cookies and will need some professional help soon.
Me, along with Jill and Regi Brack of GLOW Cookies
Kudos to the NFCA and everyone who worked the event! It’s events like this that bring awareness to the community, which after all is the mission of these events. Working closely with the medical industry and food vendors is an invaluable service to putting Celiac Disease on the map, while allowing sufferer’s to forge ahead and try new products and learn about upcoming products in the making. One of my favorite things the NFCA does is a program called GREAT. Restaurants that enroll in the GREAT program are educated in all aspects of Celiac Disease and Gluten Intolerance and the restaurants are trained in the safe handling of foods. This allows a restaurant to be clean, safe and knowledgeable when it comes to this issue…or as I like to say “gluten educated.” In my opinion there could not be a more important service offered and every restaurant who claims they offer gluten free choices on their menu should take this course. One of the reasons this is so important is cross contamination. Cross contamination can be very dangerous in that, unless gluten free foods are prepared in a non-gluten containing area or without safe practices, a person who is very sensitive can suffer from cross contamination and become sick. Needless to say, going out to enjoy yourself only to get sick off food you thought was safe to eat is really unfair.
Check out the NFCA’s resources as well as the resources of other great writers and products I have mentioned in this article below.
NFCA’s GREAT Program: http://www.celiaclearning.com/
Rudi’s GF Bakery: http://www.rudisbakery.com/gluten-free/
GLOW Cookies: http://www.glowglutenfree.com/
Gluten Free LI: http://www.glutenfreeli.com/
Gluten Free Fun: http://glutenfreefun.blogspot.com/
Gluten Free Mike: http://glutenfreemike.com/
The Healthy Apple: http://thehealthyapple.com/
Zenfully Delicious: http://zenfullydelicious.com/