Vianova.org is a reborn site.
Three years ago, I was a health-nut foodie, or something like that. I spent my life pursuing local, non-gmo, raw, grassfed, organic, transitional, and bulk foods, and helped my friends and neighbors to do the same. I helped to connect consumers with famers and producers. I blogged recipes, locavore and traditional food rhetoric and more at vianova.org. I fed my children only completely natural foods, and was appalled when I witnessed otherwise-sane-appearing mothers feeding their children hotdogs and red jello. What were they thinking?!?
Judge not, lest you be judged, or as I like to say it, lest you become the very thing that you judge.
In July of 2008, I gave birth to my sixth child in just over 9 years. I followed this up with extensive dental work, and then hernia-repair surgery in November. Meanwhile, we had a catastrophic financial meltdown. I spent the winter “dying.” At least, I was convinced that I was dying. Each day, I seemed to get a little bit weaker, a little more depressed, a little more pain-riddled, a little more angry, a little more frightened, and a little more prone to simply falling over if I tried to do anything beyond sitting in my swivel rocker, nursing my baby. By Spring, Aaron had a good paying job, and we were discussing the very-real prospect of finding someone to provide in-home care for me and the children while he was away at work.
I had never been particularly strong, physically. As a child, I was very thin, and ate 3 times the amount of any other person in my home. I had the “stomach flu” regularly. My health-nut foodie tendencies had, in fact, been born out of my weakness. Throughout my life, I knew that, somehow, my food was making me sick. In 2007, I had prayed about it. I felt impressed to go buy the Maker’s Diet. I was lacking funds that day. I didn’t.
I was a health-nut foodie, because I wanted to figure it all out MY way. I realized that there were approximately 15 million special diets out there, each with competing claims. They couldn’t all be right. So, I decided to eat Biblically and Naturally. I didn’t read The Maker’s Diet, but I figured that about summed it up, right? Along the way, I ended up buying Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions, along with one of my health-nut bulk grocery orders, and cutting out unclean meats, and every artificial thing.
The more rigidly I adhered to my new, all-natural, Biblical diet, the sicker I became. I sprouted, I ground, I fermented, I kneaded, I cried. What more could I do?
One day in early 2009, Aaron and I took the children to Goodwill to go book shopping. He picked up a blue book, and said, “Look what I found.” It was the Maker’s Diet. It was $.70. I was not broke that day.
I took the book home and read it. The author claimed that, if I followed his diet for 40 days, it would change my life. I had nothing to lose, except a few hundred dollars worth of supplements. I was accustomed to losing money on supplements. I called my husband, and asked him to pick me up a few things on his way home from work.
After 4 days on the Maker’s Diet, I woke up. I felt like a completely different person. On day 5, I fell right back down. What followed looked like a months-long physical and emotional roller-coaster, as I tried to determine what, exactly, kept knocking me down. I was now entirely sure that it was food. I just didn’t know what, or why.
Along with my dedication to eating Biblically, I had become, over the years, enamored of The Torah, and especially the weekly cycles of work and rest, as well as the feasts. I believed (and still do), that the Torah is God’s little operating manual for the human life. The children of Israel came out of 400 (!) years of slavery, during which all of their decisions were made for them. Freedom did not exist. After setting them free from Egypt, God released the Israelites into the Wilderness. Without a guidebook, they were lost. The Torah was a gift, God’s refusal to leave them clueless. Personally, I feel pretty generally clueless, so the existence of Torah is a great comfort to me, even when I fall far, FAR short of perfect obedience. That’s why I’m grateful for a Messiah.
Over my weeks of struggling between health and exhausting pain, I had become more and more convinced that grains, or carbohydrates were a problem for me. So, I stopped eating them. My family “needed” their Challah, for Shabbat, though, right? So, one Friday afternoon, I was kneading fresh-ground, homemade sourdough, full of farm-fresh eggs. I could feel myself getting weaker, and weaker. Every moment, a deep, excruciating headache grew in my skull, and I could feel my heart beating rapidly in my throat. I was reacting to the dough, which I was NOT eating.
I called my doctor, Virginia Frazer. She answered her own office phone, and I asked, “So, if I seem to have a problem with carbs, or grains, or something, could just TOUCHING it make me sick?”
Her answer changed my life.
“You’re celiac, AmberDawn. It’s the gluten. You need to get every bit of it out of your house, and your diet. It’s probably the hardest thing you’ll ever do, but it will change your life.”
Gluten? I added EXTRA gluten when I baked bread. I baked a lot of bread. Perfect, health-nut foodie sourdough bread, from flour ground in my own, 1970′s era stone mill. My father-in-law was a farmer. He grew wheat. My husband was raised on homemade, whole wheat bread. So were my children. I learned that I was reacting to eggs, dairy, garlic, and more. My traditonal foods, the very ones I extolled the virtues of to everyone within ear or blog-shot, were killing me.
I didn’t care. Rather than absorbing the enormity of the task before me (I STILL, 2 years later, get “glutened,” usually be foods processed by clueless manufacturers.), I just heard hope. Suddenly, my problem had a name.
I hired a former OSHA inspector (OSHA cleaning something or other, anyway; my mind was pretty foggy at that point.) homeschool dad and his sons to de-gluten my kitchen. I sold my grain mill. I threw out and gave away hundreds of pounds of food. I started over. I felt unstoppable.
I fell flat on my face. Suddenly, I couldn’t cook. My meals were horrible. My cookies collapsed into piles of dust. I cried. I bought hot-dogs. I learned which potato chips, corn chips, candies and ice creams were gluten free. I made an occasional salad. I HATED my website, which proclaimed the virtues of the very foods that I missed desperately, and can never eat again.
Two years later, and a long list of additional food sensitivities factored in, as well, I am finally winning. I. Climb. Mountains. For fun. Currently, I avoid gluten, eggs, dairy, garlic, beef, green beans, almonds, kidney beans, mushrooms, and a few others, here and there. The only one I avoid absolutely fastidiously is gluten, because my reaction is instant, long-lasting and devastating.
Believe it or not, food is good, again. I actually enjoy cooking and eating. I am ready to talk about giving up hot-dogs. I think I finally have the skills, and the will, to feed my family whole, organic, healthy food again. I’ll do it allergen-free. And, I’m going to do it for a family of 8 on less than $800 a month.
That’s my plan. And, I’m going to share the journey, the recipes, and the reactions, with you. I’ll also be including home-remedies, practical skills, parenting wisdom, and whatever else insists that I share it. My blog categories will grow as my posts demand a place to live. I will be keeping this blog centered around happy, healthy, strong family topics. Who wants to come along on my journey? Leave me a comment, with your email address, and I’ll send you a fantastic, healthy, allergen-free recipe that costs less than $.50 per person to make.