By: Jim Bates
“Sorry to have to tell you this,” Doctor Jensen said, not looking all that sorry, “but you’ve got celiac sprue.”
Celiac what? It sounded serious. “Am I going to die?” I asked, cutting to the chase along with starting to perspire. Heavily. Man, I was only forty-four years old. Way too young.
“No, you’re not going to die, Frank, and before you let your imagination run away with you, let me explain: You’ve got an intolerance to gluten.”
Never heard of it. “What’s that?” I asked wiping away the sweat that was now running into my eyes.
“What it means is you can’t eat anything made out of wheat. You’ve got to stop right now. If you don’t, yes, you could die. It could kill you.” He looked at me hard. “Am I making myself clear? No bread, no pasta or Doritos or cookies, none of that stuff. Only non-gluten foods like carrots, lettuce and raisins or things made with gluten free flour.” He peered at me above his wire-rimmed glasses. “Understand?”
I was picturing myself snacking on carrots and raisins instead of a bag of chips while watching Monday night football. For the rest of my life. The prospect was not pleasant. “Not even occasionally?”
“What about ‘It could kill you’ didn’t you understand?” he stared at me.
Oh, yeah. Right. “Got it,” I said, not really getting it at all. Nor happy about it, either, for that matter.
When I told my wife, Jenny, she looked me up and down and said, “Snacking on carrots and raisins? It might do you good, you know, Frank. You could stand to lose of few pounds.”
So much for a sympathetic ear.
But she was right, I had kind of let myself go over the last few years, well five or six to be exact, ever since the twins were born. But I’m not going to use Carrie and Kylie as an excuse. They were the light of my life. This was all on me.
Dr. Jensen told me that I could investigate gluten free alternatives to wheat and I did. To say the results were mixed was putting it mildly. Jenny and I shared the cooking duties so I was comfortable in the kitchen. I began to make cookies and bread and pasta with gluten free flower, all to limited success: the bread was dry, the cookies tasteless and the pasta was so sticky, it was impossible to chew.
I admit that things looked bleak until the last day in May came around. It was a bright and sunny Saturday, we’d just planted some pots of geraniums, and Jenny and the twins suggested we go to lunch at a favorite restaurant. We made ourselves comfortable and I had my (now) usual salad with a side of rice crackers and hummus. Sound bland? Well, yeah, but by then a few months had passed since my visit to Doctor Jensen and I was getting used to it. The girls wanted ice cream for dessert (which I can eat, by the way,) so were ordered.
While we were waiting my daughters handed me a small box. They giggled with excitement.
“It’s for you, Daddy,” Carrie said.
“Yes, Daddy, for doing so well on your new diet,” Kylie added.
I looked at Jenny. She just grinned and nodded toward the girls. It was their idea, she mouthed. I have to say, my kids are pretty sweet. “Why, thank you girls,” I said, smiling at them, intrigued. What was going on? I opened the box. Inside there were four round objects, flattened on one side. They were white with toasted edges and shaped like large golf balls. I looked at Carrie and Kylie and then at Jenny, the question on my face obvious. What was I looking at?
“They’re macaroons,” Jenny said, smiling. “Made from coconut. They’re gluten free, if you must know. The girls found them at a bakery and thought you’d like them.”
I had no idea. Coconut cookies? I’d been a chocolate chip man all my life, but the girls were looking at me with heightened expectation. I took one out and held it up for all to see.
“Looks good,” I said. The girls watched expectantly. “I think I’ll have a bite.”
Carrie and Kylie giggled excitedly. “Yea, Daddy!”
I bit in and the flavor exploded in my mouth. A sweet vanilla mixed with soft, chewy coconut, it tasted fantastic, maybe even more so since my girls gave them to me. I took another bite and then reached over hugged Carrie and Kylie. “Thank you, kids. This is the best gift ever.”
I shared the rest of the macaroons with my family along with the ice cream. Everyone loved them. They were gone in about a minute.
That was years ago. I’m still gluten free and have learned to make great meals using gluten free flour and recipes. I even make macaroons. But you know what? Those macaroons the girls gave me? They’re still the best I’ve ever tasted, and not necessary just because they were gluten free, but because they were a gift from my girls. We stop at that bakery on a pretty regular basis to stock up. My whole family loves them. In fact, my kids have a nickname for me now. The call me Mr. Macaroon. I love it.