Guest Post: Alissa Carberry, Gluten-Free Style.
It’s a double whammy: I’m standing at a birthday party for a friend, and there’s a large birthday cake, waiting to be cut up and devoured. It’s like that scene in Office Space, where everyone’s passing slices around and there’s that one kid waiting and waiting for his slice. When a piece gets to me, I politely refuse it, putting a hand out and saying “Oh, no thanks!”
“Ohhhhh, because of your diabetes, right? No sugar?”
And thus begins the difficulty of having two autoimmune disease- type 1 diabetes and Celiac Disease.
It’s one thing to explain why I only drink diet soda and have sugar free maple syrup. I pinky promise strangers that eating a candy bar won’t kill me. But a slice of chocolate cake? An entirely different story.
In the middle of my senior year of high school, I was diagnosed with a gluten intolerance- no more wheat, barley, rye or oats, cutting out the staples of a lazy teenager’s life: no pizza, cookies, rice krispies, or sandwiches. You name it and it’s sold in a box, it probably has gluten in it. I had to re-learn food labels, hunting for the ingredients that are waaay down at the bottom of the list- who knew that lindt truffles needed barley to taste so good?
Suddenly, I had to make all the decisions on where we eat, and my friends were thrown into temporary insanities on remembering not to offer me most of the foods they ate-diabetes was tricky enough, but now they were worried they’d “poison” me too. We joked I was part bunny-rabbit, eating carrots and lettuce, laughing that my parents wouldn’t need a lawn mower anymore because I could just eat the grass.
And then this little bunny rabbit had to go to college. A school filled with tons of students and many a place to eat. Within the first week of going to UVM (University of Vermont), a girl on my floor had found me a poster, advertising for the first ever meeting of ... A GLUTEN FREE CLUB?! It couldn’t be! I felt the cilia dancing in my stomach as I went to the first meeting a week later.
Entering the room, I found a group of people that were just like me- tired of eating lettuce and salad. “No more!” we cried, holding our carrots in the air, waving them around. (Alright, so not quite, but you get the picture) We used our hunger as a tool and began having bi-weekly meetings, cooking gluten free dinners together and trading tips on living the life on a campus where the dining halls made an almost half-hearted effort.
Within the year we became a student government recognized club, receiving a club budget and our own sga website. The dining halls have slowly but surely become more accommodating, although quite a few of the workers still haven’t a clue what the word ‘gluten’ even means. We’ve used our voices (and our intestinal tract!) to make an impact, and are spreading knowledge all across campus. Recently, we’ve teamed up with a non-profit, Feel Good, to sell gluten-free grilled cheese. And let me tell you, there’s nothing better than the taste of grilled, savory inclusion.
Alissa Carberry is a junior at UVM, majoring in Early Childhood Special Education, with a minor in sassiness and autoimmune education. A very recent alum of Clara Barton Camp, Alissa loves talking about her diabetes, answering questions about her "pager," and drinking all the iced coffee she can get her hands on. (Editor's note: I'm drinking all the iced coffee Alissa doesn't have her hands on.) Alissa loves all things poetry related, dress-related, and gluten-free related.