Saturday, January 31, 2009

My Personal History...Why I Write

I grew up in Sanaa’, Yemen, and Berkeley, California with adventurous parents who hand held my brother and I all over the world to 5 different continents before we were 10. Naturally, travelling is in my blood. I fell in love with Italy on the Almalfi coast when I was 12 and threw a lira into the Trevi Fountain hoping to someday return and live in Rome. And less than 10 years later, I was studying Anthropology and contemporary Art History at the oldest university in Europe in Bologna on a study abroad program and consecutively suffering my initial symptoms of Celiac disease (without being aware it was Celiac). After a depressing, exhausting, and very long 2 years later, I graduated from college at UC Santa Cruz and then was luckily (and shockingly) diagnosed with Celiac Disease. My life changed, my social habits changed and my eating changed but my love affair with Italy and food did not. My first trip back to Italy to visit friends terrified and apprehended me but I immediately noticed that the average Italian person did know what gluten was and were informed about Celiac disease. I had conversations with Italians who told me that Celiac disease is tested in all children before they start school and the health care system even provides an additional 100 Euros a month for each person with Celiac. This sparked my interest that maybe Italy would not be such a bad place to live in. Sometime later with this rational reasoning, “I’m young and unattached so if not now, when, if ever?”, I made my way back, to fulfill my dream of living in Rome, from where I write today.

I used to think, I love food. I love travelling. But I’m a Celiac. These things don’t really go hand in hand. It’s hard enough at home in the Bay Area in California, one of the culinary capitals of the world, to eat out in a restaurant without being accidently contaminated.

But the more I travel and the more I eat, I realize how wrong and backwards I was thinking this…I may as well have thought the world was flat! It is true that us, Celiacs and people with intolerances and sensitivities, have to be very careful and diligent about what we put in our mouths. But why punish ourselves? Why limit ourselves? There is much more to discover in this life beyond the borders of America and the package foods and exhausting lists of unnatural, gluten-ish ingredients.

As a diagnosed Celiac, I’ve been to Ireland, France, England, Spain, Turkey besides living in Italy and let me tell you, I’ve found that eating out in restaurants is a more delightful, relaxing experience than it ever was for me at home. Of course, in some places it’s not easy but that won’t stop me, and I’ve learned a few tricks among the way to share with you. Life is beautiful and it’s short so I’m determined to travel the world, off the gluten path….and I’m inviting you, if you dare, to join me

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