Okay, so a cricket didn’t literally walk up to me and say, “hey Maddy -- you have the symptoms of Celiac. Maybe you should go check that out.” (though admittedly, that would be far cooler than the real story). But our attempts at better living through bugs did lead us here.
What follows, ultimately, is the story of me being incredibly thick. You’ve been warned. If you choose to skim to the end to find out what this means for Gastrobug, I promise I’ll forgive you.
The quick-and-dirty background is simply that I’ve always had a rubbish tummy, as long as I can remember; I’ve also had severe clinical depression and anxiety as long as I can remember, and I’m absent-minded on the best day of my life. All of which is relevant, I promise.
While I was pregnant with Toddlerbear, things got quite a bit worse, tummily-speaking. Of course, at a time when literally everything about your body is moving and changing and diverting its resources to making a tiny person, a lot of water can go unnoticed under the bridge. It was just another (uncomfortable) change amid a background of other (often equally uncomfortable) changes.
One then-baby-bear later, the super sucky tummy issues didn’t go away. But there were feeding times. And sleeping. And more feeding times. Occasional walks. More feeding and more sleeping. I am, in fact, 99% certain that my first three months as a mother consisted solely of sleeping and feeding (both him and myself). I might have taken a bath during this period, but no promises. At some point, when I wasn’t looking, it had become the new normal and I had ceased to notice that this was weird.
Fast-forward 3-ish years, and we’re here, as Gastrobug, trying to find new and exciting ways to sneak bugs into our diets as well as beginning the preparations for Hogglet #2 (that particular tiny cute project is still a little ways off, lest family and friends get too excited just yet). As a part of the latter, I had been restricting my diet to fruit, veggies, legumes, fish and fermented dairy (read: no grains) during the week, and being looser with my diet on the weekends. After a few weeks of this, I notice the pattern that my tummy is feeling far better than it had in years by the end of the working week (along with having better energy, a clearer mind, and a better handle on my depression/anxiety issues), and it all goes to hell by midway through the weekend.
This would be where my not being very bright comes in. Because I thought, “hey, beans and kefir are pretty amazing!” and continued on without further thought on the matter.
In our search for new and exciting ways in which we can sneak bugs into food (and to increase our number of entomo-vegan options), we encounter something called Seitan. Seitan, which turns out to be delicious, by the way, is wheat gluten shaped into meaty shapes and cooked and flavoured. It’s not a substance you would ever mistake as meat, but it has a great texture and is amazing with the right sauces and preparation. It seemed like a perfect vehicle to add crickets to, both in terms of taste and texture and in terms of it not looking entirely like you’re eating bugs.
The first time we (read: Brian) tried making Seitan (bug-free, to make sure we were doing it right before adding in variables, we (Brian) attempted a recipe for “ribs”. Said recipe involved all the Chipotle. All of it.
I’m actually quite fond of spicy food, where Brian is very much not. And so, I ate my whole plate of actually-pretty-tasty-if-super-spicy pretend ribs, and Brian did not. And by the next morning, I was very, very ill, and foggy-brained and depressed as all get-out. And Brian was not.
Because we had quite a few variables (super spicy food, new recipe, only one of us having eaten it in any great quantity), we shrugged and went on (uncomfortably, for me) with our day.
A couple of weeks later, we (Brian) decided to try the seitan again, again bug-free, this time as chicken fingers. It was delicious. It was amazing. Oh my gosh, I was so sick. And foggy-brained. And depressed.
But Brian wasn’t. Brian felt just fine. And then it sunk in. Every time something like this has happened to me, it has involved gluten.
So we experiment. I try cutting and including fried foods, fats, sugary foods. Nope. My body only does this in reaction to wheat.
And so, there are doctor’s appointments. And tests. And ultimately, there is celiac. Huzzah!
I have a small collection of autoimmune disorders, so I’m prone to get more autoimmune disorders. It’s just the way they work. And so, something that had been lurking in the background largely asymptomatically went symptomatic, it seems, while my body was being flooded with pregnancy changes.
For what it’s worth, things have been pretty awesome since I stopped eating gluten, a few cases of accidental contamination notwithstanding. My body is better behaved, my mind is much clearer, and the depression/anxiety -- though very much still there, still needing medication and attention, still casting a shadow over our family -- is a great deal more manageable. The celiac “huzzah” is only partially in jest. It’s actually improved things dramatically.
If you stopped reading earlier to avoid hearing all about my tummy problems, you can come back now. It’s okay, I’m not mad.
This diagnosis doesn’t mean that Gastrobug is now a completely gluten-free venture. We have always intended a plethora of gluten-free options, because Celiacs need love and bugs too, but it’s also true that people who are perfectly happy to eat wheat/barley/rye need love and bugs. And my jerk immune system shouldn’t get in the way of that (particularly when two thirds of the Hilker-Hogg clan is capable, nay thrilled, to eat gluten-containing products).
We’ll be upping our gluten-free game in the coming months, because frankly I’m kind of a brat sometimes and I like eating bugs, and there will be an increased emphasis on gluten-free alternatives. We’ve discovered quickly that it’s not simply a matter of replacing wheat flours with gluten-free flours (though the garlic-cheese cookies we wound up with, rather than the cheddar bay biscuits we can intended to make, were actually pretty tasty, if oddly shaped), and we’re still gathering our gluten-free skills. It’s a learning process.
But we promise gluten-free recipes. And gluten-containing recipes. And, above all, tasty, tasty bugs. It’s what we do.