When I discovered I couldn't eat foods with gluten, I learned a new phrase: "feeling safe."
You could go to a friend's house who also has celiac disease, and know you'd be fed something that wouldn't literally gnaw at your guts for the next 24 hours. You'd be safe.
You might be able to go to a coffeehouse that serves gluten-free treats and enjoy a chocolate muffin, hopefully feeling safe. (Turns out I wasn't safe. Curse them and their maelstrom of airborne wheat flour.)
You could definitely cook for yourself and know you were safe.
But shopping for gluten-free ingredients had me a bit intimidated. Yes, Whole Foods has several products that are safe, but they're expensive and not all yummy.
Trader Joe's is supposed to have a substantial supply of gluten-free foods, but I didn't hit the jackpot there.
My local retro supermarket, which I love, carries plenty of gluten-free frozen dinners and some crackers and alternative flours, but you couldn't live off that stuff, day in and day out.
(I know that plenty of natural food is naturally gluten-free. Trust me. We are big on beans and rice and produce around here. Mm.)
I whimpered to Cranky: "Why isn't there a gluten-free store? This is Marin County, after all. Wouldn't there be one?"
He shrugged and said it probably wouldn't be a "safe" business model.
The other day I got a blood test at 7 a.m., and since we were up and about, we decided to look at a natural foods store a couple of towns over, toward West Marin. In all my years here, I'd never shopped at Good Earth. I was hoping they might have a healthy approach to dietary restrictions, the sweet hippies. (The store first opened in 1969!) But we were too early; we'd need to come back at 9 and I didn't feel like hunkering in the parking lot for 40 minutes.
We circled back toward home, and happened to spot another market we wanted to check out. It was OK, not worth a trip (except for the fish market). But we ended up frittering away the better part of half an hour, and sure enough, it was time to return to Good Earth.
My intention was to make a beeline for the baking department, because I wanted some hard-to-find quinoa flour. But I kept getting distracted by all the little blue labels affixed to shelves here and there throughout the store. The labels said "Gluten Free." There were many, many, many of the little blue labels. Everywhere, interspersed among the "regular" foods.
I felt safe! Somebody there cares enough about the difficulties of dietary restrictions to make shopping easy. Oh, not just easy. The store is literally bursting with gluten-free foods. I almost bought a bottle of gluten-free salad dressing. (I don't BUY salad dressing!)
Everywhere I looked I found safe options: snacks, soups, pastas. It was a little overwhelming, and I'm planning on going back just to see if I can take it all in sensibly. At that first moment, however, I was just reeling with joy. Whimpering, actually.
"Why," I asked Cranky, "must we rely on the loving sensibilities of hippies to make us feel safe? Celiac disease is an equal-opportunity scourge. Anybody can get it."
But this is Marin County, after all. We have a gluten-free store.
I feel fortunate. I feel safe. I feel happy.
I wish you had a store like this.