I remember when it became apparent I could no longer eat gluten: spring of 2014. My book had just come out and every time I went to a new book tour stop, I got violently ill. At first I thought I was catching stomach bugs at every stop in states ranging from Virginia to Massachusetts. But could that happen week after week? Turns out… nope. One of the ways I cope with the rigors of travel is indulging in my favorite ritual: a burger from room service when I first check into a hotel. Turned out the buns were not my friends.
At first, there was a mourning period. What does life look like when you can’t eat a thing you’ve eaten your whole life? My crash course of what contains gluten revealed what seemed some onerous restrictions: no pasta, which I like as a fast and cheap meal component, no cookies, no more of my mother’s empanadas (without which holidays would just not feel like holidays). Gluten was hiding in unexpected places, too, like salad dressings and restaurant coatings on fish and chicken and Twizzlers, my favorite snack at the movies. It felt insurmountable. What would I eat? I imagined a bleak future filled with kirby cucumbers and sweet potatoes (when I was first diagnosed, my guts were so sensitive and sick that was literally all I could eat for weeks).
After I sulked a little and cut out gluten and let my body begin to heal, I started to figure it out. Gluten-free pasta is nearly indistinguishable from the regular kind. Well-labeled salad dressings and restaurant menus make life simple. Mom was accommodating with her recipe. All would be well. The one continued dark cloud in my gluten-free sky was cookies.
I searched high and low for satisfying gluten-free cookies. No dice. Although full shelves now exist to cater to the gluten-challenged, I could not get joy with cookies. I tried brand after brand, but they were chalky and hard and kind of depressing. Just this past week, on vacation, when I bought myself gluten-free graham crackers so I could eat s’mores with the rest of the house, my son took a nibble and joked that they tasted like the main ingredient was dust.
So I’ve all but given up on having cookies and sweets of the wheat-based variety. But this morning I was having breakfast with a friend at Whole Foods (my happy place, and one of the best places for gluten-free stuff), and I spotted a gluten-free blondie. I haven’t had one of those since probably since the whole gluten problem came to light, and my mouth watered at the thought of it. Fast on the heels of that anticipation came the depressing realization that it would probably only share a name with the scrumptious sweet things I remembered. Still, hope springs eternal, so I went for it.
And it was amazing!
Moist, sweet, and so like the blondies of yore that I hoped it didn’t secretly contain oodles of small intestine-destroying wheat flour. SO. GOOD. I bit into it and morsels of chocolate exploded like little fireworks of joy in my mouth… oh my goodness. I savored it with something close to reverence. A real blondie, not one whose main ingredient was dust. It was an emotional experience. I hadn’t realized how much I’d missed this simple joy until I got to feel it again.
So… I’m just feeling the need to give them a shout-out. The brand is called Tate’s Bake Shop, and it’s a woman-owned business out of Southampton, New York (although it appears that they ship nationally). If you’re restricted from eating gluten, you don’t have to give up the hope of having cookies or blondies or other forms of doughy comfort foods. Click here and check out Tate’s Bake Shop. And you’re welcome!