Mom, am I allowed? The question no one asks me any more
“Mom, am I allowed?” is a very common question in every household, but mothers of children who suffer from celiac disease are familiar with the question from a completely different angle – health
“Mom, am I allowed?” is a very common question in every household and is usually associated with setting boundaries when it comes to candy. But mothers of children who suffer from celiac disease are familiar with the question from a completely different angle – health. It is a question that until two years ago was asked daily by children with celiac to make sure that what they wanted to eat is gluten-free.
Ten years ago, I discovered that I have celiac. Quite a surprise for someone who had reached the grand old age of thirty without any awareness of the disease, and also a big change for a person who had lived on pastry and pasta all her life. After a few weeks of brooding over my miserable fate it was over. I internalized the fact and moved on.
A few years later we discovered that two of our three children have celiac. This was a whole new ball game… How do you tell a two-year old that he can’t eat the things he loves? Things that his friends eat? That he can’t make a beeline for the candy table at his birthday party? That every time he wants to eat something when he’s out of the house he must ask if it contains gluten or if it is gluten-free? Five years ago, most people he asked couldn’t even answer the question, since the issue simply wasn’t mentioned anywhere. We experienced a lot of concerns and quite a bit of heartache. Since then, however, the sphere has undergone no less than a revolution.
So here are five things that have changed for me in the past few years as the mother of children who suffer from celiac:
Then: Seven or eight years ago, gluten-free products weren’t available in the neighborhood supermarket, and we had to drive to a special warehouse across the other side of town to buy the products we needed. In a gradual process that evolved over the past five years, gluten-free products began to appear on the supermarket shelves. First, in the health-store chains and later on, in the large food chains.
Now: Gluten-free products can be found in almost every supermarket, and the variety on the shelves is broad, ranging from bread to confectionery.
2. Functions and events
Then: Before going to a birthday party or other special event, we had to call the host, ask what was planned in terms of refreshments and bring our own special food. Great guests! If the hosts planned to order pizza we would send our son to the party with his own gluten-free pizza, or a more basic version consisting of pita bread with a tomato sauce and cheese topping. Mothers of birthday children would call in concern and ask us to accompany our child to the party lest he be exposed to gluten.
When the class was given Hamantaschen on Purim we would run to a special store or try to concoct something at home that more or less resembled the traditional Purim treat.
Now: There is a very broad variety of “regular” products that are gluten-free and are available at any supermarket. Birthday children moms no longer call up, worried – they simply go shopping and are happy to mention that everything is gluten-free. For example, very many of Elite’s salty and sweet snack foods are labeled “gluten-free”.
Then: When my kids would say “celiac disease” people would ask “cel-what?” When my kids explained, the response was invariably, “Oh you poor thing, how awful!” and the subject would spark an hour-long conversation.
Now: Not only does everyone know what celiac is, but the gluten-free diet has become a trend. Who would have thought? In every classroom there is usually one or more child who suffers from celiac. In my son’s class, for example, there are four, so that at every event or party the fact is taken into account when planning the refreshments.
Then: Gluten-free products were very expensive – five times the price of “regular” products.
Now: Some gluten-free products are reasonably priced and affordable, while others are sold at the usual price. Leading food manufacturers have made an effort to adapt production lines to manufacture gluten-free products, creating a variety of regularly priced “regular” food products that are simply labeled “gluten-free”.
5. Leisure and entertainment
Then: There was hardly a restaurant we could go to.
Now: A big variety of restaurants serve gluten-free dishes, and we are far more spontaneous. We can suddenly decide to go out for a meal and there’s a choice of restaurants.
So yes, only a few years have passed since the day I found out I have celiac through to the discovery that my children have it too, and yet the market has succeeded in undergoing a genuine revolution that has made life much easier for us all, a revolution that is at its peak. Some food vendors have undergone the revolution while others have remained behind. To those manufacturers which have not yet joined the revolution, I would like to say that they have an opportunity to directly influence the quality of life of many children in Israel. This is a great opportunity: grab it with both hands, I am in no doubt that it will pay off.
And one last thing: there’s still plenty to be done when it comes to the high cost of running a household that includes one or more celiac sufferers, since the display of sensitivity isn’t accompanied – to my regret – by a 50% pay raise.
* Shani Katan is Director of Insights, Data and Strategic Information in Strauss Coffee.