#BecauseGluten: Think of it as the Last Supper

Yep. It's time to say farewell to my favorite foods, and try to see the positive.

Editor's note: #BecauseGluten is a new semi-regular column chronicling CL A&E Editor Cathy Salustri's journey into an involuntary gluten-free lifestyle. She had been taking her recent celiac diagnosis kinda hard — but now…

New Year's Eve. A time for death and rebirth, a time to bid goodbye to the old year and hello to the new.

A time for fireworks and resolutions and black-eyed peas.

A time for celebration.

A time for endings.

New Year's Eve finds me at home, surrounded by the last gluten I will ever eat.

The last. Gluten. I will ever. Eat.

If you think I'm being dramatic here, yes, I am. And if you think it's not warranted, well, you've clearly never had to face a lifetime without Big Macs, Corona Light, your favorite cereal, pizza from Cappy's or any one of 67,000 other amazing things.

All of which I'm, apparently, trying to eat tonight — because after tonight, gluten is dead... to me. After battling denial, seething with anger and trying to bargain my way out of this, I enter into the fourth phase of grief: Depression. I realize that if I want to enjoy live without infusions, injections, fatigue, crumbling bones, bouts of mental confusion, or the ability to go to a dinner party without discussing my health like an 86-year-old in a nursing home, the gluten has to go.

And, despite knowing this, I'm not OK with it. At. All. It sucks, actually. But I don't have the energy to be angry or to try and cajole my way out. It's been three weeks since my diagnosis, and I've looked at this every way I can only to come to the conclusion that, yes, I have to give up gluten. I've sequestered all the gluten in the house, and whatever I don't eat by midnight leaves in the morning.

I've baked roughly seven dozen of my dark chocolate chip cookies, as well as ginger snaps. I've used up the last of my homemade pasta in the freezer. I've spent the past few weeks eating gluten, to borrow a phrase from a woman I know, like it was my job, or perhaps more like every meal was my last. Because it was, in a way. Every time I eat something with gluten in it, I think, "Well, that's the last time I'll ever eat that."

I've cried in grocery stores. I've fought with Barry for no good reason other than the world as I know it is ending. I've watched the horror on my friends' faces when I've told them I couldn't have gluten anymore. And now it's crunch time. New Year's Eve. Everyone else in the world, it seems, is partying with glee, ready to bid adieu to 2016 (not without good reason), but me?

I'm hunched over a bowl of Cracklin' Oat Bran.

When I was a little girl living in New York, I would spend many weekends with my grandparents. My mom's mom let me stay up late and watch Love Boat and Fantasy Island with her, and we'd eat Planters Cheez Balls until my grandfather, probably worried about me turning orange from the fake coloring, would bring me Howard Johnson's Corn Toasties. My dad's mom, in between letting me help her make macaroni, introduced me to Cracklin' Oat Bran, a not-nearly-as-healthy-as-it-sounds sugar bomb that, to this day, reminds me of sitting at her kitchen table in Yonkers while she made pies, cookies and pasta.

When I saw the cereal on the shelf at the grocery, I grabbed it. I haven't eaten it in years — it has, to put it mildly, enough sugar to give an entire family diabetes — but dammit, if I'm never eating it again, I'm eating it tonight.

Think of it as the Last Supper, or my gluten funeral.

Next up: Acceptance

About The Author

Cathy Salustri

Cathy's portfolio includes pieces for Visit Florida, USA Today and regional and local press. In 2016, UPF published Backroads of Paradise, her travel narrative about retracing the WPA-era Florida driving tours that was featured in The New York Times. Cathy speaks about Florida history for the Osher Lifelong Learning...
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