Let them eat cake (assuming it’s gluten-free)

Living with a woman with undiagnosed celiac disease is like randomly introducing vinegar to an upside-down baking soda volcano. And like all volcanoes, it’s best if the townspeople aren’t around for the eruption.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune digestive disease that damages the villi of the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food. It is triggered by consumption of the protein gluten, which is found in wheat, barley and rye. Some symptoms of celiac include: fatigue, headaches and irritability (in addition to a few “intestinal” issues not suitable for description in such an elegant column). I don’t know why symptoms of diseases can’t occasionally be pleasant. For once I’d love to hear that the symptoms of an ailment include: enhanced eyesight, fast skin regeneration or sexier buttocks.

I suspected my wife had the condition based entirely on a 20-minute internet search and my own clinical study, which involved me giving her a breadstick and observing her reactions.

“Here eat this,” I said, shoving a breadstick in front of her face. I suppose it was an odd way of greeting someone home from work, but I had a plan.

“What are you doing?” she asked, hesitantly taking a bite of the breadstick. “And why are you wearing my robe?”

“It’s the closest thing to a lab coat I could find,” I replied all sciencey. “And I’m observing you.”

“Well, stop it.”

“Subject irritated,” I said into my voice recorder. “Subject should know that what she’s eating might be poison.”


“Well, maybe. For you. I don’t know.”

“I’m tired of this. You’re giving me a headache.”

“Subject fatigued. Headache registered.”


“Subject exasperated looking at sexy, brainy man. Not uncommon when this scientist enters a room.”

She (hurtfully) wanted to get a second opinion from “a real doctor that isn’t an idiot.” Like those exist. In order to get officially diagnosed, one is instructed to send a “sample” to some lab for analysis. After getting the specifics of what kind of sample they wanted, I felt this one was best left up to the professionals.

Once the sample is obtained in a container (which I understand was quite uncomfortable to capture, like using a spoon to fish a dead rat from a bucket) it is mailed in for analysis. And you thought YOUR job was crappy. Imagine getting THAT in the mail every day.

Once you’ve been diagnosed with Celiac Disease or a “gluten intolerance,” congratulations! You’ve entered a gluten-free world. You will soon enjoy the wonders of potato starch, tapioca flour and guar gum. Guar is actually a real thing even though I was convinced it was something made up by Dr. Seuss.

“You can play a guar or eat a guar. Sometimes you can pet a guar. But a guar won’t rawr if you’re afar so give your Czar Jafar a bizarre guar jar.”

Making it even tougher is that, in many areas, gluten-free products can be difficult to find. Luckily, they make up for their scarcity by being much more expensive. Products available to the gluten-free include boxes featuring smiling pandas and koalas. The only way I can justify spending $6 for a box of cereal is if it contains actual panda. And even then, it had better be an endangered one. A famous one that Asian people have named.

My cupboards now showcase products with claims boasting they’re free of: gluten, wheat, eggs, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, lactose, taste and happiness. Thankfully, while many manufacturers remove the gluten and flavor they also leave in the sugar and fat to fool you into thinking you’re eating healthy. It’s like if a product boasted claims of “Now 75 percent less riboflavin!” even though nobody knows what riboflavin is, nor is anyone looking into it.

Going gluten-free will not be easy. There will be times when you’ll be eating a normal human sandwich and your wife will approach like an addict needing a fix.

Actual conversation:

Wife: “Please, baby, just one bite. Just a nibble. It’ll be OK.”

Me: “I…um…go away.”

Other times she’s content with a sniff of your sandwich, which will make you incredibly uncomfortable.

I never realized I had a gluten problem until about two weeks after removing all gluten-products from our home. My wife left for the weekend and upon her return found me passed out in the kitchen, hugging a loaf of bread, oyster cracker dust smearing my nose and upper lip and cookie dough batter falling gently out of my mouth. Without realizing it, I apparently had gone on a two-day gluten bender. Some men keep dirty secrets on their computers. I keep a bag of normal flour hidden in a sock drawer.

People say that love is like a violin, the music may stop now and then, but the strings remain forever. Phooey. Real love is eating gluten-free spaghetti with a side of gluten-free rice bread and telling your significant other you honestly can’t tell the difference.


Kelly Van De Walle can be reached

at vandkel@hotmail.com.