Imagine going to a place where you can eat everything. There are no labels to read, no grand inquisition before ingesting a morsel, no blank stares when you mention your gluten intolerance. No nothing…except enjoying.
The Gluten-Free Allergy-Free Expo in Dallas was an amazing group of like-minded individuals whose own journeys with gluten intolerance led them to create gluten-free companies. I almost didn’t go after a very busy few weeks, but my mom convinced me to come, and The Professor even drove me down to Texas. I’m so glad I went.
With more than 60 vendors, a few dozen cooking classes and many new friends, I think it would be information overload to go through everything. So I present to you a list of my favorite moments, lessons and new friends.
Best Starstruck Moment
I met Naomi, the founder and owner of Better Batter, a flour blend I’ve reviewed. It was inspiring to meet someone who became such a strong advocate for her son that she created her own company. I love the Better Batter flour blend and their company philosophy. And guess what, Naomi has read Accidental Okie! What?!?
My favorite moment talking to Naomi was at the very end of the conference. My mom and I looped around to the Better Batter table one last time to get a few boxes of flour. Naomi was excited to see us and asked us to tell her all about the best new products we saw throughout the day. Rather than seeing the other booths as competitors, she saw them as part of a community – part of her community. I was proud to be a part of the gluten-free community at that moment. Even though the different companies are vying for part of the market share, they’re also a group of companies founded by people with a personal connection to gluten intolerance.
As a testament to how much I like Naomi and BB, I even published this picture, which is horrible of me!
Best New Gluten Free Product
I found my new favorite thing. Pistachio Lemon Biscotti. It’s sweet. It’s savory. It’s perfect. The base of the cookie has subtle hints of ginger. Then there’s the spicy rosemary and black pepper, the crunch of the pistachio and finally the sweetness of the raisins. I ate them plain, but they would be wonderful with sharp chèvre cheese or with a spicy chai latte.
The cookies are not baked in a gluten-free facility, so that will be a deal breaker for many people. I am super sensitive and did not have a reaction. You can order online at their website.
Best New Cookbook and Gluten-Free Friend
A few weeks ago, a girl named Karen replied to one of my tweets. I checked out her website, Blackbird Bakery, saw a recipe for gluten-free cheese souffle, and I knew we were destined to become friends.
Not only does she make a gluten-free cheese souffle, but she feeds it regularly to her son. I aspire to someday have offspring with such refined pallets.
Karen has written an amazing gluten-free baking book. She is such an inspiration. Most of the recipes I cook are savory recipes. This is because I cook by taste, smell and feel more than from recipes. Karen, on the other hand, is a super precise, mad scientist in the kitchen. Since being diagnosed with gluten intolerance ten years ago, she estimates she’s done 100,000 recipe tests.
Her cookbook contains a photo for every recipe in the cookbook, and the recipes range from standards like cookies, to scones and biscuits, to an array of French pastries.
I went back and forth on buying the book. I have a lot of gluten-free cookbooks, and I don’t bake a lot. But then I saw the recipe for cottage cheese muffins with hickory smoked bacon and cheese, and I knew that the book must be mine.
I haven’t cooked anything from book yet, but I’m anxious to try!
The first Thanksgiving I was diagnosed, I went to a gluten-free holiday cooking class taught by Claudia Pillow. Claudia and her sister Annalise are the authors of the gluten-free cookbooks that are the basis of all my knowledge. After going gluten-free to support her sister who is a celiac, Clauda became so interested in the impact of going gluten-free that she went back and got her Ph.D. in nutrition. That first Thanksgiving, Claudia saved my life. She was my gluten-free life boat who equipped me to make holiday standards like pecan pie, stuffing and gravy. It was great to see her at the conference!
Along with her website, Claudia works with a company that makes raw, gluten-free foods called Hail Merry. She sent me home with a package of chocolate macaroons to sample! They were amazing. She suggested that I smush them into a pie pan to use as a crust for a chocolate pudding pie. That was the plan. But then I ate them before I made a pie. They are delectable and after I ate a few, I didn’t have a sugar rush.
By the way, if you want to learn how to bake that pecan pie, buy this book!
There were even more exciting meetings and booths at the GFAF Expo. If you can go next year, I highly recommend it. Along with resources, it was a reminder that we are part of a community that is banded together, advocating for each other and making huge strides in medical research, recipes and product accessibility.