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The story of a coeliac student
Written by Saara Aziz. Monday, January 23rd, 2012
Being a student does have its rewards; you’re living away from home, you’ve gained some independence, made new friends and got yourself a social life to rival Paris Hiltons. Yet, having these rewards and trying to discipline yourself to study, get used to your new independence, live on a shoe string budget can be a little bit difficult. However, throw the ‘coeliac disease’ or ‘food intolerance’ spanner into the works can make your student life pretty challenging.
I was at University when I was diagnosed with coeliac disease. I’d never even heard of coeliac disease nor how to spell it, but just hearing the word ‘disease’ did make me panic a little bit.
I slowly began to discover I could no longer eat the obvious foods like pasta, pizza, toast, beer and pot noodles etc., so while my flatmates all tucked into their Dominoes Pizza, I would sit in my room and feel very isolated. To add to the problem, my culinary skills stretched to toasting bread and tapping the take away number into my mobile, so discovering I had to start cooking my own grub did mean I started to feel very, very upset.
However, there was a silver lining to this sorry tale as I discovered some helpful tips and advice to help me get through my transition from take away loving student to a gluten free student. So when the fabulous website Foods You Can got in touch with me about guest blogging on their site, I knew it would be the perfect place to give other people who were, or are, in the same boat as me, some handy and helpful advice.
I learnt that being open about my illness to my house mates, friends and my University meant I was able to get their support and encouragement in my new life as a gluten free student. It’s natural to feel isolated or alone and have thoughts of ‘why me?’ running through your mind, but having my friends there to pick me back up helped me immensely. Not only that, but they also learnt why they shouldn’t use my butter to butter their bread and the issues surrounding cross contamination so there was no worries about me getting glutened!
I also discovered how vital it was for me to register with the amazing Coeliac UK charity. When you register for them for first time, you are given 6 months free subscription and you are sent a humongous pack of useful and handy information. One of the items included in the pack is the Food and Drink directory, which includes a list of foods suitable for us coeliacs which you’ll find in most major supermarkets. I found this helped me immensely when finding the suitable foods as I did find it quite hard at the beginning to get used to reading food labels etc.
However, one of the one things I felt was difficult for me, was finding that confidence to learn how to cook again. Even before my diagnosis, I avoided cooking like the plague and my confidence in my cooking skills were practically nil. So you can imagine my despair when I knew I had to learn to cook, and fast! But what I discovered was that anyone is capable at cooking and it’s all about having that confidence. I foolishly assumed that to be an awesome cook, one would have to make a meal that’d make michelin star chefs jealous, little did I know that even baking a dozen of basic cupcakes can prove to others that you’re a good cook. Also, accepting every dish you burn and ruin whilst you learn to cook is just a learning curve and not a sign that you’re forever going to be a rubbish chef. Its due to this belief, that I started my own blog; The Gluten Free Student Cookbook, which aims to make the easiest gluten free meals that all students love. As I mention on my blog, I’m no chef, but I like to show others that if I can cook these meals, then anyone can!
Which leads me to my last little bit of advice; discover the other amazing gluten free blogs out there in ‘Internet Land’. There’s practically hundreds of blogs which focus on gluten free cuisine that we’re pretty much spoilt for choice! Each blog has there own unique way of making things and you never know, you might find some things you never knew about gluten free cooking! Its through the use of Twitter and ‘tweeting’ other blog users that I’ve garnered myself a little support group who will always cheer me up when I feel a little ‘fed up’ when my house mates are eating a Pizza Hut pizza and I’m on my own. I think I’d be a little lost without them!
Follow Saara’s blog - http://www.glutenfreestudentcookbook.co.uk/