On a beautiful Thursday evening in August 2007, I sat in a booth at my local Chicago-area Jimmy John’s and watched my then boyfriend devouring my favorite gourmet veggie club—mayonnaise layered between cheese and cucumbers and tomatoes, all nestled within a soft, doughy hunk of bread. And then I broke the news: I’d just received the results of a blood test and endoscopy confirming that, at 24, I had Celiac Disease, an autoimmune disorder affecting the small intestine. So on the wheat-, barley-, and rye-free diet essential in treating the disease, I’d never, ever eat a Jimmy John’s again.
In fact, as suggested by my brother, recently diagnosed with dermatitis herpetiformis, perhaps I’d never be able to call myself a vegetarian again. After all, for the past 10 years, I’d been the vegetable-avoiding, chocolate-, dairy-, and pasta-loving brand of vegetarian—without a single symptom of this genetic disease inherited from my father, a two-time survivor of intestinal lymphoma.
Since beginning the curative gluten-free diet in January 2008, however, after one last New Year’s Eve dinner of ravioli in an extravagantly thick mushroom sauce, I’ve easily overcome the bias toward meat in most gluten-free cookbooks and restaurant menus. To do so, I’ve adapted numerous old recipes, discovered a handful of special restaurants and knowledgeable fast food joints, and sampled countless creations from my local grocery stores in order to prove the feasibility of being a Gluten-Free Vegetarian.
I’m excited to share my favorite recipes and favorable—or unfavorable—reviews to make wheat-free, meat-free eating easy and enjoyable. And, in the sharing, I miss that Jimmy John’s veggie club less and less each day. I never liked the alfalfa sprouts anyway.