Laura Glah Bradbury, an international bride, dishes out her journey into gluten free living, her big day, and cooking in her new marriage. And with a gluten free wedding cake, this fairytale has a happy ending!
DTD: Tell us a little about your background with gluten intolerance. When did you learn you had it and what was your initial reaction?
L: I’ve always been sick since I was young and plagued with lots of headaches and a consistently sore stomach. In March 2009, while I was backpacking in SE Asia, my health grew increasingly worse. My stomach became extremely bloated and I had so little energy I could barely get out of bed. After visiting several doctors I finally found one in Kuala Lumpur who took me seriously. He did an endoscopy and a biopsy and told me he thought I was intolerant to wheat. It took me traveling around the world to finally find a doctor who would help lead me in the right direction! Two months later I moved to Melbourne where I met my English husband Mark and I ended up working in a cake shop of all places! Talk about temptation! I had no idea the seriousness of having a bite of cake here and there and my health continued to get worse. When I went back home to Philadelphia a year later I had had enough. I researched more about wheat intolerance and came across celiac disease. I read the articles and was shocked to hear the stories that described me exactly! I cut out all wheat, barely, and rye from my diet and within a week my poor eyesight that had been inexplicably deteriorating for the last 4 years became amazingly better. Within a month my headaches were cut in half and my eyes were good enough to watch a whole movie, something I hadn’t been able to do in 2 years. I was so happy to find out the answer to my health problems that I surprisingly wasn’t too upset over giving up gluten. The health benefits made such an impact on my life that it was incentive enough to never touch it again!
DTD: Were you already educated on a gluten free lifestyle prior to your diagnosis or did you have to learn more about it?
L: I knew nothing about living gluten free and so I read everything I could on the internet but I still felt like I couldn’t find enough information on making day to day food choices. The thing that helped me the most was Elisabeth Hasselbeck’sbook “The G-Free Diet”. I was shocked to find out how tricky and misleading ingredient listscan be! I copied down her list of confusing ingredients that contain gluten and took it with me to the grocery store for the first couple of months.
DTD: Do you enjoy cooking and baking? What are your favorite gluten free foods to eat or cook?
L: I really enjoy cooking and I’m always hunting down quick gluten free meals that I can make when I get home from work. I really like to make my own pizza bases and experiment with new toppings. I’m just getting into gluten free baking and I’m really enjoying it. One of my new favorites is banana bread! Sometimes gluten free foods can be a bit dry, but the bananas make it soft and moist!
DTD: Having traveled the world, do you feel other countries are knowledgeable about gluten free lifestyles and have you been able to find good gluten free products at markets and restaurants?
L: I’m living in London right now, where my husband is from, and I love how conscious they are about gluten free needs. I was shocked to find that about 40% of the restaurants we go to have a gluten free menu and in the other cases the waiters and chefs are usually knowledgeable enough to help me choose a meal that’s safe for me. I can usually also find a small section in the grocery store that has gluten free products. I decided to start ordering my groceries online though, something that is much more common here, because there are about double the amount of gluten free foods available. I find that here in England, as well in Australia where we previously lived, the general public are much more aware of celiac disease than in the states. When I bring it up to friends here in London, most have usually heard of it before or have a friend diagnosed with it. Since going gluten free last January, I haven’t traveled to a non-english speaking country. I’m going to Belgium in a few weeks and it will be interesting to see how I get along in the restaurants and supermarkets there with the language difference.
DTD: Were you worried about planning the wedding since you eat gluten free?
L: Mark and I planned the wedding in about 5 months, but I was only in the states for the first 4 weeks of that time so I had to quickly choose a venue and caterer. I just assumed that I wouldn’t be able to eat most of the menu and I was definitely disappointed!
DTD: How did you go about finding catering services that provided gluten free foods for your wedding? What is difficult?
L: I completely lucked out when it came to my caterer, Jeffrey Miller Catering, as they came in conjunction with my venue.
DTD: What reactions did you receive when you consulted with catering services about needing gluten free foods? Did they understand what you needed?
L: I first spoke to the wedding coordinator from the catering company and she was not taken back at all, which surprised me. She said they had a bride whose wedding was in a couple of weeks and that most of her wedding food was gluten free. I was so relieved! She made me feel completely comfortable and told me that a lot of the options I could choose from were already gluten free or could be made so. My mom and I went in for a wonderful tasting with one of their chefs and we got to try all of the appetizers and main courses that I’d chosen. They were absolutely wonderful!
DTD: So tell us all about the cake!
L: My caterer offered a gluten free carrot cake which again really surprised me! At first I was worried that not all my guests would like carrot cake, but then I thought it would be something different and most importantly I could cut the cake with my husband and eat it too! I tried the cake at the tasting and I was so happy to find that it was incredibly moist and had great icing. I would definitely recommend carrot cake as a fun alternative to the traditional vanilla or chocolate cake.
I was a very lucky bride and I also got to have a second smaller wedding here in London with my husband’s family that his mother hosted. She had a friend whose daughter was trying to start a small cake business and she asked her to make us a gluten free wedding cake. The girl was really sweet and made lots of test cakes until she had it just how she wanted it. It came out great! I still have a lot of the cake and just had a slice today.
DTD: What was the menu for cocktail hour and dinner? Was everything gluten free or just some things? Was it important for you to have all gluten free foods at the wedding or did you want to have additional options?
L: I was really excited to have most of the wedding gluten free except for three of the hors d’oeuvres. Those three were some of my favorites that I had before I stopped eating gluten, and I still wanted my guests to be able to enjoy them. For cocktail hour my husband and I chose some of our favorite foods from our travels and from home. We had a big antipasto display, bruschetta, brie en brioche with apples, shrimp cocktail, Vietnamese summer rolls, and Indonesian chicken satay. For dinner we started with Caesar Salad, although here I had a few problems. They brought me one with croutons and so I asked them for one without and when it came back I still found one at the bottom. The people in the kitchen had just pulled the croutons out instead of making a new salad, so I decided not to worry about it and gave the extra salad to Mark! For dinner, guests had the choice of chicken with duxelleand wild rice pilaf or grilled salmon and soft parmesan polenta. On the side were vegetables and rolls. Dessert was my favorite part of the day with my gluten free carrot cake with cream cheese filling and a vanilla butter cream icing!
DTD: How did your guests like the food? Did anyone notice or comment on how their meals were gluten free?
L: I had lots of positive comments on the food but no one noticed that a lot of it was gluten free. I had a few people ask if I was able to eat any of the food at the wedding because they thought it was all so good it must have had gluten in it. When I told them I could eat most of it they were really surprised!
DTD: So now that you’re a married gal living in London, do you plan to go out to eat or will you cook? Does your husband enjoy gluten free foods? Do you mainly keep a gluten free pantry?
L: Being newly married we’re trying to save money for the future so we generally eat at home and pack lunches (I like to make big dinners and pack left overs for lunch). I’d say I do most of the cooking because I usually get home earlier and I’m more interested in it. I’m always looking for easy inexpensive recipes to try or I enjoy trying to take some of my old favorite foods and make them gluten free. I really want to start cooking some of my favorite Chinese foods that I usually can no longer find. That’s next on my list! Since I do most of the cooking I usually do the shopping as well, and as a result most of it is gluten free. There are so many alternatives for products that it just makes sense to buy things that both of us can eat as long as we both like them! I like to fill the house with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables from my favorite farmers market because they are always guaranteed to be gluten free and healthy.
DTD: Any advice for other gluten free brides?
L: Choose your caterer carefully! If you end up talking to one and they don’t seem comfortable or knowledgeable with cooking gluten free, don’t settle, just keep looking and you’ll find someone that will do a great job. It was so much fun to take a break from worrying about food on my wedding day and to instead focus on the important things, like celebrating our wonderful new marriage with all our friends and family!