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Fast Foodie

Excellent gluten-free food free of what ails you

Photo: Courtesy photo, License: N/A

Courtesy photo

Gluten-free artisan breads from The Little Aussie Bakery & Café.

That "GF" increasingly found stamped on restaurant menus doesn't stand for "girlfriend" fare. It's the mark of gluten-free cooking, and it isn't just the latest health fad. Gluten-free eating is a medical necessity for increasing numbers of people who are seeking to diffuse a spectrum of ailments, perhaps most frequently celiac disease.

Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, spelt, rye, and barley, that causes allergic reactions in sensitive people. That spectrum of sensitivity is not always clear, however, and some people are high reactors and test positive for celiac (an autoimmune system reacting to the protein). Others have more latent and delayed symptoms that may not appear until weeks later or even disguise themselves as other conditions and diseases.

"A gluten-free diet benefits everything from rheumatoid arthritis to ulcerative colitis to lupus to autism," says GOOD Gluten Free Foods co-owner and chef, Marissa Schaeffer, who has been diagnosed herself with celiac. Fortunately, it's easy making lemonade from such lemons when you're a classically trained pastry chef. Her business can be found at the Quarry Farmer's Market on Sundays selling out of sausage kolaches, lining up buyers for à la minute crepes, and giving samples of light and fluffy baked goods. "The sausage kolaches I make sell out every week and I have my regulars for those. I often get phone calls to set those aside," she said. Schaeffer estimates half the customers she sells to aren't even eating GF out of necessity. "If someone samples my product they usually buy something."

Schaeffer isn't the only professional chef whipping up GF goodness locally. Last year, The Little Aussie Bakery & Cafe's chef Rita Sturzbecher was named one of the top 10 artisan bakers in America by the trade magazine, Dessert Professional; and if you've seen or tasted her cakes you'd know why (rich, creamy, multi-layered works of art, and totally free of gluten, and often also free of dairy, eggs, and soy, as well). Sturzbecher and her partner/co-owner John Apostolovic agree with Schaeffer, that fewer regular customers are people who eat GF out of necessity, maybe because long-term gluten-free eaters have learned how to cook for themselves and gluten-ambivalent eaters know a good thing when they taste it. Both Sturzbecher and Apostolovic are former registered nurses who've improved their own health by cutting out gluten. "Industrialization of food and the way our health care system works is making people sick," says Apostolovic. "This is a way for folks to take back control of their health."  

San Antonio resident Stephanie Urias says she eliminated gluten from her diet to mitigate symptoms from an autoimmune disease and finds the diet fairly simple and delicious. "Little Aussie's pizza crust is my favorite of all #gf crusts," she tweeted to me while discussing this story.

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