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Gluten-free, Wheat-free living

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We’re two Fort Collins, Colorado, cooks and writers – one a veteran journalist diagnosed with celiac disease in 1999: Gina Mohr-Callahan, and one a university professor with a Ph.D., in immunology: Gerald N. Callahan. Together, we’ve been making things sizzle in the kitchen for more than 30 years.

Since that celiac-disease diagnosis, we’ve been pursuing the gluten-free/wheat-free (GF/WF) life – researching, writing, teaching cooking classes, speaking about celiac disease and GF/WF living as well as learning to prepare extraordinary GF/WF meals. To help you as you embark on the GF/WF journey, we founded A Fork in the Road* in 2005.

Gina (sounds like gin-na) Mohr-Callahan

Writing and cooking coalesce in a rich stew. The author’s words flirt with all the senses to transport you into a story, while the cook’s culinary sorcery literally feeds the hunger the author created.

A journalist for more than 30 years, I’ve been writing about food and medicine for decades through Last Word Publications, LLC, the award-winning, northern Colorado-based writing/consulting company that my husband Gerry and I founded in 1981. I’ve also been teaching cooking classes since 1997.

My story

For me, the 90s were a blur, coping with chronic irritable-bowel symptoms, tension headaches, fibromyalgia, hair loss, and profound weight loss. By the time of my celiac-disease diagnosis in early 1999, I had evaporated to 89 pounds (dropping nearly 40 pounds in 18 months).

For years before my diagnosis, my confusing symptoms confounded my physicians and me until a mysterious letter arrived in late 1998. The letter was from a reader of Gerry and my bi-weekly food column “Colorado Cooking,” published in the Gannett daily the Fort Collins Coloradoan. I had written about cooking with wheat-free flours after being diagnosed with a wheat allergy. The reader’s letter suggested that I might really have celiac disease.

After weeks of research and considerable prodding, my physicians agreed to test me, stressing it was “highly unlikely that I had this rare malady**.” When my celiac-disease test results were positive, my medical team was dumbfounded. And so began my life-changing gluten-free/wheat-free sojourn.

Gerald N. Callahan, Ph.D.

As an immunologist and professor of public understanding of science at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, CO, I have a joint appointment in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Pathology and the Department of English.

I study the interactions between the immune system and the nervous system. I also teach immunology, human-disease, and creative-science-writing courses, and I write books and advise people on the role of immunity and health, the nature of autoimmunity and allergy, and the gluten-free diet/vitamin supplementation.

My five books include Infection: The Uninvited Universe (published by St. Martin’s Press, 2006), Between XX and XY: Intersexuality and the Myth of Two Sexes, (published by Chicaco Review Press 2009), and my latest book Lousy Sex: Creating Self in an Infectious World (published by University Press of Colorado 2013). My books have been featured in several publications and on myriad radio/TV programs, including U.S. News and World Report, Discover, National Geographic, Ms. Magazine, Los Angeles Times, ESPN, National Public Radio, Minnesota Public Radio, National Geographic Television, and CNN.  

My story

Just exactly what is it that makes each of us who we are and unlike anyone else? That question fascinates me. Certainly part of it is our immune systems. Without immunity, no one of us could exist for more than a few moments.  Bacteria are part of it, too. We each have a unique assemblage of bacteria that helps to make us who we are.  And minds and brains are important as well. And somewhere in this mix are our individual diseases. Who would we be without our diseases? Those diseases that arise when our immune systems mistake our selves for the enemy are most interesting of all. 

Gina’s celiac disease has opened my eyes in many ways. It pushed me deeper into my study of autoimmune diseases, and it opened whole new worlds of food possibilities. I don’t have celiac disease, but 90 percent and often 100 percent of what I eat is gluten-free. Simplicity is one of the reasons, but not the most important. The most important reason is the food itself. Because of Gina’s CD, we have access to a whole new world of cooking possibilities, most unknown to those in the gluten-rich world. And because of Gina’s celiac, every time we sit down to eat, I ask myself again: Just who are we and what made and keeps us that way? And each time I realize that surely, this food itself is part of it as well, a very important part.

* A Fork in the Road is a trade name of Last Word Publications, LLC.

** Medical researchers now know that celiac disease is the most common autoimmune disorder in the world. About 3 million Americans – approximately 1 in 100 people have celiac disease.

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