Not the Fast I’ve Chosen – Part 1

Posted: May 8th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Celiac, Fasting | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Faith, of any sort, necessarily colors the way we perceive, interpret, process, and interact with the world around us. While many of my thoughts are still half-formed, I can tell already that there are more threads than can be contained within a single post. As such, I’m declaring this my first series. That didn’t take long, did it? Those who know me already know that I’m not by nature a man of few words when I write.

The title of this series is actually a phrase that popped into my head when it began to be clear that I likely did have celiac disease. On one level it seems straightforward, but I find as I’ve reflected on it, that it is deep and rich in meaning. Let’s begin to unpack the thought.

What is a fast? That question is central to this discussion and will likely be central to many questions I will explore on this blog. On one level it seems like such a straightforward question, but in truth the core meaning of a fast has been virtually lost today in the Western world. Fasting has come to mean almost any form of abstention. Thus people say they are fasting from TV or they are fasting from facebook or they are fasting from their iPod when they actually mean that they are abstaining from those activities for a period of time. There is nothing wrong with abstaining from various things for a time for spiritual reasons. But that is not what it has traditionally meant to fast.

If you truly fast it means that you abstain from some or all food and drink for a period of time. While I expect to primarily speak from and through the lens of Christianity, my spiritual journey has been far too wide-ranging for me not to note that that is what fasting means across a broad spectrum of spiritualities. This definition is not and has never been uniquely Christian, though why we fast will vary greatly from one spiritual perspective to another. I think we have broadened the definition in the Christian and post-Christian West today to cover all forms of abstention because we largely do not fast anymore in any meaningful or communal sense. Even our Lenten preparation, for those traditions who still observe it at all, has become a highly individual activity. We each separately decide what we will “give up” rather than fasting together as a community.

The diagnosis of celiac demands a fast. It is a strict fast. It is a difficult fast. And it is a lifelong fast. If you break the fast, you will damage your body. It is uncompromising. No, I did not choose it and I do not want it. This is not the fast I’ve chosen. But it is the fast I’ve been given.

I could try to act as though this was a merely medical condition. I could try to live as if there were some sort of division or distinction between my physical, my mental, and my spiritual being. Many shaped within the context of the West, including many Christians, would have me draw such a distinction. But I’ve never been able to find that dividing line. The things I do or which happen to my body affect my mind and my spiritual condition. It’s clear to me now that I experienced and endured a period of serious depression because of the chemical changes in my body wrought by a combination of sleep apnea and celiac.

The manner in which we think and the condition of our spirits always affect our bodies, for good or ill. We know that and acknowledge it every time we talk about the physical damage stress causes. And yet we still try to draw lines between the two as though they could be separated.

And while this is not the fast I’ve chosen, I must confess that I might never have chosen a fast at all. But I’ll explore that in my next post.

Celiac at Chuy’s

Posted: May 8th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Restaurant Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Celiac at Chuy’s

If you’ve never been to Austin, then you may not have experienced the unique TexMex heaven called Chuy’s. It’s long been one of our favorite places and we were thrilled when a new one opened in Round Rock a few years ago. When my father-in-law wanted to take us out for my birthday a few weeks after my diagnosis, it’s one of the first places I thought of going.

My wife called them and spoke with the manager. I believe her name was Sandy and she was extremely helpful. She knew what celiac was and said they set aside some of their chicken each day specifically to use for people who can’t eat gluten. (Their normal meat preparation apparently includes some type of beer-based marinade.) When we arrived, our waitress recognized celiac and immediately warned us they couldn’t absolutely guarantee there wouldn’t be any cross-contamination. She didn’t know the details, but spoke with the manager to find out exactly what I could have. She came back with the list of sauces I could have. Most of their sauces are thickened with corn starch, so were on the available list. I chose my personal favorite, their hatch green chili sauce for my chicken enchiladas. The rice and beans were also safe. The manager came by to check on us and see that everything was OK.

I knew when I was diagnosed that Austin, being the sort of place is it is, would be an easier place to live with this disease than many other places. And my first experience with a home-grown restaurant bore that out. They knew about celiac, were prepared for it, and were as helpful as they could be. Obviously, the risk of cross-contamination in any restaurant is such that I don’t eat out much anymore and I wouldn’t risk it as a regular event. And my menu choices at Chuy’s were seriously limited (which I knew would be the case). But it was an encouraging encounter. And it’s great to know that I’m not forever barred from Chuy’s. 😉