Meatloaf, Flatbread and a Connection to Mom

2016-08-26 14.22.482011 was a pretty rough year. Less than one week after completing a grueling mathematical methods class for my master’s degree, I came down with acute GI symptoms that eventually lead to a diagnosis of celiac disease and microscopic colitis. While I was adjusting to my dual diagnoses (and the likelihood my 13-year-old daughter also had celiac), my mother’s health deteriorated, requiring many trips to the hospital, several hours drive away.

I was still figuring out what I could safely eat at home. And now, on top of the gluten-free diet for celiac and the low-fiber diet for colitis, I had to figure out what to take for a multi-day trip. Fortunately, not long after my diagnosis, I read an article that advocated taking real food (not just snacks) while traveling and found a simple recipe for flatbread that tasted like bread. 

I cannot emphasize enough how important this flatbread was.

Until then, I had yet to find anything even remotely bread-like. Although I now eat fewer baked goods, to say the flatbread saved me during this transition phase is barely an exaggeration.

So, on my first gluten-free trip away from home I brought frozen slices of home-made meatloaf, several pieces of baked flat bread, and a little ketchup. The frozen meatloaf slowly defrosted and was perfect when I was ready to eat. After weeks of plain chicken, rice, and canned green beans (which is almost all I ate while the doctor figured out what was wrong with me) it was like heaven!

I made several trips that spring and summer, some to rehab and some to the hospital. Meatloaf and flatbread continued to be a major staple. In September, I started a student teaching assignment and was no longer able to visit my mom. Student teaching turned out to be quite stressful, compounded by a decline in my mom’s health. I managed only one brief visit to the hospital before she passed away.

Continuing my teaching assignment was by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

Fast-forward to 2016 and I’m on a flight to Hawaii. My lunch? A meatloaf sandwich. To save time, I made it using good gluten free bread—it’s still satisfying and portable—and the taste takes me right back to my first trip to the rehab center to see my mom, to the beginning of my search for celiac-safe eats.

And the connection? My great-grandmother’s meatloaf. It’s a simple recipe I learned from my mom, who learned from her mom. I know my daughter will take this recipe with her as well. Good food. Comfort food. And each bite is a connection to Mom.

Now, I need to try that flatbread recipe again.