Gluten Free Garage Part Deux with RonniLyn Pustil

Gluten Free Garage Part Deux with RonniLyn Pustil

If you are gluten free (or gluten curious) and you live in the Greater Toronto Area, you best be marking Sunday April 28th, 2013 in your calendar because The Gluten Free Garage Pop Up Market is back. It is being held once again at the Wychwood Barns which is a lovely spot to go, just about any day of the week. April 28th promises to be a great day for any and all who are seeking a gluten free life or life style.

 

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More than just vendors and samples though, there will be a list of in the know speakers covering a range of topics like, Living With Healthy Happy Awesome GF Kids or How to Feel Like A Gluten Free Rock Star, among others. Check out the website for a complete description of speakers and topics.

I caught up to RonniLyn Pustil, Founder of Gluten Free Garage and mother to Lily aka Little Miss Celiac, recently to find out more about the upcoming Gluten Free Garage and what we can expect from GFG Part Deux.

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This is the second GFG event that you’re holding at the Barns. Last time, 1,500 people showed up. Were you surprised by the overwhelming attendance?  To what do you attribute the success of the last event?

I was completely floored by how many people showed up last November. It was incredible because I got to meet so many people and hear their stories about gluten-free living—whether they told me about their symptoms or favourite products or child who’s got celiac. I think it was such a success because people are truly hungry for tastier, healthier gluten-free options…and that’s what our vendors served up. Gluten-free options abound nowadays in big cities like Toronto; for the Gluten Free Garage we pride ourselves on handpicking the best gluten-free fare the city has to offer! Our mix of vendors is really quite something—there’s everything from sweet to savoury to spicy food to skin care!

What should people expect this year? Anything new? Anything different?

The same farmers’ market kind of vibe, the local, community feeling. Many of our favourite vendors from last time are coming back, along with about 20 new vendors we’re super excited about, 5 fantastic guest speakers who will present various interesting topics related to healthy gluten-free living and, of course, food trucks!

We know the market for Gluten Free products is growing, do you see taking GFG pop up market to other locations?

There’s definitely a demand to take it on the road but I’m not sure about that. When I first had the idea to do this pop-up gluten-free marketplace there was only one place I could see it: the Artscape Wychwood Barns. That building is the hub of the community my family lives in. We play in the park, we go every Saturday morning to The Stop’s Farmers’ Market, our children went to Helene Comay Nursery School, they take art classes at the Children’s Art Studio. I just love that place. It’s a happy place. And I like that our marketplace is made up of mostly local vendors—people and their products that we’ve gotten to know and love. Really, the Gluten Free Garage is a labour of love…for my daughter, Lily, who’s living with celiac disease.

Recently I wrote about my disappointing discovery that being gluten free is not synonymous with being nutritious. Are there ingredients that you typically avoid? Are there brands you don’t trust?

Absolutely. I think it’s great that there are so many more gluten-free products out there to choose from but they are not all created equal! There are brands that I don’t particularly like because they’re either a poor nutritional choice or they taste bad, or both! I’ve learned so much about healthy eating since we made our house gluten free. When my daughter Lily was first diagnosed, I have to admit I got so excited every time I’d see new brand of gluten-free cookie or bread because I was determined to find the very best one—not just for Lily but for all of us who were now going gluten free at home. We’ve all gone down this path with her and who wants to eat crappy food? The problem is that not all gluten-free products are nutritious or delicious! Through trial and error, we’ve found the products we love and the recipes we return to and the places we trust. And most of our tried-and-true products are made locally, by people who care. I created the Gluten Free Garage to bring them together under one roof and share them with others in the same boat so that people who are gluten free for whatever reason can sample and buy them without worry.

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I’ve read that 29% of Americans are trying to give up wheat. I follow GFG on facebook and you recently used the term “gluten free chic”. Do you think gluten free eating is a trend or a result of something larger?

I think of a gluten-free spectrum. More and more people are eliminating gluten from their diets for various reasons along this spectrum—whether they have celiac disease or gluten intolerance or other health problems related to gluten, or they just feel better not eating it, or they’re doing it to lose weight or because celebrities are going gluten free, or they’re just curious about it. Whatever the reason, to each their own.

Gluten-free living is here to stay because for some people—a growing number of people—it’s a matter of their health and well-being. I certainly am grateful to be dealing with our daughter’s celiac disease in this day and age. She was diagnosed at age 3 and it just keeps getting easier and more convenient to live a gluten-free life. Not only because so many more products are out there but because we’ve learned to be more aware of the food we put into our bodies and to not take anything for granted.

Yes, gluten free is everywhere these days. On every level it has basically exploded—in terms of awareness of gluten-related health issues, the number of products on the market, the websites and blogs and amount of information—and even since my daughter’s diagnosis with celiac just four years ago. I had no idea what gluten was when we found out Lily had celiac and the only treatment was to cut gluten out of her diet. So there was a pretty fast learning curve for my husband and I.

I’ve been blown away by how many restaurants and bakeries are now offering gluten-free items on their menus. On one hand, it’s great that there are more options for people who want to eat out, but you’ve got to be really careful. Some places are just riding the trend. Just because a dish or baked good does not contain any gluten ingredients does not mean it is safe for someone with celiac or gluten intolerance. Not all of these places are aware of cross-contamination issues, so don’t be shy or feel bad to ask questions: How was this food prepared? Was it made in a designated area away from the gluten-containing food preparation? Was it made in a separate toaster/fryer/grill? And so on. Usually the way the questions are answered will give you the information you need to make your decision. If the waiter doesn’t know, ask to speak to the manager or chef. We have our favourite go-to restaurants in the city and the list does keep growing but we are vigilant about making sure they know what they are doing.

 

Go to grab and go snack? – a handful of raw almonds, fresh or dried fruit, a nut/seed bar, some dark chocolate

Average Tuesday dinner? – tofu or chicken stir-fry with brown rice

Weekend breakfast? – We love eggs—over easy, in an omelette or soft-boiled with gluten-free toast soldiers. Pancakes with flaxseed and bananas are also a weekend staple, sometimes we throw in some chocolate chips. Brunch is my favourite meal and it’s always a treat to go out to eat it.

Packed school lunch? – tuna sandwich with sprouts on toasted bread, brown rice pasta with pesto or tomato sauce, mac ‘n’ cheese, veggies and rice crackers with hummus

One thing Lily can’t live without? – rice

Favorite GF cookbook? – the Internet

Favorite GF website? – The first one I discovered that I keep coming back to is Gluten Free Girl—beautiful writing, gorgeous photos and real good food. Celiac and the Beast is my newest discovery…she tells it like it is! But there are so many incredible voices out there! And so many gorgeous pics of gluten-free food! It’s really hard to choose just one.

Favorite GF restaurant? – Hibiscus is our family favourite. I love the salad bowls and my kids love the crepes. Our go-to restaurant for dinner is Supermarket (full disclosure: my husband owns it). It has a gluten-free menu and we can’t get enough of the fish tacos!

Gluten Free Garage : April 28th, 2013 10 am – 4pm 

601 Christie Street at Artscape Wychwood Barns

Admission: $10 adults, kids 12 and under get in free. A portion of the  proceeds will be donated to the Canadian Celiac Association

See you there!

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