Ambassador Highlight: Meet Jessica of Tasty Meditation!
Meet Jessica, our newest Bread SRSLY Brand Ambassador! Jessica lives in New York City with her husband Kris and their cat, Lyla. When she isn't hosting events for the NYC Celiac Disease Meetup Group or whipping up a batch of her famous gluten-free chocolate chip cookies, you can most likely find her at a gluten-free cafe in the city. Be sure to check out her gluten-free blog, Tasty Meditation.
Photo: Jessica and Kris on their gluten-free honeymoon in Rome, Italy.
I was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2011. Despite having very “classic” symptoms for six years, doctors didn’t think to test me. My symptoms were easily explained by other things (active lifestyle, sensitive stomach, food poisoning), so I never thought of myself as sick. I grew to think constant stomach aches must be normal. Food journals never worked for me because my stomach aches appeared randomly (I now know that my reaction time is delayed and may not always be consistent).
My diagnosis only came about on a whim. I had an intense stomach ache that didn’t go away for weeks, and doctors didn’t know what was wrong. Then my mother called and said that she had recently heard about a thing called celiac, it sounded a lot like me, and I should get tested. Sure enough, my blood levels were off the charts, and my diagnosis was confirmed via endoscopy a few weeks later. I mourned the loss of my favorite foods but quickly decided to move forward with positivity. I finally knew what was wrong, and I could do something about it.
In an effort to connect with others in the community, I started my blog Tasty Meditation: Tales from a Gluten-Free Kitchen. I also became an Organizer of the NYC Celiac Disease Meetup Group, which is the largest gluten-free Meetup group in the world. I love hosting these events. We often visit dedicated gluten-free restaurants/bakeries and have group discussions about all things gluten-free. It’s a really joyous thing because there’s an instant connection, empathy, and friendship. We welcome all gluten-free individuals and loved ones who want to join. We’ve occasionally had significant others attend events without their gluten-free spouses, explaining that they wanted to learn more about how they could support their gluten-free loved ones. Over the past two years, I’ve focused more on digital events and have hosted pizza-making classes, holiday group chats, and discussions on how to support small gluten-free businesses.
I never would have guessed how much my celiac diagnosis would positively impact my life. Some of my closest friends are people I met in the online or NYC celiac disease community.
Photo: Lyla repping Bread SRSLY!
What’s your favorite place to eat gluten-free in New York City?
I have so many! I’m very fortunate to live in a place where there’s an abundance of gluten-free options. If you’re visiting NYC you might spot me at Senza Gluten/Senza Gluten Cafe & Bakery, Modern Bread & Bagel, Thyme & Tonic, Nami Nori, or Casa Enrique.
Note: of the above eateries mentioned, some are 100% GF and some are shared kitchens with GF options.
How do you navigate being gluten-free at home?
My kitchen is 100% gluten-free. Having that safe space is very important to me. When my husband, Kris, moved in with me I made him a deal - if he agreed to keep the kitchen gluten-free, I’d agree to make him his favorite chocolate chip cookies whenever he wanted. I’ve made a lot of cookies over the years, and it’s 100% worth it.
What’s your signature recipe?
I love hosting pasta nights with friends - I make the pasta from scratch, and we all stand around the table folding tortellini together! But perhaps the thing that my friends (and Kris) look forward to the most are my chocolate chip cookies. Kris and I are determined to help people realize how amazing gluten-free food can be. If a friend ever has a less than positive preconceived notion about the gluten-free diet - there’s a plate of cookies coming their way!
What’s your favorite Bread SRSLY product?
It’s gotta be the Classic Sourdough loaf. It’s called Classic for a reason! A funny thing- I had never tried sourdough before my celiac diagnosis, so I relied on Kris. He’s from the Bay Area and describes himself as a sourdough connoisseur. Early in our relationship, I made a point to find or make all of his favorite foods gluten-free so we could share them together. Every time I tried a new product or recipe I’d ask, “Is this it? Is it tangy enough?” When he tried Bread SRSLY he said, “That’s the one!” And we’ve been hooked ever since.
What are your hopes for the future of the celiac disease community?
With the vast majority of individuals with celiac disease remaining undiagnosed/misdiagnosed, my hope is that someday we’ll have free universal screening. By making testing more affordable and accessible, we could break down many barriers that prevent individuals from receiving a diagnosis. I can only imagine how much time, pain, and money would be spared if people were able to get answers faster.
Photo: Jessica enjoying a GF treat.
Join the NYC Celiac Disease Meetup Group HERE. All gluten-free individuals and loved ones are welcome!