Learning how to survive Shavuot when you’re gluten-free and dairy-free.

Deborah A. Beverly struggles with her food issues during Jewish holidays. When Shavuot approaches, she can almost taste festive food like cheese blintzes in the air, but can not eat them as she is allergic to dairy. Her allergy does not only deprive her of dairy products, she also cannot eat wheat. It means that a lot of traditional Jewish foods are on her blacklist. There will be no deliciously sinful cheesecakes at the time of Shavuot, or sufganiyot for Hanukkah. For her, a Yom Kippur fast will not be broken with cream cheese and bagels. No challah will be eaten at the time of Shabbat.

Shavuot is a festival which commemorates the Torah and The 10 Commandments. The origin of this event can be traced 3,300 years before when Moses climbed Mount Sinai and was presented with the Torah and The 10 Commandments. These words govern the moral compass of all Jews and help them stick to the correct path.

In an article in Tablet Magazine Deborah described that her food problems started at birth. At first, she was unable to comprehend why she fell sick after eating certain foods, thinking that falling sick is quite normal after eating. A few foods gave her hives, painful rashes and ear infections. The doctors who examined her at that time did not connect these problems to allergies, with one of them saying to Deborah that she will outgrow her problems after she turned 13 years of age. It was only at age 30 that she learned of her allergy towards certain foods.

Deborah was forced to change her diet and eliminate the foods which were once staples of her life and of Jewish celebrations. She was compelled to find new techniques to celebrate Jewish holidays. The latter was extremely important as most community events were centered on food, like the Shabbat dinners, one taking place on Friday nights and fundraising dinners among others. The problem was that she lost connection that she made with others at meal times. Food restrictions make it harder to be a part of the Jewish community. For example, she was forced to bring own food during temple potlucks.

To tackle and overcome her culinary challenges, she learned a few basic cooking skills. Her willingness to eat new foods expanded her choices. Deborah's focus shifted from elimination of foods to searching for foods which could be safely added to her diet, like dandelion greens, oysters and lamb jerky. Gluten-free challah recipes came to her rescue.

However, she still hasn’t found a safe recipe to replace cheese blintzes. May we suggest this vegan recipe from fellow vegan Jew Apryl? Just swap the flour for gluten-free flour.

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