May 1st marks the beginning of Celiac Awareness Month. If you live in the greater Toronto area or are up for a drive, you need to check out Gluten Free Garage.
Although 2016 marks the event's fifth year, it will be my first time attending and I am super excited!
This event is sort of like a farmers market meets a pop-up shop. It brings together the gluten-free community for a great cause. Plus, you will have the opportunity to discover local vendors, sample goodies and listen to some amazing guest speakers.
I had the pleasure of interviewing the founder of Gluten Free Garage, RonniLyn Pustil. See below to find out how the event got its start, what you can expect to find, and more!
1. How did Gluten Free Garage get its start?
I started Gluten Free Garage in 2012, about three years after my daughter was diagnosed with celiac disease. By then we had gone through a lot of trial and error with different gluten-free products. What was out there was disappointing—think sawdust crackers, crumbly muffins, cardboard pizza, mushy pasta. If the only treatment for celiac disease is a strict gluten-free diet for life, why should people with celiac have to sacrifice taste or quality? I wanted my daughter to find the joy in food, rather than feeling deprived and sad about what she couldn’t eat. So I made it my mission to find gluten-free products that tasted good and were good for you. I scoured the city and its outskirts for fresh, delicious gluten-free food. I found quite a few small local businesses making yummy and healthier gluten-free food; many were vendors at farmers’ markets or food events. Whenever I brought something new home to try—whether it was a fresh loaf of gluten-free sourdough bread or savoury falafel balls or a new granola bar—there was excitement. I wanted to share them with other people who also had to eat gluten free. At first I thought about opening a retail store. But then, one sunny fall day I was at my neighbourhood farmers’ market at Wychwood Barns and the big garage-like doors were open; it was so bustling and lively and there was such a sense of community in that room. And that’s when the idea came to me to create a farmers’ market with a gluten-free twist, and to host it at the Barns. Hence the name, Gluten Free Garage.
2. What can a first -time visitor to the event expect to encounter? A lively food event with an astounding array of gluten-free products—from pasta to pastry to pierogies to popsicles! A first-timer might find it hard to believe that all the food at Gluten Free Garage are indeed gluten free! But it is, and everything is safe for people with celiac and gluten intolerance. Vendors will be sampling and selling their food, many will be preparing and cooking fresh food on site. There will be beer and cider tasting in the outdoor covered courtyard. And we have 5 dynamic guest speakers who will present on a variety of topics related to gluten-free living and eating. 2. There will be several guest speakers, sharing their knowledge. Can you tell me a little about them? We’ve got a group of four well-known and respected local nutritionists—Joy McCarthy, Meghan Telpher and Josh Gitalis, and Marni Wasserman—who will each give their take on gluten-free living and eating. They’re all vendors at GFG as well, so if you miss their talk you’ll still have a chance to interact with them. Ashley Wittig, co-owner of vegan and gluten-free Bunner’s Bakeshop (also a GFG vendor), will take a walk on the savoury side. And celiac advocate Jordan Middlebrook, aka King Gluten Free, will tell you why celiac disease doesn’t have to be a buzzkill. 3. What makes Gluten Free Garage unique? All the smiling faces! Many people are so excited and grateful for the delicious gluten-free finds at Gluten Free Garage. And just to be at a food event and be able to eat everything there. It’s a marketplace with a real community feel. 4. Which vendors are you most excited about? How can I choose?! Of course, all the baked goods, because we have the best gluten-free bakeries participating. This will be the first time we have pierogies (Joe’s Gluten-Free Foods) and dumplings (Steambox Dumplings) at GFG. And the beer and cider tasting, which we introduced at our last event, will be bigger this year, with three beers, three apple ciders and one pear cider.
5. What do you want people to know about Celiac disease?
That it’s real and the only treatment for it is a strict gluten-free diet for life.
6. Celiac awareness has come a long way thanks to wonderful people like you. What do you hope to see happen in terms of education and awareness?
I hope that as more education and awareness is out there, more people with symptoms of celiac disease will get tested. About 350,000 people in Canada have celiac disease but don’t know it. And as long as they are still eating gluten, they are causing damage to their bodies in myriad ways.
7. Sometimes our day to day can get a little hectic and we need a meal in a hurry. What is your favourite gluten-free recipe to prepare when you’re in a time crunch? Pasta with whatever vegetables and protein I have in the fridge and a sprinkle of fresh Parmesan. I always have a few boxes of Italpasta in the pantry. Salads are easy to whip up and are always fresh. We love a good Nicoise salad and we usually have all the ingredients on hand. 8. Do you have any favourite gluten-free products? Yes, we all have our own favourites from different places. Many of them will be at Gluten Free Garage. 9. Finally, what advice can you share for someone who is just starting out on the gluten-free diet? Learn to cook if you don’t already. Know what to look for on ingredient labels. Ask questions. When in doubt, don’t eat it. And don’t settle for anything less than delicious.
Sunday, May 1, 2016 (10 am to 4 pm)
Artscape Wychwood Barns (in the Covered Street Barn)
601 Christie Street (just south of St. Clair), Toronto
$10 / free for kids 12 and under
Free GFG tote bags for the first 1,000 people!
Enter below to score a free pair of tickets to attend Gluten Free Garage.
You can connect with Gluten Free Garage on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook
About the Author
I'm Sandra and I write about my real life experiences in a sometimes not so Celiac friendly world.This includes those everyday adventures that coincide with being gluten-free. I also openly share all those ups and downs that come with living life free from gluten.
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