Gluten Free at the Museum
This week, Canadian author Luba Lesychyn stops by the Apocalyptic Diner on her month long blog tour promoting her new book, Theft by Chocolate. Luba shares her experiences embarking on a gluten free diet almost 2 decades ago when there were few, if any, decent gluten free dessert options. After reading her post, leave a comment to enter to win my giveaway of one copy of her book and participate in Luba’s Grand Prize Rafflecopter giveaway that includes a $150 gift certificate to one of three chocolate shops (2 of which offer both vegan and gluten free options). The thumbnail for this post is from Suzanne’s Chocolates in Portland, Oregon, who offer an entire line of gluten & vegan chocolates, one of the options for the winner! I’ll be reviewing Luba’s book on the next podcast, so stay tuned!
Body Loves Chocolate, Gluten Not So Much – What’s a Pastry Lover to Do?
Kalena loves chocolate. Work days are spent consuming chocolate delights then hiding the evidence in desk drawers. Vacations are planned around visiting chocolate shops. Coworkers return from trips with chocolate presents in tow. A bad day? Ease it away with a few ounces (or lots more) of truffles. A good day? Celebrate with a dark chocolate that melts sinfully on the tongue. . .
There may be readers of Theft By Chocolate who can’t imagine any real person consuming as much chocolate as lead character, Kalena Boyko. But based on some of the darker periods in my own life, I confess that it’s very much possible to live almost exclusively on sugar. I can also honestly admit that veering from a balanced diet is a big disservice to one’s physical and emotional well-being.
About twenty years ago, I had some health issues that led to body chemistry imbalances, and extreme sugar cravings resulted. At the same time, I developed a severe sensitivity to gluten and to fruits, so sweets such as cakes, pies, and anything made with flour or fruit were problematic. To add insult to injury, my body was not happy with any kind of grain-based flour, even non-gluten based ones like rice flour. What was a pastry-loving, sugar-craving woman to do?
Two decades ago, non-gluten alternative products were almost non-existent, at least not in Canada. And the non-gluten goods that were available often tasted like and had the consistency of sawdust. So the easiest way to satisfy my uncontrollable sugar fixes was through chocolate consumption which, back in the day, meant eating a lot of standard candy bars usually made of ingredients that were not particularly body-friendly.
Over the years, I was able to achieve a healthier body chemistry through the help of probiotics (which I still take daily and swear by), reducing stress in my life by taking up practices like yoga, by being very active, and working with nutritionists and holistic health practitioners. My tolerance to gluten varies depending on my stress levels, so I have also added meditation to my daily routine. Currently, my chocolate cravings have mellowed in comparison to those early years – and I can even eat pastries.
But our culture has come a long way in terms of products available for people with issues such as those I encountered. I’ve been both ecstatic and disheartened by the changes I’ve seen take place in the food industry. The rising awareness about what we put into our bodies has led to increasing diet options. We’re definitely heading in the right direction. But it’s also a sign of the epidemic-like proportions of the population who, like me, are gluten-sensitive and have an intolerance for chemical food additives.
Like my lead character Kalena in Theft By Chocolate, chocolate is still my weapon of choice when sugar cravings are triggered. But now, even the somewhat progressive convenience store located at the base of my building carries a surprising variety of organic chocolate bars. Health food stores carrying gluten-free products can now be found in every neighborhood in Toronto, and the products no longer taste like repurposed wood shavings. Moreover, organic, vegetarian, and raw restaurants and food stands are plentiful around me, coinciding with the movement back to chemical-free and whole foods.
Theft By Chocolate is a reflection of my over-the-top days as a crazed chocolativore, but this book was always intended to be the first of at least two or more instalments. Kalena Boyko’s food consciousness will continue to grow (there are hints of it in Theft with references to organic food choices), and hopefully awareness among my readers will increase as well. But just keep in mind that although chocolate is the primary motif in the novel, the book is still most importantly a sassy museum mystery about a woman of a certain age looking for chocolate, love and an international art thief in all the wrong places.
More about Theft by Chocolate:
Chocolate addict Kalena Boyko wasn’t prepared for this. Heading to work at Canada’s largest museum as an administrator, she hopes for quiet and uninterrupted access to her secret chocolate stash. Instead she’s assigned to manage the high-profile Treasures of the Maya exhibition with her loathed former boss, Richard Pritchard.
With no warning, her life is capsized and propelled into warp speed as she stumbles across an insider plot that could jeopardize the exhibit and the reputation of the museum.
After hearing about a recent botched theft at the museum and an unsolved jewel heist in the past from security guard and amateur sleuth Marco Zeffirelli, Kalena becomes suspicious of Richard and is convinced he’s planning to sabotage the Treasures of the Maya exhibition.
Her suspicions, and the appearance of the mysterious but charming Geoffrey Ogden from the London office, don’t help her concentration. The Treasures of the Maya seems cursed as problem after problem arises, including the disappearance of the world’s oldest piece of chocolate, the signature object in the exhibit. Theft By Chocolate is inspired by a real-life and never-solved heist at a Canadian museum in the 1980s.
Like the sound of that? Me too! I’m sponsoring a giveaway to one of my lucky readers! There are two ways to win!
- Copy of Theft By Chocolate as ebook or print copy (winner’s choice). Answer this question in the comments section (be sure to provide your email): What is your favorite indulgence? In five days, a lucky winner from this blog will win a free copy of Theft By Chocolate!
- $150 Gift Certificate Giveaway: Do you love chocolate as much as Kalena, the heroine in Theft By Chocolate? Here’s your chance to indulge in $150 US worth! The Giveaway Grand Prize is a gift certificate to a delectable chocolate online retailer. Winner chooses from one of three sites: Chocosphere, Hotel Chocolat (UK), or Dlea.com (Australia). To be eligible for the Grand Prize, enter the Rafflecopter below. Remember to sign up for Luba’s email announcements (worth five entries). On occasion she’ll send out exclusive announcements for special events, blog posts, giveaways and free swag! On July 31st, the winner will be chosen at random and notified via email.
About the Author: Soon after finishing her graduate studies in history, Luba Lesychyn (le-si-shin) landed on the doorstep of Canada’s largest museum, the Royal Ontario Museum, where she worked for more than twenty years as an educator and consultant. Theft By Chocolate is Luba’s debut novel, though she has been amusing people with her writing since the age of eight. Her love of chocolate precedes this age and she has been in and out of chocolate rehab for most of her adult life. She currently works in the educational sector and teaches yoga in her home town of Toronto. When not writing or looking for her next chocolate fix, Luba can be found in dance classes, trekking to remote waterfalls in the mountain rain forest in Puerto Rico, running through the streets of Paris or doing any other number of calorie-burning activities that help offset the calories consumed in her chocolate intake.
UPDATE: @mswas is the lucky winner of the ebook giveaway! Look for more ebook reviews and giveaways on both the podcast & the blog in August!