Today I am happy to meet Jeanne B. at Merci in Paris. Jeanne has recently published a beautiful cookbook on gluten free called “Zéro Gluten”. To me there are some women that have it all: Jeanne is beautiful, funny, smart and incredibly talented – besides being a published author, she is an actress, an illustrator and a photographer. It was a real pleasure for me spending an afternoon with her. Here it is a nice memory of that day.
Chiara: Why gluten free?
I was diagnosed with celiac disease at the age of 2. I have really experienced everything: frustration, stomach-ache, fatigue, depression, hospitals. At home they use to tell me: “You don’t have the right to eat this or that…” and the only thing that I wanted was just to behave and feel like the other children.
There was a moment in my life when I decided to stop the gluten free diet and for the first time in my life I enjoyed the pleasure of food with gluten. My rebellion lasted 5 years. I had health problems because of that that made me come back to eating gluten free.
I spent years without talking about my health issue because I didn’t want to be defined by it. Today I am an actress, a photographer, an illustrator and an author. I don’t want to be defined by the fact of being celiac.
With time came the acceptance of my condition, and with it I also learnt to listen to my body and feel much better. It’s him that tells me today what is good and what it bad for me. In the past I used to go to restaurants without paying much attention to the food I ate and very often gluten was hidden in the sauce for example. I ended up feeling not ok, without knowing really why.
One day I flew to Japan for work. I spent two weeks there. At the beginning I thought I had found the « ideal » country for me. But the more I ate the more I wasn’t feeling well. When I came back to Paris I went to an exhibition on Japan at the Bon Marché and there, with all the products labels translated in French, I finally got the answer: their products are filled with gluten, like barley for example, they put it everywhere!
The best doctos is us: we need to learn to listen to our body and we can learn it little by little, step by step.
Chiara: What’s Zéro gluten?
Jeanne: It’s a cookbook and it is the also the result of the acceptance process of my health issue. The food is my friend and my enemy at the same time. I have always loved reading cookbooks. Some time ago I was living in New York and worked in fashion photography. Then I got an accident and was obliged to walk with crutches for two years. At that time I decided to switch to food photography and got passionate about it. I took all the photos of my book. I wanted them to be beautiful and vibrant, just the way I liked it. Around me there weren’t gluten free books that looked good. With this book I wanted to get out from the « health » aisle in bookshops and make something, that despite being gluten free, could be beautiful and appealing to everybody.
At the beginning I didn’t want to talk about myself. I didn’t want to be on the cover. Then one day I read the book « Jennifer’s way » by Jennifer Esposito. I was amazed by the way she was sharing her struggle about living with food allergies. For the first time in my life I could relate to somebody. I wasn’t alone anymore, there was somebody out there who could understand what I was going through. This made me feel stronger and I decided to share my story in the book along with my recipes. My family was very supporting for me on this project and in my life, my mother in particular.
Chiara: What is the gluten free food that you like the most?
Jeanne: Everything cooked by my mother. I love her pot-au-feu!
Chiara: Gluten free is…
Jeanne: Survival. But I don’t want to be defined by it. I am more than that.