Sometimes along the road of life, if we’re lucky, we have several epiphanies to teach us the consequences of our actions.
Perhaps a universal one we learn as youngsters, after being kicked under the table by one of our parents or pinched by manners-elevated siblings during an outing at a restaurant with white tablecloths, is to not talk with a full mouth. Not polite, cool or attractive.
As license-carrying drivers in our teens, when we can operate a motor vehicle without the presence of a madly braking mom or dad in the passenger’s seat, we learn the importance of obeying signals and speed limits. Traffic tickets cause insurance premiums to rise and coveted licenses to be suspended with too many offenses.
As young adults with our first job out of college, we learn quaffing multiple dollar pitchers on a Thursday night with friends really costs way more when waking to go to work on Friday morning. Hangovers are hell and hinder being a productive professional.
As mature adults we learn perhaps a life-transforming lesson: eating healthier is not an option but a requirement.
That is, of course, if we want to be the best we can be.
About five weeks ago — five days before embarking on my annual summer road trip — I became ill. I took to my bed one afternoon, head-achy, stomach and body aches, exhausted. Flu, I thought, or perhaps food poisoning.
The next 48 hours something moved through my body. It wasn’t pleasant. I continued to work and eat, alternating between physical surrender to symptoms and emotional teeth gnashing. On the third day I felt better but woke up the next feeling awful.
Suddenly a realization dawned: I had felt this topsy-turvy way — not to this extent, necessarily — for months. No, years.
Okay, who was I kidding? Decades.
I connected the dots, which resulted in a hunch. Could it be my diet?
My lack of exercise?
I left on vacation with a solemn vow: I was going to consciously cut gluten from my diet — it seemed like the logical place to start — and see if it made an impact.
It did. A bloat that beleaguered me for ages subsided, like someone stuck a pin in a balloon, releasing the air. My energy level increased and my digestive system said a silent, “Thank you.” Inflammation that plagued me for over a decade began to subside. A disturbing brain fog lifted.
As someone who eats for a living, I happily discovered I wasn’t deprived of quality. Rather, a whole new world of eating differently blossomed.
I felt more like the self I left along the road of life somewhere in my 20s.
I had some sort of gluten sensitivity.
Last week I ventured intot.Loft
at 8025 State Line Road — my friend Jenn Bedell has raved about the place for weeks, as have many who answered my recent Facebook query about eating gluten-free.
“It’s like a home away from home,” she said. “And the protein balls, juices and salads are delish.”
Just inside the door of t.Loft I encounter acquaintance Stephen Burstein, a jeweler whose studio is just up the street. He’s sipping a Kermit-green juice.
“I’m here five days a week and constantly refer people,” he said. “The stuff is amazingly good.”
Indeed t.Loft’s interior is feel-good with a sexy, minimalist vibe. Muted grays and creams and chandeliers and whitewashed furniture with plump pillows and upholstered chairs. Lots of light. A thick shag rug leading up to the order line.
Real. Simple. But it’s t.Loft’s menu of tea, juices, salads and bakery goods —stripped of pretension, and gluten, for that matter — that is the centerpiece of truth.
And as they say, the truth will set you free.
Proprietor Jill Minton of Prairie Village, a former IT consultant, opened t.Loft in April. It was a dream born from necessity: she, her six-year-old daughter, sister and dad were diagnosed with celiac disease a couple of years ago.
Although Minton has always enjoyed eating clean — food as close to its natural state as possible — and drinking teas, there was something askew.
Now she needed to overhaul her diet. And heal.
“Our symptoms were different,” said Minton, 35. “For me, finding out I have celiac was the missing link. As far back as college I knew something wasn’t right but I pushed through it.”
After the diagnosis Minton researched recipes and juices and developed her own, tweaking and taste testing with family and friends. A business plan for t.Loft was drawn up and the vision of offering people a good-food grab-and-go option became reality.
Minton, whose husband and son eat healthy, but not necessarily gluten-free 100 percent of the time, sits in front of me, all glowy and peaceful and making perfect sense.
“My favorite t.Loft customer is the one just starting their journey of health and well-being,” she said, and I nearly lunged across the table to hug her. “They may not have celiac or gluten issues but just want to reformat their approach to eating.”
In front of me, on one of the tables her husband Brandon made by hand, are items from Minton’s menu: a colorful Layered Lentil and Goat Cheese Salad drizzled with a lemon-balsamic vinaigrette. Warrior Juice packed with kale, cilantro, cucumber, ginger, pineapple, lemon and cayenne. Sweet-tooth quenchers: a sweet potato brownie and peanut butter protein balls.
Minton’s cleanse program is popular with clients: for $55 a day she packages t.Loft’s signature juices, salad, teas and protein balls. She sells teas at the Overland Park Farmers’ Market and on the company’s website.
Free events are held at the store, including an Aug. 8 workshop from 7 to 8 p.m., “The Miraculous Things That Happen Inside Your Body When You Cleanse” led by Karen Kipp, a well-known Kansas City reflexologist and holistic practitioner.
Minton knows clean eats aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. But for those who have had a moment of self-awareness that what they put in their mouth is making them sick or people who just want to feel better or people who want to eschew processed food, t.Loft is a welcome stop on life’s instructive journey.
“It’s time,” said Minton, grinning widely as I polish off the last crumbs of the insanely yummy sweet potato brownie and slurp the last of the Warrior Juice, “for people to feel good and be happy.”
My internal remodel has started. I feel liberated from a food-related anchor I’ve dragged around for years.
It’s about time.
Jill Minton, owner of t.Loft in Kansas City offers some highly implementable tips for eating clean.
“It’s uncomplicated,” she stressed. “And I urge people to listen to their bodies and pay attention.”
Pick up an organic spring mix. Chop your favorite fruits and vegetables, add some nuts. Purchase good-quality olive oil and vinegars for a homemade dressing.
A great Sunday project. Chop your choice of veggies — peppers, potatoes, onions, celery, root vegetables, whatever you have on hand, and season with spices. Portion into freezer bags.
During the week, put a bag of the frozen ingredients in a crockpot along with a base of vegetable broth — spike it with orange or apple juice, if you want. Set the timer for four hours for a delicious, nutritious meal.
For more information on t.Loft’s cleanse program and special events, visitT.Loft’s website
Kimberly Winter Stern — also known as Kim Dishes — is an award-winning freelance writer and national blogger from Overland Park and co-host with Chef Jasper Mirabile on LIVE! From Jasper’s Kitchen each Saturday on KCMO 710/103.7FM. She is inspired by the passion, creativity and innovation of chefs, restaurateurs and food artisans who make Kansas City a vibrant center of locavore cuisine.