Talking Gluten-free with President Bill Clinton
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Nov 10 2011

Talking Gluten-free with President Bill Clinton

I definitely didn’t start the day this morning thinking I was going to meet a former US president.  Probably the very last thing from my mind was that I would be meeting Bill Clinton, but as soon as I returned home from my morning walk and learned he was doing a book signing just down the street, I ran out the door.

Of course, I had to think of something witty to say to him when I finally had a chance to meet him.  There are the typical comments about his presidency, his wife’s work, but I wanted to think of something different…and viola….I could ask him about my favorite topic of all….eating gluten-free!  I knew about his daughter, Chelsea Clinton, having a gluten-free cake at her wedding, and about Bill Clinton eating healthier since his quadruple bypass in 2004, so I had a perfect conversation starter.  There has been some chatter in cyberspace about whether he was gluten-free, so I wanted the answer.

I have never met a head of state before, so I was extremely excited and didn’t know what to expect. Would they be behind a glass box? Would I be frisked? Would I get to take a picture? But if a leader of the free world eats gluten-free, I want to know about it.

I found out quickly, we would have to wait in a very cold line to go inside the bookstore to be able to get President Clinton to sign a copy of his new book, Back to Work, and shake his hand.  No cameras were allowed, which was probably a good thing since I was definitely not camera-ready.  I was determined to get a question in there.  I know his book has absolutely nothing to do with eating gluten-free, but being a journalist, I was not going to let this opportunity pass me by.  I mentioned to a couple of people in line what I was going to ask, since I was pretty sure no one would take my question, and I received some pretty strange looks.

It always fascinates me to meet people who seem larger than life, and he is definitely included in this category. When I finally had my chance to meet President Clinton, I shook his hand, he signed a copy of his book, and I asked him if I could ask him an “off the wall question?’  He said, sure.

I asked him, “I know your daughter had a gluten-free wedding cake, do you eat gluten-free as well?”

President Bill Clinton responded that he tries to.  He went on to tell me that he is vegetarian and dairy-free, but that he does eat fish once in a while.  He continued by explaining he has a wheat allergy, and that he eats wheat-free as much as possible, and likes to eat gluten-free.  However, he did explain that Chelsea is “vigilant” about eating gluten-free.  We definitely could have kept talking about gluten-free eating, but with hundreds of people behind me waiting to meet him as well, they were getting impatient and I had to move on.

So, what did I take away from this short encounter?  That President Clinton, himself, does not have celiac, but that he does indeed have a wheat allergy, and probably dairy as well, though I didn’t actually hear him say the words “dairy allergy”.  I find it so fascinating that people who have food intolerances are easily engaged in conversation when it is something near and dear to them, and President Clinton was no exception.

Article Written by:

Anne is a self-proclaimed foodie who loves eating out as much as cooking for friends. Since being diagnosed with celiac, she has been determined to not let it put a damper on her food adventures, and to raise awareness among the general public. Anne recently moved from Chicago to Atlanta and is enjoying exploring the gluten-free wonders in her new city. Follow Anne on Twitter and Google+!

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  • http://www.celiaccity.com Sarah @ Celiac in the City

    Wow, Anne! What an unexpected, exciting encounter! And kudos to you for asking about his GF status. Interesting. What a day!

  • http://glutenfreeislife.com/ Kimberly Bouldin

    How cool!!! I think it is awesome that you asked him about the gluten-free diet! Too bad there were no pics allowed!

    Kim

  • http://glutendude.com Gluten Dude

    Great article. I’m sure he loved being asked something non-political. I remember being in an elevator one day by myself. And in walks Ronald Reagan and some other guy. It was a 30 second ride of silence. Though he did say good bye to me.