Hello I am..
Kait Turshen, also known as Bubble Girl. I have thirty food allergies and I live in New York’s West Village where I write the blog BG Bakes
, which is dedicated to providing gluten free, allergen free, vegan recipes. This month I am also launching BG Bakes Gluten Free All-Purpose Flour Mix which is not only free of gluten, but also free of major allergens and vegan.
How did you come across your path? What drove you?
The story goes like this: about two and a half years ago I uncovered that I had over twenty food allergies (now at thirty and counting); a discovery that unearthed why I had spent the majority of my adult life suffering from weight fluctuation, extreme fatigue, anxiety, depression, and never ending gastrointestinal issues. In light of my plethora of food allergies, my mother lovingly deemed that I should live in a Bubble and the nickname stuck. At the time of my food allergy revelation, I was unhappily working in the fashion industry. I had a successful career and worked for amazing brands, but lacked a passion for what I was doing day in and day out. So I started my blog to fill that void.
And it turned out I’m not the only Bubble person out there. In fact, over 15 million Americans suffer from food allergies; one in every thirteen children. But I realized there wasn’t much awareness surrounding the topic. And I also realized that I was very passionate about spreading food allergy word, so I fused my long time love of baking with raising food allergy awareness and BG Bakes was born.
What is your personal food-philosophy?
You are what you eat! My whole world changed for the better when I removed the dozens of foods I was allergic to from my diet. Not only did my body stop fighting itself every time I ingested a morsel of food, but my diet became healthier and cleaner by default. No more late night pizza or store-bought, corn-syrup packed candy; never again would I eat Chinese takeout or a frozen meal. I ate far less processed foods in general, as everything I came across that was processed contained soy, corn, or another allergen that would potentially send me to the hospital. So I was left to my own devices and had to start preparing my own meals; and with that came more awareness and consciousness of eating healthy. And most importantly, my new found cleaner, healthier, allergen free diet left me energized and upbeat. For the first time in my life, I felt healthy and happy both physically and mentally–something I’d never experienced before.
What projects are you working on?
This October I’m proud to announce the launch of my first of many flour mixes, BG Bakes Gluten Free All-Purpose Flour Mix. More mixes and a cookbook to follow! I hope to see BG Bakes flour mixes and beyond on grocery store shelves across the nation; to provide products that people can trust and enjoy. And I hope that by doing this, I’m making a difference in people’s lives who suffer from food allergies, even if its one cookie crumb at a time.
What is your “work” aka baking/cooking lifestyle like?
The beauty of it is that it’s different every day! Which is something I truly appreciate after spending a good eight years answering emails at a desk. One day I’m mixing flours and the next I’m baking cookies, frosting cakes, or ingredient sourcing. And of course blogging every step of the way.
For those of us who deal with allergies or just want live cleaner what are some tips?
Two important things here: you’re not alone and always be prepared. When I first uncovered my allergies, I was both embarrassed and terrified of eating out. Ordering a simple meal at a restaurant was a lengthy process that would leave my server confused and myself frightened that the long list of my allergens wouldn’t properly be communicated to the chef. I’ve since overcome that self-consciousness (I’m one of 15 million, after all!) and I’m always prepared. I hand a typed list of my allergies to my server now, that I request be passed along to the chef, just to ensure nothing is lost in translation from my table to the kitchen. I also never leave home without two Epi-Pen’s (always have a back-up) and two kinds of anti-histamines.
What inspires you?
My husband is my true source of inspiration. He left his prosperous, prestigious position at a law firm to pursue his dreams of making a difference in people’s lives through teaching meditation. I too wanted to make a difference in people’s lives; to help people transition into the new and foreign world of living and eating with food allergies; that no matter what food allergies you suffered from, there was still a way to satisfy your sweet tooth! I never would have had the courage to leave my career in fashion, to take this leap of faith, if it weren’t for him.
What are your kitchen necessities and wishes?
I would be lost without my KitchenAid. It’s one of my best friends and I’m not sure how I ever lived without one. My other bestie in the kitchen would be my food scale. Next on my bucket list is a hand blender. ‘Tis the soup season and a hand blender is the way to go for getting your soups smooth without the hassle and danger of transferring steaming liquids from pot to blender and back again.
There is a stigma that allergen-free foods can be “boring” or “tedious”- why is this incorrect?
I believe this stigma is a result of a lack of awareness around the subject. You can bake almost anything without eggs or dairy or wheat–or any other allergens for that matter. I do it every day. It’s just that a lot of people have never tried to do so until recently, thus leaving us Bubble people without a proper Thanksgiving pumpkin pie or birthday cake. It’s a matter of figuring out the science of what happens in your mixing bowl, being able to successfully replicate recipes by making a few simple substitutions. With food allergies on the rise, this stigma will certainly diffuse itself over time.
5 things that heal me
- massages (a guilty, frequent pleasure)
- super dark chocolate (another guilty, frequent pleasure)
- and of course baking!
People who discover they have a dietary allergy, sometimes feel confused and even angry at the consequences of not being able to eat as they once did, how did you deal with these issues, how can someone find motivation and acceptance with their path in life?
It was a very upsetting day when I uncovered my food allergies. My list was so long that initially I couldn’t keep track of them all. I was traumatized that I’d never again eat a slice of New York pizza or my mother’s legendary chocolate chip cookies. I was terrified to dine out. I was afraid that one wrong bite of something would send me straight to the emergency room–or worse. But as soon as I noticed the difference I felt physically, without ingesting those allergens on a daily basis, the animosities and fears quickly wore off. I realized that moping wasn’t going to get me anywhere, which I why I decided to turn my food allergies into something positive, to figure out a way for everyone, no matter what allergy, to enjoy a proper cookie again.
I can’t help but mention how stunning you are! What are your beauty tips/trusted products
You are too kind! Thank you for those gracious words. I drink tons of water and herbal tea to keep both myself and my skin hydrated. I also limit my intake of refined sugars–my skin freaks out if I go overboard on cupcakes and cookies (although I am human and indulge in sweet treats often). In terms of skincare, I love Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Concentrate, even in the daytime. It’s an amazing skin hydrator. In terms of makeup, I stick with my trusted NARS and MAC go-to’s. And as for hair, I’m au natural. No hair dyes or products and I rarely blow it dry or put anything burning hot to it.
Favorite places to travel?
I spend a week every summer in Glen Arbor, Michigan with my family. It’s a sleepy under-the-radar little lakeside resort town that couldn’t bring me more peace each year. While I’m in New York, I love to run with my dog through the West Village and alongside the West Side Highway. Being near the water in the sunshine makes you forget you’re in a city that never sleeps. It’s hard to pick a favorite restaurant in New York, but I love Sauce, Lil’ Frankie’s, and my go-to date night spot with my husband, Corsino. They’re all sweet and quaint and take my food allergies seriously.
Design*Sponge and Spoon Fork Bacon are two of my favorite blogs. I love reading, so I have too many favorite books to count, but among them are Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese, The Baker’s Daughter by Sarah McCoy, The Godfather, and a classic from my younger years, Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume. I love books that make me cry.
What’s something that you’ve learned or that’s happened to you since starting BG Bakes?
I’ve learned that I’m not the only Bubble Girl out there and I’m truly glad to have company. I’ve received so many emails and comments thanking me for my recipes and it makes my day every time. My goal is to help people with food allergies realize that they can eat the foods they used to, and safely, at that–that it just takes a few substitutions and a pantry makeover. I want to help make people’s transition into eating with food allergies easier than mine was, to bring knowledge and awareness to this cause. If I’ve helped even just one person, then I’ve done my job.
Describe your ideal dinner
While I didn’t love my career in fashion, I made such wonderful friends. And now that I no longer work with them, I love having them over for dinner. While my New York apartment isn’t ideal for a sit down dinner, it’s really the company that matters. Rather than a dining room table, I have a great, big island in my kitchen. So my girlfriends and husband saddle up on the stools with my dog underfoot while I cook. It’s all very casual–and all very ideal in my dinner party book. Nothing about it is formal–ever.
Dream Vision board: describe your ideal day
My ideal day starts with my morning meditation followed by coffee while blogging and watching the Today show (I’m a huge multi-tasker); the rest of the day spent testing recipes in the kitchen, and ending with a home cooked meal and Homeland with my husband and dog. I wish Homeland was on every night. And a workout, massage, and chocolate in there somewhere, too.
One piece of health/life advice?
As my father always told me from the time I could remember. “Go hard or go home.”