4. Life Of No Pi
3. 12 Angry Celiacs
2. Gone With The Wheat
1. The Catcher Is Not In The Rye
*You will find nowhere.
5. When Good Crackers Kill
4. Life Of No Pi
3. 12 Angry Celiacs
2. Gone With The Wheat
1. The Catcher Is Not In The Rye
*You will find nowhere.
What leads to mistaken gluten ingestion? Here is one scenario:
1. Need reading glasses.
2. Don't own reading glasses.
3. The ingredient label on squeezable frosting is so miniscule no human over forty can read it except for the part that says, "may contain eggs and soy" in bold at the end.
4. Nothing readable under supermarket fluorescent lighting says "wheat".
5. A person can't frost a cake without licking said frosting off fingers.
6. After licking frosting off fingers and feeling the rush of chemical flavors, the list of ingredients suddenly grows larger and the word "wheat" appears right between "soylicol stearalate" and "high maltose cocinate" (this is from memory and is not correct).
Conclusion: I poisoned myself because I'm too old to read tiny writing and too stubborn to buy reading glasses.
I just threw a gluten-reduced Bat Mitzvah!
There was kibitzing, noshing, and hora-ing (not whoring) with very little gluten present. I don't think anyone noticed or cared. The only downfall was when my daughter had to say the blessing over the challah at her service. Traditionally, once the blessing is said the challah bread is ripped apart and eaten. Well, we tried quite valiantly to rip the gf challah apart, to no avail. It crumbled into one million tiny pieces that became sand-like and permanently embedded in the carpet (sorry, Temple Israel). No challah made it to any of our mouths so hopefully it's still an official Bat Mitzvah.
For the kid's party dinner we offered a sort of Mexican affair; different forms of fajitas/quesadillas, all on corn tortillas. There were Asian rice noodles and teriyaki steak skewers for appetizers. Oh yeah - and sushi. I mean, why stick with just one nationality when you can eat like them all in a single meal? Here in America we like to seriously mix things up.
Dessert after the party was a make-your-own brownie sundae bar, which is easily gluten free. Ice cream, hot fudge, caramel, whipped cream, sprinkles, all over a gf brownie. In fact, we had a dairy free child we were able to accommodate as well. Also a few nut free and egg free-ers. We were super FREEEEEE. WEEEEEEEEEEEE.
As our guests left, the kids grabbed a party favor; a water bottle*** filled with jelly beans, which were specifically chosen because they are free of all allergens. Happy to report there were no allergic reactions or celiac comas post party. These days, a successful shindig ends with zero hospital visits. And that's exactly what we had.
*** My water bottle debacle will be addressed in a future post. It has nothing to do with celiac disease or gf eating; I will post a cautionary tale of rushed bulk orders for large events in the hopes of sparing my celiac/gf community more physical pain.
At about age three I was offered a membership to a club, which I tried to reject outright. A neighbor then forced me to join, without consulting my parents. Does this sound really weird yet?
Well this particular club was called The Clean Plate Club. And my neighbor, a kindly, southern mom named Esther and her family, decided that I would be a member while I was in their home. My parents were both working a lot at the time and this generous family took me in and offered free child care. I loved being at their house, that is, until the issue of club membership reared it's ugly head.
This particular club formed in 1917, when President Woodrow Wilson appointed Herbert Hoover the head of the U.S. Food Administration, and subsequently devised the "Clean Plate" campaign, which became a source of childhood angst for me and many others. (Thanks guys.) The now defunct club became even more popular in 1947 under President Harry S. Truman. So my caregivers grew up like this and it was how they ran their home.
When I began staying there for dinners, the problem emerged. I did not follow this rule in my home and I had no clue what on earth they were talking about. The idea that I would not be allowed to leave the table until my plate was spotless was revolting. And my glass of milk had to be finished, down to the last sip. Never mind that I didn't drink milk as it upset my stomach. This rule seemed to bypass how you felt (hungry, full, nauseated) and instead focused on how well you could ignore stomach pain and hold in your vomit. It was impossible to pass stuff down to the dog; she was tiny and there were only two children to watch, one of whom did as she was told. The other one was me.
One day, Esther put a plate in front of me that had a HUGE fried chicken leg jutting out of a mound of mashed potatoes, a roll, and the only thing I actually liked; green peas.
The chicken leg caused me great concern. I would be required by the house rule to finish the entire thing. At that time I did not like chicken, or chicken legs, or fried chicken. I sat there for a looooong time staring at the chicken leg, wishing it would get up and walk away.
It stared back. For hours.
My mother finally arrived. She saw me seated alone at the table. Esther explained that I hadn't cleaned my plate, and my mother was to bring the food home and serve it to me for breakfast the next morning, and each meal after, until I finished every single bite. Apparently I had to do this for my country, and it was the only way us immigrants would learn to be true Americans. The food was wrapped in tin foil and given to my mother, who promptly tossed it into the garbage at home. Little did Esther know - one of my mom's favorite pastimes is throwing stuff away.
My grandmother, who recently passed away, used to have a saying. If I didn't feel like finishing my meal or didn't want some food she offered me she would say, "don't want, don't have" which translates very poorly from the Hebrew version. But the sentiment is great in that it tells you to follow your gut and not to have anything that you don't truly want. This is especially important for those of use with digestive disorders.
Now, if you look on Wikipedia (my most credible source for information) you will see that it says that the concept of the clean plate club, "...puts Americans at risk of unhealthy life styles" and it goes on to say that "Some 'Clean Plate' cases may turn into psychological problems". That explains a lot. I'll add that if you are an undiagnosed celiac being forced to eat a plate full of wheat, well, these well-meaning but misguided individuals could be KILLING YOU.
Ok, that is dramatic. And they weren't actual killing me since I was a kid who would sit there for long periods of time, staring at avocado green curtains, refusing to eat the food.
This week I won't be posting about celiac disease.
Instead I have to say goodbye to my grandmother, Herzelina Gerassi.
Savta. You were a woman full of grace, talent, self-respect, bravery, and dignity. And you didn't need a penny to have those qualities. You always knew what to do, how to do it, and how to behave while doing it. You gave out warmth, love, and kindness to us all and asked for nothing in return. Your love felt unconditional and boundless, and I was privileged to be a recipient of that love.
I will never stop remembering you, loving you, and missing you.
I flew from Israel to Boston yesterday, which involved a connection through Charles De Gaulle airport in Paris. When I fly I pack enough food to serve a football team. Because I left at 5am, I only packed some beef jerky and a pretty old, gluten free bagel with nothing on it. I'd signed up for the gluten free meal when I checked in online the day before, and figured I'd have a bounty of gf options on the plane. Plus the airline was Air France and they serve free cappuccinos on board. And free champagne. In coach.
When you sign up for a special meal on a plane, they serve you first, before pushing the cart down the aisle with the regular meals. This makes you feel even more "special" as those around you check out what your issue might be, displayed there for the world to see, on your tray. They may see a kosher meal and assume, this lady is very religious. Or see an ovo-lacto vegetarian meal and wonder, does she love animals but can't live without cheese? Maybe when they see my gluten free meal they think, her digestive system must be defective which is quickly followed by and why do I have to sit next to her?
"It's the gluten free meal," I offered.
"So you can't have nuts?" she asked.
Sigh. I just nodded and ordered my cappuccino.
This was supposed to be just another gluten free travel post.
I came to Israel to visit my gravely ill grandmother. I thought it might add a bit of levity to a pretty grim situation, to post about my gf Bamba findings or the best and safest falafel for celiacs. Except as I sit here in my grandmother's apartment in Ramat Aviv, right near Tel-Aviv, the rocket sirens sounded and we took to bomb shelters until it passed. Rockets are being fired from Gaza and Iron Dome interceptor missiles are shooting down those rockets before they hit us. Um, so that's good.
To most Israeli citizens this is, unfortunately, a normal part of life. In fact, my friend here insisted there is a positive side to this, and explained that there are fewer car accidents while under attack. Ooooooookay.
Aside from the abovementioned situation, when I left Boston we had a one hour delay because of a tornado. When they finally let us board the plane, I couldn't get that vision from the Wizard of Oz out of my head - the one where Dorothy watches the Wicked Witch bike by as they swirl around together inside the twister.
After my fiasco in the Dominican Republic, it's becoming painfully apparent that I may want to consider limiting travel in my future. Perhaps I'll stick with day trips to neighboring states or better yet, imaginary trips like the ones I've taken with my children, all conceived of and executed in the quiet safety of our basement.
Can anyone help me with the challenges of raising a celiac child?
Anyone. . .
When my daughter was diagnosed I figured I had things under control since I was diagnosed two years prior. I got the diet, restaurants, parties, etc. Manageable yet annoyingable. Management filters into life in an organic way, as exemplified by a fight in the car yesterday between my two younger daughters:
"She hit me with her gluteny hands!"
"Well she hit me back with her gluten free hands!"
Followed by slapping sounds.
And I don't think too much about how we live or how weird we can sound. ("Do not hold that muffin so close to your sister's face!"). That is, until soccer started.
Here's what happened. When a six-year-old plays soccer, at least around my parts, it is 50% soccer and 50% social. In the spirit of the social portion, some parents brought all kinds of baked goods to share, during and after our games. I swear, right when I'd see the box of munchkins and think, "oh, good, I can give her a gluten free donut at home later," the homemade brownie tin would appear. And then perhaps a bag of pretzels might debut. Right as the Tupperware filled with chocolate chip cookies burped open, my daughter would get this lost, sad look on her face. And I'd think to myself, self, you idiot, next time bring a crapload of crap so she doesn't feel left out!
So began our new soccer prep, which included choosing and bringing gf treats along. Except many times her treats didn't match the ones served, and she'd still feel left out. I thought about asking people to let me know what they were bringing, so I could provide a comparable gluten free option.
Now I'm sure there are parents who will already have an issue with this, something along the lines of, "why are people serving desserts at 9am" or "why give kids cookies after (or during) soccer"? Since other parents expressed dissatisfaction along these lines, I took the plunge and sent out an email explaining that my daughter has CD and if possible, could we stick with fruit for games? I figured, if a parent really wants their kid to have something else they can bring it. But if it's supposed to be shared with the entire team, every week, shouldn't all the kids be included? I make the comparison that if a child had a peanut allergy, would it be cool to bring Reese's peanut butter cups for every game? I'd love to hear thoughts on this.
Then the weirdness. The coach decides to have a little celebration after our last game. A very nice idea. They let everyone know, in advance, they'd provide pizza. No problem. I planned to bring gf pizza, which is something I do, like, hourly, because PIZZA is a STAPLE in our DIET here in AMERICA. So it's FINE. In fact, we love my homemade pizza. I'm making myself one right now. And I already finished eating it. Fast, right?
Another parent, sensitive to this gluten free business, sent out an email to the entire team stating that I said the food for the party should all be gf. (I did not say this. We always bring our own food to parties). Of course, I didn't read this because I was too busy MAKING THE PIZZA. Later, I did get a phone call and some funny looks. After the party I read the email and felt like a Kvetching Nudnik. This is Yiddish for Pain in the Arse, which is my made-up Irish talk, and is neither correct nor Irish.
Where do you draw that fine line, between advocating for your child versus teaching resilience in managing a disease that will often not cater to you?
A friend ordered us a crumb cake from the infamous Carlo's Bake Shop of Hoboken, New Jersey, which is featured on the show Cake Boss.
My three children enter into an altered state of consciousness while watching this show, even though only 1 of the 3 could try the food. So when UPS delivered the cake we were kind of "oh cool" and "oh no" at the same time. Seeing their disappointed faces and even worse, my disappointed faces (I have two) I boldly stated:
"I know where to get a gluten free crumb cake that will be better than that one."
This, as some of you will recognize, is a parental bait and switch tactic, where you pretend to have knowledge that you most certainly do not posses, and then pray that somehow you could be right, all the while knowing you are definitely wrong.
Off I went, to a local, gluten free bakery called Glutenus Minimus where I'd indulged in a few tasty treats in the past, including a very moist and yummy crumb cake. I purchased a cake and brought it home. Ok, I also purchased about twenty other things and some made it home while sadly, others were not so fortunate.
We had thirteen gluten-eating girls, three gluten free girls, and five adults including gf me. Aside from being very LOUD in my home, we were able to conduct a taste test and all those who participated agreed; the gf cake beat the famous wheat cake by miles.
Before everyone gets all up in arms, I will admit that the crumb cake was shipped to me from New Jersey and I'm in Boston. Maybe it wasn't packaged properly, or maybe the moisture got sucked out in transit. I don't know. It may not have been a totally fair comparison, on the other hand, it proves that sometimes local is better. And sometimes, not often, gf is better!
The only child in our family who was able to eat the cake told me it tasted dry and dusty. She did eat a lot of it while she said this. She also said that the Carlo's cake was most likely "missing a bunch of ingredients" or "it was probably made by Anthony".
Here's the picture of the beans my mom made for me. She has been dubbed The Bean Queen around these parts, if these parts refer to my home and my sister's home. Anyone who tastes her beans makes a face at me, as if they have just gazed into the eyes of their beloved newborn for the very first time.
Look deeply at the beans. They are mesmerizing, aren't they? Feel their luscious, creamy power.
When I say gluten free crapola, I'm obviously not talking about my bean babies. We try to eat whole foods as much as possible but it doesn't happen 100% of the time. Or even close. There is some gf processed food out there that's making me a little frustrated AND at the same time, a lot happy. Am I confusing anyone yet? Only myself.
Here is one of my favorite gluten free cupcakes. I was thrilled to find these reasonably priced, tasty, pre-made-and-packaged-for-the-lazy options, which I freeze for kid birthday parties or adult late night binging (followed by later night insomnia). But if you take a closer look, which most of us should probably not be doing when you are about to devour a cupcake, you will notice the difference in the nutritional profile.
GLUTEN FREE CHOCOLATE CUPCAKE
size: 85g, 340 calories, 16g fat, 320mg sodium, 41g sugar, 2g protein, 1g fiber
WHEAT CHOCOLATE CUPCAKE
size: 85g, 290 calories, 12g fat, 260mg sodium, 33g sugar, 5g protein, 2g fiber
Most people are not going to think carefully about nutrition and cupcakes. This is just an example, and a good one, of how the gf version is nutritionally inferior in comparable items. I compared breads and bagels and they were no better; most were higher in calories, fat, and sugar, while lower in protein and fiber.
THIS SUPER STINKS TO HIGH HEAVEN, doesn't it? Like, if we have to give up a bunch of tasty food and have the less tasty options, let them at least be better for you!!! We celiacs, of all people, need some convenient, healthy food. Can anyone add in some flax or hemp or whatever the hell is considered nutritious these days? You can see me discussing this on the local news here with Dr. Fasano, who confirms that the diet is socially isolating and technically difficult. Ouch. So right though.
BTW, I know I should have de-frizzed my hair, worn more makeup, and probably sat up straighter.