It was heartening to learn yesterday that not every doctor’s office gives out crackers after a celiac endoscopy. (There were also some less heartening doctor stories, but that’s pretty much par for the course—this is going to be another one, fair warning.) But the conversation raised another question for me: If you (or your kids) have been tested for celiac disease, did you eat gluten while you were waiting to hear the biopsy results?
Snide remarks about Keebler’s aside, I must admit—I did. While I waited for my results, I chowed on garlic naan; I slurped cookie dough pudding from Sunshine Happy Something-or-Other Bakery in Chinatown; I went to a dear friend’s apartment for dinner, where he served up mushroom-barley soup. (“It’s gluten-free!” he said. “Besides the barley?” I said. “…Oh,” he said.)
But, mostly, it was the week of the Nutter Butter.
I ate Nutter Butters almost every night of the week after my endoscopy before my diagnosis was confirmed (nine days, actually, not that I was counting). I’d get to the end of the day thinking, “Maybe I won’t do that again today,” and then I’d buy a pack anyway. The guy at the corner store came to recognize me and probably wonders where I’ve been lately. If I’d been more honest with myself at the start of that week, I could’ve bought one family-size package and done the whole thing much more cost-effectively. This may be pushing the limits of strange eating behaviors to which it’s okay to admit on the Internet, but on several of those nights I opened up the cookie sandwiches and spread them with jam. (Great with strawberry, and surprisingly good with fig.)
I ate those things like I’d never be able to again—which, of course, I was correctly assuming would be the case. (Oh, sure, Pamela’s has a peanut butter cookie, and there are knockoff recipes all over the web, but if it’s not in the shape of a peanut and mass-produced it doesn’t count.) Do I even like Nutter Butters that much? I don’t know. It was a compulsion.
By Monday, going in to week two, I was ready to quit. I just needed to know I had celiac, wanted my doctor to get it over with and tell me to lay off the Nutter Butters. But Monday his receptionists put me off all day, so on Monday night I enjoyed my daily fix. This is the last time, I thought.
Tuesday morning, I called again, and hung up dejected at the response that my results still weren’t in. I spent the day playing phone tag with the two receptionists who took turns feeding me conflicting stories: “We’re waiting for a fax from the lab”; “We’re waiting for the doctor to get in and review the results”; “Oh, actually the lab still hasn’t sent them”; and, finally, “I have your results, and everything’s fine! You don’t have any bacteria in your stomach!” (Yeah.)
By that point, being told “Actually, everything’s fine” was not an option. What about my 97 (or 95, or 98, or 90, depending on what source you check) percent chance of having celiac disease based on my serology results? What about all the psyching up I’d been doing for the past few weeks? What about all those stupid Nutter Butters? I’d been eating them as a final hurrah! A farewell! And what the heck did bacteria have to do with anything?
I let myself get more and more frantic on the phone, thinking that would eventually get me my (real) results—which it did, when I strong-armed the receptionist into faxing me the results, found that they did indicate villous atrophy, and called back to demand another number at which to reach the doctor, who had by then left for the day (because I had “called too late”).
Even though I’d been sick for two and a half years and for much of that time accepted I’d just always be sick, suddenly the thought of spending even one more evening eating peanut butter sandwich cookies opened up a vast black maw above me. (An exaggeration? Fine, it was cloudy with a chance of Nutter Butters.) And whether I got my results that day or not, couldn’t I have just gone home and not eaten Nutter Butters? Couldn’t I have gone gluten-free at any time I wanted? Did I really need that harried 30-second phone call with my doctor to know, “You’re positive. Try to avoid wheat, rye, barley”?
Yeah, for whatever reason, I did. I needed certainty; I needed a real turning point; I needed closure. I’m pretty sure that without that lame conversation with my doctor, I would’ve gone home, bought my mediocre sandwich cookies, and steamrolled a few last villi. Then spent all of Wednesday trying not to let the same thing happen again. Funny how habits work, isn’t it?
Since receiving my diagnosis, I’m proud to say I haven’t (knowingly) eaten a single speck of gluten. And after a bit of a slump, the past few days I’ve even felt my cooking mojo stirring again. I’m looking forward to putting the finishing touches on my kitchen setup, feeling better, and eating well for life. Though it’s probably going to be a while before I try out a Nutter Butter imitation.
Tell me some of your food memories (fond or otherwise, -free or otherwise) in the comments! Do you miss Nutter Butters and or Oreos?