Tag Archives: 2014

Sprue Stories: The Oscars 2014 Edition (86th Academy Awards nominees gone gluten-free, with viewing party menu ideas)

Roll out the red carpet, because it’s time for a new Academy Award! The Oscars are this weekend, and I’ve been anticipating them with all the fervor you’d expect from someone who has only seen three of the nine Best Picture nominees (plus the animated shorts) and would be hard pressed to name one out of every twenty gown- or tux-clad stars walking that carpet on Sunday . . . but loves any opportunity to make a ton of themed snacks.

Oscars red carpet and stairs

Lovely, though my celiac-induced eyesight problems seem to be acting up again. (Yeah, it’s really a thing, though probably not for me.)
Photo © Rachel | Flickr

By the way, I’m a bit disappointed with the blogosphere this year. I didn’t expect much—only enough gluten-free, vegetarian, not-too-hard recipes inspired by the Oscars 2014 nominees to fill out my menu without me having to come up with anything brilliant on my own—but alas, everyone must be busy, I don’t know, watching movies. (I did find a punny list on Chowhound, and a not-very-special-diet-friendly set of menus on Epicurious.)

I don’t have a full menu plan for you either, but I do have what I’m sure you’ve been anticipating as eagerly as those incredibly overengineered and overpriced envelopes: the first annual Academy Award for Best Gluten-Free Picture.

The award, of course, recognizes the film best suited to being stuffed full of celiac in-jokes in a parody on my blog. It’s an honor few filmmakers will receive in the course of their career, primarily because I don’t watch enough movies.

The nominees, coincidentally, are identical to the Best Picture nominees. Cue the elaborate montage sequence, and let’s take a look. [Note: Light spoilers throughout.]


American Hustle and The Wolf of Wall Street, so far as I can tell from trailers, are the exact same movie. The lead characters in each would likely find their glitzy lifestyles somewhat curtailed by a celiac diagnosis. In other news, Jennifer Lawrence—nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her work in American Hustle—probably doesn’t have celiac disease, because her upper-intestine endoscopy came back clear, but she does get an award for being the celebrity most forthcoming about her bowel issues (with Tyra Banks as a close runner-up).


Gravity doesn’t have much to do with food—though as much as we gluten-free people may complain about our food options, they’re surely better than what astronauts get stuck with—but if you want to escape cross-contamination for good, your options are pretty limited to outer space.


Nebraska, I have a feeling, would be much more cheery if the main character had given up alcohol (and gluten) to take care of stomach problems earlier in life. He’d be happy enough to stay in his own state with gluten-free corn aplenty, and most of the movie would probably never have happened. 

[3/1 Edit: I started watching Nebraska last night and realized my skimming of the plot summary put me off track. The father’s not from Nebraka, but rather trying to escape his wheat-growing state of Montana to find refuge in the Cornhusk State. This would make the movie a neater fit for GF Best Picture, except that I disliked it so much I didn’t watch more than twenty minutes.]


Dallas Buyers Club focuses on AIDS, and although heavy, is certainly also “darkly humorous,” which is how I’m convincing myself it’s okay to include it in my roundup. In a GF rendition, Matthew McConaughey’s character would be told he had at least 14,600 days left to live, but 0 gluten left to eat. Facing the food options available to the gluten-free community in the eighties, he just might get involved in a risky scheme to smuggle gluten-free baked goods into the country from more enlightened locales. His desperate celiac fellows would literally eat it up.


Philomena is all about Ireland, and—as I’ve previously discussed—celiac disease is often (wrongly?) associated with the Emerald Isle. AIDS makes an appearance in this movie, too, but I am not about to compare celiac disease to AIDS, even if they are both autoimmune. However, if Phil’s son had turned out to have celiac disease instead, our plucky protagonist would have had a somewhat less exciting human interest story, and the movie a much happier ending.


12 Years a Slave—I haven’t seen this, but I know it’s another sad one. In the one food scene I’ve heard about, the main character Northup eats meat, johnnycake, and blackberries—and since johnnycake is often made entirely of cornmeal, that’s a naturally gluten-free meal. (Epicurious came through with a menu inspired by this scene, though with wheat flour in the johnnycakes. Way to ruin everything.)


Captain Phillips had a pretty tough time during the 2009 hijacking of his ship by Somali pirates. That said, like most things, getting kidnapped by pirates would definitely be even worse with celiac disease. Along with being terrified, wounded, and disoriented, you’d probably have a bad stomachache from the food scraps they gave you.


Her is my favorite for the win. I’ve seen it, for one thing, and for another, it’s obvious that the real reason Theodore and Catherine divorced was food. Theo went gluten-free, Catherine didn’t, and they grew apart. Happens all. The. Time. (All those sad, lonely meals we watch him eat in his living room? My celiac heart totally went out.)

Luckily, computers don’t need to eat, so Theodore was able to skip over the Gluten Free Singles stage of his life and start dating someone who suited him immediately. Yes, yes, I know there’s a scene where Samantha—his “girlfriend”—makes him get a slice of pizza, but come on. She’s an operating system. If anyone knows where to find wheat-free pizza by the slice, it’s her.


And the Oscar goes to . . . you tell me! Which of the Best Picture nominees have you seen, and which was your favorite?

large gold Oscars/Academy Awards statue on truck

This Oscars statue is recovering from a rather bad glutening. Hope he’ll be ready for the festivities.
Photo © Rachel | Flickr

Menuwise, Sprue Jr. and I are leaning towards a black and white theme (as in tuxedos, which make an appearance in several of the nominated films, not to mention in the live audience at the ceremony).

We’ll have chocolate-drizzled popcorn, black bean dip with white chips, white bean dip with black chips, and whatever else the spirit moves us to make—including, possibly, gluten-free black and white cookies a la Lisa Horel’s Nosh on This and my mom. I also really, really want to make these “evil nun” cake pops in honor of Philomena, but sis says they’d be too hard.

Are you hosting or attending a viewing party? What are you making?

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Hoppin’ John, collard greens, gluten-free cornbread, and the luck we make for ourselves

I’m back, and I hope you’re not all “New Year, New You”-ed out, because I’ve still got New Year’s on the brain. Don’t worry, I won’t talk about resolutions. I want to talk about luck.

December 31st is almost inevitably a day of regrets: most of us are proud of some accomplishments and pleased with how some things worked out, but less thrilled about others. It’s a lucky person indeed who can look back at an entire year with approval.

I, for example, am happy I started and kept up a blog, but I wish I’d written more fiction. I did some fun stuff, including in the celiac community, but I ought to have taken advantage of more of the cultural opportunities New York has to offer. I’m glad I got celiac figured out, but I probably should have made time to go to the dentist. You get the idea.

January 1st is a day to put behind us all the failures and disappointments of the previous year, and, perhaps, the previous night. New Year’s Eve is among the most hyped holidays of the year, but I find it’s usually a letdown.

Angostura bitters and Dominos sugar cubes

Not pictured: the bubbly, which is gone. By the way, if you like trivia, the reason the Angostura label is too big for the bottle is explained here.

This year, it started off well with “classic champagne cocktails” (sugar cubes, Angostura bitters, and lots of bubbly) at a friend’s home, but it ended at a “warehouse party” in Brooklyn that got shut down by the fire department at 11:37 (cruel), watching the ball drop on TV in a random bar, and leaving just past midnight to trek home on the train with only Butterfingers for consolation.

After that, I was more ready than ever for my customary New Year’s Day celebration. I’m honestly not a superstitious person, despite my love of astrology. But a few years ago, I discovered a list of foods considered lucky to eat on New Year’s Day in various cultures. Though I didn’t grow up eating lucky foods on New Year’s Day, I’m a “make new traditions but keep the old” kind of girl, so I decided to pick up the custom.

This year was, as Sprue Jr. dubbed it, “the third annual traditional down-home Southern New Year’s Day meal cooked by wannabe New Englanders,” consisting of:

  • Hoppin’ John, a black-eyed peas and rice dish, lucky because the beans’ swelling represents prosperity (less lucky because we made ours vegetarian and missed out on the extra luck benefits of pork or ham)
  • braised collard greens, made in the slow cooker with leeks and garlic, lucky because greens are…green…like money
  • cornbread, lucky because it’s gold, like money (sensing a trend?), and extra traditional because Southern-style cornbread includes little to no wheat flour, given its former scarcity in the region
  • grapes and pineapple for dessert, because we got lazy, and because grapes are eaten for luck at midnight in Spain. Plus, pineapple is gold, like cornbread, and money.

We were a bit unlucky with how long the rice took to cook (I still don’t understand why), and our grapes were a bit sour, which apparently is a bad sign. But the meal, though delayed, was overall delicious. I felt lucky to have plenty of food to cook and share, and good friends with whom to enjoy it.

Althea, David, and Alex (friends)

Everyone wore their most festive gray sweaters. (Lucky, because it’s the color of quarters?)

Will it bring us luck for the rest of the year? Maybe. One last good omen is to have leftovers of your Hoppin’ John, which then gets called Skippin’ Jenny. Don’t ask me why—no one even knows why it’s called Hoppin’ John. Leftovers demonstrate frugality, which is sure to increase prosperity (according to tradition, if not to some economists).

Sprue Jr. and I just yesterday polished off the last of the Skippin’ Jenny, so we must be pretty lucky. But, we purposefully made more food than we could eat, in order to have leftovers. So if anything, we made that luck for ourselves.

friend serving herself vegetarian Hoppin' John

Not pictured: the pot of Hoppin’ John, which my food photography talents are not equal to portraying in a decent way.

In my opinion, it’s often that way, with luck. As the owner of a chronic disease, I won’t say that there’s no such thing as bad luck. But I do think we can, at least sometimes, set ourselves up for “lucky” things to happen. (And many psychologists agree!)

I felt unlucky after my party was a bust, with not so much as a refund of the tickets (thanks, Rubulad). But the night might’ve gone better if I’d settled my plans sooner and nabbed tickets to a different, quickly sold-out, event—or if I’d bounced back more quickly after the party’s premature demise.

Sure, bad things will always happen. But by adjusting plans and perspectives, we can bring ourselves more of the good stuff. It’s too late now to cook a New Year’s Day meal for 2014 (though you should try Hoppin’ John anyway, if you never have), but you can still make sure you have a lucky year. If you’re gluten-free, for example, you can choose wisely when you go out to eat or shop to avoid unlucky glutenings. In any area of life, putting in some effort and putting on a smile might bring us all the luck we need. 

So, a little belatedly, here’s to 2014. May it bring you good luck, good food, and good times—and may you help make darn sure it does.

Do you agree that we make our own luck? Do you celebrate New Year’s Day or Eve with traditional foods? And did you make any resolutions this year?

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