Tag Archives: birthday

The big 6

On Monday, July 29th, I intended to write about a momentous milestone in my life. But I wasn’t sure what to say that I haven’t said already before.

Finally, at the end of the day, feeling the need to mark the date, I went with, in the manner of all aspiring and procrastinating writers today, a Tweet: “As of today I’ve been gluten-free for 6 months. That calls for cake.”

If you’re into brevity, you might want to stop there. (But if that’s the case, I’m not sure why you put up with my blog in general.)

In response to my proclamation, probably picking up on the mention of cake, one Twitter buddy asked me if I ever cheat. We’ll come back to that one.

Another response came from Wendy of Palm Trees and Gluten Free, who wrote to congratulate me. She said, “It’s amazing how that date becomes as important as a birthday!”

I hadn’t thought of it that way, but it’s true. As on a birthday, I had that uneasy sense that I should feel different but don’t. Despite the importance we give to the occasion, a birthday usually doesn’t, in itself, represent a step forward. Sure, a few do grant you special privileges, like your 21st or 18th or 13th (if your parents truly didn’t allow PG-13 movies before then, that is). But by now, the majority of that kind of birthday is already behind me.

Instead, I’ve entered into that vast, undifferentiated stretch of road called adulthood, where birthdays are just markers of another year’s worth of life experience, thought of so rarely that I often can’t remember how old I am right away when asked. A birthday just means another year has passed. Not all at once, but second by second by second until 31,556,926 have fled.

Similarly, although six months’ worth of gluten freedom is a milestone of sorts, there was no reason to think that on the morning of July 29th I would wake up a changed person. Any change between the 28th and the 29th would have been so incremental as to be unremarkable. What’s important is the accumulation of improvements (however piddling) and experience over the course of those six months. Just like a birthday, this day meant no more than that I had made it a certain unknown percentage of the way through my gluten-free life.

As with a birthday, the amount of time the 29th marked seems simultaneously much shorter and much longer than it had really been. Shorter because, as has been observed again and again by writers more eloquent than I, it is in the nature of time to appear shorter when viewed backward than forward.

Longer because January 29th, the day of my official celiac diagnosis, wasn’t the first time I ditched wheat, barley, and rye. Almost three years before, I’d experimented with a diet low in pretty much everything thought to be tough on the gut (that’d be FODMAPs, and includes wheat, rye, and barley); I’d dabbled in “low-gluten” eating (which is basically a joke); and I’d done a whole-hog six-week gluten-free diet trial half a year before. Although it’s been six months of celiac-induced GFdom, gluten has been on my mind for longer.

Also because it’s been an intense six months. “I’m not sick because I’m stressed; I’m stressed because I’m sick”—how many times have I made that response? I still think it’s true, but it turns out not to be true that a diagnosis and prescription could take my stress away (hum that to the tune of the Berlin song). The certainty has eased some worries but added others: that the healing isn’t moving fast or far enough, that XY, or Z might have gluten in it, that I’m driving everyone crazy by talking about it all the time.

In honor of this date, I originally thought I might reveal all of my celiac symptoms on this blog (which you may or may not have noticed I’ve been quiet about, even as I bemoan our collective inability to talk about some of them). This wasn’t because you likely have any desire to know them but because I felt it would be terribly satisfying to cross off all those that had gone away.

But, after the sixth month, the truth is that few of what I believe to be celiac symptoms have actually resolved themselves. The gastro stuff is getting better, a little, but I still don’t know if the rest even are celiac symptoms. All I’ve gotten so far are “maybe”s and “we’ll see”s. To list what remains would be to jinx it.

So instead, dear readers, on this belated half-anniversary of my gluten-free rebirth, I leave you with only a promise: that six months, or twelve, or eighteen, or however many it takes from now, I will have crossed off more of that list. That I will not again succumb to the kind of complacency about my own well being that led to three years without a diagnosis. That I will beat this thing.

And—to answer my friend on Twitter—that no matter how long it takes, and how long it seems to take, under no circumstances and for no reason will I ever “cheat.”

Not even for cake.

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A tale of two cakes

Recently I attended a party. You might imagine from the post’s title that it was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, etc…but actually, it was a pretty darned good gluten-free time all around, heavy on the wisdom and light on the foolishness.

The party in question was in celebration of my sister’s graduation and, secondarily, my twenty-fourth birthday. At such occasions where just one gluten-free eater is present, said eater might count him or herself lucky to have a quarantined corner of gluten-free snacks, or to be allowed to bring his or her own food. At this occasion, though, the hosts—my parents—went all out creating an entirely gluten-free spread, complete with TWO cakes.

Cutting the Cakes

No, not one gluten-y graduation cake for Althea and a separate gluten-free birthday cake for me, but two gluten-free layer cakes made from King Arthur Flour gluten-free yellow cake mixes (and KAF cake enhancer). Since we didn’t do a taste test of one cake with the enhancer and one without, I don’t know how critical this ingredient was, but I can tell you that both cakes tasted and felt just like they should: like cake.

They were both vanilla, one with buttercream and M&Ms, and one with a cornstarch-based pudding filling and a dark chocolate ganache: a classic Boston Cream Pie gone oh-so-gluten-free. Just what I wanted! (My cake looks like it’s about to tip over in the photo, but I assure you that I cut the entire thing without the top sliding off—a feat that I undertook in grave doubt at my ability to achieve.)

We also tried the King Arthur Flour gluten-free cookie mix. Although we added lots and lots of chocolate chips, the consensus was these weren’t quite as impressive as the cakes. They were best right out of the oven, which is when I tried them, but I’ve been informed that as they cooled they became a bit crumbly and that they had an odd aftertaste. I’ve noticed an aftertaste in many gluten-free desserts I’ve tried and, after struggling to pinpoint its origin, I now blame the tapioca starch, which a gluten-free cookbook author I work with told me can have a metallic taste, depending on its source. Have you noticed a metallic aftertaste in your GF goodies? Do you blame the tapioca?

KAF Cookies

I started with dessert because it’s always the most important thing, but let’s pause for a moment to discuss the second most important thing: avoiding cross-contamination. My parents don’t have a gluten-free kitchen, but they did go to great lengths to make food that was safe for their invalid offspring:

  • They wiped down every surface and took all of the silverware out of the cutlery drawer and washed everything, tray included.
  • They bought new mixing and serving bowls, spoons, spatulas, knives and cutting boards, measuring cups, and more.
  • They used disposable foil cake pans and killed thousands of parchment-paper trees covering everything else (the cakes were served on the usual cake stands, but with a layer of parchment paper, just in case).
  • Everything on the buffet was gluten-free, from the appetizers to the main course to the desserts, and they asked guests not to bring food. This meant I could pick at the buffet like a normal person, rather than worrying about contaminated serving spoons or crumby hands.
  • They explained cross-contamination concerns to many of my family members who weren’t yet aware I had celiac, which was a load off my shoulders. Once in a while, believe it or not, I don’t want to talk about gluten.

My mom has been insisting that when I write this post, I be absolutely ruthless in laying bare all of the things they didn’t do right, but to be honest, I don’t have much to complain about. To appease her, though, here is the run-down:

  • Beer was served, but there’s not a high risk of cross-contamination with that, since it tends to go straight from bottle to gullet.
  • A couple of guests did bring food, but nothing that used gluten ingredients (though I still avoided it in case of cross-contamination).
  • We realized we’d forgotten to get new cooling racks when it came time to take out the cookies, but we made do by setting them on parchment paper over the racks (maybe this contributed to the cookies’ crumbliness).
  • Mom suggested I make a plate of food for myself in advance, just in case, so I’d feel extra comfortable, even though everything would be gluten-free. I didn’t, because I wanted to feel normal. But I probably would have felt even more comfortable if I’d taken her advice. Turns out, Mom does know best.
  • Mom feels guilty for having eaten Twizzlers after the party. But as much as I’ve never cared for Twizzlers myself and never shall now, I know what they mean to her and would never want to take them away from her.

All in all, the party planning gets an A from me.

Along with dessert, we had an array of intriguing gluten-free chips and crackers (Boulder Canyon hummus & sesame chips, Eat Your Vegetables sea salt chips, Wild Riceworks crisps, and tortilla chips), dips and cheese, and a beautiful spread of gluten-free salads, including one brown rice and wild rice salad which was, I think, the first wild rice–based salad I’ve ever really liked.

It was a tasty springtime spread full of great fruits & veggies, nuts, beans, and grains, and many of the guests were surprised to learn such a varied menu could be entirely gluten-free. Mom’s qualms aside, it was a fun, delicious, and—dare I say it—educational gluten-free party.

As for which cake was best? M&Ms are fine, but obviously it was my favorite, the Boston Cream.

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Gluten-Free Astrology: Aries (born March 21 – April 19)

Photo © Jason Hill | Flickr

Photo © Jason Hill | Flickr

Yesterday was the first day of spring, and I totally missed out on marking it. Whoops! To demonstrate my awareness of the passing seasons, particularly at this time of new beginnings, I’m introducing a new monthly feature. That’s right, I’ve decided I’ve been at this Blogging Thing long enough to start having Features. I hope that you’ll find this only as presumptuous as unnecessary capital letters, and not more.

Now, for the preamble: there’s a hypothesis that celiac disease may be more common in those with spring and summer birthdays—especially spring. Yup, April baby showers bring May rice flour. The increased prevalence, so the hypothesis goes, has to do with the time of weaning (and, therefore, first gluten exposure) coinciding with the season of viral infections, which play a role in the development of some autoimmune diseases. For me, this brings a whole new meaning to family planning. If I’m ever in a position to conceive a child, I’ll be sure to do it in the spring. Or raise my child in a bubble, which just might be possible by the time I’m in a position to conceive a child.

But I digress. My point is, date of birth is a important piece of the celiac puzzle. And since we don’t know much of anything at all about non-celiac gluten-sensitivity, I’m happy enough to lump everyone in to the hypothesis and my New Feature. It’s called Gluten-Free Astrology and it will explain what else your date of birth means for your gluten-free status.

Photo © Manuel M. Almeida | Flickr

Aries’s symbol is the ram
Photo © Manuel M. Almeida | Flickr

Aries begins today, March 21st, and extends through April 19th. If your birthday falls in that span, here are my thoughts on what you can expect from the month ahead. (And by “my thoughts,” I of course mean “eternal and incontrovertible message from the stars.”)

The Gluten-Free Aries is ruled by the planet Mars, named for the god of war, aggression, and conflict. As a GF Aries, you likely have a conflicting relationship with your gluten-free diet and often argue with your doctors or yourself and lash out against others who question it.

You are a “me-first” type who should follow your natural impulse this month to put your gluten-free needs front and center in every encounter, whether it be at a friend’s home or at a restaurant, thereby increasing awareness for the rest of us. We will hope that a GF Libra, your polar opposite, comes along shortly thereafter to soothe any hurt feelings you may have caused, thereby increasing good will toward the rest of us.

However, this month you should also strive to overcome your innate tendency to be self-centered. One good way to do this, I’ve heard, is to comment on other people’s blogs, such as mine.

GF Aries stands for new beginningsoptimism, and change. This month, be open to new activities, friends, and channels for your boundless energy. You may find your life takes an unexpected direction (or you may not—this is astrology, after all). Perhaps your inborn desire to take the reins will encourage you to finally open your own business, and if so, I hope that it will be a gluten-free restaurant around the corner from my apartment.

Because of your extravagance, you may find yourself in debt this month of tax-paying, particularly if you’ve been pouring your extra money into that gluten-free restaurant. You’re a creative type who will always find your way out of such a bind, though, so please don’t let that stand in the way of your dreams. (Thai would be nice, or Mexican—hold the flour tortillas.)

The body part ruled by GF Aries is the head, so this month watch for migraines and facial injuries that may signal the start of a renewed battle with gluten.

And, if you’re interested in such things:

Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou

A fellow celebrity with the sun in Aries is Maya Angelou. Though she has no trouble at all with gluten, so far as I’m aware, she’s still a great lady (and I turned up this great post about her from last year on Celiac and Allergy Adventures).

Russell Crowe

Russell Crowe

Russell Crowe is another celeb who apparently does fancy himself a GF Aries—though I think he did it to lose weight, and we all know that man does not lose by gluten-free bread alone. (Plus, the paparazzi caught him carrying a pizza—no, Russ, “thin crust” does not mean gluten-free.) Hey, no one ever said celebrities have to be good role models. (On that note, Hugh Hefner is also an Aries.)

As a GF Aries, you lack patience and therefore have probably not bothered to read to the end of this post. That’s okay, as long as you hit the part about the new restaurant you’re opening for me this month. Just let me know when you’re open—I may be a flighty GF Gemini, but I am committed to bringing my spring-birthday-and-therefore-celiac-having self in once you’ve got it together.

The “information,” such as it is, in this post has been largely ripped off from The Only Astrology Book You’ll Ever Need, by Joanna Martine Woolfolk, which is in fact the only astrology book you’ll ever need (need here being a relative term).

Let me know what you think of my New Feature, and what your sign is so I can get started consulting the stars about your destiny. 

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