Tag Archives: buckwheat

Discovering “new worlds” of gluten-free

Embarrassing story time. You know the rhyme, “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue”? Well, I used to think it went, “In 141892…” Yup. That halcyon year 141892.

I have no idea what first put this wildly inaccurate detail into my head, but I suppose I felt the line scanned better that way. Even though I learned and relearned about Columbus every year through at least seventh grade, I managed to persist in the error until I was…well…too old. I just never gave it much thought.

Christopher Columbus statue

Boldly going where tons of people have gone before

Though it was dumb of me, it’s sort of appropriate, given that blithely perpetuated errors are the stuff of the education American kids receive about Christopher Columbus.

We learn he discovered America, but people already lived there and other sailors before him had stumbled on its shores. Plus, Columbus himself never admitted to discovering a “new” continent. He just called it India. Many of us also learned that Columbus was the first to suggest the world was round, when in fact educated folks of his time already knew it was. And he stands accused of many other things left out of the standard elementary school curriculum. When you really examine the Columbus story, there’s much that isn’t right.

Still, anyone who gives you a day off is a little bit of a hero. So in honor of Columbus Day—and rethinking things we’ve never thought through—here’s a list of a few discoveries I made while in search of something else entirely.

Went looking for onion rings and instead I found…bhaji

Bhaji are onion or vegetable fritters coated in my favorite ingredient ever—chickpea flour. You can fry or bake them, then dip in cucumber-mint-yogurt raita. You’ll forget you were ever looking for onion rings.

Went looking for cornbread and instead I found…arepas and pupusas

Folks who only ever order tacos are missing out on a whole world of corn patties. Some of the biggest producers of corn masa—such as Maseca—are now certified gluten-free, so you can enjoy safely (except perhaps where your arteries are concerned).

Went looking for “barley” and instead I found…buckwheat

You can buy whole buckwheat groats in bulk and make them into stir-fries, burgers, breakfast cereal, risotto, and deep-fried risotto balls (which I can attest are amazing). Buckwheat is so not just for crepes. Speaking of which…

Went looking for crepes and instead I found…dosas

Though you’ll have to hunt a bit to find the right ingredients to make these at home, dosas should usually be gluten-free (with the exception of cross-contamination). If you like crepes, Indian food, potatoes, and enormous portion sizes (and who doesn’t?), you’ll love these.

Went looking for pizza and instead I found…socca

You know about my love of socca already, but I had to include it, since it’s my greatest discovery of all time.

Have you tried any of these? Which do you like best?

I was not the first to discover these foods; people across the country and around the world kindly posted the recipes online, and others have eaten them for many years before I was around to Google them. I “discovered” these naturally gluten-free, not-meant-to-imitate-anything meals while intending to find something else.

The foods on this list aren’t what I originally went looking for—maybe just on the same latitude—but I’m glad I found them, and I look forward to charting ever-new terrain on my gluten-free journey.

Desserts, for example. When it comes to gluten-free flour blends, thar be dragons. When I quit skirting the shores (and clutching my King Arthur Flour mixes), I’m sure I’ll find all kinds of things I never intended to look for. Doing so may never get a holiday named for me, or a rhyme for kids to mess up when they recite it in 141892, but it’ll sure be fun.

Did you ever have silly misconceptions like my futuristic-Columbus invention? What naturally gluten-free foods have you discovered when you went searching for recipes for something else?

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Why I Celebrate Celiac, and you should, too (plus: giveaway!)

In my last entry, I asked how I should celebrate my newly low antibodies. (The response was nearly unanimously in favor of alcohol—but I’ve kept my perch on the wagon for now, thanks very much.) This post is about celebrating something just a little different: celiac, itself.

When I got my first-ever celiac bloodwork results back in January and started sharing the news (one relative or friend at a time, shyly, haltingly—prior to my Internet-overshare era), the reactions were generally positive, along the lines of:

“I hope that’s it, so you’ll have an answer,”
or, “Awesome, you’ll finally feel better now!”
or, “Just wheat, rye, and barley? That doesn’t sound so bad.”

Then I’d start rambling about cross-contamination, and strict diet for life, and six months to two years to feel better, and I watched the faces slip and fall. The replies changed to:

“Maybe I don’t hope you have it after all,”
and, “Oh my god, I’m so sorry,”
and, “That’s terrible.”

Which is correct?

Well…obviously the best, most celebration-worthy thing would have been to never get sick in the first place (or—if you believe those insufferable “no sunshine without rain” folks—to get sick, be miraculously cured, and live the rest of my life with a renewed appreciation of my own good health). Being sick is not, you know, preferred.

But, as a second choice, a disease with a relatively foolproof cure—even an excruciatingly slow-motion, longterm cure—is way, way better than a disease or syndrome with no known cure. As long as I’m a good little gluten-free girl, my health is (knock on wood) far more likely to improve than worsen. That’s something to celebrate.

Of course, since I’m not feeling tiptop yet, it can be tough to get my celebratory feelings going. For inspiration, I can always visit the smart and often funny posts around the blogosphere on the “good side” of celiac (like this one, this one, and this one). If you’ll indulge me in jumping on the bandwagon, though, here are the top three tangible things I celebrate about celiac:

1) Community. I know everyone has said it already, but that’s because it’s true. The online celiac and gluten-free community is super supportive and full of passionate, intelligent, interesting voices. As a resident of New York City, land of “hate thy neighbor” and “not here to make friends,” I sometimes feel a bit community-spirit-starved. Sharing my thoughts and hearing all of yours is a real treat.

2) New adventures. This blog, the gluten-free grocery aisle, fascinating followup tests…all previously uncharted territory, all kinda neat. (Yes, even the tests. Spending a morning blowing into a balloon every twenty minutes to measure gut bacteria is something that everyone should experience at least once, preferably preceded by fasting.) If I hadn’t gotten celiac disease, there’s a strong possibility I would still have no idea that buckwheat groats are, like, the best grainlike substance ever. I would also probably not have a bag of xanthan gum in my pantry, as I do now (albeit, I must shamefacedly confess, an unopened one).

3) Savings. What? Gluten-free food is expensive? Okay, yes, some of it is. I too have had those six-dollar mini-muffins and air-filled bags of chips. But you know what else is expensive? Eating out in New York. And you know who doesn’t do that? Baby celiacs. This is why my student loan collectors also celebrate celiac.

Add all that to the prospect of—any day now, fingers crossed—my fully restored health and vigor, and you’ve got yourself something to, at the very least, tolerate and, on a good day, celebrate. But how (besides the obvious, you buncha lushes) to celebrate?

That’s easy. Come to the New York City Celebrate Celiac event! Hosted by Gluten Free Calendar, it’s happening on Saturday, July 13th, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., at the Affinia Manhattan Hotel in Astor Hall. I’ll be there to meet any of you who can make it, and I’ll be unveiling some fun new blog-related stuff while I’m at it. Here’s some extra info on the event at the NYC Celiac Meetup page. If you live in the area, mosey on down for performances, activities, vendors, collective effervescence, and, most importantly, my autograph.

Kidding! But I really would love to say hi face to face. That’s why I’m pleased to be giving away 10 tickets to the event. At $5 a pop (or $4, if you buy online here), they’re pretty affordable as is, but if you, like me, have been blowing through your I-don’t-eat-out-at-restaurants-anymore fund, every little bit helps. And, hey, that’s five more dollars you can spend on merch. Not that that’s what blogging’s all about.

To win a ticket, just comment on this post letting me know what you celebrate (or what you don’t celebrate, if you insist on being mopey) about celiac. Considering the scant probability of my having more than ten readers in the New York metro area, you probably won’t face stiff competition, but you’re still welcome to follow me and share the giveaway on Twitter to get extra entries and to celebrate our community here in the Big Gluten-Free Apple (don’t forget to include @spruestory so I’ll know).

For everyone outside of the area who’s read to the end of this post, I hope you’ll still join me, virtually, in celebrating celiac…if only because things could be a whole lot worse.

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Dispatches from Bob’s

Remember the $50 gift card I received from the best parents in the world? No? You don’t? Why doesn’t anybody pay as much attention to the minutiae of my life as I do?

Anyway, Mom and Dad sent me a gift card (along with the infamous baking mixes) to help me restock my gluten-bare cupboards, and I put together an order in record time. When my box arrived, it was a time of great anticipation and anxiety. I’d switched out items in my cart so many times—trying to get the total as close to $50 without going over, agonizingly making my way down from $53.78 to $51.12 to $50.03 (“Come on! Can’t I get a break on the pennies?”)—that I couldn’t recall what I wound up ordering.

Here’s me opening my box:

Photo on 2-28-13 at 1.59 PM

Yes, that’s how I look on Christmas day, too. Except with even worse bedhead, if you can believe it. And yes, I took these pictures at work. Hey, you take your lunch break your way, I’ll take mine my way.

Even though I picked all of the items myself, I still felt the packing list read like the contents of an interplanetary dispatch from Mars:

Organic raw buckwheat groats
Organic amaranth grain
Flaxseed meal
Xanthan gum
GF mighty tasty hot cereal
TVP (textured veg protein)

I guess that’s what comes of being not only intestinally challenged but also a wannabe-gan.

The buckwheat groats, which I’d never seen raw before, did not look anywhere near as appealing as that buckwheat pilaf from Quintessence I had in mind when I ordered them. But, you know, I’ll make it work. You will never, ever see those pictures, though, because a) the only camera I have access to is the one on my computer at work, and b) buckwheat groats pilaf is just one of those things that tastes better than it either looks or sounds.

After taking the totally candid photo above and setting aside pesky questions like, “What the heck was I planning to do with 16 ounces of flaxseed meal?,” I moved on to more important ones like, “Are packing peanuts gluten-free?”

Photo on 2-28-13 at 2.04 PM #5

I sure hope so!

By the way, the nice folks at Bob’s recalculated my shipping after I placed the order and the total plummeted to $47.08. Darn! I could’ve bought the teff flour after all. Or even more flaxseed. Anyway, the total might as well have stayed where it was, because I will never, ever remember to use that $2.92 on a future order.

Are you an online/bulk orderer? Where do you buy your gluten-free Martian ingredients? And what the heck am I going to do with all that flaxseed?

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