Tag Archives: education

April Fools! 6 Gluten-Free Pranks to Play Today

I’ll be back soon with more absences of answers to ever-present questions about celiac disease and other gluten-related disorders, but I thought I’d take a break for April Fools Day.

This day last year, I convinced a few people that Dunkin Donuts would be going all gluten-free by 2015 (sorry!). Between then and now, the chain announced that, although it wouldn’t be dropping wheat from its pastries entirely, as I’d “predicted,” it would introduce wheat-free goods to every store nationwide in 2013.

The gluten-free community got pretty excited about that. But sadly, the joke was on us: Dunkin Donuts reversed the decision months later, with little explanation, before I even got to try one of those shrink-wrapped muffins. A lot of people were disappointed, and truth be told, I felt a bit responsible, as though I’d jinxed it. So this year, none o’ that.

However, superstition aside, there’s no reason not to get what laughs we can out of our chronic disease. If you haven’t yet decided what jokes to make today, here are a few you could try:

“Guess what! I don’t have celiac disease after all.”

Just as it’s good to have an all-purpose GF flour blend (if such a thing really exists), a good all-purpose trick comes in handy, too. Play this prank on just about anyone. Take it to the next level by whipping out a sandwich (which should of course be made with a reasonably uncrumbly gluten-free bread, unless you’re a truly dedicated prankster) and taking a big bite.

Girl eating sandwich

This “gluten” sure is good!
Photo © Jessie Jacobson | Flickr

“Soooo . . . celiac disease is contagious.”

Said with a bit of a wince and an “oopsie” expression, this is handy for that annoying coworker who’s always sticking his gluteny hands into your gluten-free snacks. To kick it up a notch, come up to him later, stare intently at his elbow, and when he asks what you’re doing, say, “Oh, I thought I saw some dermatitis herpetiformis. It’s probably nothing, though.”

“Bad news. They just found out potatoes contain gluten.”

This joke has limited utility. Most people with celiac won’t believe it; most non-celiac people already do.

Mr. Potato Head and family

Personified potatoes: Creepy? Yes. Glutenous? No.
Photo © Jeremy Page | Flickr

“I’m going back to school to become a [dietitian/gastroenterologist/celiac disease researcher].”

This is another good one to use at work, though probably not on your boss. If your parents are still paying off loans from your undergraduate English degree, maybe you’d like to try it on them, too. To really go for it, forge a letter of acceptance to display to the skeptics.

“Turns out, gluten is bad for everyone.”

Several savvy authors have made a killing off of this classic, so why not get in on the fun? Arm yourself with statistics and direct your chosen fool to the library to learn more. If it’s in a book, it must be true.

girl eating bread and yelling

Breeeaaddddd. It’s coming for you!
Photo © Eltjo Poort

“Hey, did you hear about that new gluten-free and vegetarian restaurant opening in Washington Heights next month?”

That’s not funny.

gluten-free restaurants in New York - Gluten-Free Fun map

See this map of gluten-free-friendly NYC establishments created by Erin of Gluten-Free Fun (interactive version here)? Cool, right? See how many are north of Central Park? …yep. But hey, it’s home.

Happy April Fools Day! Hope the jokes are on everyone else and not on you.

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Test your gluten-free knowledge! (A National Foundation for Celiac Awareness campaign)

As I’ve said before, despite or because of being an SAT tutor, I’m not really into standardized tests. Still, some (like the Patient Autonomy Test!) are genuinely useful assessments.

In 2012, the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) tested the gluten-free knowledge of foodservice professionals attending a National Restaurant Association Show. According to this report, the results were abysmal. Under 50 percent of the restaurant pros could name a single gluten-containing grain other than wheat. That’s one test I wish chefs (and waiters, too) would invest a little time and energy prepping for.

Since you’re reading this blog, I’m willing to bet you can name more than one gluten-containing grain. But how much do you really know about gluten and its related disorders? If you’re brave enough, you can find out! The NFCA has come through with another quiz, this time with a different audience in mind: us, and our family and friends.

Rudi’s, everyone’s favorite grilled cheese maker (don’t tell Udi’s) is sponsoring the 10-question quiz and providing 10 gluten-free prize packs to quiz-takers. You get an entry even if you get a couple questions wrong—and you’re sure to learn a thing or two.

Take the quiz here, then challenge a friend to take it, too!

Why take the quiz (besides the prize packs)? To answer that, I look to another campaign by the NFCA, which urges us to “Restore your health. Reclaim your life. Take the pledge.” You can commit to take the pledge here, and it’s really simple: educate, empower, advocate.

At its most basic level, the pledge is about self-preservation. When you get diagnosed with a gluten-related disorder, you have to educate yourself in a whole new way of life, feel empowered to make the right choices for your health, and be willing to advocate for your needs in situations that demand it. (I wrote this as part of a testimonial I provided to the NFCA earlier this year. Read more testimonials here.)

I truly believe that the very most important thing we can do for our health is to learn about it, and after that, to educate others. If we don’t learn all we can about celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, and gluten, how can we expect people like chefs—or even doctors—to bother with it? Cheesy as it is, in the case of GRDs, health does start from within.

So what are you waiting for? Take the quiz, then come back and tell me how you did! I’ve modestly held out until now to say this, by the way, but—woohoo!—I got ’em all right.

As for the prize pack, I wish you some belated St. Patrick’s Day good luck. If you, like me, managed to get celiac disease despite having a 132 out of 133 (or about 99.25%) chance of not getting it, then you probably need some.

National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) Test Your Gluten-Free Knowledge campaign logo

Have you taken the pledge? Does it resonate with you? Do you feel educated and equipped to educate others about the gluten-free diet?

[Disclosure notice: I was offered two free Rudi’s product coupons valued at $10 in return for posting about the campaign. Although I’m looking forward to the grilled cheeses—or maybe giving the coupons away to one of you—I’d have posted about this anyway in accordance with my strict post-about-stuff-that-is-interesting-to-me-at-the-moment-when-I’m-writing-it policy. I was not otherwise compensated.]

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What do you say to celiac disease ignorance?

Do you speak up when someone says something incorrect about gluten sensitivity or celiac disease? (This, by the way, could almost be a question on my celiac disease personality quiz. If you haven’t yet, try it and let me know your result for a chance to win free tickets to or a swag bag from the New York/New Jersey GFAF Expo.)

I generally do. I don’t like the idea of untruths being spread, and I feel party to it if I hold my tongue, especially when I have a personal connection to the subject.

Sometimes, I’m the one who turns out to be wrong. Case in point: last night, I learned that my parents mash their potatoes with an electric mixer, not by hand, as I had been vehemently insisting to my sister. But even then, I don’t usually regret speaking my mind. A little friendly debate is fun.

mashing potatoes with electric mixer

I still think it’s better to hand-mash. Sorry, Mom and Dad.
Photo © Robyn Anderson | Flickr

However, when the other person also feels personally connected to the subject, and isn’t my sister, and we aren’t discussing culinary technique, things can get sticky. A Google search isn’t always sufficient evidence to win such debates, which may escalate into real confrontations.

So, under such circumstances, I sometimes just back off. For example:

Scenario #1: The Fellow Patient

A few months ago, in the waiting room at my doctor’s office, I got to talking with an older gentleman who had been diagnosed for some time.

When I asked how he felt, he shook his head. “Still sick,” he said. “I think I have a parasite.”

I was sympathetic. “I’m not feeling better yet, either.”

“And you’re sticking to the diet 100 percent?” he asked.

“Of course,” I replied.

“You don’t eat out?”

“No,” I replied.

100 percent?” he repeated.

“Yes,” I assured him. “100 percent.”

“Wow,” he said. “I don’t. It’s too hard.”

Seriously?

I wanted to say, “Huh. Maybe you don’t feel sick because you have a parasite. Maybe you just aren’t doing the one thing that is known to cure the disease you have.”

But I hardly knew the guy, and he was many years my elder. Plus, he was about to go in to see the doctor and, hopefully, be told the same thing by her (with better bedside manner).

I might have looked surprised, but otherwise, I kept my thoughts to myself. When I stood, I told him to get well soon.

*

Scenario #2: The Family Member of a Patient

At a barbecue to which I had dutifully brought my own gluten-free three-bean salad, I started talking to some of the other attendees about celiac disease.

One of them said, “My aunt had that…”

I nodded.

“…but she grew out of it,” my interlocutor concluded.

My nod turned sideways. “That’s not actually possible,” I said, slowly.

“Yes, it is. She was gluten-free when she was a baby but now she doesn’t have it anymore.”

“I’m pretty sure you can’t grow out of it…” (By now, I’d already lost: in order to maintain appropriate backyard conversational levity, I was qualifying my response, playing nice, pretending I didn’t know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you can’t “grow out of it.”)

“Yes, you can.” She was as vehement as though we were discussing her own GI tract. “She did.”

I argued a bit more, then shrugged. “Okay,” I acquiesced. “Maybe you’re right.”

I let the conversation turn to other things. I ate my salad.

I moved on.

But did I really? Clearly I’m still thinking about it—about both of the conversations, wondering if I should have spoken up. Maybe I could have dammed one small stream of misinformation, if only I had thought of the right thing to say.

Instead, I reverted to a certain mode of sociability, one I’m not even particularly fond of, whose principles are:

  1. one doesn’t act like a know-it-all
  2. one doesn’t harangue one’s conversation partners
  3. one doesn’t call another’s bluff.

Was this cowardice on my part? Laziness? Did standing aside make me an accessory to the “crime” of spreading ignorance?

Or was it appropriate to just let it go? Am I, after all, responsible for educating people? Even people who aren’t prepared to accept my advice? Don’t I reflect better on myself and the general celiac population by not beating people over the head with my supposed superior knowledge? Don’t I seem less uptight, less nitpicky, less of all those undesirable qualities with which we are too often associated?

I don’t know. I’ve thought about it and thought about it, and, for once, I just don’t know.

What would you have said in these situations? Have you had similar experiences? How did you respond? 

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I’m a gluten-free American Girl, in a nut-allergic Barbie world

When I was a kid, I had an American Girl doll. Samantha, to be precise. (No Molly doll for this Molly.) I loved Samantha dearly.

My parents made clear that I was also to love her carefully: this doll would be the most expensive thing in my personal possession for a very long time, and there would be no trips to the “doll hospital.”

Because of the dolls’ exorbitant price point, my sister (who did, by a twist of fate, have the Molly doll) and I weren’t really supposed to play with them, per se, more like take them out occasionally to gaze upon. And we certainly didn’t have a closet full of accessories.

However, there is in fact a whole world of American Girl extras to discover—a customizable wardrobe to rival that of Barbie. For example, did you know that there’s an allergy-free lunch accessory? It’s true!

The set includes a customizable food allergy bracelet, an EpiPen, and a healthful lunch. It’s adorable and inclusive—a great idea, though pardon me while I make fun of a few things:

Photo © American Girl

Photo © American Girl

1. What is a “sandwich skewer,” and why was that their best idea for a food-allergy-free lunch? Those brown bits look like bread to me, and though it could be wheat-free, it’s unclear. If the lunch was going to include bread anyway, why not a sandwich? If I were a kid already self-conscious about food allergies, the last thing I’d want is a conspicuously different lunch.

2. Why the cloth lunch bag? I suppose it’s safe for those with latex allergies, but a bento box would be, too—not to mention way more stylish.

3. Where’s the dessert? Don’t even pretend to count the “berry smoothie.”

Photo © American Girl

Photo © American Girl

4. In general, it pales in comparison with the “normal” lunch, which boasts a brownie, more fruit than vegetables, a cute “stackable” design, a purple spork, a sandwich cut into the shape of a daisy, and a FOLD-OUT PLACEMAT. Moms and dads, take note. That’s how you say “I love you” with a lunch.

5. The price is crazy (though at least it costs the same as the regular lunch—unrealistically, since safe foods tend to be more expensive, and let’s not get started on the EpiPen, which in real life go for over $200 a two-pack). At $28 per lunch, I would probably tell my future little American girl to just use her imagination.

Then again, that feeling of being a Normal American Girl? Priceless.

Like I said, this idea is adorable and inclusive. However, I would like to state for the record that it’s not really inclusive of the little gluten-free American girls running around out there, most of whom will never lay hands on an EpiPen (and should consider themselves fortunate for it).

I propose that the next $28 add-on be a gluten-free kit, including:

  • packets of wheat-free soy sauce
  • a shrink-wrapped gluten-free cookie with a big honking CERTIFIED symbol on the front
  • a pair of reading glasses, prematurely acquired from squinting at food labels
  • a toaster bag and tongs for tiny gluten-free bread slices
  • & some GlutenTox gluten test kits for those “safe” classroom snacks.

Now doesn’t that sound nice?

What else would you add? How you feel about the idea of food-allergy/gluten-free dolls? Would you buy this toy for a child? What are other ways to help kids understand food restrictions?

By the way, while there is no food-allergy Barbie—that I know of—I did come across an older post on the now-inactive blog No Peanuts Please about a “homemade” peanut- and egg-allergic Barbie. Worth a read, whether you hate Barbie or love her.

Peanut-allergic Barbie is not a vegetarian. Photo © Bugeater | Flickr

Food-allergy Barbie is not a vegetarian.
Photo © Bugeater | Flickr

Of course, what I really loved, more than any accessory and perhaps even more than my doll, were the books…so next week, I plan to post my spin on a celiac American Girl series. In the meantime, I’m taking name suggestions in the comments.

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