Tag Archives: gluten-free food

My new gluten-free NYC apartment: a paean

My new apartment’s wonderful,
though not without its quirks.
We’ve everything we’ll ever need—
assuming that it works.

A fourth-floor walkup—healthy, right?—
ignore the crumbling stairs.
My bedroom is (still) windowless,
but meh—fresh air—who cares?

We’re not in Brooklyn, near our friends,
or even close to work—
and if we don’t get AC soon,
I think I’ll go beserk.

The stovetop and the water tap
don’t get—precisely—hot;
the dishwasher does not get things
as shining as it ought.

The toilet leaks, the ceiling squeaks,
the countertops are few—
but GF ears are thrilled to hear
“appliances are new.”

The neighbors keep the volume pumped
throughout the day and night—
but dinner’s safe, my roomie’s great,
and so I feel all right.

The walls may quake, the tiles break,
the fruit flies come to breed—
but everything is gluten-free,
and that’s all that I need.

*

Since a picture’s worth a thousand words, here are a few. Yes, I was exaggerating for poetic effect (it wouldn’t be a New York apartment without a quirk or several). But I wasn’t kidding about the walkup. Every step of that is real, and my aching GF glutes are proof.

A messy workspace, just for us—with wooden spoons that it's okay to have because all the meals are gluten-free! And yes, that's a dishwasher, beloved of the neurotic and the gluten-phoboic, and a washer-dryer, which has nothing to do with gluten but is awesome.

A messy workspace, just for us—with wooden spoons that it’s okay to have because all the food in the house is gluten-free! And yes, that’s a dishwasher, beloved of the neurotic and the gluten-phoboic, and a washer-dryer, which has nothing to do with gluten but is awesome.

This is the pantry of someone who buys Chex by the carton. Not to mention bulk coffee (yes, I'm hooked again).

This is the pantry of someone who buys Chex by the carton. Not to mention bulk coffee (yes, I’m hooked again).

This is the beautiful, comfortable, more-expensive-than-anything-I'll-ever-be-able-to-afford-on-a-book-publishing-salary designer couch that I inherited when my office reorganized—and that my poor dad and coworker wrestled all the way up four flights of stairs only to find it was too large to fit through the hallway. It went home to Brooklyn in exchange for my old roommate's Ikea couch. Luckily tears are gluten-free, though I'm not sure crow is safe to eat.

This is the beautiful, comfortable, more-expensive-than-anything-I’ll-ever-be-able-to-afford-on-a-book-publishing-salary designer couch that I inherited when my office got reorganized—and that my poor dad and a helpful acquaintance wrestled all the way up four flights of stairs only to find it was in fact too large to fit through the hallway and into the door. It went home to Brooklyn in exchange for my former roommate’s Ikea couch. Luckily tears are gluten-free, though I’m not sure about all the crow I ate.

*

To those who sympathized when I bemoaned my loss of mess or worried that I’d be homeless right about now, thanks for the support. Maybe there’s a gluten-free dinner party in our future.

To those in New York:

a) You feel me on the quirks, right?
b) I’ve still got a whole bunch of tickets to give away to the Celebrate Celiac event this Saturday, so leave me a comment on my last post if you’d like to go, and I’ll get your name on the list. Until then, hope you’re holed up somewhere with an AC unit on high.

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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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Not enough celiac awareness? I’ve got plenty.

So we’ve come to Celiac Awareness Month. I’m excited for all of the special features and extra blogging everyone will be doing this month, and maybe I’ll even get out to an event or two in the real world. But for myself, I’m mostly going to keep doing as I’ve been doing. Because I’m already celiac-aware. Celiac-hyperaware, you might say. If you split open my skull to check, my brain might look something like this:

celiac_aware_brain

Okay, maybe with a little less space for spatial awareness. But you get the picture.

Point is, I already devote a lot of gray matter every day to thinking about, talking about, writing about, obsessing about celiac disease. If I could only remove tiny hunks of my brain tissue and implant them in other people’s brains to repopulate their awarenesses, then they could think a bit more about it, I could think a bit less about it (and more about my novel), and we’d have ourselves a healthy celiac awareness ecosystem. Like a fecal transplant!

In a small way, that’s what I’m trying to do with this blog. (The awareness transplant, not the fecal kind.) Although, let’s be honest here, most of you are pretty darn celiac-aware already.

When I learned I had celiac disease, I started from a point of heightened awareness. I’d been researching food-related illnesses for some time—call it a hobby—and in my professional life I worked (and still do) with gluten-free cookbooks. I also reaped the benefits of living in a place and time that is in fact more celiac-aware (or at least gluten-aware) than ever before.

But I definitely became more aware once I had it myself. I started this blog, I saw celiac symptoms in everyone I knew, I began musing on grandiose ideas like hosting gluten-free speed-dating events or providing gluten- and allergy-free birthday cakes to kids whose parents can’t afford them. So far, these ideas have foundered on the shoals of logistics. If you live in New York and want to talk about any of them, please get in touch!

Although I’m enjoying this blog and being a part of the smart, supportive, friendly community here on the internet, I’ve struggled with this. Given that I have celiac disease and I think a lot about celiac disease, I feel vulnerable to the claim it’s “self-indulgence” more than “celiac awareness” that fills my brain. I feel guilty.

For example, when I wrote about the connection between hunger and celiac disease, I looked into how one could donate gluten-free food. But then I thought, where was I before I knew I had celiac disease? And even setting that aside, where have I been in general? The hurricane that wiped out huge portions of the New York metro area happened months ago, and no doubt the best time to begin contributing would have been in October.

Plus, hunger was of course a fact long before that, a systemic problem affecting an enormous population nearby me and worldwide. I knew that well before the fall of 2012. Why haven’t I been better about contributing to the solution? Why has it taken me having a problem to want to help others? And why is the idea of donating Rice Chex so much more appealing to me than the idea of donating money to a general fund for the hungry?

Then I get cynical. I wonder, does every celiac disease advocate have celiac disease? Are all food allergy advocates people who have, or whose family members have, food allergies? Are all antiracism activists all people who have experienced racism? Are all GLBTQ activists GLBTQ? Are all feminist activists women?

Is all activism selfish?

Are we all too wrapped up in ourselves to get involved in helping people whose concerns are foreign to us? And is a disabled person who spends his life advocating for disability awareness less noble than an abled person who does it?

I believe the answer to all of these is no. There are people who advocate for others almost reflexively, whether or not there’s a personal connection. There are entire industries built around nonprofits and public service that allow many, many people to work or volunteer in support of awareness or advocacy campaigns of all kinds.

And furthermore, I don’t think activism is really cheapened by being beneficial to its advocates. If someone spends a lifetime advocating for the rights and happiness of a population to which he happens to belong, is that so bad? Plenty of other people are part of the same population, and not doing much to help it or any other group.

A life of service is a good life. Sacrifice and selflessness can support a life of service—but only to a point. If you feel unconnected to your work, you’re more susceptible to burnout. And if you have the impulse to help but allow yourself to be stymied by regret that you didn’t help enough before, or aren’t helping enough people, or aren’t helping for the right reasons, then you won’t end up being helpful at all.

Part of any awareness campaign must be an awareness of just how many things there are to be aware of. There are good and bad causes, selfish and selfless concerns competing for everyone’s attention at every moment. By focusing our energy on one concern, we’re setting aside others.

I aspire to be aware of suffering, injustice, and inequality, broadly speaking. I hope that my daily words and actions demonstrate this, and when they don’t, I hope to be called on it so I can do better. I hope that as my life evolves and settles, I find the time and the energy to help more people more than I do now. And in the meantime, I’ll strive to be self-aware about my own divided awareness.

That said, bring on the Bob’s Red Mill giveaways. I’m ready.

Happy Celiac Awareness Month, folks.

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