Tag Archives: NFCA

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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Have yourself a non-awkward little gluten-free Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, and Christmas

Holidays are beautiful. They’re a chance for people to come together, set aside their everyday concerns, celebrate the passage of time, stuff themselves silly, and play a lot of board games (at least, that’s what I like to do at the holidays). They’re full of traditions, generosity, outpourings of love, and other great stuff.

But they can also be awkward. Even if you love and get along with the folks with whom you celebrate—as I do—there’s plenty of room for a little holiday tension. Stuff like:

  • Your date to the office party ditches you to hang out with your coworkers.
  • The dinner conversation turns to your future offspring’s religion.
  • The traditional pudding the vegetarians just ate turns out to contain suet.
  • Your entire extended family finds out you’ll be prepping for a colonoscopy the following week.

No, I’m not speaking from personal experience.

Pretty cool! Till you learn what's in it. Photo © Steve Johnson | Flickr

Pretty cool! Till you learn what’s in it.
Photo © Steve Johnson | Flickr

Food restrictions make holidays more awkward. It’s hard to confidently strike the balance between ensuring enough of your needs are met that you don’t pass out in the buffet line (and maybe even have fun), and not making those needs the focal point of everyone’s attention for the whole party. The perfect balancing point differs depending on who you are, who you’re spending your holiday with, and how you celebrate it. I can’t tell you where yours is, and, more’s the pity, you can’t tell me where mine is. We all just have to struggle our way through it, fingers crossed and awkwardness accepted.

But to tell the truth, I don’t feel too nervous about my first-ever gluten-free Thanksgiving and Christmas (and first-and-only-ever Thanksgivukkah*—GF or not, I don’t think any of us will live to see the next one).

That’s because, for one thing, it’s not my first family get-together since celiac disease (this was), or my first holiday season with “dietary issues.” For a couple, I’ve been vegetarian; for one miserable Thanksgiving, I considered myself “severely fructose intolerant” (to the point of eating almost nothing but meat, potatoes, rice, and spinach); and last December, well before my celiac tests, I found myself asking, “Can we sub in buckwheat groats for a low-FODMAP option?”

It’s also because I have an understanding family, and because I’ve started discussing the holidays with them already. Now, I know I said that I can’t show you your perfect balance point, but if I could offer you one piece of advice, it’s this: start looking for it early.

NFCA gluten-free holiday tip of the day

The NFCA is posting a daily tip, like this one from ME, throughout the holiday season. They can all be found here.
Image © National Foundation for Celiac Awareness

This is advice I need to learn to take, myself. I’m prone to putting off conversations that I anticipate will be awkward. It’s a bad habit, because inevitably, the putting-off makes the conversation more awkward when it finally happens. If you’ve ever waited until the last possible second to break up with someone, or fess up to a mistake you made, or ask for a day off, I’m sure you know what I mean.

Even if you’ve done this a million times and are totally comfortable both with your food restrictions and with the folks who will be carving your turkey, it’s still worth checking in with them now. Think about it: If you wait to discuss bringing a special dish until your host has already drawn up the oven schedule for the side dishes, they’re not going to feel very grateful. And Christmas Eve is not the time to heave a sigh and wish that someone had adapted that family sugar cookie recipe. Even if you’re not a planner, now is definitely the time.

Have the awkward conversations now, so you can enjoy yourself later. And if things still get awkward, remember that, after all, holidays aren’t really about the food. They’re about the board games.

Christmas Scrabble game

Bingo.
Photo © Mart | Flickr

Have you started preparing for the holidays? Are you hosting or guesting? And if you’ve been through this wonderful, awkward season of joy with food restrictions before, will you be doing anything differently this year?

*My family is as gentile as they come, but we’ve always celebrated Hanukkah. Why not? Mom likes lighting candles, Dad likes making latkes, and we all like playing dreidel. When it comes to holidays, I say gimel.

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Ain’t no party like a celiac party

In fact, the only thing that beats a celiac party is THREE celiac events, back to back, like the recent and upcoming ones I’m about to describe. Am I right, or am I right?

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First, for everyone who’s been wondering whether our gluten-free paper mâché piñata held together…the answer is YES. Cornstarch + water pretty much = glue. It’s kind of gross.

Want to make your own? We used this recipe, and it couldn’t be simpler. A few tips, though:

  1. The recipe calls for boiling water, so be careful of tender little hands if you have kiddie helpers (not that you have to; as we can attest, it’s fun at any age).
  2. You’ll need to let the first layer dry a couple days before adding another, so start early.
  3. Paper is stronger than you think, so don’t add a billion layers unless you and your guests have a lot of rage to work out.
  4. We used to paint the shells when we made piñatas with our mom, but this time we glued streamers all over it and called it a day. How you decorate is up to you, but if you really want a gluten-free piñata, pick a GF paint.
Pinterest-worthy, no?

Pinterest-worthy, no?

For fear of it breaking too soon, we were overzealous in our double- and triple-layering, and the piñata ended up a bit too structurally sound. Instead of breaking, after many whacks it came loose from the ceiling, fell to the floor, and still didn’t break. Althea had to go Super Saiyan on it until it finally made like Humpty Dumpty and splat. (Yes, I feel those references belong in a sentence together.)

Our friends were way too cool/sober to rush for the gluten-free, nut-free candy once it hit the ground, though they did eventually saunter over to pick through it. (Tootsie Rolls, Starbursts, and Skittles, if you’re wondering, along with some shockingly good caramel apple lollipops, also in the Tootsie family, in green apple, Golden Delicious, and Macintosh flavors.)

No one filled up their goodie bags (who do they think they are? Grownups?), so we have lots left to give away to trick-or-treaters. We’ve hidden it from ourselves to help it last till Halloween. Do you give out treats at Halloween? Have you bought your stash already, and do you have to hide it from yourself, too?

I had my goodie bag at the ready, going up for my turn (with the mop handle bat).

I had my goodie bag ready, sure I’d bring the candy down on my turn…


...but then did not manage to hit the thing at all.

…but did not manage to hit the thing at all.

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Tonight Althea and I will be heading to another gluten-free party. If you’re in New York City, I hope to see you there! Tickets will be sold at the door for $30, cash or credit, and it’s for a good cause: a fundraiser for the Celiac Disease Center at the University of Chicago.
More details are available HERE, but most importantly, the event includes:

The organizers are clearly out to prove that, contrary to popular opinion and T-shirts, fun hasn’t died yet at the U of C. Perhaps it was the gluten-free diet.

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Finally, next Tuesday, I’m participating in another exciting event: a luncheon at Mehtaphor, part of NFCA’s GREAT Kitchens 10-City Chefs Table Tour. There I’ll learn about—and report on—what top chefs like Jehangir Mehta are doing to extend a hand to the gluten-free community.

Given that I’ve had restaurant training on the brain, I have some questions about GREAT I hope to ask. If there’s anything you’d like to know, let me know.

Chef Mehta is also serving up a gluten-free prix fixe menu on Wednesday, October 23rd, open to the public, so make a reservation through the Mehtaphor website if you’d like a taste.

Will you be attending the party or reserving a table at Mehtaphor? Any other exciting GF events coming up on your horizon?

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