Tag Archives: shopping

Wait, wait…don’t gluten me! (I’m talking to you, Trader Joe’s.)

I hope you’re in the mood for some shenanigans. It’s the Friday before a long weekend, which means it’s time for one thing only: limericks about gluten.

In 2011, we learned that 21 percent of young people get most of their news from the Daily Show and Saturday Night Live. Judge that as you will. I myself am among the unreported mass of people who get the majority of their news from podcasts of Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me! Are you?

Who doesn't love this guy?

Who doesn’t love this man?

For me, it means that I’m always at least a week behind and that I occasionally mistake the fake news stories on the show for real news. It also means I have a thing for Carl Kasell.

In Carl’s honor, I hereby introduce to you the first ever installment of Wait, Wait…Don’t Gluten Me! I’ll share three gluten-related tidbits I recently discovered, in limerick form.

Guess the missing word in each and you’ll win my voice on your home answering machine or voicemail. Just kidding—you don’t want that. I don’t even want that.

Here we go:

Limerick #1

There once was a blind brownie test,
the results of which couldn’t be guessed.
Some with gluten, some not,
twenty mixes were bought.
And GF Betty Crocker was ____.

Highlight for answer:    BEST   

Stunning underdog victory! Full results here.

Stunning underdog victory! Full results here.

I’ve never tried this mix, but it seems I should—and fast. (May I remind you again that it’s Friday?) 

Have you tried the Betty Crocker mix? Does it live up to the hype if so? What’s your favorite brownie mix or recipe if not?


Limerick #2

I wanted to eat something green;
Trader Joe’s prices weren’t too obscene.
Skimmed the salad greens bag,
and I thought I might gag!
Wheat in lettuce? Now that’s just plain ____.

Highlight for answer:    MEAN   

photo (2)

Hey, at least it’s kosher.

Ugh. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve eaten TJ’s greens over the past months. I know, I know, “If it has a label, read it.” It just didn’t occur to me that the rule would extend to lettuce! Yet another reminder to maintain “constant vigilance.”

What’s the most surprising place you’ve discovered potential gluten contamination?


Limerick #3

What triggers this illness? Not sure.
It’s genetic but likely there’s more.
No milk from your momma?
Who cares? Please just find us a ____!

Highlight for answer:    CURE   


Photo © Armin Kübelbeck
Shots! (Once again, my friends…Friday.)

Do you think they’ll figure out a vaccine in our lifetime? What’s your pet theory about the cause of celiac disease and gluten sensitivity? 

Mine is that it’s all in our heads.


That’s it! If you got ’em all right before looking at the answers and feel you deserve a reward, come back next week. I’ll be sharing a test of a different sort, giveaway included.

In the meantime, tell me: What intriguing gluten-free news have you come across lately? (Limericks encouraged but certainly not required.) And do you love NPR as much as I do?

If you’re new in these parts, welcome! Please check out my About page or skim the index to see what I’m about (hint: it’s not all limericks). If you’d like to stick around, scroll to the bottom to follow me via Facebook, Twitter, email, WordPress, or any blog-reading platform your heart desires.

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How many crumbs would a wood table suck if a wood table could suck up crumbs?

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you probably already have a sense of this, but let me remind you: I’m kind of an anxious person.

That said, I’m also a forgetful person. This combination means that sometimes I forget to be anxious until after something has already happened. It’s like my brain decides, “Hang on a second, I didn’t hear your heart racing. Let’s try that again.”

Throughout my school years, this tendency manifested itself in anxiety dreams about tests and report cards after I’d already received my grades. And, not to brag, but they were generally good ones—so what was I so worried about? Today, I keep up the tradition at work by hitting “send” on emails only to immediately scroll through them to check for typos or misaddressed salutations or other pernicious little errors—too late to take it back, but not too late to stress about it.

And, of course, if I run out of fodder for my after-the-fact fretting, there’s always gluten.

Take this recent example: my sister and I bought a table.

“What’s so stressful about that?,” you might ask (if you didn’t read the post’s title, that is; otherwise, you’ve probably already guessed, you smartypants, you). Here’s what’s stressful about that:

It’s a used table.

A used wooden table.

Now, a used wooden table is not in and of itself stressful. In fact, when my sister and I were at the store picking it out, I was quite relaxed. We spotted the table almost right away, so I didn’t have to worry we wouldn’t find one that day. We’d thought to take measurements of our kitchen before heading out, so I didn’t have to worry that it wouldn’t fit. We haggled down the price a bit and got some chairs thrown into the bargain, so I didn’t have to worry about price. And Salvation Army delivers—every few weeks, at least—so we didn’t have to worry about transport.

I didn’t even think to worry about gluten.

But yesterday, the table arrived (no returns allowed), and all of a sudden I thought to worry. People (including me) throw out wooden spoons and cutting boards after diagnosis, after all. How many times have you read that “wood is a porous material that can trap small amounts of gluten” (on sites like About.com). Wood is pretty much the first thing to go, after, you know, the sack of semolina you’ve been hoarding to make your own pasta with one day. And here I’d gone and introduced a big hunk of used wood right into my gluten-free kitchen sanctuary.

I thought it over. Just how much gluten could be in that table? Had its previous owners used it as a cutting board for bread, or rolled out cookies directly on its surface? Was there a baby in its former home who mashed her cereal—or Play-Doh—into its wooden grains? Did the family eat dumplings or empanadas or pierogies at this table? Pasta or pizza or pie dough? And how much of it, if so, would have gotten into the table itself? Was the table, even now, dropping crumbs onto the floor beneath it? (It didn’t seem to be…but gluten is small.) Would I gluten myself just by touching the table or eating at it? Should we leave it wrapped in the plastic in which it came? Or should I simply avoid eating at my own table? If I didn’t, would I steadily lose the gains I’ve made, and gain the antibodies I’ve lost?

In short: What. Had. We. Done?

I chewed my lip, wrung my hands, and ambushed my sister the moment she got home from work.

“We have a table!” she said, happily.

“Yeah!” I said, feigning cheeriness just for a moment. Then I dropped the ruse. “What if it has gluten on it?” I said.

My sister—clever, even-keeled sister—thought that one over for about half a second, and replied, “Well, we could just eat off of plates. And maybe use a tablecloth.”



People use plates and tablecloths, don’t they? Somewhat regularly, even. Nice, comforting things, plates and tablecloths: things through which gluten—real or imaginary—cannot penetrate.

Feeling foolish, I nodded. “Yes, or placemats.”

“Placemats,” Althea agreed decisively. “I like that.”

With that, all my buyer’s remorse and postmortem nerves—suddenly as silly seeming as any of those report card nightmares in the light of day—evaporated.

Well, almost.

When buying secondhand, there’s always one thing left to worry about: that is, of course, bedbugs.

Indulge me with your thoughts on whether, say, an Udi’s cookie dropped onto a washed wooden table should be considered cross-contaminated, or tell me about the last time you made a mountain out of a molehill. Otherwise, have a worry-free weekend.

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The kindness of strangers, and a springtime surprise

On February 10th, two important things happened: First, I started my blog. Then, I lost my wallet.

I’d gone out to try to buy a certain size screw that my roommate needed for the counter he was installing in the wall for my very own gluten-free use (my roommates are very supportive and all-around great guys). I’d known I had celiac disease for nearly two weeks, and the weekend before, despite firm intentions, I hadn’t accomplished much of my kitchen makeover. This particular Sunday, I was more motivated. Unfortunately, although I went to three different stores, I didn’t find the right screws. I did, though, manage to pick up a wide array of tupperware and cheap utensils—and drop my wallet.

When I realized what had happened, I frantically retraced my steps. I threw myself upon the cashiers’ mercy in all three stores; in all three stores, they shook their heads sadly. The ground was slushy that day, so a red wallet would have shown up easily; it wasn’t anywhere along my route. It wasn’t on or under the shelves in any of the stores where I’d bent to inspect kitchenware, either, or near any of the hardware sections where I’d put my hand into my pocket to pull out the too-small screw I’d brought for comparison and, most likely, knocked my wallet to the floor.

When I got home to check my bank balances, the debit card had already been used (wisely enough) for an unlimited monthly subway pass. I canceled my cards, submitted a lost-and-found report on the MTA website, and resigned myself to never seeing that wallet ever again.

After the initial shock and self-beration, I got over the loss pretty quickly. I hadn’t been carrying much cash, and cards can be canceled. And enough was going on already that this just didn’t feel like that big of a deal. I already had to redo my kitchen, rework my entire mode of socializing, and eat strictly gluten-free for life. What was one more inconvenience?

Over the weeks that followed, I realized that losing a wallet isn’t just one inconvenience; it’s many. Besides canceling the credit cards, there’s the driver’s license to replace, and a stolen wallet report to be filed at a police station if you want to  replace the license for free; there are the library cards, the laundry card, the store loyalty cards (nooo, not the CVS ExtraCare card!), and the coupons and gift cards you’ve been hoarding; there’s the MTA monthly pass you’d already bought, and the pre-tax prepaid commuter checks you were meant to use to buy more passes in the months ahead; there’s the health insurance card, as I remembered while sitting in the waiting room at my latest doctor’s appointment; and of course, there’s replacing the wallet itself.

Now, I’m a lazy person when it comes to this sort of personal maintenance thing. I barely made a dent in replacing most of the above. In fact, all I replaced right away were the debit/credit cards and the ExtraCare card—because these are basic necessities. I carried these cards, plus a pay-as-you-go MetroCard, in a Ziploc bag for about two weeks before finally buying a $5 wallet from a street vendor. I made overtures toward replacing my insurance card and promised myself to file that police report any day now. I believe that at no point—until now—did I mention to my parents I’d lost the wallet, because my mother has literally “told me so” that my wallet would fall out of my unzipped jacket pocket one day.

Now, I’m glad I moved slow. Because someone out there with a pure and beautiful soul returned my wallet and made it all unnecessary. The wallet slowly wended its way to the old Washington Heights address listed on my driver’s license and from there was forwarded on the winds of the US Postal Service to my current apartment door, where it arrived yesterday.

Photo on 3-21-13 at 9.49 PM #4

As a kid, I had this annoying habit of saying, “Just what I always wanted!” in response to every gift I opened ever, obliterating any real sentiment in the phrase through overuse. But when I pulled my faithful red wallet (with all its contents intact besides the cash and bank cards) out of the mysterious yellow package, it really was just what I’d always wanted—or, at least, what I’d wanted since February 10th. Up until that moment, yesterday hadn’t been the best day, but this made the end of it great. To whoever it was who returned the wallet—even if you were the same person who took the credit cards—thank you.

I know that yesterday I was joking about springtime, new beginnings, and messages from the stars, but this almost does feel like a sign that my luck is turning, that things are on the up and up. Even my laptop’s camera is working again.

The wallet also held an old fortune cookie slip that read, You have a potential urge and the ability for accomplishment. I’d forgotten all about it, but I think I saved it because I found it a funny, qualified fortune; “potential urge” and “ability for accomplishment” aren’t exactly the most ringing of endorsements. Still, if the fortune felt significant enough to save before, now it feels positively definitive.

This month, along with my Aries friends, I’ll do my best to live up to my good fortune and accomplish a potential urge or two. Removing the former potential urge to replace my wallet contents is a helpful boost that should allow me to redirect my ability to accomplish toward other, more important goals. I will strive to be a worthy recipient of this generous springtime gift.

Photo on 3-21-13 at 7.47 PM #3

Thank you, thank you, benevolent universe and kind stranger.

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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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