Tag Archives: social life

What’s the best time of year to be gluten-free? You tell me!

Many folk singers, including the late great Pete Seeger, have told us that “to everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.” Much of the song is paraphrased from Ecclesiastes in the Bible, which goes to show how old the sentiment is. However, though there may indeed be a time to be born, a time to die, a time to dance, a time to mourn, a time to reap, a time to sow, and so forth, for many of us, it’s never time to eat gluten.

Still, as winter waned, spring started and stopped, and my second gluten-free year got well underway, I began pondering whether there’s a best time to be gluten-free. Spring flicked by too fast, the weather settled in to what is unmistakably New York in summer (complete with everyone’s favorite smell of trash in the streets and non-air-conditioned 1 trains), and I made my plans for yet another move* (my fourth in three years, not counting sublets)—and I kept wondering.

I’ve tried to answer this important question by listing a few pros and cons for each season, and I hope you’ll chime in, too.

Spring

  • PRO: The first hints of warmth get everyone out of the house and luxuriating in the sun, happy to do activities besides sit inside and snack.
  • CON: Often enough people really just want to sit outside and snack.
  • PRO: May is Celiac Awareness Month, infusing the entire season with a sense of our own visibility and significance.
  • CON: That sense might be a teeny bit inflated.
  • CON?: St. Patrick’s Day is not so good in its focus on beer, and Irish soda bread needs a makeover, but at least potatoes are gluten-free.
  • PRO?: We’ve already talked about Easter and Passover (both obviously super gluten-free); and Lent, immediately preceding Easter, is fine for those who observe it because gluten-free folks are adept at giving stuff up.
  • PRO: My birthday is in May! That’s relevant because a slightly disproportionate number of us have birthdays in the spring and summer. Birthdays are a good reason to make everyone eat gluten-free cake with you.
  • PRO: Fresh produce is naturally gluten-free! Go to a farmers market!
  • CON: Farmers markets all have baked goods that you can’t eat, too. But hey, you’re being healthy.

Summer

  • PRO: Lots of ice cream brands are gluten-free, and there are new dairy-free, etcetera-free options popping up all the time.
  • CON: There’s no con related to ice cream (as long as you aren’t asking your waistline).
  • PRO: It’s too hot to eat anything besides ice cream anyway, right?
  • CON: Wrong.
  • PRO: There aren’t a lot of holidays to worry about (that I can think of).
  • CON: The holidays that do occur are celebrated via cookout, which can be okay, sure, but often leave this celiac vegetarian eating chips and salsa.
  • CON: You have to move*! In the summer heat! From one fourth-floor walkup to another! Why, oh why did you buy so many kitchen appliances and bulk boxes of Bob’s Red Mill pantry staples?
  • PRO: The above con miiiight only apply to me.

Fall

  • PRO: It’s the perfect time of year to visit the approximately infinite number of gluten-free bakeries that are appearing right and left (at least in the New York metro area).
  • CON?: This doesn’t actually affect me anymore (boohoo), but I imagine that for gluten-free students and their parents, back-to-school time—with its return to school cafeterias, class parties, and 504 plans—is more a con than a pro.
  • PRO: Pumpkin is the gluten-free and vegetarian gods’ gift to the world, and you can put it in everything without being judged in October.
  • CON?: Serious holiday season is starting again. That said, Halloween doesn’t have to be so bad, considering that most candy is straight sugar and fat, no gluten required. And Thanksgiving…well, I’m sure you’ll be so busy being thankful for all the good stuff you’ll hardly even notice your chronic illness.

Winter

  • PRO: Everyone goes straight from home to work/school back home. It’s too cold to socialize, so who cares what you can or can’t eat?
  • CON: Even gluten-free people get lonely.
  • PRO: Hot chocolate doesn’t need gluten to be good.
  • CON: Some sneaky manufacturers put it in anyway.
  • PRO: Snow is gluten-free. (Probably.)
  • CON?: Did I say fall was serious holiday season? Scratch that, winter is. But you can still have a great holiday season and be gluten-free as long as you take proper precautions and avoid spilling any of your tear drops on the “real” sugar cookies.
  • PRO: Soup! Every! Day! I miss it already.

Whether you’ve been eating a special diet for decades or days, when do YOU think it’s easiest, most satisfying, least painful, and/or particularly delicious?

*Yes, you heard right: I’m leaving one gluten-free apartment for another, and Sprue Jr and I are parting ways: she to the Bronx, and I to the Upper East Side. It’s ostensibly to make both of our commutes better, but calling her Sprue Jr all the time might have contributed. By the way, I’m looking for a GF subletter in one of my two bedrooms for July and August, so if you know someone looking, send ’em my way. It’s a walkup, yes, but it’s a great spot near the park (good for those summer picnics) and has two bathrooms.

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Dear gluten (it’s me again),

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Almost a year. And I’ve been thinking. That letter I wrote . . . maybe it was a bit hasty. Oh, I’m not taking anything back. I still hate you. I walk by cafes where you sit and avert my eyes; I see you on the subway and change cars; I tell my friends I won’t show if you do.

In truth, all that avoiding you has taken a toll on my social life. But mostly, things have been better. I smile wider, I laugh louder, and I can’t recall the last time I pulled a Myrtle. But I can’t say I’ve been quite as happy as I’d hoped. I thought you were the only thing holding me back—now I fear there’s more.

Still, everyone says I’m better off: my friends, my sister (once your pal, she too has given you up), and even my doctors, not that my love life is any of their business. Certainly, my parents have been happy enough to see you replaced at family gatherings.

Replaced? Yes, I admit, there have been a few new sweethearts. The Whipped Pastry brownies, the King Arthur Flour vanilla cakes, the flourless peanut butter cookies, the Everybody Eats baguettes, the Food Should Taste Good and PopChips . . . It’s been a whirlwind. You may call it promiscuous, but I prefer “keeping busy.” And, by the way: not to brag, but they’ve been good. Almost as good as . . .

Do you know, gluten, that you cause me physical pain to this day? I dropped all that tissue transglutaminase on your doorstep, but instead of a whole new life I found a donut-hole in my heart. You haunt me; you obsess me.

Kindly do not misunderstand. I don’t want you back (several systems in my body wouldn’t stand for it). But here we are, in the thick of the holiday season, and you’re cropping up at all the parties, grinning in that rye old way of yours, trying to get a rise out of me. I hope this isn’t too bold—I can be honest with you, right? We’ve known each other a long time—but just the smell of you makes my mouth water.

I started 2013 with no resolutions, dear gluten, but by the end of January, you’d given me one: stay away—far away—from you. And I’ve been good. I’ve stuck to my guns. It hasn’t even been so hard: it’s in my DNA to hate you.

Still, you and I both know your very purpose is to form bonds, and Stockholmy though it may be, I feel your pull. I’ve scanned too many appealing pictures of you online, eyed you regretfully from across too many crowded rooms. I think I’ve gotten away, then snap! I’m back in the cereal aisle making doe eyes at the Cheerios. Something about you is . . . elastic.

So I wonder if, maybe, I should let you back in. Just a little. A taste. How’s this: At one of those parties, we can both get a little tipsy, and one thing can lead to another, and then for many days to come I can thoroughly regret it as my friends berate me for my lack of will, and I lie in bed, clutch my stomach, and cry for what shall never be. You’re happy, I’m unhappy, and we both get a nice little reminder of my 2014 resolution. Good, right?

I guess what I’m asking is, gluten, what are you doing New Year’s Eve? Because I’ve got a sloppy midnight kiss with your name all over it. All you have to do is show up dressed as a cake pop.

Yours wafflingly,
Molly

P.S. Gotcha, sucker.

Dear reader: If you’re looking for more that’s-kinda-weirdness about love and gluten, try this song, about 48 seconds in. And if you liked my letter, please share. You, I truly do ❤.

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Going (to) Against the Grain…Help!

Tonight, I’m going to a restaurant. For most people my age in New York, that’s a regular occurrence, but as most of you know, for me, it’s not.

The spot sounds great. It’s described on Yelp variously as a “magical hideaway clubhouse” and “the absolute best place to throw a small, intimate party without much hassle.”

However, despite its tease of a name—Against the Grain—its specialties run more toward grain-based dishes (like soft pretzels and “chorizo in a poncho”) than against them. And when I say grain, I don’t mean sorghum.

Yelpers also suggest, “If your tastes run to beer and you want to have it and only it chalkboarded on the walls, enter here,” and, “If you aren’t a beer drinker, well, hello!, don’t come here.

Clearly, this isn’t my kind of place.

But, as you’ve likely gathered, I didn’t choose it. The restaurant is where a friend is having her birthday party. Her tastes do run to beer, and the soft pretzels do sound awfully tempting, and it is her birthday, so I don’t at all fault her for choosing it. In fact, she graciously called the restaurant on my behalf to inquire about gluten-free options and let me know, basically, there weren’t any. (At least, nothing guaranteed safe.)

stack of non-gluten-free soft pretzels with salt

What I’ll eat tonight is unclear, but it won’t be this.
Photo © Tommi Arina | Flickr

The question then became, what do I do? Although I’ve read all the advice in the world, it seems, I’ve yet to experience this situation. Most of my friends throw parties at bars, where it’s far less awkward not to eat anything, or at home, where dinner is rarely on the menu. And my sister’s graduation weekend featured a catering staff that at least made an effort to accommodate me and a birthday/graduation party for which my parents made everything gluten-free.

I’ve spent the week meaning to call the restaurant in a quiet time and ask whether they mind if I bring something with me, but in typical procrastinating fashion I’ve put it off. There’s still time to do it, but even if they say it’s fine, I’m afraid I’d feel awkward when it came time to plop my tupperware down amidst the small plates. But would it be more awkward to be the only one not eating?

I can’t decide, and as I muse over (and blog about) it, my window for packing anything before I leave for the day is closing. I wish it didn’t require this much thought, but such is celiac life.

What would you do in my situation? Let me know in the poll below, and if you have more advice, or stories about your own dining-out travails, go ahead and put it in the comments.

Happy Friday, everyone! Hope your plans for this evening include good gluten-free food, or at least—like mine—good gluten-full friends.

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Happy hump day!

Photo © blue_quartz | Flickr

Photo © blue_quartz | Flickr

Wednesdays after a vacation are so much harder than other Wednesdays. I had a great visit with my parents last week, then hosted my sister over the weekend, and then had a half day yesterday because of my doctor’s appointment. All of this means I should be well rested and bright-eyed as I tackle the rest of my week, but instead, I’m dragging. (I blame my lack of nutrient absorption; what’s your excuse?)

To keep my enthusiasm up, I’m focusing on a few small pre-hump triumphs:

1. I had my first dinner party since going gluten-free. Hello, amaranth-polenta-stuffed peppers! Did you know amaranth is rich in, like, everything holy? Protein (including lysine), fiber, magnesium, iron, zinc, calcium, B vitamins…all that stuff veg-heads and gluten-freebies crave. I am not the first to compare it to manna. I’m eating my way through the leftovers and still have half a package left to use in another recipe. Thanks again, Mom, Dad, and Bob!

2. I made the Bob’s Red Mill brownies for my writing workshop and they were widely agreed to be delicious (by the same pals who said terrible, terrible things about the chocolate chip cookies). I filled them with about three times the recommended amount of chocolate chips (1/4 cup? Really?) and frosted them with Betty Crocker fudgy chocolate frosting (a bit sacrilegious for a girl whose parents would always opt for homemade ganache, but hey, they’re the ones who bought me a baking mix). They were even better the next day after chilling out in the fridge. Thanks, everyone, for recommending the brownies.

3. My new doctor is great. She listened to my concerns, she ordered a few more tests, she reassured me that everything takes time. She also felt my ankles and said, “You really run a lot, don’t you?” I have no idea if those two things were connected, but it amused me.

4. While at the doctor’s, I picked up a copy of the latest edition of Columbia’s Ultimate Guide to Gluten-Free Living (the linked edition is not the most recent, but I’m not sure the 2012 printing edition can be found online). It’s pocket-sized (if you are a man—if you’re a woman, you know the only thing pocket-sized is lip balm) and packed full of goodies. I read a lot of books, articles, and blogs about celiac disease and gluten-free living and often find the same information over and over again, but the little kernels of new knowledge make it worthwhile. This book lists a whole bunch of gluten-free brands I can check out and also highlighted Montina (Indian ricegrass), which is a new grain on me. I think it’s similar to Kamut (not gluten-free), in that the name is a registered trademark and it seems to be produced by one company only. On a less happy note, it also seems tough to find. Anyone tried it or know where to buy it?

5. I also found it adorable that the guide included the misspelling xantham gumSeriously, it’s so much cuter that way.

6. Plus, it included one of those dining cards you are supposed to give to baffled waiters at restaurants. Do you carry one of these? I’m hoping I won’t mistake it for a business card—not that I give out many of those anyway.

7. Finally, when I pulled out the book I triggered an awkward but pleasant subway interaction with the guy sitting next to me. He told me he has a friend who needs to eat gluten-free, and I mentioned I was vegetarian as well, so we talked about soy. It was the first time I have ever heard someone say the word phthalate out loud. I looked back down at the book after a bit and he got up at the next stop, whether because it was actually his stop or because I made him feel unwelcome, I do not know. I hope it was the former. Although I don’t handle stranger banter all that well, I do love these chats because they remind me that the other people on the train are real people with interiority, not strange cyborg commuting machines, which also reminds me that I too am real.

What’s helping you remember you’re real this Wednesday? (Lots and lots of coffee? Oh, me too. Me, too.)

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