Tag Archives: teaching

What I learned this weekend: 8 lessons about gluten-free food and family

My dad used to be a teacher, and to this day retains a penchant for educating. As kids, we knew we could ask him questions we were “just curious about” and rely on him to tell us all he knew…which we could then furiously transpose onto our homework sheets, which was of course the point all along. (When he caught on, he was not pleased.)

And Mom homeschooled my brother and me for the early days of our educations: Patrick through fourth grade, and me through second. Homeschooling may account for a few oddball tendencies in both of us, but that’s not really the point of this blog post.

The point is, it’s no wonder I developed a desire to teach. Both my parents had been modeling it since, I imagine, day one.

This past weekend, my sister and I visited for my mom’s birthday. We spent much of our time at home cooking together, in a paper-towel-covered kitchen using all-new definitely-safe gluten-free cookware and ingredients, testing recipes for my mom’s blog.

As is always the case, while visiting, I learned a few things. Here are some:

  1. If you put a head of garlic in a bowl, cover it with a lid, and shake it vigorously, it will unpeel itself. At least, some of it will.

    I suppose "vigor" is subjective.

    I suppose “vigor” is a subjective word.

  2. Adapting a non-gluten-free recipe really isn’t as simple as subbing in a gluten-free flour blend.
  3. But cakes underbaked in the middle can become bundt cakes at a moment’s notice.
  4. And still taste great.

    gluten-free spice cake

    No one ever would’ve known…except Mom was modeling honesty this weekend, too.

  5. Going gluten-free hasn’t decreased my seasonal allergies. It’s just that I’ve been living in a place with no natural flora or fauna. Back in Massachusetts, land of the beautiful fall foliage…a-choo!
  6. Parents have way more fun after their kids move out:

    brandy cocktails

    I also (re)learned that I don’t really like brandy.

  7. Socca is still the best thing in the world, but panisses are definitely in the running. (Check out David Lebovitz’s recipe, which is similar to the one we used.)

    Is there anything that can't be made out of chickpea flour?

    Is there anything that can’t be made out of chickpea flour?

  8. My parents are the best parents a gluten-free gal (or two) could ever want.

I already knew the last one, but just want to be sure you do, too.

What have you learned about food and life from your family? Have you had any kitchen mixups or success with new recipes recently? And, for god’s sake, have you tried socca yet?

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What gluten means to me…mathematically

Once upon a time, I thought I wanted to be a teacher. Though I wound up in publishing instead (less public speaking), I hung onto some shreds of the dream. Most recently I’m turning them to—possibly—good use as a volunteer SAT tutor.

If you’ve ever wondered whether anything is harder than going gluten-free, teaching is. Apart from being confronted with your lack of any sort of coolness recognized by a high school junior, you also become intimately aware of every gap and shortcoming in your own training and memory. It’s humbling to flip through the tutor manual and realize you’ll need to reteach yourself the math before you can teach it to anyone else.

The manual, donated to the tutoring program by Kaplan, tells me to present the material in a way the kids can relate to. The same tactic comes in handy when reeducating myself. There’s a surprising amount of parallels between the SATs and gluten-free life. For example, “If you don’t know, skip it, because you’re only penalized for getting it wrong” is true of both unfamiliar food and unfamiliar SAT questions.

This also works for understanding specific concepts. Here, for example, is a thorough reintroduction to “systems of equations,” using gluten. If high school is a ways behind you, and your math score, like mine, was <800, you too may appreciate the refresher.

The problem: Solve the system of equations for gluten.

math2

To start, pick either equation, like this one:

math3

Next, subtract gluten from all sides (you got this) in order to isolate celiac (aww).

math4

So a celiac is an unhappy person without gluten. Sounds about right. Plug this definition into the other equation in place of celiac, like so:

math5

Clean it up…

math6

…and isolate gluten. Subtract the unhappiness from both sides…

math7

…and divide by –2 for the answer.

math8

Looks like gluten equals divided feelings, mostly negative. True enough, but we’re not quite through. Since the opposite of happy is unhappy, we can change the negative smiley into a frown…

math9

…add them up…

math9a

…and cancel the twos for the final answer:

math9b

There you have it. Gluten equals unhappiness. I’d say we don’t even have to check that answer.

Don’t worry, I’m not teaching the kids using gluten metaphors (talk about uncool!). Have you ever tried teaching or tutoring? Did/do you like it? How’s my math? And do you agree with the equations’ conclusion?

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