Tag Archives: Udi’s

Congrats, grad! And a “needs improvement” grade for me.

My little sister graduated this weekend. The same little sister who used to agreeably complete the activity books I made for her, who walked to school with me in elementary school and shared several of my high school teachers, is now a college graduate—cum laude—with a degree in neuroscience! She never would have made it there without my activity books.

The proud siblings!

The proud siblings! Nice of them to provide spotlights.

Seriously, though, my sister is right up there among the smartest people I know, and I’m glad she’ll be using her own brain to learn more about the most complex structure in the universe (even if she does have to dissect a few songbirds to do it…poor songbirds). She’s going to be doing research related to the brain–gut axis, for the next couple of years at least, which I think is awesome. Why study one brain when you can study two?

Not only did little sis graduate with honors, but she also picked up some very nice compliments from some of her teachers who we met over the course of the weekend. “One of my best students ever”; “Personal impact on my own life”—yep, those things were said. Go Althea!

While my sister came out top of her class this weekend, I failed the main test before me, which was to navigate the weekend’s catered meals in a way that left me feeling safe and unstressed. Although I did call in advance to ask what the meals would be like, I called while walking to the subway on my way to work, rather than sitting down somewhere quiet with a list of questions to ask. My reception was spotty, the background noise was probably annoying, and I was in a rush. First mistake.

In response to my question about whether gluten-free (and vegetarian) options would be available, she said they would, but that there was no special ticket for gluten-free meals (unlike for vegetarian). She said I’d just need to speak up at the event and they’d be able to accommodate me. That should have been my cue to ask more about just how they’d accommodate me, but instead I thanked her and hung up. Second mistake.

In fact, it was a buffet (in a tent outside in the drizzly cold weather—thankfully the graduation was indoors, apparently for the first time since ’86, before Althea’s birth or mine). Everything was listed as gluten-free except for the rolls, cornbread, and desserts. Still, I was concerned that people were reaching over the buffet to grab the bread (and possibly spilling crumbs into the cole slaw on the way), and that the utensils being used to serve the entrees were brushing up against the bread on people’s plates and perhaps picking up gluten that way.

When I expressed these concerns—falteringly, apologetically, well on my way to tears—the head chef personally brought me a meal from the back. Everyone was accommodating and polite, even in the mob scene that was the tent full of several hundred starving graduates and their families, but I have absolutely no idea whether the food I wound up eating was really safe.

Because I didn’t ask. In advance or at the tent, where I shook the head chef’s hand. I didn’t ask, “What are the ingredients in the marinade?” or “Were the vegetables prepped on clean cutting boards that have not also been used for bread?” or “Was the cornbread made at the same time and in the same place as other components of the meal?” or “Did everyone change gloves between handling the rolls and touching the potatoes?”

Although this is the kind of question to which I routinely subject my family and friends, when faced with strangers, I didn’t ask. The time to do it was in advance, when I could have decided I felt uncomfortable and packed food instead. But I didn’t. And then when I had a second chance, I still didn’t.

Here's the family in the food tent. Do I look stressed?

Here’s the whole family in the food tent. Do I look stressed?

My sister assured me the staff is good about cross-contamination concerns, but it’s hard to be good about cross-contamination when preparing food for a crowd in the thousands. There were packaged Udi’s cookies and bread at the desserts station, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that everything else was done correctly.

As much as I’d studied up on the right way to eat out (by which I mean reading many, many fantastic blog posts on the subject), when it came time to put it into practice, I choked—like a college student who pulls an all-nighter to cram, then shows up at the test and blanks, or sleeps through it entirely. Not only do I not feel confident I didn’t accidentally eat gluten, but I didn’t enjoy myself as much as I could have, had I been better prepared.

Next time—which will not be for a long time because I am once again, dear readers, committing myself to eating only what is made in my very own home until I’m better—I’ll go about this the right way. Mindful of how miserable I was when I did it the wrong way, I’ll ask the appropriate questions in advance, and opt for the meal tickets if and only if I feel assured they’ll pull out all the celiac stops. I’ll show up with more than a KIND bar in my pocket in case the situation seems different on the ground and I decide not to chance it. I’ll have a nice time, I’ll be able to focus on the real reason I’m there, and I’ll eat food that I’m sure won’t eat me back.

Next time, like my sister, I’ll ace it.

Check out these posts for more on eating out gluten-free: Amanda’s set of posts advising restaurant pros, Jess’s “When ‘Gluten-Free’ Does Not Mean ‘Free of Gluten,'” and “Top 10 Questions to Ask When Dining Out Gluten-Free” at Thriving With Celiac. 

For a happier sprue story, I’ll tell you all about the graduation party soon. Do you have any graduations to attend this season?

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Gluten-Free Astrology: Taurus (born April 20 – May 20)

Photo © Duncan Hull | Flickr

Photo © Duncan Hull | Flickr

Springtime is officially here, as is the month of the bull. If you’re an Aries who missed out on my first post, check it out and let me know if your horoscope came true (pssst, it probably didn’t, because I never heard anything about that new neighborhood restaurant—luckily I’m moving back to Manhattan this summer, where I’ll be surrounded with gluten-free bakeries). Sad to say, although the world may revolve around you, this post isn’t about you Aries folks! Moving right along, as the seasons and the stars inevitably do, this month’s Gluten-Free Astrology is all about Taurus.

Taurus begins today, April 20th, and extends through May 20th. It is a sign near and dear to my heart, as my May 23rd bday puts me right on the cusp. But who cares what I think? Let’s move on to the objective stuff!

The Gluten-Free Taurus is ruled by the planet Venus, named for the goddess of beauty, the arts, and pleasure. This means that as a GF Taurus, you’re into luxury, money, and property, but, because you tend to appreciate permanence and stability, you aren’t a spendthrift or a gambler. You may be a regular at a restaurant with a nice gluten-free menu you trust 100 percent, and you likely stick to tried and true gluten-free foods rather than leaping to try every new product that hits the market (maybe you haven’t even tried Udi’s gluten-free flour tortillas yet—if so, I’m with you, still savoring the memory of my last ever white-flour quesadilla and sticking to the corn kind for now).

You are placid but intimidating; your friends know they can depend on you, but woe betide any who provoke your bullish temper by suggesting you’re taking your gluten-free diet a little too seriously or trying to force you to eat gluten. Though you rarely succumb to anger, even your well-known patience and stability have their limits. This month, expect something or someone to threaten your sense of internal order and security—perhaps that restaurant you love will change their menu. Resist the urge to charge! After all, you’re happiest at home anyway. Quiet your offended turmoil by hosting a get-together for your loved ones and indulging your love of luxury by playing host to a fantastic dinner party. Don’t forget to invite me!

I’d be pleased to get an invite to any gathering you hosted, because it’s sure to be luxe. Also, although those who don’t know better may consider you stolid and plodding, your close friends know that underneath your responsible exterior is a romantic dreamer who loves beauty and art—Venus, remember? This month, find time to indulge your artistic sensibility (perhaps by cooking something incredible for that dinner party, or writing poetic comments on other people’s blogs). And try to share it a little! You tend to keep your passion projects secret, which only increases others’ false impression that you’re a bit boring. Use those hidden stores of energy for something that you truly care about, and if you must go about it slowly and painstakingly, well, that’s to be expected.

The body part ruled by GF Taurus is the neck and throat, so this month watch out for colds. Getting a cold in the springtime is the worst. You may also struggle with thyroid issues, not because they are commonly associated with celiac disease but because you’re a Taurus. Keep that throat healthy and find a little time to join the birds in song—your sensuous artistic side often manifests in a beautiful singing voice (my Taurean dad, born May 13th, is a great example).

Finally, not that you care much about such things, here are a few famous Taurus folks (besides my dad) to be aware of:

Thom Hartmann

Thom Hartmann

Thom Hartmann is a Taurus and a lunchtime regular at a gluten-free fish-fry joint, according to Triumph Dining. Whether or not you agree with his politics, you can’t deny that hosting a radio show is a pretty great way to exercise his Taurean mellifluous speaking voice and dogmatism. 

Sigmund Freud

Sigmund Freud

Sigmund Freud is another famous Taurus. Oral and anal fixations aside, there’s no evidence that he had issues with any kind of food, including gluten. But…so?

As a GF Taurus, your reliable taste and artistic opinion are always welcomed. So if you’re a Taurus, please let me know your thoughts in the comments! How do you plan to indulge your love of beauty, art, collectibles, and luxury this month?

Not a Taurus? What’s your sign, baby?

The “information,” such as it is, in this post has been largely ripped off from The Only Astrology Book You’ll Ever Need, by Joanna Martine Woolfolk, which is in fact the only astrology book you’ll ever need (need here being a relative term).

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