Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Celiacmas!

At the request of my very good, very gluten-free friend, Amy, I have decided to muster the strength for a blog post. Merry Christmas, this is all I could afford to get you this year.

I would like to discuss Amy's recent glutening at P.F. Changs. They got her good. She said when she received her food there was brown rice all mixed in with her white rice. Sloppy P.F. Chang...very sloppy. So they gave her a gift card or a voucher or something for a free meal. It always makes me laugh when I hear that stuff, as if you are eager to go back to the place that put you through hell. Someone once told me a story about finding a bug in a candy bar and getting a voucher for unlimited whatever-the-hell candy bar it was for the rest of his life. Really? Because if I bit into a Snickers and it bit me back, you can be damn sure I am never eating a Snickers again. (To be clear, I have never been bitten by a Snickers. I would be happy to have that lifetime voucher thingy.)

I'm not sure if I would eat this even without the bee.

Oh, and I have to make a very special F.O.C.U. shout-out to my other Amy, who is now officially gluten-free as well! Amy's of the world beware- it is an epidemic! This particular Amy held out much longer than my first g.f. Amy. It basically took her arm almost falling off from some horrible gluten-induced vitamin deficiency for her take the plunge and go totally g.f. I am happy she is playing it safe now and happier that she did not loose an arm in the process. I am not sure if it is going to be helpful or confusing that the two Amy's in my life are Celiacs, but this blog is now dedicated to A2 .


I just found a new site called Celebrity Diets. The site seems to take itself pretty seriously, so I won't be spending much time reading it (boring!). I'm just looking for the really juicy stuff, the dog-food-and-Tang diet and things of that nature. Success! The baby food diet.  And, double success, there is a mention of gluten in the article!

"Jennifer Aniston believes the ‘purer, nutrient-packed, gluten-free’ pots help to maintain her trim figure; Reese Witherspoon told a US TV show she’s careful not to crash diet on infant food and makes sure to have one adult meal a day; while Marcia Cross ditched junk food snacks for baby food to keep hunger pangs at bay."

So baby food is the new finger-down-your-throat? It could be worse. I think my biggest problem with this particular diet is that is sounds humiliating. Can you imagine sitting down to eat with your friends and being like, "hold on, let me crack open my jar of dinner."


I was briefly a nanny when I was in college and, I won't lie, there were several occasions when I made a longing glance or two at the jar of bananas (I really like bananas).  I just can't see making this a lifestyle though. It seems to me that once you are eating baby food on a regular basis you have crossed a point of no return in the dignity department. It is only a matter of time before you are having your maid/boyfriend chew up nutritious gluten-free food and regurgitate it down your throat for you.

smootchy time or lunch time? 

 I think the only way this will ever be cool is if Gerber starts a line of jarred food specifically for adults. It will be the same as the baby food, but with better branding.

Maybe I should have contacted Gerber with a pitch before I gave away all my brilliant ideas? I could have just robbed myself of a potential fortune.

That's all I have till next year. Happy Gluten-free holidays to all Amys and non-Amys and Celiacs and non-Celiacs!!


Saturday, November 7, 2009

Cheeseburger en Paraíso (menos el gluten)

Last night Amy read me something that was sent to her by a resort in Mexico. She, her husband, and in-laws will be visiting this resort soon and she emailed them to find out if they could accommodate her dietary needs. They could...and then some. Not only were they abundantly familiar with her needs and restrictions as a Celiac, they sent her this letter with the instructions to print multiple copies and bring them with her to present to the chef at every meal. The letter is written in both English and Spanish and perfectly summarizes the needs of a Celiac.

We were laughing as she read it because it seems so funny on paper, but in reality it is a perfect and concise letter. I think she should just bring it with her everywhere she goes indefinitely. Including giving it to friends and family members that may want to cook for her. It is definitely a good reminder of how serious Celiacs really is.

So remember kids, gluten doesn't just hurt people in English, it is equally dangerous in Spanish as well...probably even German. Not Japanese though. They just eat rice and sharks and puffer fish. That's probably not true. Sharks could be filled with gluten for all I know.

Be jealous. Be very jealous. 

Friday, November 6, 2009

F.O.C.U. Tip #6

Ok, so I have climbed down from my soap box and I am ready to resume my friendly, big-sister-with-advice-to-share tone. Today's lesson is about cooking for your gluten-free friends. Don't do it. OR, if you are absolutely hell-bent on cooking for your gf friend, there are a few simple rules you should follow: 

1. Trust no one. 
Not a website that tells you what is and is not gluten-free, not the grocery store "gluten-free" section,  not even the packaging on food. Only your gluten-free friend knows what he/she can eat and it came from trial and error, not a label. 
2. Plan the meal with your friend.
Surprises are lovely, but not when they involve hours curled up in the fetal position. 
3. Keep all the packaging from the food you used so your gf friend can inspect before eating.
See Natalie's story below
4. Trust no one. And you do not talk about fight club.

So this whole blog idea came from an experience I had a few weeks ago. I was on the Women's Health website looking up recipes. Their recipe looker-upper thing is pretty cool, you can filter down your search criteria to things like "cooking method," "occasion," and "dietary needs." Long story short, I decided to look up some gluten-free recipes that I might one day make for my gf bf Amy. 

Let's look at the first ingredient of the first item that popped up after I selected my filters, including "Wheat/Gluten Free":

Awesome. Luckily, I am a smart girl, and I am able to deduce that my wheat-gluten free friend cannot have whole-wheat pizza crust. For someone not as naturally gifted, this could lead to a disaster. Our friend Natalie is very smart too, she does Science. But even a Scientist is no match for the gluten-monster. What follows is her story.

Natalie's Semolina story. 
About a year ago our friend Natalie had the good intentions of cooking an awesome meal for Amy. Back then Natalie was pretty new to Glutenfreelandia, but she was determined to get it right. She went directly to the "gluten-free" section of her local supermarket and found the perfect noodle to make her gluten free vegetarian lasagna with....the semolina noodle. It was in the gluten-free section, near the rice noodles. It sounded gluten-free (never mind that there was a picture of wheat on the package). Back in my newbie days, I would have done the same thing. 

Amy loved the semolina lasagna. She loved it so much she had two large servings. Then we did what any good friends would do when their Celiac has just been glutened, we took her to a corn maze. Amy developed super-human powers that night, she was like a machine. She guided us through that corn maze as if God him/herself was whispering the directions in her ear. Left, then right, then right again, she was a woman on a mission.

one of us: "Hey, I think we should make a left here."
Amy: "No. It's a right. We are going right."

And it was a right. Amy survived the corn maze that night, but still suffered a gnarly glutening that she felt for the next few days. All because a supermarket put semolina noodles in the gluten-free section.

Moral of the story = trust no one. The end.


Thursday, November 5, 2009

Jenny, I got your number

Jenny McCarthy rant to supplement Laura's Oprah rant:
This woman has been on my “celebrities that need to shut the f-up” list for quite awhile. I’m not going to get into her whole ridiculous vaccines = autism crap because this soap box will not support my weight long enough for 2 rants. Today’s rant is about how Jenny McCarthy thinks that a gluten-free diet CURED HER SON’S AUTISM. Yes, you read that correctly.

I can’t ….I don’t even…..this HURTS MY SOUL. Now I am not a doctor (I am not even a Celiac for that matter) but isn’t this the equivalent of saying “Becoming a vegetarian cured my Dyslexia”? To make matters worse, I found this little nugget of awesome while doing blog research on none other than the “Living Without” website. “Living Without” is (I thought)  a respected publication for people with allergies and food sensitivities. Way to feed the celebrity I’m-going-to-give-you-uneducated-and-possibly-dangerous-medical-advice-because-I-am-famous-and-I-can machine. Is Jenny McCarthy really going to help your sales that much? Now desperate parents of autistic children are going to deprive their kids of an entire food group on the say-so of a moron. Shame on you Living Without! And to think I almost bought Amy a subscription for Christmas, screw that!

 yup, this person looks totally qualified to give medical 
and nutritional advice

According to the LW article, health expert Dr. McCarthy and her partner in crazy, Jim Carrey, are both gf as well. Funny, the gluten-free diet didn’t seem to do anything for their mental disabilities? 

is it just me or is Jim Carrey starting to look like "Killer Bob" from Twin Peaks?  

 I get it lady, you love your kid, you want the best for him blah, blah, blah. But how happy is your kid going to be when he gets older and realizes he is responsible for a generation of children that have contracted Measles and weren’t allowed to eat Oreos. I hope all this money you are making spouting your nonsense is enough to pay for the therapy your child is going to need.

maybe she does have Celiacs?

My Best Friend Is a Celiac and All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt

Laura and I have decided that, in the light of the current financial environment, what people really need to do is buy stuff. Namely, stuff with clever sayings pertaining to gluten. This is our way of stimulating the economy and "giving back."

So soon there will be a cafe press store chock full of F.O.C.U. swag. I know what you're thinking, "Will it be up in time for Christmas/Chanukah?" Fear not wheat-eaters and is going to be a very gluten-free holiday!

Right now we are still in the brainstorming process and, since this is a collaborative organization, I thought I'd run some of our ideas past everyone. Please give us feedback, as well as any catchy slogans you may come up with that might look good on a t-shirt, mug, kerchief, etc.

"MY WHEAT DON'T STINK" (thanks Bryen)
"I SEE-LIAC YOU" (that one is pushing it, I know)

  this could be your boyfriend/brother/husband.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

F.O.C.U. Tip #4

You need to be aware that when your gluten-free friend goes out to eat with you, he/she is basically playing roulette. Ordering something that shouldn't have gluten in it, like a salad minus croutons, may seem harmless but it's not. How many times have you ordered food "minus" something but when you get it you can tell the item was "picked" out? This happens to me with raw onions all the time. I detest raw onions, and you can NOT fool me, I can smell onion juice from a mile smells like stinky feet. I know that your grubby hands were digging around in my salad, picking out little onion shards (poorly, might I add, because you missed the one that just ruined my day) but I digress. My point is, most restaurants don't worry about cross contamination, so your friend is taking a big risk ordering anything. And for pete's sake, do not invite your gluten-free friend to a place that has gluten in its name, like "Pizza Hut" or "The Macaroni Grill." That just makes you an insensitive d-bag.

Hopefully there are restaurants in your area with gluten-free menus. Big cities tend to have more of these because GF is kind of a fad diet right now (though I still don't understand why). Several chains, such as Outback Steak House and Chilis, offer gluten-free options. We went to an Outback once where the manager brought out Amy's food himself so that she knew her plate hadn't even touched the plates with gluten on them. Not all places are that awesome though, even the ones that claim to accommodate food allergies can screw up. When Amy orders at a restaurant she basically has to scare them into thinking she will die if gluten touches her plate. I'm not going to lie, I have used this trick before when trying to order something without onions. I have never heard of a fatal onion allergy, but no one has challenged me on this as of yet (I don't do it that often, seems like bad karma).

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

F.O.C.U. Tip #3

If you frequently socialize with gluten-free folks, it is way easier to eat and drink what they do as much as possible. #1: it saves money because you aren't buying two types of everything. #2: it cuts down on the chances of an accidental glutening. I now only buy potato vodka over grain vodka and I'm pretty sure home made rice cookies (slightly under cooked) are one of the greatest foods on earth.

F.O.C.U. Tip #2

I know, you like to share. I do too. But if you offer your Celiac friend a doughnut hole one more time he/she is going to punch you in the face. There is also the off chance that your gluten-free friend absent-mindedly eats the doughnut hole, at which point you will be partially responsible for a glutening. nice one.

F.O.C.U. Tip #1

This is not an innuendo, I'm talking about accidental contamination and it is the easiest gluten no-no to make. Hanging out with a Celiac is like...I don't know...some sports analogy about needing to be alert all the time.

I still have close calls. I almost dipped a wheat cracker in a designated gluten-free cheese plate this past Sunday. And a few weeks ago Amy's husband, Mike, caught me tossing sliced cheese that had touched crackers into a ziplock with non-crackery cheese, and then putting it in their fridge. That is bad.

similar and equally dangerous scenarios:
- keep your pita out of the hummus
- keep your baguette out of the baked brie
- keep your pretzel out of the mustard
- do not put your gluteny-toast-crumby knife back in the butter/spread

Monday, October 12, 2009

I ain't afraid of no gluten.

As the friend of someone who is allergic to wheat gluten you have one big responsibility: to not poison your friend. Sounds easy, right? WRONG! Gluten is a tricky bastard and it hides in things that you wouldn't even think of, like the adhesive that you lick on stamps and envelopes. Sometimes it gives itself funny names to disguise itself, such as "Semolina" (coming soon: Natalie's Semolina Story). And then there is the dreaded "accidental contamination." An innocent swipe of a cracker in some cheese dip, and it's all over.

I am a Wheat-Eater.

I heart my friend Amy. We have been friends for over 12 years, and in those 12 years we have consumed a LOT of gluten together...eating was kind of our thing. We met working at a restaurant and spent years playing the "Will it taste good deep fried?" game (the answer almost across the board is "yes"). Do you want to know how long it takes to drive to Chicago from Detroit? Answer: One box of Cheeze-its. "Sopranos Sunday" at Amy and her husband's house was gluten-palooza. It was a weekly excuse for us to gorge ourselves on pizza, pasta, and beer. So when Amy started getting sick a few years ago, the last thing we wanted to believe was that our beloved food was causing all her pain.

Ghosts of gluten past: Amy and I ate this monstrosity on a camping trip several years ago. I can't remember the exact reason, but I am sure alcohol was involved.

Long story short: Amy has Celiac Disease in a big way. Gluten is her Kryptonite, even a little bit and she is out of commission for days. We call it getting "glutened," and it has happened a lot!

The following blog is for the gluten-eaters who do not want to harm their non-gluten eating friends.