Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Getting more mainstream?

There was an article in the New York Times magazine last weekend that actually, seriously considered the possibility that not eating gluten, dairy and nightshades and using probiotics helped improve someone with a debilitating autoimmune condition. It was written by a mother describing her experience with her child's autoimmune arthritis.

I found the comments almost as interesting as the article itself. I expected the angry screeching doctors and the eye-rolling types, enraged that such irresponsible nonsense had been published in The New York Times! (The world must be coming to an end!) But there weren't, it turned out, that many of those. Mostly, it was people writing in to say "me too!" Including a few doctors.

As some of the commenters pointed out, there is real research out there on these things. It's just a matter of knowing to look for it ... in spite of your doctor.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Come watch your friends eat an aromatic, tasty meal

The stuff of my nightmares
An out-of-town friend was coming to visit. She wanted to meet up with some of the women from a local arts group I belong to, including me. She suggested an Italian place. I'm usually willing to meet at places I know I can't eat at--I'll eat beforehand and hide a small snack in my bag to get me through. It's all about the company, right?

But when I looked at the pictures of the establishment online, I just about freaked. Mind you, not only am I a celiac, but I'm allergic to dairy and nightshades (including tomatoes) as well. On the list of least-desired places to visit, Italian restaurants rank near the top. I wrote back and suggested we try somewhere else. But, in the end, for various reasons, the Italian place was going to be our meeting spot.

The lunch was yesterday. And I actually had a good time, conversation-wise. But there was literally nothing on the menu I could dare eat. Even the salads didn't look safe. I'd already figured that would happen, and had come with sliced fruit hidden in my bag. I got a coffee, using coconut-based milk I'd brought from home for creamer. But I spent a lot of the lunch with my hand defensively covering the coffee. The bread on the table was the sort that had to be pulled apart with some force. Bread crumbs flew. The aroma was obscenely hunger-inducing as I sat there munching a piece of browning apple pretending I didn't care that they were having one of the best meals they were going to eat all month. I kept telling myself it was about the company. And I did, really, enjoy the company. And I was grateful they weren't like some of my other "friends" who would just not invite me at all and exclude me from the social visit.

But I admit it. After over a decade of living like this, it is not getting easier. It sucks.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The label says Gluten Free (*But not, like, if you really can't have gluten)

This sort of thing really pisses me off. There's a local bagel place, Los Bagels, that subscribes to the Domino's Pizza vision of gluten free marketing. They say on their blog that their bagels are "a great victory for gluten intolerant people." They add: "Los Bagels boils and bakes them fresh daily, so people with gluten allergies can share in the experience of a fresh baked bagel any time they want." The owner adds, "I have friends in the community who don't come to Los Bagels, because one of their children or their spouse is allergic to gluten...For people with food allergies, it is a challenge to eat out and I'm happy some of these folks can come enjoy a Veggie Delight or a bagel with cream cheese and lox."

And then they add the disclaimer. They note that they are a traditional bakery and that wheat flour is "in the baking environment." They add, "We are educating our staff and our customers about exactly what we are offering, since some people do have an extreme allergic reaction to gluten. So far, it seems a large majority of our customers are only mildly allergic or not eating gluten for other health reasons." 

Gee... this sure is a "great victory" for those with "gluten intolerance" and allergies. Wouldn't you agree? 

They also offer these pre-packaged and they are sold in the freezer next to the Udi's and Glutino selection at the local market under a hard-to-miss "gluten free" sign. They do put a tiny disclaimer on the bottom of the label on the bag that the bagels are, like, gluten free but maybe not that gluten free. But how many unsuspecting suckers do you suppose have just seen the big friendly "gluten free" sign and missed the fine print?

I'm so sick of the gluten free fad diet thing. It used to be, back in the day, that if a company bothered to put "gluten free" on the label, you could usually trust that it was, indeed, gluten free. Now it's just another marketing slogan. Places like Los Bagels obviously don't have a clue how much harder they make the lives of people who medically can't eat gluten. When, oh when, will we finally have a law defining that gluten free has to--gasp!--meet an accepted legal standard defining gluten free.

For the record, Los Bagels is one of the only places around here I won't even get a coffee in. There are other bakery-type places here where I can meet friends and reasonably safely have a coffee while they munch on their cookies or whatnot. But not here. I got a cup of coffee at their Eureka branch a while back and wound up in gastro-purgatory, doubled over in agony for longer than I'd care to remember. My suspicion was that a server who'd just handled a bagel hadn't wiped the crumbs off her fingertips before gripping the edge of my mug. It had been busy, and she had touched the top of my mug. If I'd been thinking more clearly, I wouldn't have let that mug touch my lips.

At any rate, the thought of eating a "gluten free" (sort of, maybe, but only if you're only "mildly allergic") bagel from a place like that... ugh. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Still here... still struggling... plus some schadenfreude

This past Thanksgiving marked 11 years since my Celiac diagnosis, which came when I'd already been dealing with several food allergies. I wish I could say it's gotten easier. In some ways, it has. At least I know the ins and outs by now of what I can and can't eat. But it's still hard. I stepped away from this food-related blog for a long while because.... I'm burned out. I'm burned out on cooking. I'm burned out on having to think about food all the time. I'm burned out on having to sit in restaurants watching my friends eat while my stomach growls and I pretend not to be hungry. I'm burned out on not being able to grab a scone with my coffee when I'm out in the afternoon. I'm just plain burned out. I didn't want to spend more time writing about it.

But I'm opinionated. I have a blog for the artsy side of my life, but it isn't really the place for these sorts of things. I started missing the idea of having a place to gripe about doctors, the diet and uncaring omnivores who can still eat pizza and enjoy the offerings at the annual Christmas potluck. I started missing the Mad GF Cat. So, after a long hiatus I think I'm going to return once in a while.

Only I think the title might need some readjusting, at least in spirit. Since I last was here, I've added another diagnosis to my collection. It turns out I also have M.S., and have had it for at least 12 years, but was misdiagnosed by one specialist after another for 10 of them. I guess in spirit it's more the Mad GF-MS Cat. I've been feeling burned out on a lot of things lately.

I recently had a doctor's appointment. I actually like my doctor and don't wish him any unhappiness. But he, like so many, has never really seemed to understand my gluten diagnosis (which came from elsewhere), nor been particularly understanding about the practicalities of the diet. "What's so hard about it?" he once said some years ago. "Why would you have to cook more?"

During my appointment the other day, he let it slip that a member of his family has been found to have... a gluten intolerance. "It's horrible," he sighed. "It's so hard to find anything to eat! It's so hard to eat out!" And, he informed me dejectedly, "Gluten free bread is terrible."

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Non-crumbly Tasty Gluten Free Tortillas (Seriously!)

Well, actually these come out a bit more like fajita wraps, but even my gluten eating friends and family love these. I've been wanting to post the recipe for a while, but keep feeling stumped, wondering how to describe the flour mix and such. But then I tried some store-bought gluten free tortillas yesterday and they were slimy and horrible. So here goes...

First, you need a good flour mix. I make up an all around, very versatile mix that I keep in a big jar in the refrigerator. The ingredients in it sometimes vary, but the main idea is that you need to keep a proportion of half starch to other kinds of flours. Maybe even a little extra starch. When you run your hands through the mix, you should be able to feel that "starchy" feeling like you get when you touch cornstarch. I've never tried it, since I can't use potato, but I suspect the all-purpose gluten free flours like Bob's Red Mill likely are similar and would work. This is my current mix:

3 C. garfava flour (or garbanzo bean flour)
2 1/2 C . arrowroot (or tapioca, potato or cornstarch)
2 1/2 C. tapioca flour
1 C. sorghum flour
1 C. millet flour (or quinoa flour, or whatever I have on hand if I want to experiment)

This mix was based on one from Carol Fenster's Special Diet Solutions:

3 C. garbanzo/fava bean flour
2 C. potato starch
2 C. cornstarch
1 C. tapioca flour
1 C. sorghum flour

I notice hers has a higher proportion of starches. This starch thing is definitely important.

Pliable, Bendable, Non-Crumbly and Tasty Gluten Free Tortillas

2 C. flour mix
a good-sized pinch, roughly 1/2 teas. xanthan gum
1/2 C. water
2 Tbls. olive oil

Mix it all together until you get a workable, non-sticky dough. You might have to play around with the water and flour amounts.

Turn this out onto a flour-sprinkled board. This is a rare gluten free dough that for some reason improves with kneading. Knead until it's smooth and pliable.

Divide into 6 balls.

Roll out into tortilla shapes.

I have a cast iron griddle, which works well. Oil and heat whatever kind of non-stick griddle or pan you have. When it's nice and warm plop a tortilla on top. It's often best to do this with a spatula. Sometimes they stick a little to the board and you have to scrape it off a bit with the spatula. Heat for a minute or a few, until it looks like it's starting to be cooked and firm. Flip over and finish it up. Often they will form bubbles. This is good and makes them that much lighter and tastier.

Amaze your gluten-free friends with your tasty and bendable wraps.

The one time I made these when they didn't work was when I was trying to show a newly diagnosed celiac friend that life didn't have to be bad. Food could be non-crumbly and good! And then these came out crumbly and wouldn't hold together. I still don't know what I did wrong. But even if, for some odd reason, yours don't work at first, don't give up. These are worth it. I always think it's going to be a huge amount of effort and don't make them that often. But the truth is, once you figure them out, it goes pretty quickly. I always wind up wondering why I don't do them more often. Especially after I just paid $5 for some really horrid slimy disks that I'm going to feed to the garbage can.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

I Haven't Been Sucked up by Gluten Wielding Aliens

My, what a strange time it's been. If anyone is still checking in on this, you've probably figured that I decided to give up on this blog before it ever really started. Or that I went insane, ate half a cake and did myself in from intestinal distress. Or something like that.

Actually, I've been unwell. I don't want to go into the whole sordid story here, but I did mention it on my other vehicle of spew, my art-related space. It turned out that the generic medication that I'd been taking wasn't any good. This particular pharmaceutical replaces a vital hormone that my body no longer makes on its own. Of all things, it was my gluten intolerance that led to me figuring it out. My pharmacy was going to switch me to another generic. The new pharma company wouldn't vouch for it being gluten free. Feeling ripped off, I had to go on the name brand at a much higher price. As soon as I took the first dose, I went from having so little stamina I could barely stand without breaking into an exhausted sweat and feeling faint to feeling almost close to normal. Even my chronic pain got more controllable. I'm ecstatic and relieved to get some of my life back, even as I'm raging inside for how much I've lost due to a bad drug that was supposed to be "equivalent" to the name brand. I'm finding out I'm not alone. Scary.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Pumpkin Soup with Coconut "Cream"

How about Halloween in May? This is great made with coconut milk beverage (see below) or coconut milk. The stuff from a cow would work too, if you can do that. This is my adaptation of a recipe from Vegetarian Dishes from Around the World by Rose Elliot. 

Pumpkin Soup

1 15 oz can of pumpkin (plain, not pie mix)
1 onion
2 large cloves garlic
2 T. olive oil, margarine or butter
4 C. stock or water
salt and pepper
2/3 C. coconut milk, coconut milk beverage, or light cream or milk

Peel and chop onion; peel and crush garlic.

Melt the oil in a heavy saucepan or pot and cook the chopped onion for about 5 minutes.

Add the garlic and pumpkin, and cook for a further 5 minutes.

Add the water (or stock) and some salt and pepper.

Bring to a boil and simmer for about 15 - 20 minutes. Purée the soup in a blender and then stir in the coconut milk (or cream). Reheat gently.