Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The D-Word?

I lost track of time last week in a big way, but fear not because I am back this week. This week I am relaying an article I found two weeks ago about a little boy who was deprived of his hamburger

Brief backstory: A boy with Celiac went on a field trip that included lunch at Pizza Hut (which, obviously, is not the most glutard-friendly restaurant). Since the boy couldn't eat the pizza that the rest of the group was about to eat, his mom got him a bunless burger from McDonalds. The Pizza Hut staff wouldn't let him bring his burger in. The mom claims that this constitutes discrimination against disability, since her son's food allergy compromises his ability to partake in "major life activities."   

This leads me to wonder: Are we glutards disabled? One of the original authors of the Americans with Disabilities Act agrees with the mother -- the act was revised to include a more lenient definition of "major life activities." Before typing this sentence, I hadn't really given much thought to eating as a major life activity -- it was just something I did. Something that is more effortful than it used to be, but something I still take for granted. While I do agree that gluten intolerance can hugely interfere with eating, which is a major, life-sustaining activity, it has never occurred to me that I might be considered disabled. Lots of people have dietary restrictions -- either required or optional. I don't think of myself as any different than a vegetarian. Thanks to labeling requirements, I can easily ascertain what is in most of the food I buy. If I am disabled, I probably have the least disabling disability ever. I can easily shape and navigate my world to meet my needs. If a restaurant can't provide me with satisfying options, I can choose to spend my money somewhere else. However, things are a lot harder when you're a kid and you have less control over your environment. Maybe there should be some protections in place to help individuals with food allergies to eat safely and satisfyingly when out at restaurants. Where to draw the line, I do not know. Do you have thoughts?* Do you think food allergies constitute a disability? 

*Sometimes I don't have thoughts. Usually when I'm tired. 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Tips For Building Your Bridge Over Troubled Water

This past week derailed my positivity train, but I am getting back on track. As I've mentioned before, sometimes living with a gluten allergy is fine and other times it isn't. This past week was one of those stretches when it wasn't. I had 3 dissatisfying meals last week outside my home, and by the time I finished eating the third "meal," I felt pretty stabby about the restaurant industry. I was, however, thankful that I navigated the week without getting gluten-poisoned. 

Not-so-quick frustrating meal recap:
(1) Gluten-free menu items often revolve around meat. Which is great if you're a carnivore, but if you're not, sometimes there isn't much to choose from. While I ended up having some really delicious food, I was somewhat frustrated from a lack of vegetarian options. It was an expensive meal, and I left really hungry. Typically I'm grateful for a gluten-free menu, period. But sometimes I want to see something other than meat and seafood on it. Get creative, people. 
(2) A company catered lunch at work. They assured the person coordinating the meal that there would be food for me to eat. Turns out their idea of a lunch and my idea of a lunch are not the same. They brought me baby spinach with sliced strawberries with some olive oil and balsalmic vinegar. For whatever reason, I couldn't even put the nuts on my salad. Yea, I guess this is a meal. But everyone else was eating sandwiches and meat and dairy and real vegetables, and little hors d'oeuvres, and a shitload of desserts. Hard not to feel cheated staring over my pile of leaves at mounds of hot food on everyone else's plates. What was most annoying is that this place has catered us before and brought gluten-free cupcakes. Why no cupcakes this time, a-holes?
(3) All-you-can eat, fill-your-own-bowl, Mongolian-style BBQ places are always tricky to navigate due to shared cooking space and the reliance on meat as the basis of the meal. On top of that, many bulk sauces come chock full o' fillers. They had special cooking surfaces in back for dealing with allergies (yay!), but my meal ended up being a pile of naked veggies and tofu since I don't like plain meat. I paid full price, but left hungry. I rage-walked all the way home. 

So what do you do to get out of a frustrated tailspin? Here are some tips for building bridges over the troubled waters of dining out with a food allergy:
(1) Always travel with a snack. Always. You can eat your snack on your way home. Or if you're desperate/angry, you can eat it in public. 
(2) Keep your house stocked with ingredients for one of your favorite meals. This is even better if your favorite meal is something easy to make. I always have stuff on hand for poor-itos and spaghetti. You can quickly make a meal that will fill you up before/after your disappointing dining experience. Then you will be full, which may not ease the rage/sadness/isolation, but at least you won't be hungry anymore. 
(3) Talk to the waitstaff or the managers. Just because one person may not be helpful doesn't mean that they all won't be. If a waiter isn't comfortable making a substitution, ask to talk to a manager about it. 
(4) Talk to your allies, or get allies if you don't have them. I am lucky that I can vent to my mom, who is also a glutard. While she can't bake me gluten-free cookies from 1200 miles away, sometimes it feels better to talk to someone who understands. Your allies don't have to be limited to other glutards. My boyfriend and Kathleen are not only supportive, but can also make food that I can and want to eat. After a bunch of frustrating dining experiences, having meals with people who will cook delicious, satisfying meals for you can go a long way to restoring your faith in humanity. 
(5) Read some gluten-free blogs. Reminding yourself that you're part of a growing community can help you to feel less isolated. 
(6) Write Yelp reviews to let others know about which places are good to you and which aren't. Talk to restaurant managers about what you'd like to see on a gluten-free menu. Talk talk talk. Get the word out. By increasing awareness, you increase the chances that people will improve menu offerings. 

I'm pretty busy, so you're getting this post a tad earlier than usual. I wish you all healthy and happy meals!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

I Shall Build A Meal Around The Corn Muffins

Sorry I didn't post last night. At the last minute, I decided to go out for tapas and sangria with two fab friends. The food was fantastic and it was nice to get away from work for a bit and to socialize. It was obvious that I was eager to get out of my house when I put on sparkly lipgloss. 

Unrelated to tapas, I've been craving cornbread for a while. Most cornbread mixes have wheat flour in them, but lucky for me, my friend Jenn had given me a very simple recipe a while back for corn muffins. They're super simple, slightly sweet, and they hit the spot.

Corn Muffins
1 cup cornmeal (course is fine, and I hear blue corn works great)
1 cup plain yogurt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup maple syrup (you can add less if you'd like them to be less sweet)
1 egg

Mix everything together, then pour into a muffin pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-25 minutes. I followed Jenn's instructions and filled the cups about 1/4 full and baked them for around 17 minutes. This recipe only makes about 9 muffins, which is just about right for a single person's cornbread binge, but may not be enough for gatherings. 

My corn muffins were all dressed up with nowhere to go, so to speak, so I ended making barbecue baked chicken and green beans to escort them into my belly. The bbq chicken was even simpler than the corn muffins: I covered some chicken breasts with a mesquite rub and bbq sauce and stuck them in the oven. Yumsies! 

Friday, January 6, 2012

Second Best Lunch Ever!

I stumbled upon a gem in the midst of my culinary laziness that I feel obligated to share because it is so simple and affordable. All you need is a Trader Joe's, a microwave, and a little time in the morning to make a sandwich. 

Roasted Red Pepper-Palooza!
Part 1: Sandwich. 
Make this in the morning so that the rice cakes soften up in time for lunch.
-Pull out two ricecakes, our trusty and affordable bread substitute. 
-On one ricecake, spread a thick layer of Trader Joe's Roasted Red Pepper Spread with Egglplant and Garlic. This stuff is flavorful and adds a delicious pop to sandwiches.
-Place some turkey lunchmeat atop the rice cake with the roasted red pepper spread. 
-Add a slice of mozzarella cheese to your sandwich base.
-Spread a thin layer of light mayonnaise on the other ricecake. This will add creaminess and dimension to the sandwich AND will really help the roasted red pepper spread pop. 
-Put the two halves together and place in a container to "marinate" until lunch.

Part 2: Soup.
-Microwave a bowl of Trader Joe's Tomato and Roasted Red Pepper Soup. This soup is so creamy, plus the tomato and roasted red pepper flavors subtly combine to create soup bliss. Enjoy alongside your sandwich. 

Roasted red pepper overkill? Not really. Both portions of this meal have a common thread, but they actually have unique flavors. Spicy? Not at all. Just flavorful and satisfying! Simple? You betcha. Best part? You'll feel full for only 330 calories! 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

You're Special Because You're You

Let's get this year started on the right foot! I can think of no better person to kick off another year of gluten-free positivity than the supporter of self-esteem, advocate of acceptance, t-word of tolerance, and luminary of love... the one and only Mr. Fred Rogers:

As we gear up for another year of challenges and triumphs, remember that you make each day such a special day by just you being you, and that people can like you exactly as you are.* 

*I plagiarized from Mr. Rogers up there. He says it best.