August 14th, 2012eating
In a few weeks—short weeks, very short—I’ll be sending an intermediate draft of my memoir manuscript to my publisher, Red Hen Press. After five years of trying to make the pieces of this thing fit together, I think it’s finally there. A few trusted readers are taking a look right now, and they’ll help me smooth out the edges before sending it off for input from my editor. Through the help of my writing group, I got the memoir from slightly overwhelming in its messiness to a thing I think about with love, a thing that makes me want to go to the bookstore because I can’t wait until I see my book there.
For now, though, I have to finish smoothing out the edges. Between teaching the summer intensive quarter and the revision, I don’t have time for much else, certainly not cooking. Breakfasts are weird: today, roasted salmon over arugula, just arugula (the kind that comes in the plastic container), maybe some olive oil and vinegar. I used to hate salad, but now I eat it when I’m not even hungry but know I really need to eat. I don’t care what’s for breakfast as long as it energizes me, doesn’t makes me sick, and allows me to go back to my laptop rather than babysitting my food while it cooks. When it’s dinnertime, salmon gets dressed up herbs from the garden, one extra step that I have time for in the evening.
I eat a lot of burgers. I grill up a bunch and eat them throughout the week. I make a batch of guacamole, vacuum-pack it, and add spoonfuls to the burgers. I haven’t really noticed whether this gets old. I also like carrots. Carrots have not gotten old. I hope they will remain exciting, because I have ten pounds of carrots in my refrigerator. As much as I love to cook, it’s relaxing to eat unimpressive, familiar foods. Now is not really the time for elaborate preparations.
If you’re interested in knowing more about what I’ve been working on, I will be participating in three readings next week.
Claustrophobia: Wednesday, August 22nd, 6:30 p.m. Free. Claustrophobia 6: Apartment Story will feature Brian McGuigan, Sarah Galvin, Elissa Washuta, and Ryler Dustin. More information at the Claustrophobia website. I really like the flier!
Ghost Tokens: Thursday, August 23rd, 6:45 p.m. at Kobe Terrace Park, 7th and Main in Seattle’s International District. Free. The second of two Ghost Tokens readings will feature Elizabeth Cooperman, Elissa Washuta and Shauna Hargrove. The reading afterparty will take place at Collins Pub in Pioneer Square. Lovely video flier:
Lo-Fi Arts Festival: Saturday, August 25, all-day festival at Smoke Farm in Arlington, WA. $40, discounted if you bike. The Lo-Fi Arts Festival is an all-day event with an amazing lineup too massive to include here. There will be artists of many disciplines, and a meal and bonfire at the day’s end. I’ll be performing new work, a piece that is not from the memoir. According to the website, “Our crack team of participating artists are working diligently to serve up a robust selection of experiences ranging from breathtaking to obscure. We expect nothing less, and neither should you.” It’s true: I’ve been working really diligently on this new piece, written for the occasion. I enjoy the idea of being a part of this crack team of artists. This phrasing makes it sound as though I am a detective into my own consciousness, which, I suppose, is true.
I have definitely never lined up three readings in one week, but I absolutely cannot wait. Giving a reading is one of my favorite experiences there is. It’s going to be a good week, and if you’re in the area and can stop in, reading to you would make my day.
Toward the end of the introduction of Diane Sanfilippo’s new book Practical Paleo: A Customized Approach to Health and a Whole-Foods Lifestyle, is the above sentence, an elegant thesis statement of sorts for the book. The sentence is placed before the breakdown of the paleo concept, before the guides to foods and eating, before the everyday-language anatomy and physiology lessons that couple with illustrations to make sense of human systems, before the clarification of the familiar-but-often-hazy term “leaky gut,” before the dozen different thirty-day meal plans for various goals and conditions, before the entire cookbook’s worth of recipes, and before everything else that Sanfilippo has managed to include in this hefty volume, and although it is a simple explanation of the book’s guiding attitude, the chapters that follow clearly demonstrate that the world of paleo is incredibly rich in its simplicity.
Upon taking hold of this book for the first time, readers are sure to notice its unmistakable physical presence. Clocking in at 415 glossy pages, this book is substantial, and a quick flip-through will show it to be a thing of beauty. With photography by Bill Staley and Kelty Luber and Illustrations by Alex Boake, Practical Paleo’s visual appeal sets it apart from many other nutritional texts. The photos accompanying each recipe serve as a reminder that paleo eating means eating well, while the illustrations elucidate complex health topics that even those readers familiar with the paleo diet may have had difficulty fully grasping before Sanfilippo tackled the subjects with charming illustrations and her friendly, gently funny voice: “So, just like your mom picks up stuff lying around the house and puts it in its rightful place, insulin finds nutrients in your bloodstream and tries to put them in their rightful place—your cells.” Her talent for making complex material accessible animates this subject matter, moving it from the abstract—physiology—to the real—our bodies.
Those bodies, Sanfilippo acknowledges, are a diverse group, and from the outset, she acknowledges the need for individualization in an approach to eating. One-size-fits-all, hocus-pocus fad diets are out. “Practical Paleo will serve not just the average person looking for improved health, but also those who have been diagnosed with a medical condition and perhaps told they’d suffer with those symptoms for life,” she writes. “If you fall into the latter group, this book was particularly created for you.”
It is because of this approach that this book shines. Instead of merely acknowledging those with medical conditions, noting the necessary deviations from a standard diet in a special section, or sending these afflicted readers elsewhere for more information, Sanfilippo has successfully created a guide that fits all in its flexibility. I can’t stress enough that this is truly special.
Sanfilippo discusses leaky gut and helps readers understand whether theirs might fit the bill before laying out a dozen 30-day meal plans for conditions and goals including (but not limited to) Autoimmune Conditions, Thyroid Health, Athletic Performance, and Fat Loss. A Squeaky Clean Paleo plan provides a strict whole-foods paleo structure for those who aren’t looking for help with specific conditions or goals. Each plan comes with a list of diet and lifestyle items to add and avoid, nutritional supplements and herbs to consider, supportive nutrients and foods that contain them, and 30 days’ worth of meal plans connected to the recipes in the book.
In the recipe section, each recipe is marked on the bottom-left corner with the allergens or gut irritants it contains (nuts, eggs, nightshades or FODMAPS). If a recipe can reasonably be made without the ingredient in question, substitution information is listed above.
I have tried three of the recipes since receiving my review copy. Mom’s stuffed cabbage rolls with tomato cranberry sauce were simple to modify, using the marginal note, to be nightshade-free, and they’re fun to make. The rolling is much easier than I thought it would be. They reheat beautifully. The sweet & savory potatoes are delicious thanks to an unexpected ingredient. My new favorite food, though, is the herbal tea-infused gelatin cubes. These deliver the healing properties of gelatin, but offer a change from beef broth, and they’re absolutely addictive. I make mine without any sugar or other sweetener, but they still remind me of the Jell-O I used to eat by the batch-ful as a kid.
These recipes are a pleasure to flip though because, alongside necessary go-to staples like bone broth and sauerkraut, Sanfilippo includes exciting recipes that depart from the familiar stews and curries. I’m looking forward to making red palm & coriander tuna over daikon noodle salad, spiced lamb meatballs with balsamic-fig compote, and lamb dolmas, to name a few.
I’m glad this book has made it onto my bookshelf, and I recommend it to those readers looking for guidance in their efforts to find extraordinary health in simple, whole foods. For that reason, I am giving away a copy of Practical Paleo to one reader. In order to enter, all I ask is that you subscribe to this blog using the box on the righthand side of the page, right under “SUBSCRIBE to receive email notifications about new posts.” You won’t get frequent annoyances, but once we’re acquainted, I’d love to keep in touch to let you know when I have new posts. After that, please leave me a comment to let me know that you’ve signed up. This giveaway will end on August 15 at 12:00pm PST. I’ll choose a winner randomly.
April 30th, 2012eating
I love monitoring the search terms in my Google Analytics: seeing how people find this place is often funny (“buckwheat beer tastes like crap,” “friend gave me free beer,” “why do some people love peaches while others hate”) and always informative. Twice in the past couple of weeks, I have been troubled to learn that someone has found this blog by Googling, “i hate gluten free people.” In late 2011, someone found the blog by searching for “hate being around someone who is gluten free,” and in January, someone arrived here by Googling “i hate gluten intolerant people.” I know nothing else about these visitors—even if Analytics allowed me to know more, I respect their privacy and wouldn’t want to—but their expressions of aversion got me thinking about the source of their angst.
My initial thoughts upon seeing these search terms were to feel that I can’t completely blame these people for feeling that way. Some of our prominent images of gluten-free people lead people to believe that we are all insufferable, demanding and a drag to be around because of our imaginary illnesses and our histrionics. Over the past several months, I’ve nearly stopped going to restaurants, only eating out at places like Blue Moon Burgers because I know they are gluten-free friendly, with gluten-free buns, a dedicated fryer, and knowledgeable staff, so I don’t have to feel that I am troubling anyone with my requests. There’s nothing worse than showing up at a restaurant, making the minimum requests that will keep me safe (“There’s no flour in that soup, right?”) and feeling like a bother. Sometimes, restaurants are able to accommodate, but sometimes, they are not. So I cook for myself. It’s cheap, and so am I.
It’s only online that I have read about the demanding restaurant behavior that I, too, consider an embarrassment toward the rest of us. I would much rather eat my own getting-better-every-day cooking than display such a sense of entitlement. If you really need to worry so much about cross-contamination in a restaurant, perhaps you should eat at one that is comfortable with your needs, or eat at home.
It took a little while for me to realize that the search terms are really more troubling than I had noticed at first glance. These statements, i hate gluten free people and i hate gluten intolerant people, are not about behavior. They are about people. I am not an abstraction or an idea; I cannot ever change my disease, and I will not ever change the fact that I don’t eat gluten. The fact that someone might hate me because of that disturbs me.
The hate, I know, has nothing to do with the sickness. It doesn’t even have anything to do with the food. Nobody cares whether I eat wheat, barley and rye or not. It is about the demarcation of difference, about drawing attention to oneself, and about the perception that we made this stuff up.
I have discussed my concern about the fact that Shauna James Ahern, aka Gluten-Free Girl, has instructed her celiac readers to tell waiters that a single speck of gluten will cause the sufferer to get sick in the restaurant. In that post, I wrote that I was no longer interested in reading Ahern’s blog because I no longer felt that she was speaking for me.
Ahern has begun blogging for Epicurious, beginning with a post on April 11, “The Grace of a Gluten-free Meal.” At the time of this writing, there are thirty comments on the post, both positive and negative, and moderators have obviously removed some comments. Clearly, this brief post about an Easter meal brought on a flurry of discussion that ranged beyond the post topic.
Several of Ahern’s Epicurious posts have spoken to a desire for special treatment that seems to be the cause for widespread resentment that I believe has trickled down to the rest of us. In “Gluten-Free Italian,” she writes:
“Those with diagnosed celiac are given two paid work days a month to go food shopping, since gluten-free baked goods can be more difficult to find. And in farmacias in small towns, there are shelves of gluten-free packaged pasta, croissants, and rolls. That’s at the pharmacy.”
A commenter, JulesGlutenFree (probably the Jules of JulesGlutenFree.com, although Epicurous does not provide spots in profiles for commenters to link to their own blogs), calls on Dr. Alessio Fasano, the head of the University of Maryland Center for Celiac Research, to help refute some of this information. Dr. Fasano, who is Italian, says of Ahern’s post about Italy,
“It is almost ALL WRONG. It is not true that the prevalence in Italy is 10%, it is not true that kids must be screened before entering kindergarten, and it is not true that diagnosed celiac have 2 paid work days to go shopping. It is true that GF products are in farmacias (pharmacy), since the Italian government subside the cost of GF products in the order of ~100 euro/person/month. They have a ticket to claim their products at the pharmacy and that is the reason why pharmacies carry large number of GF products.”
This special treatment of celiac sufferers is a strange pipe dream. I’m not sure why I would need to spend more time shopping than anyone else; I recently wrote about the fact that I’m over anything that comes in a package marked “gluten-free.” After writing it, I read Sari Botton’s fantastic piece about all the gluten-free crap she hates, the cookies she doesn’t care to eat. It’s much easier to avoid that stuff altogether. There’s no need for two days off for shopping when I can run into the market, grab some vegetables and meat, pay, and run out.
In “Good Food at the Airport?” Ahern again tells Epicurious readers about her special needs:
“This doesn’t include the questions about cross-contamination you have to ask an overwhelmed teenage food service worker. Could you change your gloves after you make that guy’s sandwich but make my food? Could you clean off that plastic cutting board of the crumbs? Do you know if there’s any gluten in the salad dressing? Has there been any flour on that surface recently? Is there soy sauce in anything?”
I couldn’t help but comment on that one. After all, I’ve written about food at the airport before and found it incredibly easy to disappear among the other eaters in the concourse, all trying to make satisfying choices, some trying to be healthy as well. “Healthy” means something different for each person and I found that the airport I was in had many choices, but I didn’t need to buy any of them, because I brought my own food. Ahern has written about the airport before and seems uninterested in arriving prepared, which I find puzzling.
I know that these days, I eat at restaurants less than the average person, and that’s my personal choice, but come on—does every meal have to be a dining experience? Do we always have to be impressed by what we eat? (I don’t believe our stomachs always need to be full, but that’s a different blog post.) Isn’t it okay for an airport to be a place that planes fly into and out of, a transitional space we briefly stop into, one that doesn’t need to impress us or take care of us? And when we do dine out, why choose a chancy item that will require a game of twenty questions about soy sauce and surfaces?
I do not wish to attempt any feats of mind-reading or analysis of Shauna Ahern’s personal habits or predilections, but I do have a vested interest in the personality she projects on her blog, because it affects everyone who is forced to share the label of celiac, who must ask restaurant staff about the food choices available, and who knows that people might hold negative opinions of us and our illness just because of the behavior of others who share our diagnosis.
I remember the gluten-free newbie fear of being glutened in a restaurant, the wish to make sure that everything is safe, but that wore off. Now, I know how to quickly and quietly navigate the terrain. I do not want special treatment. I want to go to a restaurant, very quietly check in—”I’ll have the salad, no croutons,” or “Burger, no bun please”—and not think about gluten for the rest of my meal; or I want to go to the place where I know I’ve ordered from a GF menu before and just order from it without fanfare. Honestly, I don’t want to think about gluten at all. After all, I’m gluten-free.
I don’t want my life to be ruled by gluten, or by gluten-free, strange in its huge presence because it is a negation. I don’t want to be run by the need to eat, either. If gluten controls my social life, makes me speak its name every time I enter into a food-based give-and-take with another person, I am not in control, and I become defined by gluten. This, perhaps, is what tires people about celiac sufferers: everything is about gluten. It gets old fast.
My plan to not let gluten control me, and to not let myself be one of those gluten-free people that others hate, has gone something like this.
- I will not constantly point out the food I can’t have when others are eating it.
- Before asking for special treatment by someone who is about to prepare food for me, I will consider whether the request is feasible, and whether it will inconvenience the person asked. Additionally, I will consider whether I might be able to choose an option that would not require special treatment.
- I will try to go entire days without using the word “gluten.”
- I will be comfortable going without food if no options are available to me.
- I will be appreciative of the hard work of those who prepare food for me, whether or not they are knowledgeable about celiac disease.
- I will keep in mind that my nourishment is not the center/purpose of a gathering.
- I will take full responsibility for my own health by opting to cook my own nutritious meals at home most of the time.
That way, food can function in the way I need it to, providing sustenance and satisfaction, while getting out of the way of my life. I don’t want gluten-free, gluten-intolerant or celiac people to be hated, so I’m doing my best to stay on best behavior, hoping “gluten-free” will someday no longer elicit eye-rollings.Tags: Epicurious, gluten-free, Gluten-Free Girl, restaurants