Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Great Harvest's great leap forward

Last night, I bought my first loaf of gluten-free Great Harvest bread from the Great Harvest in McMinnville. I shouldn't be so pleased about something I merely consume -- not produce -- but the fact that the local Great Harvest has started carrying gluten-free bread on Mondays heralds two things:

1. The return of the Great Harvest bread run, which also means a free slice of whatever they just baked, and
2. Greater understanding and acceptance of celiac disease by the larger commercial market.

I have to admit that the gluten-free bread (this week, a version of their Dakota Bread, which I love) is not indistinguishable from glutenized bread. Nor, honestly, would it make good sandwiches. However, it is completely edible, does not weigh fourteen pounds, and slices without squishing down into un-spray-butterable chunks. The best part is that Great Harvest has an email list of people interested in gluten-free products and produces a different gluten-free bread every Monday.

Three rice flours for the very public effort, Great Harvest.

My excitement about this new frontier belies an area of concern, though. Outside of FDA lobbying groups, are we forced to spread the gluten-free doctrine only through consumerism? I suppose that the truth is that celiac impacts our lives only as we purchase food -- not through any great disenfranchisement or social injustice -- so solutions must be consumer-related as well. But I feel slightly uncomfortable when I am excited about being allowed to purchase safe food at crazy prices.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Flour and peer pressure

I've conquered most of the concrete challenges involved in being married to someone with celiac. I know how to be suspicious of labels. I know how to avoid the secret gluten-laden foods like maple syrup, beer, vinegar, soy sauce -- foods that frequently make their silent way into other foods.

And I know when a server in a restaurant isn't quite sure that the food does not contain any wheat products. Where I failed this weekend is that I did not have the courage to leave a restaurant when I realized that the server could not guarantee the food's safety. I realize that, not only do I have a responsibility to keep JFG safe, I have a responsibility to educate others about celiac disease -- especially restaurants -- so that future food is safer (or at least better understood). In the interest of finding somewhere that everyone wanted to eat, however, I allowed myself to be cajoled into staying in the Lincoln City restaurant Kyllos. JFG was sick for two days.

So, for Kyllos, no rice flours. And none for me, either, until I learn to stand up to peer pressure from middle-aged waitresses.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


I'd like to state publicly that I do not understand peoples' dedication to Pfeffernüsse as a Christmas food. Even Wikipedia describes the cookie as a small, hard, round biscuit. With pepper! Cookies with pepper! Oh, yes -- sometimes it's black pepper, sometimes it's white pepper, but either way it's a nasty surprise when you're biting into something that looks sweet and is introduced as dessert.

I've observed that many cultures retain food traditions that were clearly invented in lean times. That's the only explanation for foods like Pfeffernüsse and ammonia cookies, which my best friend's family makes religiously every Christmas. Why else would you put cleaning fluid in dessert? I can see her Scandinavian ancestors starving in some small, snow-bound village, having eaten the dog and the bark off the trees, with nothing but a bucket of window-cleaner between them. Someone says, "Well, we have to eat something!" and thus ammonia cookies were born. Obviously, in a similar snow-bound German village, food supplies low, someone said, "Well, how else are we going to make cookies? Toss in the pepper -- it's all we have left!"

That is all an introduction to my favorite gluten-free cookie recipe, which would be great in starvation times. It only has three ingredients -- one cup of sugar, one cup of peanut butter, one egg. You combine the ingredients, roll one-inch balls and flatten them with the bottom of a glass, and cook at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. If you like peanut butter or need food that provides sugar and protein quickly, these are great. I also sometimes add chocolate chips.