Thursday, October 29, 2009

Please -- don't break bread together!

We're starting to think about Thanksgiving, our first major holiday without gluten. Thanksgiving is tricky in our family -- actually trickier than Christmas, because we have a more rigid set of foods that we eat on Thanksgiving, without which Thanksgiving seems, well, less complete. Underdone. These include, for my side of the family:

  • Green bean cassarole with French fried onions

  • Cranberry salad (which, also traditionally, everyone but my dad refuses to eat)

  • Mashed potatoes

  • Turkey, of course

  • Stuffing -- which, depending on the year and the current wisdom of the FDA may or may not be cooked inside the turkey

  • Ambrosia, an interloper food added to the table when JFG joined the family

  • Pie

Some of these foods pose no problem -- turkey, cranberry salad, mashed potatoes -- but this doesn't really solve the gluten problem since JFG refuses to eat the cranberry salad and the mashed potatoes anyway. Turkey is okay as long as we don't stuff it with bread stuffing.

Green bean cassarole, now that's another story. The whole point is the French's onions, mon cher.

Friday, October 23, 2009


Just baked lovely chocolate/cream-cheese brownies from the gluten-free cookbook published by the Culinary Institute of America. Squishy, baked all the way through, what else could you ask for?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Cooking like Julia

I just finished Julia Child's autobiography. First of all, she was a strange-looking woman. Secondly, she hints that her husband was frequently mistaken for gay -- something that always makes me wonder how much "mistake" there really was in the perception, especially since he seems to have married a woman who looks an awful lot like a man. Not that there's anything wrong with that, mind you -- it just makes me a little sad for Julia.

Finally, and perhaps most odiously, she makes me jealous enough to have fits. I actually loved reading the book but the descriptions of charming, teeny markets in French towns and apartments that overlook the port of Marseilles eventually caused my fingers to shake. How does an American girl from a conservative family from Hoboken (it's not really Hoboken, but you know what I mean, a Hoboken-like town) who doesn't speak anything but English, can't cook, and has what seem to be only average administrative skills end up living in Paris and writing a book on French cooking?

War, por supuesto. Too bad we can't arrange legend-provoking, courage-instilling, non-lethal wars that require mid-30's women with administrative skills to fly jauntily off to foreign shores whenever we need them.

That said, I don't have the patience to cook half of the things she describes. I'm endlessly fascinated by coq au vin, but the notion of an old rooster is off-putting. Anything that requires you to stuff intestines with your bare hands is a no-go. And the recipe that calls for the cook slicing open live lobsters with a knife (she insists they die immediately, thank god) is totally out of the question. So perhaps I'm not cut out for the life of a charmingly awkward pseudo French chef. Could I just have the apartment, then?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Airport food posted an article yesterday from the Eat This, Not That franchise about the best and worst airport food -- donuts, pretzels, ice cream, coffee drinks. Not only would I not eat anything from the "worst" column . . . most of the foods in the "best" column were fat-laden, starchy and generally not worth the calories either. As a regular flier, I'm continually disappointed with the unappetizing "healthy" foods available at airports, which include under-ripe bananas, mealy apples, limp salads (when did we decide salad meats must be cut in rectangular tubes?), and luke-warm yogurt.

With celiac disease, options are even poorer. While I can get by with a low-fat muffin from Starbucks, JFG is often stuck with said mealy apple or saggy salad. Even the nuts -- probably the best wolf-in-sheep's-clothing, bad-food-masquerading-as-good-food food product available -- frequently contain gluten (for what purpose? 'Tis a mystery).

As a result, for long trips, the only solution is to pack JFG a bag of portable gluten-free snacks. I sometimes include fruit, but have discovered that apples or pears or bananas, having been banged around during check-in and security, get bruised and disgusting. As an alternative, here's what I pack:
  • Home-made gluten-free cookies, usually with peanut butter as an ingredient for protein
  • Rice chips (god bless rice chips), which come in small bags
  • Gluten-free energy or breakfast bars -- JFG likes the apple ones made by Glutino, although I think they kind of taste like garbanzo beans
  • Chex Mix -- this is a relatively new discovery, but since General Mills now makes three kinds of Chex cereal without gluten I can toss together some butter, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, and a little sugar with rice or corn Chex and some cashews and make a pretty mean and portable snack (god, also bless General Mills)
  • Crackers; JFG likes Mary's Gone Crackers in original or black pepper flavor, I like herb and sesame flavors which don't leave large pieces of black pepper in your teeth to alarmingly discover later

Thoughtfully, manufacturers of gluten-free foods usually package their products in human-size (as opposed to King-Kong-sized) boxes and bags, so all of the food described above fits into a plastic grocery bag. And while there are no actual vegetables or fruits included, there is enough of a variety that JFG can usually make it to his destination.

Airports! -- specifically, airports that include the word "international" in their title! -- travelers have food allergies. Airport food is extremely poorly labeled, leaving travelers to choose between starvation or poisen. Get it together.