Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Social Celiac Part One : Dining Out at A Friends Home

Eating at a friend’s home as always been a challenge for me- even before my diagnosis. I have always been a picky eater. I don’t eat pork for religious reasons, I don’t eat fish/seafood because I don’t really like it all that much, I don’t eat duck because it tastes too fatty, I only eat white turkey and chicken meat because I don’t like dark meat and the list can go on and on. But when I was picky- it was just that I could “man up” and eat almost anything (except for pork) but with celiac disease one must be strict- no more manning up for me!

I moved to Savannah right before the Jewish high holidays knowing only my cousin and boyfriend (who was quickly becoming my ex) both of whom are not Jewish. With the holidays approaching I contacted the local Jewish community and was put in touch Young Jewish Savannah- a group for Jewish Savannians ages 22-40. I received an e-mail asking if I would like to be paired up with a Jewish family for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur- needing a place to celebrate- I quickly accepted. I received an email from a family to attend Rosh Hashanah services and an invite to eat lunch at their home after services. I dread being invited to a stranger’s home for a meal because I then have to have the “gluten” discussion and nine out of ten times they have no idea what I am talking about or understand the seriousness of the issue- no I can not have “just a little flour” or “a small bite”, yes eating out can be difficult, no I haven’t been like this my whole life, yes you would think I would be super skinny but there is still a lot to eat without wheat or gluten (mainly cheese in my case).

In the past two years whenever I have eaten at somebody else’s home it has been somebody I knew one way or another- not a complete stranger so I was usually able to be more candid. In the case of Rosh Hashanah I had never met the family before but decided to just bite the bullet and lay it out on the line by replying ,“I just want to let you know that I have many food allergies and restrictions and am not able to eat wheat or gluten so please do not be offended if I do not eat during lunch. I normally just eat before or after”. I didn’t want to overburden the hostess but for me and my personality this statement worked because it made her aware of the situation and hopefully would start a dialogue so I would be able to eat something for lunch. To my surprise my hostess replied, “No problem! My son has autism and my husband has Crohn’s disease and we have tried the gluten-free diet- so I know what you can and can not eat. I will make sure there is something there for you.” Talk about relief and shock- I could now eat safely (and I would be starving because we went to Orthodox services and they were LONG) and I wouldn’t have to go through the education of my disease to a complete stranger!

I was convinced that lightning would not strike twice as I was invited to another family’s home for Yom Kippur but approached the situation in the same fashion as I did just a week earlier. And in the case of Yom Kippur I wanted to make sure I could eat before Kol Nidre services and at the break fast because I don’t fast well. To my surprise and shock the family’s grandfather had celiac disease so they were ready with non-breaded chicken, rice crackers and other gluten-free delights for me as we feasted before and after our fasting. It was like G-d was teaching me a high holidays lesson “Go ahead and talk about your disease my child you are in good hands!” And now I do…

GF Mavens Tips for Eating at A Friend’s Home:

1) If they are already aware of your dietary restrictions inquire what they are making and what you can bring. For example, if they are having a New Year’s Eve party with heavy appetizers bring a bottle of champagne, gluten free crackers and chocolates (precisely what I did this past New Years- Cava, Mary’s Gone Crackers and Chocolate). If they are making baked or friend chicken ask if they can grill a breast separate for you or tell them you will bring your own chicken. Always bring something that is gluten-free for everybody to enjoy such as gf crackers, gf desert, vegetables, wine, etc

2) If you are invited to a stranger’s home through a family member or friend (to your husband’s coworkers home for example) contact the host yourself or through your family member/friend to mention that you can not eat gluten/wheat. Do this as soon as possible as to not put too much pressure on the hostess.

I am of the strong belief that your host/hostess would rather know that you had an allergy before you arrive and you can not eat anything. This day in age with so many people having food allergies/restrictions and dietary restrictions most host/hostesses will understand and be happy to oblige. Do as much as you can to not burden the host/hostess but also remember they invited you for a reason- they want you there and to enjoy yourself and if you can’t eat or worse get sick from something they served you both host and guest will walk away unhappy.

I'm Back...

To say I haven't been around lately would be an understatement. In the past month I (finally) got a new full-time job, found a new apartment and have been busier than all get out. I am now getting back to normal (until I finally move in about a week and settle down in my new apartment). But I have also been working on some new ideas and a new design for the blog so thank you for reading and please keep the hits coming!...

Monday, December 15, 2008

Quick Quip: Muncha Muncha Muncha On Envirokidz Gorilla Munch

Savannah’s Natural Food Store- Brighter Day Natural Foods- recently had a 30th Birthday Party which included a marvelous tasting fair. I love going to events like this when I know there will be gluten-free goodies for me to munch on so I don’t have to eat before I go! I happily took any of the free-samples that were gluten-free home to try whenever the snack bug took over. Some of the samples I had tried before but one that was new to be was the Envirokidz Organic Gorilla Munch. I do not have children and have graduated from child-like cereals but I thought I would give it a try.

Envirokidz Organic is a division of Nature’s Path and their focus is on organic foods- not gluten free food. Don’t fret though, many of their products are gluten free including “Amazon Frosted Flakes”, “Gorilla Munch” (similar to KIX), “Koala Krisp” (similar to Rice Krispies), “Leapin Lemurs: Peanut Butter and Chocolate” and “Peanut Butter Panda Puffs”. How fun are those names? What I think is so cool is that they offer a line of products that gluten-free kids can eat and still have fun with, learn about endangered animals and safely enjoy. Also 1% of all sales are donated to endangered species, habitat conservation and environmental education for kids.

So they have fun cereal names appealing to kids, they have organic and gluten free food and they give back to the “greater good” but does their food taste good to adults? Honestly, its not all that shabby! The Gorilla Munch is made or organic corn meal, organic evaporated cane juice and sea salt making it nice and simple. The use of the cane juice makes the cereal sweet but not disgustingly sweet like many of the children’s cereals on the market. My only complaint was that the “munches” stick to your teeth a bit. Other than that- this is a great option for both kids and parents to enjoy- and give back with!

Gluten Free Maven Tip of the Day:
Check each Envirokidz product to ensure it is gluten-free since it is not a gluten-free only company

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Rice Chex is now Gluten- Free!

One of the most difficult things about being a celiac, gluten-free and/or wheat-free is the inability to get “mainstream” food. I have to shop at at least two, usually three, different markets to get the “basics” and don’t even get me started on the cost of a gluten – free diet. My roommate Cameron will come home with almost the same one-bag of groceries as I do- pasta, vegetables, rice, some canned goods from our local grocery store and have a receipt for $20. I will have the same amount of goods with a receipt for almost $60. It is next to impossible to find any recipes for gluten-free foods on websites like and restaurants catering to us are rarely reviewed in the New York Times. But as Bob Dylan crooned long ago “times they are a changing”.The “mainstream” food community is starting to catch on that those of us with food allergies are not only a profitable group but a passionate, loyal and tightly woven one.

I frequently have conversations with gluten gluttons where they make statements like “oh well at Whole Foods they have like a whole row of shelves for you guys so you get a lot of food” or “what about Rice Krispies? That doesn’t have wheat – so easy to eat like you have to”. Yes, Whole Foods does a phenomenal job at stocking gluten-free foods but look around you get a whole store to linger and taste your way through- I get a few shelves. And Rice Krispies is one of many American cereals, which despite the name, includes wheat in the ingredient list.
Happily though mainstream food manufacturers, publications and the like are starting to pick up on the gluten-free lifestyle. My friend Amy chatted me the other day saying “Chex Mix is Gluten Free now!” I checked out the claim today at the grocery store. Of course Wheat Chex is not gluten- free and the Corn Chex cereal as a barley coating, but, Rice Chex proudly boasts on their side panel “Rice Chex cereal is now Gluten-Free”. They even have a page on their website with gluten- free recipes. This is a great resource for those who are not gluten-free but are having a party with gluten-free guests. Thank you General Mills for putting this out there and helping awareness!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Gluten- Free Baker makes Cincinatti Newspaper!

This is a fabulous article about a gluten- free entrepeneur and living a gluten- free life. I love that newspapers and media are starting to pay more attention to us!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Quick Quip: Marys Gone Crackers!

I have always been a cracker person. I am a huge fan of cheese and crackers- I could probably eat them for every meal just about every day. One Thanksgiving my grandfather’s crazy third wife served us all cheese and crackers for Thanksgiving dinner. Everybody was furious- except for me I was happy as a clam. I again was as happy as a clam when I discovered Mary’s Gone Crackers Crackers. They are no regular lame cracker that needs cheese, dip or some other accompaniment to add flavor. Mary’s crackers easily stand by themselves on the flavor front. They offer their cracker in five flavors including original, caraway, black pepper ( my fav), herb (my #2) and onion. The mix of multiple gluten-free flours and seeds are what make this cracker so wonderful- all of the flavors play off of each other- brown rice, flax seeds, sesame seeds, amaranth, millet, quinoa and more. And- everything is organic- even better!
Mary’s has recently added “Sticks and Twigs” to their line of products – a pretzel like version of their cracker available in chipotle tomato (my fav), sea salt and curry. They are a great snack to throw in your purse or car and have as a quick snack while running errands or when hunger hits.
In my opinion Mary’s Gone Crackers crackers are a must- have in any gluten- free cabinet. Even if you are not gluten-free these crackers are heads and tails above any other cracker I have tasted. Check out ordering information, store locations and more on their website at

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Quick Quip: Bakery On Main Granola

When I first found out I had to follow a strict gluten-free diet I was a little bit dense. There were so many foods that I just didn’t realize had gluten in them, gluten derivatives or cross- contamination. So when I would get sick I was very confused to say the least. Granola was one such food. Even when I would read the ingredients label and it “seemed” fine I would get sick- then I would go on the website and see that it was not gluten- free. At least I knew WHY I was getting sick but I was still annoyed. Now I have found one granola that is deliciously gluten free- Bakery On Main Gourmet Naturals.

I was so used to just passing up granola that I didn’t even think to try Bakery On Main, even though it is advertised as “gluten free”, when I used to pass it in the grocery stores in Brooklyn. I was so over granola. But recently my boss sent me a gluten- free gift basket with granola and my fear of granola melted away. Bakery on Main is better than any granola I remember in my gluten days. My favorite Bakery on Main “flavor” is Cranberry Orange Cashew Granola. Their mix of ingredients is dead on- just enough crunchiness and sweetness to fill you up in the morning before you go on your way. Being full after breakfast is always a challenge for me- but not when I have a bowl of this granola. Their base for the granola is corn and rice and their flavors include “Cranberry Orange Cashew”, “Rainforest”, “ Apple Raisin Walnut”, “Maple Cranberry” and “Extreme Fruit and Nut”. Even if you are not gluten- free this is some fabulous granola! Delish!

For a list of Bakery on Main’s gluten free products (which are also casein and dairy free) along with store locations, coupons and recipes check out their website:
Photo from Bakery-On-Main.