Tag Archives: Gluten Free

Ms. Delicate

I am hands down the worst person to take on a date. Not only am I morally opposed to chain restaurants and establishments under a 99% health rating, but I require a menu diverse enough to accommodate my dietary restriction du jour. It’s no secret that I’m picky. But — a true rationalizer through and through — I believe that I am picky in a good way. Picky in a way that prevents me or any of my loved ones from eating at questionable restaurants or, God forbid, at a Cheesecake Factory.

If you knew me as a child, my current state of judginess would shock you. I grew up with a particular fondness for bologna and my favorite restaurant (using the term a little loosely here) was Taco Bell. Yes, Taco Bell. “Two soft chicken tacos no tomatoes” was a phrase heard all-too often in my household. At one point it was even my birthday dinner of choice.

So what happened, you ask? When did I turn from a Taco Bell lovin’ gal to a completely unqualified food critic? The first–and certainly most memorable turning point–happened when a girl at elementary school carpool told me that Taco Bell meat was actually dog food (an early whistle blower, if you ask me). As this girl had more LTD2 outfits than I had pet rats, I considered her an authority on all things important, and so I began to more thoroughly inspect my food for signs of foreign elements, including–but certainly not limited to–kibble. I began to question ingredients, food preparation and sanitary guidelines, and I no longer yearned for my favorite breakfast: the Hampton Inn continental buffet.

The red flags followed me well into my young adult life (the Mad Cow scare of the early 2000s, a live butterfly in my sister’s pre-packaged salad, Food, Inc., etc.), all culminating in one completely life-altering moment that set me over the edge: my first job as a server. I’ll spare the details, but it was at that moment I realized that I was truly alone in this world. No one shared my steadfast commitment to frequent and vigorous hand-washing, and no one understood the importance of cleaning lemons.

I should also note that at some point between my Taco Bell days and now, I became a vegetarian of sorts. I say, “of sorts” because I’m actually a pescetarian, but that just sounds way too pretentious. Now, I have nothing against meat eaters. Clearly, I’ve enjoyed my fair share of meat. And dog food, it would seem. And if a pepperoni were to sneak its way into my mouth, I wouldn’t throw a fit. It’s happened before. And–considering I once broke a tooth while demolishing a slice of Goodfellas– it will probably happen again.

But here’s the problem (yes, there’s more). Without painting too vile a picture, I can say that my digestive system is something akin to Mel Gibson –unstable and inflammatory. It’s not a new issue — I once went to the ER with a suspected case of appendicitis, only to come home with a formal diagnosis of gas. But since college, I’ve been plagued with an array of stomach pains and problems that have truly infringed on my quality of life, most notably on my favorite weekend pastime, Quesadilla Sunday. My doctor diagnosed me with IBS so, I kid you not, my chart now reads, “Anxiety, asthma, IBS” (I’m a catch, to be sure).

Quesadilla Sunday. Based on my sickly complexion and generally offensive expression, it's likely that this was my last-ever Quesadilla Sunday.

Quesadilla Sunday. Based on my sickly complexion and generally offensive appearance, it’s likely that this was my last-ever Quesadilla Sunday.

A few months ago, I decided it was time to do something about digestive misgivings. And–with at least one Pure Barre class under my belt–I felt I was ready to go full-on aristocrat and diagnose myself with gluten intolerance. Now, I realize that unless you’re a 40-something-year old white woman, you’re thinking that “gluten intolerance” is totally BS. And you’re probably right. But can you blame me if I want to have a backhand like Djokovic? Or abs like Bill Clinton? Or, at the very least, the ability to enjoy an afternoon without writhing in pain?

If you’re keeping count of my confessions, you’ll now know me to be a germaphobe, vegetarian, gluten-free* date with incredibly high-standards. To say that I am “delicate” is an understatement, as my frailty extends to all aspects of my life. Particularly traveling. Perhaps one day I’ll blog about how difficult it is to take me on a car trip. Or on a vacation, for that matter. But as I’ve now revealed my somewhat embarrassing health record, I think I’ll leave my soul bearing at this for the time being.

*After months of living on hard cider and overpriced ginger beer, I decided my love for beer (and pizza, when I’ve had too many beers) outweighed my desire to live up to a Gwyneth-like standard of gluten freedom. So I’m now drinking beer (and eating pizza, when I’ve had too many beers). It’s all very scientific. I wouldn’t expect you to understand.

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Buckwheat Poisoning

(Disclaimer: I usually try to keep most of my posts fairly PG so that potential employers don’t write me off for any poor decision-making. However, in this case, this story requires that I raise the topic of hangovers. Please keep in mind that I am of age and, due to a hindering 2-3 beer tolerance limit, tend to drink responsibly)

Living with your parents has several advantages, most of which include free dining privileges. However, I’ve recently run into a recurring problem, and I don’t think there’s anything (short of moving out) that I can do to fix it.

In college, most Friday, Saturday and Sunday mornings were dedicated to recovery. My roommates and I treated our hangovers like fragile medical conditions. Cold rags, ice packs, french fries, albuterol inhalers (in my case), the works.

Hangovers at home are a different story, although I can’t discount the fact that things have gotten easier since I am now an “adult”. This means that I no longer have to craft a ridiculous story as to better explain why my mascara is down to my chin. Now that I’m a seasoned 22-year-old college graduate, I come home and let my true colors fly. The only bump in the road I’ve run into thus far happened the day after college graduation, when I returned home to Louisville missing part of a tooth.

The downside of being at my parents’ house in such a delicate condition is that they take great pleasure in my suffering and force me to engage in ridiculously painful amounts of social interaction. As soon as my big-toe hits the kitchen floor, my mom launches into a debriefing so intense I often wonder if I should have an attorney present.

“What’d you do last night? Who’d you see? You look like you don’t feel well. Any developments in the rooooo-mance department? I hope you didn’t meet anyone at the bar — seriously, Joanna, every man you meet in a bar has a character disorder (she tells me this every night I leave the house). Does _____  still have a girlfriend? Has Buster been fed? (My dad shouts in reply from upstairs: “DO NOT FEED HIM AGAIN — we’ve got a ralph situation up here!”) Never mind, don’t feed him — he just threw up. Your father wants you to mow the lawn today. Have you washed your face yet?”

Since all of this information is far too loud and far too much to process, I usually squint one eye and try to focus on one question. “No mom, I will absolutely not mow the lawn today.”

I then sit down at the kitchen table and try to enjoy my cereal while pretending to read the paper. This is when my dad walks in and begins his portion of the Q&A.

“Oh-hoh! Well look who it is! You look like you had fun last night (translation: you’re a real mess, Joanna). The lawn needs mowing, Jo. Can I count on you to do that? Also, I need lunch meat. Carol (my mom), do we have any lunch meat? Jo, I’m thinking barbecue for dinner (it’s 10 am). You’ll eat chicken right? (absolutely not) No? You still won’t eat meat? Well you’re on your own then. I can’t go out of my way for you and Jessie just because you’re both weird. What’s for lunch, Jo? I’m thinking smoothies. We’ve got some mushrooms that need to be eaten up (mushrooms that needed to be “eaten up” at least 2 weeks ago). Smell these mushrooms, Jo. Do you think they’re ok?”

All of the above is background information to better explain the ordeal I went through last weekend. Imagine the aforementioned interrogation process of a normal hungover morning in my household, but throw in a parakeet, 2 sleeping pills and a few hives and you’ll have a glimpse of how I spent last Sunday morning.

The morning started out fairly normal. I came into the kitchen to try to eat breakfast with as little human interaction as possible. My mom offered me some buckwheat groats that my dad had made earlier that morning. Buckwheat groats are like oatmeal. My sister and I recently went gluten-free (ish) and buckwheat is supposed to be a great gluten-free substitute. Or so I thought. The groats looked like sautéed fish eggs, so I only took a very small forkful to sample.

The culprit

I sat down and began to eat some cereal. 5 minutes later, my face got very hot. I figured I was just having another menopausal hot-flash, as these often accompany my hangovers. After finishing my cereal, I went upstairs to find Buster. I found him in my bed, which is no surprise since I recently stashed catnip in one of my pillows to secure my place as his favorite family member.

The catnip pillow.

I immediately began petting him while giving him a full recap of my night. After a few minutes, I felt like my ears were going to fall off. I looked in the mirror and realized that my ears were turning an eggplant purple and that my face looked worse than Ron Weasley suffering from a bout of rosacea. My elbow itched and when I looked down, I noticed it was red and swollen — as were my knees, wrists and other elbow. My thigh looked like someone had repeatedly whipped me with a wet rag. I looked like bloated a redhead who’d horribly misapplied their sunscreen while tanning in Cancun. If things had progressed any further — well, I’m honestly not sure what would have happened, but I’m assuming I could have been cast as the new poster girl for sun poisoning and/or the potential side effects of chemical peels.

Being the hypochondriac that I am, I immediately thought I was dying. I ran back downstairs to the kitchen, only to find my sister writhing in pain by the sink with a severe leg cramp. My mom was yelling, “Mag-Cal, Jess! Take the Mag-Cal!” In the background, the pet bird Darcy (who hates me) was screaming so loud that I was certain our neighbors would call in a domestic dispute. All of this was way too much for my brain to process, so I wailed, “I have a rash” and proceeded to strip down to show the world my blotchy, reddening skin.

My mom couldn’t take it. My poor mother thought she’d wash her hands of my sister and me the moment we graduated from college, but no. There we were, her unemployed 22- and 24-year-old daughters, screaming, sobbing and swelling under the roof she’d raised us in for nearly 20 years. She looked to one corner of the kitchen where Jessie was doubled-over, starring in her own personal Midol commercial, and then to the other corner where I was hyperventilating and reciting the Lord’s Prayer.

Finally, she saw my bulbous knees and decided I was top priority. “What did you do today? Did you touch anything unusual?”

Obviously, my first thought was that I’d just touched Buster. I saw him catch a chipmunk the previous day, so I was sure that I’d contracted a rare disease from him — most likely the chipmunk flu.

Tears filled my eyes when I thought about Buster’s (and my) imminent death. At least we’d go together, though. It would be just like The Notebook.

Death by chipmunk flu. (just kidding, he's tanning)

Before I could curse the chipmunk who’d brought this untimely death upon us, I realized that I’d eaten a forkful of buckwheat, which was something I’d never ingested before. My mom got on the computer and began researching “buckwheat allergy.” For whatever reason, she read aloud all of the worst case scenarios, sending me into further spasms of panic.

“If you start wheezing at all Jo, we’re taking you straight to the ER.”

“Wheezing? Why would I wheeze? Am I going to stop breathing?”

“No, but your throat could close. But don’t freak out!”

We were out of Benadryl, so I took two sleep-aid pills that appeared to contain comparable ingredients. I sat in an arm-chair and anticipated the moment that my life would begin to flash before my eyes.

Just then, my dad walked in the room. He saw me sprawled out in the arm-chair, overreacting as usual. When my mom filled him in on the situation, he said, “the things you will do to get out of mowing the lawn, Jo. First, the fainting now this. You know, maybe it would be good to sweat it out in the lawn? Get the allergy out of your system?”

As soon as the pills kicked in, I wandered upstairs and I fell into in a drug-induced slumber. Hours later, I opened my eyes to find my mom standing over me, poking my ankle and checking to see if I was still breathing. I fell back asleep. I later opened my eyes to find my dad standing over me. “You need to go to the doctor and get an epi pen. Also, I’m thinking homemade pizza for dinner. Be ready to throw in 30 minutes.” “Throw” is my dad’s term for “toss the dough,” or make the pizza crust. Throw is also the word my dad uses when referring to Buster’s post-meal projectile vomiting — Throw, as in: “Damnit Joanna, why’d you have to feed him again? There he goes, off to throw.”

When my joints deflated and my skin turned a more friendly shade of pink, I sauntered back down into the kitchen to help make dinner.

In the end, I didn’t have to mow the lawn. But I did momentarily give up on my gluten-free diet in lieu of 5-7 slices of pizza.