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Category Archives: Eating Out

Cook to Eat/ Crisis Management

Paleo Update Saturday, my father-in-law was released into hospice care to begin his end of life days. When these times of intensity happen in life, it throws us into a different dimension of activity outside our normal routine. “Regular” life stops for a bit to be replaced by weird schedules, by unusual demands and activities only needing to be done a few times throughout a whole lifetime. How many times does a non medical professional order a hospital bed, empty a catheter bag, etc.

I am learning a few key survival skills for times of intensity or crisis, especially if you are on a “true” Celiac diet, which is no grain whatsoever, ever:

1. Keep safe snacks on hand and packed in a “to go” bag that you can grab at a moment’s notice. You never know when you will get a chance to eat or find a restaurant or store where you can get safe food when jumping in the car to be by a loved one’s side. (I like bags of plain plantain chips, Trader Joe’s marcona almonds, and an apple as a bare minimum. If I have more time, I make a meal-salad in a mason jar, Paleo chocolate cookies, and a shaker jar with a scoop of Paleo friendly protein powder, and little snack baggies of each meal’s vitamin supplements.)

2. Do not skimp on good nutritious foods. Make yourself drink that veggie or protein drink, even if it is the last thing you want to do. Your body will keep you going in good form throughout the duration of intense stress because of it. (Do not cheat on the diet. It will only weaken your ability to handle the stress. The stress is making your body work overtime already.)

3. Get fully presentable (shower, wash hair, make-up, etc) every morning. You may have to go to a group gathering at a moment’s notice where you would be embarrassed in schlocky sweats and ratty T shirt.

4. Keep the gas tank of your car full at all times.

5. Bring enough water bottles to get through a 12 hour period. Hospitals and emergency agencies hide the water; I swear. Plus, even though you are doing essentially nothing–at least nothing physical—when sitting by a sick person’s bed, time disappears. Your thirst can rage. Your blood sugar can drop.

6. Try to get a good amount of sleep.

7. Try to keep up with your exercise routines. (I must admit; this is the one that I let slide most often. Sleep always seems to win over exercise.)

If you can keep on top of just these foundational things, it will help you manage the unusual time and activity demands in fairly good form, relatively speaking, until normal life can be resumed. This post is for all those attending last days of loved ones, attending births, or going through any of a myriad of life’s intense once-in-a-lifetime moments.

Below is the recipe to one of my favorite Paleo cookie recipes. This recipe by Carol Lovett is from her cookbook, The Grain-free Snacker. Check out her blog, Ditch the Wheat.

Double Chocolate Chip Cookies


2/3 cup coconut palm sugar

1/3 cup extra virgin coconut oil

2 large eggs

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

3 tablespoons sifted coconut flour

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

1/2  cup dark chocolate chips, (I use Enjoy Life big chunky chocolate bits, because there is no soy, no dairy, no grain. Plus, who doesn’t love a big chunk of chocolate in their cookies.)

Yields 14 cookies


1. Preheat oven to 350* F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Using a mixing machine, mix together the sugar and coconut oil.

3. Slowly add one egg at a time to the mixture. Add the cocoa powder, coconut flour and vanilla, and mix until incorporated. Lastly, stir in chocolate chips.

4. Drop the cookies by spoonfuls onto the baking sheet, at least 2 inches apart.

5. Bake for 12 minutes.

6. Let the cookies cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet before moving them to a wire rack to cool.

Note: Check out her blog or cookbook to get the extra notes for the prep of these cookies. I just included the basic directions. She gives more detail in her official recipe.

My Directions: In all honesty, I melt the coconut oil in a Pyrex measuring cup in the microwave; throw the rest of the ingredients sans the chocolate chips in a big Tupperware bowl; then add the oil when melted; stir like crazy with a wooden spoon; add two handfuls of chocolate chips; stir; plop on the parchment paper and bake. They always turn out great (except the time I used an egg substitute for my grandson who is allergic to eggs. Flat as a pancake that time.)

As you can tell, I usually cook without recipes. When I use them, I rarely follow directions completely, which does not always make for great baking success, but these cookies turn out in spite of my cavalier ways. (The Naked Chef, Jaimie Oliver, epitomizes my style of cooking. Love when he says in his cookbooks or on his show…”pour in a couple of glugs” of the designated liquid, but I digress.)   Seriously, these cookies have become my Paleo comfort food during times of stress. I recommend always having a batch on hand. I know I do. They freeze well, too.

Hats off to Carol Lovett and this yummy recipe!


Monthly Wine Writing Challenge Entry/ Subject-Fear


Madman on the Loose, I Could Die Today

On a sunny bucolic vacation day, The Bam, bam bambambam of an automatic weapon splintered the birdsong and rustle of the breeze through the treetops.  “Wait! Were those real gunshots?  Was it someone target practicing? Should I be worried?” we sat on the deck in the sunshine, pondering.  “It is a bit countryish with huge lots in this little seaside enclave of vacation and retiree homes. People could target practice here, I guess. And yet…”

In the twenty years we had been coming to that cabin for a women’s retreat week, we had never heard anything like this.  After all, it is Cleone, a tiny community where the grocery store, post office, and gas pump are rolled into one, where the one restaurant (with consistently awesome Mexican food) opens whenever the owners feel inclined to cook or do business, where the community’s one claim to fame is MacKerricher State Park, a CA north coast refuge for sea otters, birds, tide pool creatures, plus a great place for whale watching on the spectacular headlands.  Cleone is a bedroom community of Mendocino and Fort Bragg.  We have always loved its reclusive air, a great place to get away, kick back, from the intensity of the Bay Area, where the population consists mostly of dog walkers, birders, cliffs-meet-the-sea nature-lovers.

“So what were those gunshots?”  Not hearing more, two of us decided to go for a walk out on the headlands.  However, when we got about 25 feet down the road, we saw two sheriffs with guns out, peering into the huge row of brambles and pine trees that separated our street from the one behind.  “Um, maybe we’ll head back to the cabin. That doesn’t look good.”

As soon as we got back and ushered our other friend off the back deck that faced the bramble patch, we heard Bam, bam, bambambam, again.  Next came the shouts, “Clear! Look to the north.”

“Oh s__t! We are directly north of the gunshot sounds!”  A  911 call to find out what was going on, had us sheltering in place with the knowledge that the sheriffs were trying to locate two suspects on the loose.  Just “knowing the suspects were in the brambles and could come out shooting at any time” was a surreal NCIS moment.

One of my friends said, “I know it is bad when they send up choppers to look for people, so we are probably okay, because none are in the air.”  Two seconds later, whomp, whomp whomps shook the windows of the cabin…for the next five hours, many times hovering directly over the cabin’s backyard. “Good times!”

We were at the point of fear where something inside the body changes.  Each of us tried to think strategically and find items in the room to protect ourselves, should we live through gunfire and actually encounter gunmen: cans of tuna to throw at the perps, fireplace poker to brandish in their direction, wine bottles to crack over their heads. Yes, we were gee-whizzes in a crisis!

A quick text from my husband admonished us to stay away from the windows.  Hard to do in a cabin filled with bay windows.  When the numbness of too much adrenaline set in,  one of my friends pulled out a deck a cards, said to sit down at the dinette table (in front of a bay window, of course)…she was going to teach us a really fun game.  I pulled out a bottle of wine from the previous day’s wine tasting in the Anderson Valley and three glasses, and said, “If I’m going down, I am going down happy.”  The other friend found the salty snacks, then the chocolate, and said, “Well, we need something to go with the wine.”  By the end of the five hours, three bottles of excellent wine had been drunk and every piece of junk food we could lay our hands on had been eaten. I can’t tell you the name of the card game we played at least 20 or 30 times, but it was fun in a crazy, I-am-going-to-enjoy-my-potential-last-moments haze.

True story.

Epilogue, there was only one gunman. During one of the volleys of gunfire, he killed a well respected sheriff in the community.  During another volley, the actual gunman was shot, but able to crawl away, into the brambles, where he died.  All of this took place one street over from our cabin. Part of me is still not “over” this senseless, horrifying event. The fact that two people were killed less than 250 yards from us is unfathomable.

On a brighter note- My recommendations when visiting the Mendocino Coast Area
Do stop and visit the wineries of the Anderson Valley.  Their terroir and weather is allowing them to produce some amazing Pinot Noirs.  This trip we discovered Drew Winery and their phenomenal 2010 Pinot. Hard to find now, because it sold out so quickly.
The Little River Inn is a great place to stay (just south of Mendocino) with vast panoramic ocean views and a good restaurant.
Try Wild Fish Restaurant near the Little River Inn for scrumptious fresh fish and a staff knowledgeable on adapting their menu for gluten intolerant Celiacs, like me.  Make reservations, because there are only eight tables.  Go just before sunset and catch the color splash over the ocean as the sun sets.

Grabbing-a-Bite-to-Eat Survival Kit

First, I hope you will forgive my five month hiatus from blogging.  A dear family member “passed.”

The other night, as I threw my three “must haves” in my purse running out the door in anticipation of grabbing a bite to eat somewhere in town, I realized how prepping for and anticipating potential problems when eating out had become second nature.

Usually on a spur of the moment decision to go out, my husband and I have no idea where we will end up.  We decide what types of food we want as we drive; then, cruise our local haunts to see which is the least crowded.  While I love this type of spontaneity, it can present challenges for a Gluten Intolerant diner.

Never fear, I have developed a simple three product survival kit:

1. A tiny container of GF salad dressing, because salad dressing can be a land mine of hidden glutens.    I get these wonderful little containers at Bed, Bath, and Beyond. www.bedbathandbeyond.comsalad drssg bottleWith three filled at all times in the refrigerator, each with a different type of GF salad dressing,  I can easily grab the one I want  in a split second.

2. A small bottle of GF soy sauce…in case a sushi attack drives us into a sushi bar;  (why eat sushi if you can’t dip it in thesoy sauce
soy sauce/wasabi mixture?)  Just found out last night, that our local sushi bar carries GF soy sauce.  Isn’t it wonderful how easy it is getting to eat out and how the new awareness of GF limitations and needs have infiltrated the restaurant industry?  That said,  I still bring my jar of GF sauce soy in my eating out kit in case we end up at the other sushi bar in town, which does not have GF soy sauce. Although I could put the soy sauce in one of the above plastic containers from BB &B, it can leak a bit if the liquid is as thin as soy sauce.  To be safe, I stick with the regular, non leaking soy sauce jar.  Don’t want to ruin another purse.

3.  A slightly toasted hunk of my favorite GF baguette…for slurping up that amazing pre-dinner olive baguetteoil in Italian restaurants.  For some reason, watching everyone else at the table dip bread in olive oil and not being able to participate can make me nearly melt down.  It is one of those trigger points where I can instantly flip into self pity over being gluten intolerant.  But hey, I have solved it by pulling out my baggie filled with a piece of safe GF bread.  Then, the only thing I am fanatical about is to make sure I have my “own” plate or little bowl of olive oil, so I can eliminate all cross contamination by the wheat-bread-dippers at the table.  Who really likes sharing, anyway?  The baguette is a must-have at Greek restaurants for hummus and  baba ganoujs, too.

My mottos are Do Not Get Left Out;  Do Not Stay at Home;   Get Prepared and Go!

Sure,  non GF people do not have to think ahead, plan ahead, or pack ahead to simply grab a bite to eat, but accepting, developing, and incorporating these simple tasks into my life has allowed me to embrace a normal, rich, fun life, instead of  shrinking into limitations.

So…go out and have fun (with a little preparation.)

Eating out When Traveling

 “How do you handle it when you’re glutened on vacation?” asked a fellow Celiac blogger.

The answer: questions, lots and lots of questions and a bottle of charcoal tablets to relieve the “food baby” bloating.  I have a running list of questions in my head developed over years of traveling that need asking at the three major types of restaurants: fast food and big chains, sports bars, and fine dining.

My husband and I have the travel itch running in our veins.  After only six weeks of eating solely at home when I was first diagnosed with Celiac disease, we were going a little stir crazy.  I was literally afraid to eat out and to risk getting a gluten reaction:  “glutenated, glutenized, glutened,” etc.  My husband, bless his heart,  thoroughly researched  the foods served at a Mother’s Day brunch at a local restaurant,  so I could dip my toe gently back into eating out.  I was so scared of the eighth month pregnancy bloat and ensuing gas pains  from accidentally ingesting a contaminated food that I stuck to cheese and fresh fruit that day with a shockingly okay experience.  (Whew!  Big milestone!)  Since then, I have traveled extensively with him with surprisingly few reactions.

Here are the most basic of basic things I learned, and they work in almost any country:

fast food is nearly always contaminated as a general rule;

bar food and happy hour food is nearly impossible, except for the occasional steamed mussels or plain salad with a plain grilled chicken breast on top;

fine dining with trained chefs is by far the safest way to go, but buckets of money are required.

Big Mom PurseOther practical coping strategies when eating out are carry a big Mom purse that you can stuff with emergency GF protein bars,  GF salad dressing, GF crackers or a crust of GF bread, and those little packages of GF soy sauce.   There is nothing worse than being left out of an otherwise safe hors d’oeuvre, because you have forgotten to pack a baggie of a few GF crackers or a bit of GF bread or baguette to dip in that great olive oil in Italy, for example.  I also hate eating plain sushi without the soy sauce/wasabi dip.  Somehow the joy is sucked right out of that dining experience without it, so bring those GF soy sauce packets.

When you do get stuck at a sports bar, stick with a dressing-less salad with a plain grilled chicken breast.  Put the GF salad dressing from your purse on it or ask for lemon wedges you can squeeze over it.  Anything else in a sports bar gets me a wild reaction.  Can’t quite figure out how they cross contaminate a bun-less plain burger, but they do. Can I tell you how sick I am of 15 years of salad with a flavorless chicken breast on top!  Just the thought of this meal makes my whole body want to gag. Those are the times I have to kick my inner self with the thought, “I am here to enjoy the company of my friends/family.”   If that doesn’t work, I go to the mantra, “It could be worse. At least I am mobile, have my sight,  my hearing, etc.”

Since we live in wine country, eating great food (homemade or from restaurants) and drinking fine wines are hobbies of pretty much…everyone.  Luckily,  after a few key questions (ok, maybe a lot) at restaurants with trained chefs, who understand where glutens hide in meal  preparation, eating out is not a problem.

Yes, my GF diet is expensive, but if I adhere rigorously to these guidelines, I can travel almost anywhere in the world and find something safe to eat.  (My husband always jokes that my Celiac foods and my requirement to eat at fine dining restaurants when traveling are the equivalent of a Beamer, Mercedes, or Tesla car payment.  Of course, he quickly follows that statement with “but you are worth it.”)

I concede that I do not always get to eat what I would really like, but safety must be the first priority with Celiac disease.  I understand, first hand, that “safety must come first”  from having Celiac disease damage not only my intestines but my whole immune system.  I just don’t go to “the cheat”  zone, after crawling slowly back from a nearly non-functioning body.

Just yesterday when discussing with a gluten sensitive person the myriad of questions  I ask wait staff and sometimes the actual chef, I heard the plea,  “But I don’t KNOW what questions to ask! Could you please list them on your blog?”

So, I will be starting a series of blog posts sharing the running list of restaurant questions I have amassed over the last 15 years of eating out.  If I can eat out safely, so can you…with a little attention to detail and a lot of questions!

Dedications and credits:

Today’s entry is dedicated to Karen for her blog post requests, and to Amanda’s post called Glutened on the First Day of Vacation, from her blog,  Celiac and Allergy Adventures,  The first quoted sentence and the words “food baby,” ” glutenated, glutenized, and glutened” in this post come from Glutened on the First Day of Vacation.

Restaurant Reviews

Aaah…. Now that the holidays are over, I have time to reflect on how easy eating at restaurants has become for Celiac or gluten sensitive people.  With relatives visiting for 10 days over the holidays, we did our share of eating out.  Below is my Gluten Free assessment of each:

Amici’s in downtown San Jose, CA – ****           

A good solid four stars for their care in creating a pizza with no cross contamination.  The pizza crust was good; toppings, generous.  What stood out was the exceptional service, especially for loud, boisterous multi-generational parties of 10 or more like ours.  With three gluten intolerants (yes, my lovely genes live on), three raucous kids under 7, and each of the “normal” adults with their food quirks of no black olives, no garlic, etc., I was simply amazed at the wait staff’s unflappability to graciously, effortlessly accommodate each of us like it was no big deal.  My head was spinning with the complexity of our order.  The true test at 2am that night/morning was a calm stomach.

Following the meal with a walk in the wonderland-of-lights at Christmas in the Park, a long standing San Jose tradition, didn’t hurt the overall good feeling of the evening.

My Pizza in Morgan Hill, CA – *****

Okay…this gluten free pizza is just as perfect a replica of “real” pizza as any of us have ever tried.  Thus, the Five stars.  The crust is the best of any GF pizza I’ve ever tried, having the perfect “pizza” smell and initial crunch when biting into it, not to mention the right amount of  Italian cheesiness and generous toppings.  Yee Ha for this pizza!

Giuseppo’s Pasta & Grill-****

Although we initially hesitated to lunch here, because the menu did not list one gluten free item; we ventured in on a cold day,because the amazing Christmas decorations with the cozy, lit fireplace looked inviting.  I just figured I would have to order my standard Italian restaurant meal of chicken marsala.  Of course, chicken marsala still involves grilling the wait staff about not dredging the chicken or thickening the sauce with flour.  On a whim, I decided to ask if they had gluten free pasta. Surprisingly, they did.

Apparently, the owner’s wife had just found out she was gluten intolerant, and the owner was a bit horrified that he had a restaurant where his wife could eat next to nothing on the menu.  Consequently, they had GF pasta for customers that needed it, even though the menu did not indicate  that.  The chef knew he had to cook the pasta in a separate pot to eliminate cross contamination; thank goodness.

Consequently, I ordered a pasta dish and was impressed the noodles were not those tasteless transparent strings of pure rice used in Asian restaurants.  The pasta had substance and flavor.  Thumbs up for Giusseppe’s for jumping into the gluten free world.

Orrozco Tacqueria in Gilroy, CA – *****

This is a little hole-in-the-wall diner, which was most likely a former hamburger joint.  They make a gluten free Molcajete meal that is utterly outstanding!  Molcajete is a stew-type dish in a green chile sauce with different types of meat or seafood.  Orrozco lays a piece of grilled, pre sliced cactus over the top of this molten concoction served in a giant lava bowl.  Four people can comfortably be fed from this one dish, especially since the homemade corn tortillas accompanying the molcajete are quite filling…and scrumptious in and of themselves.  For gluten intolerant eaters, they will make quesadillas with corn tortillas.  Also, unbelievably good.  Orrozco’s is the best restaurant/tacqueria food I have ever had, and that is saying something growing up in the Mexican-food-loving state of California.

Maurizio’s in Morgan Hill, CA-***

The chef at Maurizio’s is so agreeable to my gluten free limitations and my boredom with the standard Italian menu that he asks me when I walk in the door, “What are you in the mood for tonight…beef, veal, chicken, fish?”  Now that is special.  Although Maurizio’s just recently added gluten free pasta to their repertoire of gluten free choices, I am only giving them a three star rating,  because the pasta leans toward the transparent, tasteless type of GF pasta, instead of the richer flavors of the multi-grained GF pastas.

However, the non-pasta gluten free meals I’ve had there have been wonderful.  The sauces and layers of flavor have been rich and satisfying.

What I learned this holiday season about dining out…

-always ask for the gluten free item you are hoping to eat.  The kitchen may have it in the back like Guiseppe’s did.

– eating out is getting to be less of a hassle, less embarrassing, and more enjoyable!

Travel Mysteries

Last weekend, my husband and I escaped to a bed and breakfast inn.  Aaah!  How we love California!  Cloudless 65* weather that felt like 80* made us feel like we were on a Hawaii vacation rather than a northern California Thanksgiving weekend.  (Clearly, I had packed the wrong clothes expecting colder weather.)

Waves literally crashed 30-40 feet from our second story balcony window at The Cyprus Inn.   At high tide, the only thing separating us from the incoming froth was the one-lane road directly below.

What I love about a November getaway is the sun sets just about the time you pour a glass of wine and tuck into a few pre-dinner snacks.  Honestly, I marvel at our luck with the weather, because that first night the sunset flamed every shade of red/coral on the horizon, the likes of which I have only seen recently on the blog,

Enough about the setting, though.  What I wanted to tell you is how after all these years of trying so hard to be conscientious about preventing gluten from entering my body, I sometimes still have problems when I travel, and I simply can’t fathom where I’ve ingested gluten.  It’s crazy.

Upon arriving in Half Moon Bay, we ate a huge, late lunch at that wonderful Italian restaurant called Mezza Luna.  After fighting bumper to bumper traffic for the last 15 miles, we decided to make that meal our dinner.  I had a wonderful Caprese Salad with a red wine vinegar dressing (a safe bet), followed by a vegetable-stuffed grilled chicken breast with a tomato-based, unfloured sauce (the sauce had the appropriately thin GF consistency.)  A safe iced tea was my beverage.  All safe, right?

At sunset on the balcony, we cracked open a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, (one I’d had many times with no reaction), and some raw crudités from the happy hour offerings of the B & B (safe again) with some TJ’s GF rice crackers and their GF humus.

Then…in the middle of the night, the gluten rash’s itching woke me out of sound sleep.  I just couldn’t believe it and couldn’t fathom where I got gluten, at least not in my food.  The only thing I did differently was use a bit of the B & B’s lotion before going to bed.  Even a gluten-filled cosmetic, as you read from past entries, is not a guarantee of a gluten reaction.  And yet…I was having one, albeit without the stomach cramps (thank goodness), nor the tiredness the next day.

Saturday brought more crazy, fabulous weather!  After a breakfast on plain scrambled eggs, plain chopped, fried potatoes with melted cheese on top and my normal cup of coffee (I know…it’s a bit of a food  sin that makes life simply great, doesn’t it? Thank goodness it’s GF), we took a two mile walk on Miramar beach followed by a simple lunch of GF humus and  GF crackers and fruit. (That should have been safe.)  Because we didn’t want to fight the horrendous traffic again, we walked to the Miramar Restaurant five properties down for dinner.  They even had a gluten free menu.  (How cool was that?)  Everything I ordered was off the GF menu, except for the Mai Tai “I needed” to complete the feeling of being in Hawaii.  (Love, love, love Hawaii.) Because Mai Tais are just fruit juices and different types of rum, I usually don’t have a reaction.  (Oh,  and it was GOOOOD!)

Dun, da-dun dun dun…the 2am itch and cramps set in!  (Seriously? This is getting sooo old!)  I am more careful and conscientious about this GF diet than any other Celiac or gluten intolerant I have ever met.  I am annoyingly careful. (Just ask any relative or friend that has ever shared a meal with me.)  And still…I have these reactions.  Honestly, sometimes, I just don’t know what else to do.  I need to be free to travel, because I was born with the travel bug in my veins, but sometimes…

I don’t know if it was an accumulation of miniscule bits of unidentifiable gluten or what, but Sunday morning I woke up with “the debilitating” tiredness, the kind where I drag myself around like a heavy sack of potatoes.  With that, comes an inability to smile…a moroseness.  It just feels like too much effort.  (I really hate that part, because normally I have a sunny disposition.)  Not wanting to ruin my husband’s joy in the getaway, I gave myself a mental shake and planted a fake smile on my face (which he saw through, of course, and felt badly for my discomfort.) I told him in an overly chipper voice, “No it’s okay.  We are just riding home today, anyway.  I will enjoy the heck out of the beautiful coastline on Highway 1 down to Santa Cruz and Hecker Pass.”

And I did…giving thanks the overwhelming tiredness waited until the last day of our escape weekend.  The headlands with the crashing surf were shrouded in a bit of mist, a precursor to the dense fog bank hanging farther out to sea.  An Irish kind of day. Thank goodness I was able to sit quietly in the car and soak in the beauty of the day as we made our way home.

The only possible culprits for the reaction—

Something in the Mai Tai

Something in the lotion

Something on a cooking utensil that cross contaminated the restaurant food.

Honestly, I would like to know if this happens to any of the rest of you gluten sensitive people out there?

This entry is dedicated to my father-in-law, who is starting to realize that my journey through life is vastly different from what he thought.  Thank you for your compassionate concern.

Will I Ever Learn

Will I ever learn?

(Written on a Friday night about a week ago.)

I just had a fantastic dinner at an authentic Mexican restaurant with our visiting daughter and her little 15 month old son.  I had the Molcajete, a sizzling mixture of shrimp, chicken, beef, and some kind of cacti, in a hot, green chili sauce.  The three previous times I ordered this dish, I grilled the staff and cook relentlessly about the ingredients to make sure I would not be blindsided by a gluten reaction.  Tonight, I was so confident in the knowledge of this dish being gluten free that I did not ask one question about the ingredients when ordering.  Being able to freely order is a treat for me.  There was another dish my husband wanted to try of grilled skirt steak.  When it came to the table, the steak looked harmless.  However, I did notice that the green chili sauce in the molcahete looked a bit thick and wondered briefly about its safety, but the sauce had been thick before, and I had had no problems.

Half an hour after eating, my intestines felt a little off, but I simply knew the meal had been safe because of my past good experiences.  One hour later, as I was splashing water around the bath with my little grandson, intense gas cramps shot up my right shoulder and down throughout my entire front torso.  Unable to ignore the pain that literally took my breath away, I had to call to my daughter for help with the remainder of little guy’s bath.

She was so alarmed by my doubled over pain, she wanted to call 911.  Of course, I knew this old friend of pain roaming around my stomach and intestines.  I hobbled, bent over, to my bottle of charcoal tablets; took four, which I knew would help absorb the gas and relieve the pain.  I did have to get into a semi downward dog position on my hands and knees, rear end in the air…the only pain free position at that moment.   Oh, and lots of moaning always helps me.  I have never understood why making noise or releasing sounds helps so much.

Once the symptoms eased, about 20 minutes later, the self berating began.  When will I ever learn?  I can never, ever make assumptions about food in a restaurant, even about dishes that have previously been safe. There might have been a substitute cook tonight that took a shortcut with the green chili sauce and threw in a bit of flour to thicken the sauce.  There might have been a bit of hidden gluten in the rub on the skirt steak, or it may have been dredged in a smidgen of flour, even though it didn’t look like it when it came to the table.  Did I actually ask about it?  Noooo.  Not a good move, ever…apparently. The minute I let my guard down for one instant…boom…I get hit with a reaction.  The worst part is knowing that ultimately it is my own darned fault.

Now that the worst of the pain is over, all that remains is a low rumbling every once in a while.   I am wondering if my lack of diligence will cause that horrible tiredness tomorrow.  I have a full house of company for the whole weekend.  I just cannot afford to be tired.  I have a double birthday dinner party to put on tomorrow night with a house full of people spending the night.  Usually the tiredness takes me all the way down to the couch for most of the day; the effects wearing off around 4pm.  I can feel the tiredness lifting like a fog slowly burning off.  Dinner is at 5:30.  Wish me luck.

Note to self:

never assume any dish is gluten free in a restaurant even if you have had that exact dish with no reaction in the past;

always double check the ingredients of the meal with the staff;

always carry a sentence in your wallet asking if there is flour in the meal in whatever language appropriate for the restaurant. In this case the sentence should have been, according to my iTranslate app, “Hay alguna harina en este plato?”

With a few precautions and constant, unrelenting vigilance, eating in restaurants can and will continue to be a joy in my life.

Happy nights out to all of you!  GF Sleuth

Take-out cups and containers

I just recently read that many of the paper/cardboard based take-out containers are being made with wheat paste. Many…what does that mean? Because my research on the topic did not identify how to differentiate between different take-out products, I have to assume that all cardboard/paper food containers have gluten. Otherwise, I could be blind-sided with a gluten reaction. Doesn’t this game of finding the hidden glutens get more and more fun?

What this means to me:
take-out coffee cups are suspect;
cardboard ice-cream cups are suspect;
cardboard take-out meals from restaurants are suspect;
etc., etc., etc.

I now keep a ceramic coffee mug in the trunk of each car. The problem for me is not remembering to use it, but remembering to put it back in the trunk after cleaning it. If I have forgotten to restock my mug, it means ordering an iced drink, which comes in a plastic container. Usually this happens in the dead of winter. Don’t even get my health-food consciousness started about plastic containers. However, it’s the lesser of two evils. At least with plastic, I am not going to have immediate pain. I’ll take my chances with possible cancer down the road.

As for restaurant take-out containers…after a wonderful meal in a poshy restaurant where I do not want to let any uneaten portion left behind, I now have one more thing about which to grill a waiter at the end of a meal. (Just what the wait staff loves after the extensive menu discussion before ordering.) Yes, I am quite popular in restaurants! It is amazing that any of my family and friends will still eat out with me. Luckily, they are so used to my myriad of questions, that if I forget to ask the wait staff something important, they fill in the gaps.

Sometimes I get to feeling cocky and think, “Oh, I am doing so well lately, I am just not going to worry about that cardboard box they just put my left-overs in.” This has come back to haunt me a few hours after reheating and eating that meal. “Umm! Okay, I won’t do that again.”

However, there is always the meal where you forget to question the wait person about the take-out container, cringing inside when it comes out in cardboard. But… the meal has been so lovely, I do not want to make a scene. Besides, the food has already touched the container, so I smile and decide to deal with it at home. The next day as I tentatively open the top flaps and peek inside to see if any of that fabulous meal is savable, I end up grabbing a fork and oh so carefully stab bits and bites from the top that look like they have never touched any part of the box. Sick, right? I feel like a middle of the night food sneaker. Obviously, it is a hit and miss proposition with a possible impending gluten reaction, but in I go for just another wee bite.

Okay, this is the relationship I have with food…love, love, love it. It does not always love me.

The bottom line is it is nearly impossible to remember to ask the wait staff every single question to minimize and, hopefully, eliminate a future gluten attack. I am human, so I do the very best I can, but sometimes I suffer from some hidden gluten issue I have forgotten to check on during the dining experience.