Monthly Archives: April, 2012

From Bitter Celiac to Grateful Celiac

I was not having a good week.  For whatever the reason, my nerves were close to the surface and lots of things were making me grumpy.  And I am not naturally a grumpy person!

Wednesday was “Birthday Food Day” at work.  I always bring something in for myself and my GF/SF/CF co-worker.  And she brings something in.  And…..that was all we could eat.  Which we were pretty much ok with.  Until I opened an e-mail from one of my co-workers saying that she was going to be buying pizza for “everyone.”  Yes.  I used quotations around the word everyone.  Because they got Bacci pizza, which I don’t think has even heard of a gluten free option.  Fine.  I grumbled under my breath about it, but then, THEN, they went and placed their pizza between the 2 people who could not eat it!!  Ok.  I get that it was the open desk and the easiest place to put it.  But it was like a form of Chinese Water Torture!  I’m calling it Italian Smell Torture!  Where you spend an entire day smelling something that you absolutely, positively, cannot eat….and it drives you crazy!

So that was day one of me becoming bitter celiac.  The second day was somewhere on the floor there was ice cream for “everyone”.  Except, they were Drumsticks, and once again, I got to sit and watch all of my co-workers eat them in front of me.  It really got under my skin that my co-workers did not even stop to think about it.  Hell, they order lunch for everyone, and they don’t even get a salad that can be enjoyed.  It is a lack of thought that just makes it hard to feel a part of the “team”.

So, I’m in bitter celiac mood, when someone who invited me to their event, who I really did not know that well, sent me a tweet asking in Rice Krispies were GF.  She knew I was coming to her event and she wanted to make sure there was something there that I could eat.  Not knowing what she had come up with, I brought my own sausages, chips, and alcohol.  She had labeled everything so I knew what was in things and she made a quinoa black bean dip that was delicious.  She did not have to make anything, but the fact that she thought enough of me to make sure I had something to eat helped grow my heart back to normal size after the debacle at work.

But what made my heart go back to normal size and totally erase the bitterness from the past week occurred today.  I was invited to a Bridal Shower, and honestly, when I accepted, I did not plan on having anything to eat.  Nope.  The BRIDE (wow) made sure that I had food.  There were Schar rolls, a pasta with meat sauce, a pasta salad, some seasoned sliced cucumbers (she made cucumber sandwiches for everyone else), and some meat.  W-O-W!!!  I honestly teared up when she took me back to show me what I could eat.  I couldn’t eat the cake, but I am so sweeted out from the past couple weekends that I really did not care!

What did I learn this week?  That there are people out there who will not give a thought to what you can and cannot eat, which is fine.  They do not live with it and we cannot expect others to care.  But, when someone takes the time to make sure that there is food available for you to eat, words cannot express how “normal” it makes you feel, how welcome, how a part of a community.  And for everyone who has done that, I thank you.

And next time, I promise I will write one of the other NON-GF related posts that have been rattling around in my head

Luv,

ToM

Advertisements

A Gluten Free Tale of 2 Disney’s — Part 2, The Cast Member

So, the other day I wrote about my experiences as a guest with Celiac Disease at the Walt Disney World Resort.  Today, I am going to pull a bit of the curtain back and share life as a Gluten Free Cast Member. And sadly, as fantastic as my experience is whenever I am in the park as a guest, it is just as bad as a cast member.

First off, I must make it absolutely clear that Disney uses a third party provider for their employee cafeterias.  This outside vendor is the one with employees that are, in my opinion, not well versed in cross-contamination, ingredients, and other things I feel I have to look for before I eat.

When I go down to work now, I make it a point to stop at a grocery store and pick up a few staples.  I always buy cereal, for I know getting breakfast is a wash.  While there is a short-order cook at the parks ready and willing to do breakfasts, an egg will be cooked in the same space a pancake was 2 people before.  So, the short order line is out, as a bun will also go where a chicken breast was cooking.  And the fryer is used for everything.  Thankfully there is fruit and yogurt available for purchase.

If I am there over lunch or dinner, it is not nearly the nightmare that breakfast is.  There is a salad bar, but we all know about the cross contamination there.  There is a hot line, but they do not know the ingredients, so you have to wait for them to get the containers for every thing that you may want to eat to find out if it is safe or not.  The grill line was already mentioned as a pass.  And then there is SubWay.  Not my first choice, and I try to make sure I eat either before or after the meal rush has gone through.  I always ask for clean gloves and knives when they make my salad.  Thankfully I have not gotten sick, mainly because I tend to go with the chicken salads, since the meat is already pre-measured and packaged.  Oh, and there is always my good friends, yogurt and fresh fruit.

So, in my limited experience as a gluten-free cast member, it seems I have 3 choices.  The first is to bring my own lunch.  Staying on friends couches makes this a bit difficult as I don’t generally have time/space/ability/supplies to cook with.  The second is to brave the employee cafeteria, read ingredients if the hot line looks like it may have something I can eat, or brave Subway.  Or, I can pray that my lunch break is long enough for me to change out of my costume, go to a quick service restaurant, have them make something, eat, change back into my costume, and get to my work location on time.

Maybe it is time for the powers in food service to look at the size of the gluten free population on staff and start making changes to provide them with allergen free alternatives backstage.  Any thoughts?

Just my .02

ToM

OH!  And I will post a follow-up of my experiences when I get back from my latest trip to the House of Mouse

A Gluten Free Tale of 2 Disneys — Part 1, the Guest

I love Disney.  I am a HUGE Disney villain fan.  I worked full-time in the parks for 3 years and have been seasonal with them  since I moved North.  I am getting ready to do my last Disney work trip, as they have changed the rules requiring more availability then I can give.  But this is blog is not about that.  This blog is about the two Disney’s I have experienced since being diagnosed with Celiac Disease:  The side that I experience as a guest, and, tomorrow, what the experience has been like as a cast member.

Disney Girl

As a guest, WOW!  My first stop of any Disney trip is to Guest Relations of whatever park I visit first.  While the list is available online, I love to go in and talk to the cast members and get a paper copy on site in case there have been any changes.  This list tells me which Quick Service locations have gluten-free options and what they are.  It also lets me know the options available from the stands.  So, when the mood hits for a Mickey Ice Cream Bar (seriously, the BEST thing ever), I know that they are safe.  If I want to go into a bakery, I know that they have gluten-free brownies and cookies.  The ones I have seen sold in the parks come from a vendor, which I recently heard that OMG…It’s Gluten Free.

When the time comes for food and you do not have reservations, you whip out your list, or I believe they have an app for this now,

and head into the restaurant that has what you want.  I always let someone know right away that I have food allergies, which gets them the manager/floor supervisor on duty.  This person has always been SUPER helpful.  They tend to bring a binder that lists all of the ingredients in everything they offer so that you can make sure that you are safe.  They then make several mentions when I order that it is gluten free, and often times, go into the back to make it themselves to make sure there is no cross-contamination.  The only downside I have ever experienced with this is the waiting for my GF pizza to be cooked.  If I was traveling with others, they would have finished theirs before mine came out.  But I would be safe.  And the last time I was there, the pizza was Annie’s.

And back to dessert!  For one of my birthday’s, I went with some of my amazing Orlando people and her parents to Beaches and Cream, an ice cream shop at

The "Kitchen Sink" Gluten Free version

the Beach Club Resort.  They have an item there called “The Kitchen Sink”.  It is literally hot fudge, butterscotch, peanut butter topping, banana, vanilla ice cream, chocolate ice cream, strawberry ice cream, mint ice cream, coffee ice cream, chocolate syrup, marshmallow cream, strawberry topping, pineapple topping, almonds, white & dark chocolate shavings, chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, chocolate sprinkles, rainbow sprinkles, maraschino cherries, and an ENTIRE CAN of whipped cream.  Oh, and since I could not have the following, due to their glutenous nature, they put them on the side for my dining partners to enjoy:  cinnamon spice cupcake, angel food cupcake, brownie, candy bar, jellied orange slices, and oreos.  Again, the server and the manager came out to make sure that we could enjoy this treat, which took 5 of us to eat, without my getting sick.

The one experience I have had with a full-service restaurant has been BEYOND amazing!  One of my favorite Orlando couples made reservations for us to see the HOOP-DE-DOO MUSICAL REVEUE.  We made our reservations last minute, so I was not that surprised when they could not find our reservation.  I made a point to tell, pretty much everyone involved in the seating process, that I had food allergies.  The seater knew, the person who got our drink orders heard, the server heard.  They all told me that it was noted and they would let the chef know.  (side note, I learned when I had surgery that it really is important to let multiple people know, as I was almost given crackers post surgery).  ANYWAY, back to the story.  Even though they lost the advance notice, the chef personally came out to our table, introduced himself, and then told me EVERYTHING that I could eat.  If I could not eat one of the primary dishes, as the restaurant is family style dining with a set meal, he gave me options for everything.  Seriously, everything that I could not eat, I was told, “we can do a or perhaps, b”.  Up to, and including, dessert.  AMAZING!!!!

I am really excited to be going down to The Happiest Place on Earth for 5 days next month.  Disney has always been at the forefront of providing GF options to their guests.  And when I am playing in the parks, it is going to be fantastic.  And I will let all you wonderful people know how it went and what I experienced.

But when I am working, it will be a completely different story.  One that I will talk about tomorrow.

ToM

Welcome to My New Adventure

Hey.  How ya doing?  Welcome to my little corner of the web.

I was on Facebook the other day, talking with some friends that had attended a Food Blogger conference, primarily for people with food allergies.  I made a comment somewhere along the lines of “Blogging sounds fun, but who wants to read a blog that is not about a specific thing, and is written by an actress, wanna be singer, office drone, karaoke queen, beginning burlesque dancer, certified nerd, music lover, celiac, movie buff, non-cooking, totally random person????”  Enough people said “ME silly” that I decided to create a blog and see what happens.

So, why TowerofMel?  Because I am lazy and it is the descriptor that friends have used for me for over 6 years and I like it.  Tower, because as a 6′ tall woman, I am, and Mel because it is a nickname that has managed to stick and that I like.  If I come up with something more creative, I’ll let you know, but for know, this works.

What will you see on this blog?  Well, I thought I would share some of my random thoughts, details on events I go to, tell you about some of the cool people I know, food reviews (dude, it is HARD finding yummy stuff still if you are Gluten Free), reviews of shows, books, movies, pretty much anything and everything that crosses my mind.  If you like it, let me know.  If you hate it, let me know nicely.  =)

So that’s that.  Welcome to my little corner of the universe.  Hope you like your visit.

ToM