I am going to be completely honest. I am a bit lazy and usually do not have time at night to go blog exploring, so unless I hear about a great blog from someone or stumble across it, I probably have never heard of it. Which was the case of GlutenIsMyBitch. At the beginning of March several people I follow on Twitter started posting pics of these supercute “Fuck Flour” buttons and talking about this book they picked up titled Gluten is My Bitch. Even though I had sworn off buying any more books until I got through my backlog, I swung by the Book Cellar to get my own copy because with a title like that, how could I refuse?
To say I love this book would be an understatement. While April apparently has encountered more “run to the bathroom NOW” scenarios than I have, so many of the emotions that she talks about resonated deeply. It didn’t hurt that her writing style and tone are more than a little bit sarcastic. Plus the recipes look simple enough that even I couldn’t mess them up — if I ever decide to make one. You can only imagine my happiness when I saw that she was swinging through Chicago and doing a presentation at the Printers Row Lit Fest. In fact, I was so excited that I started to make the EL trip into the Loop a week early! D’OH! Thankfully a well-timed tweet from April saved me from the embarrassment of wandering around like a lost and confused puppy.On the proper day, Chicago decided it was finally time to crank the heat up a bit and supercharge the humidity in her honor. You know, ACTUALLY give us a day that felt like it belonged in the season we were in and a great day for the city to show off how fantastic it is when the temperatures rise and we all come out of hibernation. After a quick stop for an iced coffee IV, I was bright-eyed, busy tailed, happily caffeinated, and on my way to Printers Row and the Good Eating tent. Upon arriving I quickly spotted local GF bloggers Betsy and Andrea. We did a brief bit of catching up then it was time for April. Thanks to some pesky health and sanitation regulations, we could only look on as she literally whipped together 3 party appetizers, all while having a conversation with Monica Eng from the Tribune.
What I loved was, just like in her book and blog, April was completely open about her challenges, including those fun pre-diagnosis loo runs. Granted, I think she had many more “crap your pants” moments than I did, but every Celiac is different and her stories were just hilarious. Even though every Celiac/Gluten-Free person is different, while she spoke I looked around and saw so many people nodding their heads in agreement and understanding. After about 30-ish minutes, they opened the conversation up to questions. Through all of this, April continued prepping food that we couldn’t eat! Ah, those pesky laws.
At the end it was announced that April would be signing books under another tent. You know, that thing I did not bring because I wore my pin purse and the book didn’t fit? Yeah. That book. And somehow I ended up being one of the first in line. The day was saved when one of the volunteers gave everyone a post-it to write their name on for their autograph. Just like a in a cartoon, a lightbulb went off over my head. I realized that I could have her sign the post it and I would place it in my book when I got home! Brilliant!
I was already feeling pretty good, and my geek-o-meter was hovering in the high zone when it was my time to have my “book” signed. The geek-o-meter went through the roof when, before I said a word, April stated: “I know you.” We have never met in real life. We have never talked. We have had some Twitter exchanges, including getting the previously mentioned button, but that was it. A funny thing happens when the geek-o-meter maxes out. I get loud – er. I actually apologized to April because I felt that after that moment, I started yelling and being a spaz, and pretty much all those things that happen when I get really excited and lose my cool. You know, when I geek out. April was gracious, fun, and awesome. I even got a picture with her: Cute, right? Except April was behind the table and I was in front of it. My brain did not even THINK about asking if I could go around to get the picture. Nope. My brain saw an open space on the table and decided that I would just sit on the table and lean back. Cuz that is what you do, right? April has already blogged about the “inappropriateness” of this picture. I am going to apologize for the whiteness of my thighs in this picture. I don’t pre-tan and this was the first day that felt warm enough to wear shorts. Which means my legs have been encased in jeans for the past 9 months or so. So they are blinding. But really, this picture is thightastic. Enjoy!
Oh, and if you have not picked up the book — DO! It is actually one of the more accessible “Welcome to your new life” books I have read and it is one of the few ones that felt like it was written by someone less than perfect. You know, human. And funny. Cuz we all need to find the humor in our “where is the nearest loo” moments!! http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1617690309/ref=s9_simh_gw_p14_d11_i1?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=center-3&pf_rd_r=0TPPEGXTR5B92302VH74&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=470938811&pf_rd_i=507846
Wow! It is June and 2013 is now officially at the 1/2 way point. Plus we just wrapped up Celiac Awareness Month on May 31st.
What a month.
It is only logical (GAH! Star Trek) to start with the bad. By bad I mean, Holy Shizzballs Major Media Outlets, Do You Have Your Head Up Your **edited**! I mean really. How hard can it be to have an intern do 5 minutes of simple internet research to get facts? Apparently it is almost impossible for that to happen. GlutenDude continued his fantastic, award-winning run of sarcastically dealing with the media stupidity out there and sounding the horn for the rest of us to learn where to direct our ire. The first idiot spewing off on GF was Rush Limbaugh. What made me laugh is that the GF community apparently is as fed up with his BS that none of us decided it was worth talking about. Maybe because he flip-flopped his opinion so much that you ended up not totally sure what the heck he was ranting on. And we didn’t want to give him the press he so obviously longs for.
Mid-month we had the Disney Channel brouhaha. A show they air, JESSIE, had an episode where they a) went on about a character having 5 pages of allergies, and then b) had one of the “hero” characters throw pancakes at the allergy boy because he was “annoying. Way to go Disney. Let’s show that bullying and picking on someone just because they are irritating you is the way to handle the situation. This disappointed me most of all because the theme parks are so allergen friendly. If you aren’t familiar with the episode, the GlutenDude response, and what we as a community accomplished, well…the hyperlinks are there for ya.
Of course, the media crap didn’t end there. Nope. Chelsea Handler, who I understand is allergic to Gluten. Seriously, this was awful and ignorant of the people who have to follow the Gluten Free diet because if they don’t they could DIE! And then lastly, because we have not endured enough of a media shizz storm, we got a mention on the Today Show 4th hour by Hoda Kotbi. Well…..yeah. *sigh* MAKE IT STOP!!! Granted, we got a kind of apology, you know, the kind a 4-year-old gives when their mom tells them to apologize for something and they don’t really want to. All this shows me is that we, as a Gluten Intolerant/Celiac community, need to get out there and start educating how important, and life saving, the gluten-free lifestyle (cuz it is not a diet) is for us.
So, if I am calling for action, what did I do?
Well, I wore a Crave Bakeshop t-shirt to a Doctor Who conference.
I wore green. A lot. Considering it is my favorite color, that was not too much of a stretch. Heck, I own 5(!) different shades of green nail polish. So I rock the Celiac Awareness color year round.
There was a bit of a heated e-mail conversation with the owner of a restaurant that handed me her card at the Chicago GFAF expo and invited me to try her Gluten Free Breakfast. Except that it is cooked on the same surface as the Glutenous ingredients and with just a little bit of a clean-up. Granted, I ate when i was there, knowing the risks, but I don’t know if the upset stomach I had after was from being upset or from being glutened. Needless to say, she still seems to think that having GF ingredients makes her GF, I cannot convince her otherwise, and I learned what it was like to, hypothetically, bang your head into a brick wall.
There was the Dining Out with Bruce event at DaLuciano’s this month. To say that I ate a lot of food would be an insult to a lot of food. I think there was about a TON of food to be had. Just when we thought we were done, MORE came out!! This event was such a unifier for the Chicago GF community as it brought so many different people together at an event where you had to talk to your neighbor and learn a bit more. Plus the food was AMAZING!
I did my best to try to educate my company about Gluten Free, and why it is important to have options available when there is a company wide event. Apples, salt and pepper do not make a full, or happy, employee.
Finally hit up the Grand Rapids Gluten Free Food Fair. Talk about being impressed! Well, mostly. One of my favorite companies had a rather dismal “booth”. Other than that, so many local restaurants came out with knowledge about cross contamination and provide safe food samples it was inspiring. Plus I got to meet Willy O, who makes an award-winning GF Pizza! if you live in West Michigan, make sure you Google this FREE event next year. It is worth attending.
The game of phone tag with the company that operates the food service locations at the United Center ended. I finally discovered why they only have their GF booth open during sporting events, and gave them a suggestion or two to make life a bit easier for the GF attendee at other events.
I supported smaller Gluten Free companies. I now own so much Celiac and the Beast wear, it is kind of scary. But I know if she has a v-neck, I am scooping that up! Plus there was the end of the month purchase for some more eyeshadow from Red Apple Lipstick. I’ve purchased from them at the Chicago Expo the last 2 years, but had never done anything online. Until I read this story on their blog. How could I not chip in and help out? We are a COMMUNITY after all.
Except for that minor Twitter disagreement I had with someone who wants people to eat GF his way, aka only the savory not so much the sweet. I agree that there are a lot of sweet GF recipes out there, but am of the opinion it is because replicating the taste and texture of the sweet is harder to do than to replicate flavors of the savory. We did agree that the GF community needs to be health conscious, but doesn’t everyone? Communities do not always see eye-to-eye, it is about how we work together to get over our differences that is important.
And on the very last day of the month, I became the first actor featured on GlutenLibre.com’s GF Performers site. Pretty kick-ass.
I probably did more, but really, all I did this month was live my life. It may, or may not have, helped raise awareness of Celiac Disease. But if I can educate and make a dent in my corner, then I would say it was a pretty good month.
Monday afternoon I switched over to my personal email to find this waiting for me from Jillian Michaels: “Myth Busters: Does a Gluten Free Diet Aid in Weight Loss?” With all of the bad information celebrities, celebrity doctors, and major retail chains have been putting out in the last couple of weeks (check out this post, and this one , and this, and might as well look at this one), my stomach dropped. Was this going to be another case of bad information or someone getting it right?
Obviously, I totally destroyed all the suspense by saying that she gets it right!
Right off the bat she states that only 1% of the population in the US should be GF due to Celiac, which she correctly identifies as an autoimmune disorder! Go Jill!
–Sbe correctly identifies what gluten is and where you can find it. Added bonus — she identifies places one might not think gluten would be found. Oh, my heart is happy.
–Gluten allergy and gluten intolerance are mentioned as other reasons to be GF.
–Tears when she mentions a Canadian study comparing average GF products to normal ones and found the GF ones were 242% times MORE expensive. But we all knew this shizz wasn’t cheap!
–Direct quote time: “Gluten is found in many whole-grain foods that have an array of vitamins, minerals, and fiber and are vital to a healthy diet. People who eat three servings of whole grains a day are 30 percent less likely to develop type 2 diabetes. The right mix of healthy carbohydrates, like whole-grain products, is the best way to control your blood sugar and avoid diabetes — plus they help to keep you full throughout the day. Whole grains are also the vehicle for many of nature’s disease fighters, like phytochemicals. Without these foods, we’d be sitting ducks for cancer, heart disease, and more. So when you’re cutting out gluten for no real reason, you’re losing all of the nutritional benefits found in foods with gluten.” See, it’s a good thing if your body can process it! Eat it people!
–FINALLY someone mentions that GF foods tend to have more carbs and sugars in an attempt to taste “real”. She also mentions that people on a GF diet tend to be vitamin deficient. Again, things we know but that is not getting press.
This whole article made me happy. You can read it here. Take her or leave her for being a tough lady, I am leading the cheers for getting GOOD information out there.
If you have not gathered by now, I am a bit of a theme park nut. Not only did I have annual visits to Cedar Point growing up, but I moved to Orlando (after a boy) and lived and worked at either Universal or Disney over the better part of the 8 years I was there. Since I am still Seasonal at the Mouse House, I have made many return trips. But I had not been back to Universal Studios since they opened the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. And as a Potter fan I was determined to right that wrong this trip. (it also helped that I am now working again and could afford the ticket. But that is just details).
Anyway, I knew in advance I was going, so I decided to look online to see what the Gluten-Free options were. Basically, they told me to see a chef at one of their “Fine Dining” establishments. Oh oh. This could be very, very bad as my budget, both time and monetary, was for quick service dining. So, I was scared.
But, Friday morning came and I headed out to get my ticket for Islands of Adventure (aka IOA). After you find your parking in their GINORMOUS parking garages (I take a picture on my phone of where I park so I can remember), you walk. A lot. Before you reach the park entrance. So, you walk to a hub between the 2 parking garages, then you walk to CityWalk, then you walk THROUGH CityWalk, then you pick your direction. Right leads you to Universal Studios Florida, Left takes you to IOA. And past Margaritaville, which is always tempting. But the park icon is always there, leading you in like a sailor lost at sea.
So, it is always better to buy your ticket online. Learned that the hard way. The longest line I stood in all day was the line to get into the park. But it made for some fun people watching.
Once inside the park, I made my way to Guest Relations. I should have known I was in for a hard time when the person at the desk had to ask someone else what they had. When they finally found someone, I asked if they had a printout of their GF dining options. The person tried to tell me, but I told him that I would forget if I did not have a printout and I would like a list so I could peruse it at my leisure. And I had to ask a couple of times. After receiving the printout, I learned why. They spend a paragraph talking about how great the chefs are at their 4 full-service restaurants (2 in each park), in dealing with guests with gluten allergies and creating meals to “suit individual tastes and needs.” Mention was also made about how Confisco Grille at IOA has a dedicated GF menu with the following options: “Pesto Penne & Tomato Basil, made with rice noodles: Mussels; and Caesar Salad.”
I am going to actually type out the next paragraph regarding the quick service because it made me see red. And I quote: “We are pleased to provide a variety of gluten-free quick-service options. The International Food & Film Festival in USF, and the Thunder Falls Terrace in IOA, offer the following gluten-free items: roasted chicken; smoked chicken; smoked ribs; smoked turkey legs; roasted potatoes with onions, fresh herbs, salt, and pepper; roasted corn; baked potatoes; french fries cooked in canola oil; and salads.” 1 restaurant in each park offering the same menu is a “wide variety??? Plus, you know, the fruit that is available throughout the park is safe.
Needless to say, I was not a very happy person. A variety of options, with 1 food option. I am going to blog later about how much I enjoy this park, but I want to finish up on the food. Hopefully y’all will come back to read the next part where I go all giddy and fangirl.
When I finally made it to Thunder Falls, located inside the Jurassic Park section, the first thing that I noticed was that the
food was served cafeteria style. That put me on alert. Then I talked to a supervisor, who was not much help, and finally got Chef Reuben. Reuben was very good about answering my questions, letting me know that while the food was GF, it was prepared in a central facility that might not be, and while I could have BBQ sauce from the line, i could not get it out in the restaurant, because that one was GF. My options were: Rotisserie Chicken, the BBQ Chicken, the Rotisserie/BBQ combo platter, and the Grilled Chicken Salad. Then I was told to join the line, and ask that either he, or Youza (his 2nd) make my meal. So, waited in a long line for food, asked for Youza, and she put my Rotisserie Chicken plate together in the kitchen and brought it out to me.
And it was….alright. The portion was HUGE and I did not eat again that night, but the flavor was just average. But Youza and Reuben were fantastic. So, on my way out I wanted to make sure they got recognized for being knowledgeable when no one else in the restaurant was. And the new person in Guest Relations told me I didn’t have to leave Harry Potter to eat after all! Not on the list of places to eat is the Three Broomsticks. So, you can have everything served at Thunder Falls at the Three Broomsticks, as well as Potato Leek Soup and a Wedge Salad. And it is not served cafeteria style. Wish I had known that in advance…
Med Soda: $2.59
Rotisserie Chicken Platter: $10.99
No piece of mine that I was not contaminated.
Next time, I am bringing my own lunch in.
Later this week I want to talk about how much fun IOA is!
Thanks for reading!
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
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
OH! And I will post a follow-up of my experiences when I get back from my latest trip to the House of Mouse
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.
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 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.