Category Archives: Stories

How Do You Dine Out with Your Allergies or Illness?

My favorite t-shirt... even though I haven't eaten gluten in 20 years.

My favorite t-shirt… even though I haven’t eaten gluten in 20 years.

My favorite t-shirt has “Gluten is not the Devil” blazed on it in Italian. It’s soft, and the curvy cut is quite perfect, and the pig on it looks like there’s nothing that will bring him more happiness than the bowl of gnocchi he’s about to devour. Flavour Gallery sent it to me after a chef-friend saw it on Twitter and alerted them that I had to have one.

I’ve been on a gluten-free diet for twenty years.

Contrary to popular opinion of many gluten-less, I still don’t think it’s the devil.

My story is rooted in Lyme disease, which means that while I don’t have a life-threatening reaction to gluten like someone with Celiac does, any eating of it (and some other things) will make me relapse. Hard. Like, I was in a wheelchair as a kid, in college I blacked out regularly in class and had violent anxiety attacks, and the last flair had me out of work and home bound for a year. Using food as one way to control illness is a serious thing for me and many, many eaters out there. And gluten is one part of my diet.

Yet while more people know what gluten is now (which, trust me, almost no one did ten years ago) and though we can get a multitude of allergy-free, dynamic ingredients much more easily, that doesn’t equate to easy dining for those with food intolerance. Yes, more restaurants understand food allergies and take them seriously. But there are also a lot of people who claim to have allergies and intolerance yet don’t seem to quite understand what they mean, or how ordering habits affect kitchens and others with serious problems. And, yes, there are those who go “gluten free” for a week or five that challenge the patience of many a server or line cook, inspiring others to question the credibility of gluten intolerance in general. Continue reading

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Filed under Living with Lyme, Stories

Cookies for a Cause – The Breast Cancer 3-day for a Cure

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Dear lovely readers,

In 1993 I was diagnosed with Lyme Disease. I had woken up one morning without the ability to walk, and a series of misdiagnosis happened for months as my condition deteriorated, until the Lyme diagnosis was reached. It took a long time to get me back on my feet as I struggled through a few hours of school daily when able, and spent most of my time alone in bed when not. My freshmen year of college I started getting sick again, resulting in daily injections to again defeat Lyme my sophomore year. Late into 2007 I started going downhill again, resulting in yet another year of dropped work as I remained largely home bound, letting my body heal. The past year or so I’ve again been playing with another – albeit gentler – system of symptoms and forms of healing.

Throughout the rollercoaster that has been living with Lyme and its effects, I’ve learned so much about my body, my spirit, and the world around us. While I do sometimes wish life were a little easier and my body a little less strained, I am thankful for the ways in which it’s shaped me. Continue reading

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Filed under Baking for the Cause, Living with Lyme

Gluten-Free Fresh Corn Cornbread

Gluten-free cornbread with fresh sweet red sweet corn.

Gluten-free cornbread with fresh sweet red sweet corn.

I am badass.

I’m not really supposed to be eating corn right now. But here we are, with this plate o cornbready love.

Bad. Ass.

Fall dessert recipes are starting to abound and my local grocery store has an aisle of Halloween candy at the ready. But I’m not about to call it quits on summer yet, even though the leaves are falling on my city sidewalks and there’s talk of a cold winter to come.

Instead, today I’m going to light up my dad’s grill and char the fresh tiny eggplant that I got at the farmer’s market on Wednesday, even though it’s a nightshade and not good for people with arthritis (me). Then I’m going to take it to my grandparents along with gigantic stems of broccoli rabe and some grilled chicken and a few cookies I made. Because, again, I’m pretty tough.

Oh, and last week I flew a plane with my little brother. Continue reading

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Filed under Breakfast, Cakes/Cupcakes, Gluten and Dairy Free, Gluten-Free, Living with Lyme, Recipes

Gluten and Dairy-Free Olive Oil Blueberry Muffins

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No fancy camera out here – this is all I got!

In the past week, two chefs in separate interviews have brought up how they note trends and movements in the food world – the ebbing and flowing of ingredients, techniques and ideas – and that those movement have strongly affected the menus they put out at their restaurants today.

I look at the movements of my own life in various ways.

Ten years ago today I signed my first lease in New York, and moved into a 10 x 30 foot apartment on the Upper East Side with three of my closest guy friends from college. Yep, three of us in 300 square feet. Then Brooklyn, then Astoria, then Washington Heights. I have some sharp memories of those places, punctuated by hot summer nights with the boys on the emptied streets of Manhattan, the coffee shops and Italian Ice in Brooklyn, my melting pot of European neighbors and food in Queens, and now the somewhat more subdued, sunlit place I call home.

Ten years ago I was dating Ruark, and we continued dating until four years ago. Now we’re still close friends, and he just moved in with his current girlfriend, which I think is wonderful. In Ohio I dated a man named Adam for a while, and he was sweet and gentle and the kind of man you should date when you’re newly out of a 10-year relationship and need some comfort. He’s now engaged and just bought a house with his fiance, and I couldn’t be happier that he found the kind of love and relationship he deserves. And then there was Aaron, who turned my world upside down by telling me he loved me, and then again when he let me go. I have no idea what he’s doing right now, but hope he’s finding what he needs to feel whole.

Continue reading

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Filed under Dessert, Gluten and Dairy Free, Gluten-Free, Living with Lyme, muffins

Gluten-Free French Lemon Madeleines (and a boost of blogging confidence)

Lemon Madeleines - TheDustyBakerI am a mess of many things.

I bake. I write about famous people who make food. I research articles. I develop recipes. I review events. I take photos in professional people’s kitchens. I blog. I manage my family business’ books. I walk hundreds of miles for breast cancer awareness. I don’t eat gluten. I used to write plays. I grew up with Lyme Disease. Sometimes now that stays hidden. Sometimes it doesn’t.

I’ve been having a hard time figuring out how that all comes together here.

I used to feel like I had a “voice” on this blog, one that was quirky and fun and so focused around the joy that is throwing flour in the air and making a mess and being all scrappy in NYC and not letting the whole gluten-free thing be the thing that stops someone from baking and being all dusty in the kitchen. And then two things happened; I started getting a lot more writing/cooking work and my Lyme Disease-related symptoms started making me not feel well again.

Bare honesty here: I don’t feel well a lot, nowadays. I do a lot of things through an incredible doc who does intensely focused plant-forward immune supporting regimens. I also take a combo of pain killers regulated through a pain management doctor I’ve trusted for over ten years. I also meditate, and work with a life coach, and keep a positive attitude, and sometimes let myself cry in the bathtub because in certain moments none of that seems to make a difference.

Sometimes I don’t know how to express this person I am in this body, at this point in my life.  I have a good life. I love my work, value my relationships and have a home that I adore. But I have a history, and even as I’ve tried to start sharing the reason why I’ve been on a gluten-free diet for twenty years, I’ve worried about how it will translate on here.

But then I had a conversation I really needed yesterday. Continue reading

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Filed under Cookies, Dessert, Gluten-Free, Living with Lyme, Recipes