a girl and her boy

. daily life : wool obsession : bibliomania : living on purpose .

Food Blues and Temper Tantrums

As you may have gathered from the last several weeks, I’ve undergone some changes in eating habits and food prep. It’s been hard. The author of The Gluten-Free Bible wrote that going gluten-free is, in a sense, a process of mourning. She’s got that right.

Cooking is something I’ve always enjoyed. I prided myself on cooking so much in high school that people often gave me cookbooks on gift-giving occasions. Learning new ways of preparing healthy meals and favorite goodies that are gluten-free has been a major challenge, especially so when the boy and his voracious appetite eats up most of the safe food in the house like last weekend. That ended badly.

I was already frustrated and tired from reworking recipes and finding new and creative ways of cooking lean meat and veggies while going through the grain-free part of the voyage. Then, come Saturday night, I realized after waking from an impromptu nap late in the day that there wasn’t anything that was safe for me to eat in the house.

Gabe often goes in to the office on the weekend to work on various personal projects for his professional advancement and such was the case on this particular evening. When he got home at around 7:30, I started whining about how hungry I was, how late it was for grocery shopping and cooking, and the challenge of finding gluten-free, grain-free, onion-free, and seafood-free food in the city.

Got that? Four big food no-no’s. It was hard enough when it was just the onion and seafood allergy. Now add gluten intolerance. It’s a nightmare!

Always ready to solve my problems, Gabe opened his laptop and researched places we can go. He found a Vietnamese restaurant in Harvard Square that looked good for dinner. We scurried out into the cold rainy evening to catch the T. On the way out to Cambridge, he told me his plan. I nearly cried.

One of the things I’m working on is being brave with trying new foods and cuisines. I grew up in a home where money and food was in short supply and it was a big deal to waste food. I learned quickly to eat only stuff I knew I liked because I’d be responsible for finishing everything on my plate no matter what. It discouraged exploration. That and my folks were not the best of cooks and the food was often over spiced, over or under cooked, and of a limited menu.

I had never eaten Vietnamese cuisine before and there was no way I wanted to struggle through making sure it was onion, gluten, grain, and seafood free only to find out I didn’t like it. That would make a bad night worse.

As we approached the Charles/MGH stop, we decide to bend the grain-free guidelines a bit and go to Flatbread in Somerville. Flatbread is an all-natural and organic pizza restaurant. The pizzas are cooked in an open wood clay hearth, the kitchen is open, and they list all the farms that their stuff comes from on a chalkboard. And best of all, they have gluten-free pizza crust. It’s awesome. It’s delicious. It’s awesomely delicious.

We arrived in Somerville and picked our path through the crowd and around the big puddles and snow banks. I held on desperately to my smile and tried hard to keep up my end of the conversation, but I was too lost in hunger, frustration over my new eating challenges, and anxiety over the normal problems of ordering food with a plethora of food allergies to be successful.

The Somerville Flatbread location shares an open building with a bowling alley. Over the crashing pins and dropped balls, we put our names down on the list for a table and learned that it would be an hour and forty-five minutes. It was already 8 pm.

Back out on the street, in the middle of Somerville, facing a two hour wait for food and looking up and down a busy main street with what seemed like twenty or more purveyors of fine food with nothing safe for me to eat, I melted down. A feet stomping in rain puddles, fist pumping, sobbing, thoughts racing temper tantrum ensued.

Gabe offered to try and find another place for us to eat, or for us to go home and relax, but that didn’t really solve the problem. My problem was that it’s now incredibly hard to eat out without a lot of preparation and that I need to be assured that I’ll always have something reasonable to eat at home, and I was famished. As the rain poured and collected in growing puddles, we discussed the issue when I’d come down some and found solutions.

Back at Flatbread for dinner that night and I enjoyed a gluten-free personal pizza with the backdrop of a rare winter thunder and lightening storm.

Life has been so much easier on the home front since folding the grains back in and learning some tips and tricks to cooking and shopping gluten-free. Let’s hope it gets easier on the dining front soon with new coping strategies.

And with that, I’m off to do some menu planning and grocery shopping.




10 responses to “Food Blues and Temper Tantrums

  1. LittleWit February 11, 2011 at 8:28 am

    Going grain free was dreadful. Frankly I didn’t count alcohol or my favorite local ice cream place because I needed something to enjoy. Apparently, tapioca (which is in the ice cream) is a grain, who knew? I will say the upside to going grain free is that we really branched out and tried new vegetables so we now have a much longer list of yummy veggies to cook with our meals. Turns out, we both enjoy roasted brussel sprouts, I didn’t see that one coming! 🙂 I hope your experiences get better and easier.

    I ate a lot of salads when we went out to eat and they always come with a side of bread, one night I must’ve looked like I was going to cry when I asked the waitress to just please take the large mound of bread off my plate. turns out that particular restaurant is very conscientious about doing things gluten free. So, there are places out there and we have them here in Columbus I am sure you have some good ones in Boston. 🙂

    • Jen February 11, 2011 at 3:43 pm

      I just discovered roasted Brussels sprouts this winter, too! Yum! They are tasty when roasted with garlic and red peppers; have you tried that? I’ve definitely found new veggies and ways of preparing them through all of this, which is good, but it’s a slow process.

      Salads. Yeah. Those tend to be a problem for me, you see, with the onion allergy. Even though I explicitly state that I have x-y-and-z allergy before anyone even places an order and ask about the things I want to order, they almost always come out with onions in the salad. Then there’s the salad dressings. Nearly every dressing has onion in it in some form or another. When I know I’m eating out, I bring my own. It’s the unplanned trips that leave me stranded for food.

      One of my goals this year is to cultivate a list of go-to places for dining out. I’ll post reviews of places that get my thumbs up as I go along. 🙂

  2. Ivy February 11, 2011 at 10:31 am

    It’s hard. It’s SO hard. I’m not gluten free, but I found out that I needed to give up dairy a few years ago. It’s so tough, dairy is everywhere and is so good. I backslide sometimes — okay, a lot recently — but it does get easier. You begin to learn how to cook again, and to branch out into things you might not have tried. (I have a new love for Thai food.)

    I think it’s even harder because until recently, allergies like gluten and dairy were often missed or misdiagnosed in childhood. So we grew up eating all the things we shouldn’t have and time to get used to them and associate them with comfort food. It might be easier to deal with if these things were caught at a younger age.

    • Jen February 11, 2011 at 3:45 pm

      I agree, Ivy, that late discovery seems to be what makes this hard! I’m an Italian and French girl and I love my breads and pastas! Eep! I’ve been pretty good, so far, about not backsliding, but it’s only been about 6 weeks. We’ll see how good I can be.

  3. Lindy February 11, 2011 at 11:21 am

    Hey Jen,
    Stone Hearth in Somerville (hmmm, maybe Cambridge side) has gluten-free options, too. It’s right on Mass Ave near Porter. Zing Pizza, also in Porter, has gluten free slice night on Wednesdays…that might be a nice treat. Vietnamese food is worth trying too, when you’re ready of course. I just went vegetarian/mostly vegan a year ago and I know about the mourning…it’s never easy, but so worth it for your body. Have a great weekend! 🙂

    • Jen February 11, 2011 at 3:46 pm

      Thanks for the suggestions, Lindy! I’ll check them out and post reviews. I look forward to trying Vietnamese now that Gabe and I have developed some dining out survival strategies. I’ll be writing about those on the blog soon.

  4. Michelle Glauser February 11, 2011 at 3:29 pm

    Hey Jen, I know what you mean. Every kind of long-term diagnosis comes with the mourning of a lost lifestyle, I believe. Now that I have to eat all day long, I find myself getting annoyed that I have to have food with me or that I can’t eat a sufficiently kind amount when eating with friends. Sigh. Anyway, I’m certainly happy to have you try to persuade me that some afghans are good. 😀 I’ve seen some really beautiful ones that I liked the look of, but they were usually tight-knit, more like a sweater. I just don’t understand all the holes. 😉 Sadly, right now when I hear the word “afghan,” I just automatically think of the ones that get crunchy and that make me sneeze and that don’t keep me warm.

    • Jen February 11, 2011 at 3:49 pm

      I hear you! Lifestyle changes, whether chosen or by diagnosis are tough, but I’d have to say that being diagnosed and being required to make a change is moderately harder: there’s less room for choice which makes it feel constricted and punishing.

      I’ll have to send you some information on different fibers that might work for you, such as alpaca. Many people with wool allergies can do alpaca because the natural oils and the quality of the hair is different. I’ll find you some “cozy blankies” that you’ll love! I think you’d like knitted blankets better than crocheted: generally no holes!

  5. beki February 11, 2011 at 9:26 pm

    Oh my goodness, I don’t envy you one bit! I would be in a world of trouble if I had to stop eating those foods. I’m so sorry you have to go through this. My son has a peanut allergy and used to have a dairy allergy, so I’m familiar with dietary modifications. Hopefully with time things will go more smoothly for you!

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