Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Cheese Nip Debacle

I made meatloaf for dinner. Paired with steak fries and a robust red wine, it is always a winner, savory and simple. Who knew it would invite a discussion into gluten cheating?

My celiac was tucking into his third helping of meatloaf (he's a growing boy, it's ok). I casually mentioned that he shouldn't order meatloaf in a restaurant because there are bread crumbs in meatloaf.

The conversation went something like this:

Celiac "So, am I always going to have this?"

Mom "Yes, maybe someone will invent a cure but count on always having it."

Celiac "But sometimes, you just want to try something like a Goldfish or a Cheese Nip."

Mom "Oh, really? Have you been eating Goldfish or Cheese Nips?" (Dramatic insight on Mom's brain-beneath the calm voice, I am FREAKING OUT that he has been scarfing contraband behind my back)

Celiac "When I was in second grade we were all in this classroom watching a movie and we had popcorn and Cheese Nips passed around. I wanted to try the Cheese Nips and you know, they were really good."

Mom "I know they are really good, I miss them."

I determined that it was a one time offense, and that he wasn't really eating gluten containing crackers behind my back. I only gave him a mini-talk about the long term health affects of eating Cheese Nips.

One day at a time. Beer, pizza, adolescence and peer pressure are the real challenges and they are blissfully a few years away with this one.

Kendall Egan

Monday, November 17, 2008

Working in My Pajamas

When my son came home from high school one afternoon last week and found me still in my pajamas, his reaction was to ask, "Are you sick?"

That's kind of ironic because when people find out I telecommute to my job at Gluten-Free Living (another way of saying I work from home), the first thing they often say is how lucky I am to be able to work in my PJ's.

The fact is I rarely ever do. I am usually dressed and at my computer about the same time as most 9-to-5'ers in the working world.

But last week we were in the production phase of putting out Gluten-Free Living, which in the magazine publishing world is the busiest time. That's why I didn't get dressed but woke up and went right to work, still in my robe and slippers. I suspect that my co-workers probably did some of their work in pajamas too, either early in the morning, late at night, or over the weekend.

One of the reasons we were especially busy this time is that we put out the largest issue of Gluten-Free Living in our history. The magazine, due in subscribers mailboxes in mid December, is packed with all kinds of valuable information. Included is a story on prescription drugs and the gluten-free diet and an expanded food section.

We all face lots of challenges right now. We hope the expanded magazine will help you deal with any that have to do with maintaining your happy, healthy gluten-free life even if it means we have to work a few days in our pajamas.


Sunday, November 9, 2008

Semi Home Made Holiday pies

Kendall wrote about this easy short-cut for making pies two holidays ago, but we thought it might come in handy again this season.

I think short cuts in cooking are critical for survival as a working mom. True confessions are in order here, I despise baking. I'd rather have a tooth filled than whip up a batch of cookies, bake a cake or make a pie. Birthdays, and celiac disease, present a major challenge in this area for me.

My daughter asked for an apple pie for her birthday dessert. I had a few options. Making pie dough from scratch--a long process with cold unsalted butter, flour and a Cuisinart was the most unpalatable option. Mixing the dough to perfect "pea sized" consistency and letting it rest is soooo time consuming. Then, to add insult to injury, it still needs to be rolled out!

I thought about using Pillsbury ready made pie crust and just doing two baked apples for the celiacs. This was also not a great option because I really do try to be inclusive of every family member.

But, then I remembered that I had two Whole Foods Gluten Free Bakery pie crusts in the freezer and figured I could use them to make a double-crust pie. The crusts thawed at room temperature and I prepped a bunch of apples with lemon juice, cinnamon, sugar and gluten-free flour.

It worked! I piled the apples into one crust and put the other crust on top. After five minutes in the oven, I stretched the top crust and pinched the top and bottom crusts together.

It was absolutely gorgeous when it came out of the oven. The crust was a light golden brown and the aroma was tantalizing. Everyone eagerly came to the table to celebrate.

Since it was semi-home made, it was a snap. My celiac has put in his request for pumpkin and apple pie for Thanksgiving! I can do that EASILY. Frozen, ready made gluten-free pie crust is now my favorite thing in the freezer case.
Kendall Egan

Monday, November 3, 2008

Teenagers and trust

I read recently about the mother of a celiac child who had discovered that her teenager had been routinely eating food that contains gluten for the last year.

Her story brought me up short because it laid bare the fear that every parent of a celiac teenager secretly lives with.

And it emphasized the unique world we mothers and fathers live in, separate even from those adults who have celiac disease and can make their own decisions. All of our specially made gluten-free pizza pies and chocolate cakes, all our knowledge about gluten in ingredients, all our pantries full of gluten-free pretzels, crackers and pasta don't make a difference if our children choose to cheat on the diet.

Simply, we are not in control, at least not once our children start eating out of our eyesight and beyond our lovingly packed brown bag lunches. Though we may keep it to ourselves, our worries rev up when they drive off with friends for what should be an innocent lunch or dinner out.

Still, we rely on the hope and a prayer that we have taught them well about the necessity of eating gluten free. When our sons and daughters were little, we did not want to scare them or cripple them with dire predictions of what would happen if they ever succumbed to the lures of food that's perfectly safe for everyone else, but poison to them. But now we wonder if a little fear isn't a good thing.

All we really have is trust. And maybe a little delusion even when presented with the possibility that our children might have had the occasional slice of pizza or breaded chicken finger. But what happens when we have the facts, when they admit to us that they've been eating gluten frequently?

I put the question directly to my own 18-year-old daughter, a college freshman living away from home for the first time. What would she say to this worried and frightened mother whose son has been eating breaded sesame chicken two or three times every week ?

My daughter responded right away -- it seemed she wanted to be helpful. "If he eats it two to three times a week he must really like the Chinese food, " she wrote in one of her rare emails to me. "I would probably suggest finding a gluten-free version that he can eat instead."

Beyond that, she admitted knowing what it's like for the boy. "I can understand the pressure, especially around that age. Not that kids would try to get him to eat wheat. But once you get to the age when you can drive with your friends, if they all go out to eat, I can see how it would be easier to just eat what they have," she explained.

And since Chinese food has always been a favorite in our family, she knows that you can order plain steamed dishes that are gluten free and suggested he try that. But she had further insight. "For boys it probably isn't as easy to order foods that aren't like everybody elses without feeling different. He probably is sick of dealing with the diet and finds it easier to just eat the gluten version."

I was impressed that she was trying so hard to come up with good advice while remaining empathetic. She earnestly asked at the end of her email if she had given me the kind of answer I wanted. And she did.

But I realized there was another part that perhaps I needed. I needed for her to write that she had never purposely eaten a food she knew contained gluten (aside from the one time she tried an Oreo cookie as little girl), forget about doing so occasionally or regularly. I needed her to remind me that she knows lack of symptoms after eating gluten doesn't mean damage isn't being done. But she didn't write about herself at all.

I don't have my reassurance. I just have my trust.