Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Gluten-Free Bargains

We put our next issue to bed and it is now at the printer’s going through the various stages that eventually deposit it in subscribers’ mailboxes. That means I have a little time to take deep breaths, become reacquainted with my life, and catch up on odds and ends.
Last night that meant going shopping.

I stopped at the Christmas Tree Shop which, for whatever reasons, has nothing to do with Christmas trees, at least not in August. Let’s say it’s the home of cheap items you didn’t know you needed and some you do, including an odd assortment of food. I was truly surprised to find a box of Glenny’s gluten-free oatmeal cookies for $2.99.

Needless to say I was dubious about the oatmeal, but according to the box: “Gluten Free Oats are more expensive than regular oats because of the Gluten Free inspection process necessary for growing through baking and packing.” So I called the company and was told they buy their oats from Only Oats in Canada, which to my knowledge is a reputable company.

The price differential was considerable. On the company’s website the cookies sell for $11.99 plus, presumably, shipping, for 20 cookies or two boxes. I got 10 cookies for $2.99, which would be $4 less and no shipping (to be technical about it, I did drive there and back which means some cost for gas and it took more time than ordering on line). Still I would call it a good deal.

My next job is to taste them and if they are really good, to find out how often the Christmas Tree Shop stocks them. I suspect it’s trial and error there and they stock them when they can get a good deal by buying great quantities.

There was another gluten-free product right next to the oatmeal cookies – Goldbaum’s GF ice cream cones. A box of 10 was $2.99, which is a steal. I couldn’t find out much about them or the company, but I can tell you they are delicious. They taste a bit like the fortune cookies we used to enjoy at Chinese restaurants but can no longer eat, albeit with a little cocoa powder thrown in. I wasn’t able to track their price from venues other than the Christmas Tree Shop but suspect it would be more than I paid.

Christmas Tree Shops appear to be an east coast phenomenon with onsite retail sales only so I’m sorry to disappoint those who live elsewhere. It will probably take me six months or more to get back there but my guess is that when I do, there will be a few gluten-free products available and likely the two I bought last night won’t be on the shelves.

What’s astounding, however, is that there were any at all. Apparently the Christmas Tree Shops buy in ultra large quantities when they can get a good price. So you never know what will be available when you visit. Essentially they took a chance on a gluten-free product, which is just one more measure of how much gluten-free has caught on in our society.


Thursday, August 13, 2009

Five Celiacs in a Beach House

Last summer I wrote a blog post about three celiacs in a beach house, but this year we’ve upped the ante. Five out of eighteen people at this year’s family reunion eat a gluten free diet and that requires some extra preparation! Most people pack bathing suits and sunscreen, and we do that as well, but we also throw in a bread maker, GF flour and mixes.

I’m originally from California and this is the first time in a long time that we have all gathered on the West Coast, so I am not the person in control of the gluten-free food. When the celiacs come East, I’ve got them covered. This time I just have to make sure everyone has food to eat on the airplane. I forgot to tell my sister that I would split the GF grocery bill with her when we arrive at the beach house. Feeding five celiacs is not cheap. So if you read this Whitney, know that I’m good for it!

Summer camp ended today, summer swim season ended today and my kids are a bit melancholy since the long days of endless fun in our home town wrapped up today. They know that six weeks of their precious summer is over and school is lurking around the corner. The good news is that there is still almost one month left and we will all enjoy ourselves after a long day of travel. Once we get there, we will swim, laugh, surf, eat lots of Mexican food and goof around with cousins.

It’s like a Mastercard commercial….Airplane tickets-$1800, Beach Share-$1400...not having to worry about finding gluten-free food upon arrival because your mom and sister are handling it-PRICELESS.
Kendall Egan

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

One Year Blog Anniversary

When we were slogging our way through a website redesign way back in 2007-2008, I kept saying to my partners Ann and Amy that we “had to blog.” True confessions, I didn’t read blogs during that time frame and I had zero rational for my insistence on adding a blog to our new website.

I stumbled through a blogspot set up, linked it to the correct webpage and we lurched forth into social media. One year later, we have close to 100 postings of our gluten-free lives. We use and love Twitter and are attempting Facebook. That is a big accomplishment for us…none of us grew up with our noses in a computer screen 24/7. In fact, “24/7” wasn’t even a concept for any of us growing up!

I hope we have added some gluten-free levity in some of these posts and perhaps a touch of gluten-free sanity in others. Many of the posts have been informative and one or two of mine were really lame. We have shared, certainly in my case, some gluten-free foibles like the time I accidentally unplugged the bread machine with a loaf of bread half way through the process to save energy or the lady sneezing all over the pre-washed greens.

Back in August 2008, I told Amy that I had a list of ten ideas for blogs because I was nervous about coming up with a weekly topic. That seems so funny to me now. This blog is such a natural extension of my gluten-free life today. Whenever I am deep into my blackberry, thumb typing away, one of my kids will tease me by saying something like “don’t bug mom, she’s busy blogging right now.”

Amy has educated our readers on many different topics from the rise and fall of the Starbucks GF cake, to some troubling “facts” in EH’s book, to a gluten-free cookie dough fundraiser, to life with a college bound celiac. Our most reluctant blogger has been Ann, but she has added some great stories about her mother’s 90’s birthday, traveling to speaking engagements, trips to see the grandkids and gaining perspective from watching Slumdog Millionaire.

So, thanks to Ann and Amy for believing me when I said that "we had to blog" and for sharing pieces of your lives with me. Thank you to everyone else who has read our postings this year. We love your comments and look forward to them. We are up to our eyeballs right now getting our next issue finished so blogging may take a back seat for the next two weeks, but we will continue posting the exciting and the ordinary tidbits from our gluten-free living for the forseable future!

Kendall Egan

Monday, August 3, 2009

Back to the Bronx

There is an Italian section of The Bronx, usually referred to as “Arthur Avenue,” where you can visit some of the best Italian restaurants in the city and buy the most authentic Italian food. My children (and me, at the time) loved visiting their Italian grandmother who would cook fantastic foods, many purchased on Arthur Avenue, and preside over some of the most memorable meals of their childhood. So Arthur Avenue holds a special place in their memory.

Last week I called my daughter on her wedding anniversary and did not mention it at all. Frankly, I didn’t remember until the day after my call. I felt badly, so before visiting her and her family on Saturday, I went on a shopping trip to Arthur Avenue.

My purchases included bread, “homemade” ravioli and cannolis, which were off limits for me, as well as cheeses, dry sausage, pasta sauce and Chianti, which were fine. I forgot my own pasta so my daughter graciously went out and bought some at her local store -- GF ravioli, in fact. Gone are the days of doing without.

We all had a great meal. Her (Italian) husband was impressed and even her (relatively young) children enjoyed the feast. Everyone was so full, the cannolis were forgotten. I assume they enjoyed them Sunday and I’m fine with the fact that whenever they might be served, all I would get to do is watch.

My daughter said the bread was not quite as good as she remembered, although she admitted she might have idealized it in her memory. She did casually suggest I go back at some point and try one of the other bakeries. Idealizing Arthur Avenue bread is easy to do. When I think of the foods I miss most on the GF diet, Arthur Avenue bread is second on the list just below pizza. But I am not hopeful that anyone will come up with a reasonable facsimile soon. Even wheat-containing bread not made on Arthur Avenue does not measure up to the real thing.

We all had a great time around food, including me, even if I had a few limitations. It seems family, laughter and fond memories trump bread as the staff of life.