Breaking Bread

I’ve never been one to follow fad diets. I like food too much to limit my choices to cabbage, grapefruit and a toxic drink of lemon, maple syrup and cayenne pepper. I’m pretty sure that’s a mixture they use to waterproof asphalt.

So when I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease in 2016, the idea of taking my favorite foods off the table was . . . well . . . off the table.bake-bakery-baking-5765

My doctor insisted I’d feel better if I stopped eating gluten. I laughed and told him I’d never be one of those people who badger waiters about menu ingredients, scour Pinterest for gluten-free cookie recipes or bore friends to tears with a recap of my gluten-induced misery.

I was in denial for several weeks but after a trip to New York where I gorged on pizza, bagels and, basically, bushels of gluten, I ended up in a bread coma. I went off gluten cold turkey, which is pretty much the only thing I can eat now.

My husband has been super helpful as I’ve transitioned to a life of wheat-less sadness. He chokes down gluten-free pizza and cookies without acting like I’m poisoning him (usually), but when I suggested making gluten-free onion rings, he clenched his jaw so tight his ears started bleeding. I heard him sobbing later in the bathroom.

Changing my own diet is one thing. Changing my family’s traditional Thanksgiving favorites is another. Everything about this holiday is a freakin’ gluten fest. You have dinner rolls, gravy, pie crust, carrot cake, Ritz crackers with spray cheese, and stuffing (which I don’t mind skipping because it’s a disgusting garbage of a food).

I experimented with gluten-free pumpkin muffins that had the consistency of ground up snails. Even my dog wouldn’t eat them. Well, he ate them because he’s a Lab and he eats everything; but he whined the whole time.

Researching gluten-free Thanksgiving Day recipes, I found a plethora of tasteless fare. Brussels sprouts in mustard sauce, quinoa stuffing with zucchini and cranberries, and a wheat-free, egg-free, dairy-free, taste-free pumpkin pie headlined my options. I tried making the organic, gluten-free, high-protein breadsticks. Yeah, they’re basically jerky.

And what do you call gluten-free brownies? Mud.

Why is gluten only found in foods that are delicious, like waffles and cinnamon rolls? It would be so much easier to avoid gluten if it was just in cottage cheese, foie gras or earthworms.

At least I live in a time where gluten-free products are available. Ten years ago, people going gluten-free could choose between kale chips or toasted particle board. Granted, most gluten-free products still taste like you’re chewing on a handful of toothpicks, but with new flours available, like amaranth, chickpea and cricket . . . never mind. It’s still terrible.blur-close-up-environment-289417

I could have gone my whole life without knowing things like kelp noodles existed. Which brings me back to Thanksgiving.

I realize the irony of me whining about what to eat on Thanksgiving—a day dedicated to gratitude and abundance. So as I’m sitting at the table, nibbling on dry turkey breast and jerky breadsticks, I promise to be grateful for all the things I CAN eat, like cabbage and grapefruit, and even lemon, maple syrup and cayenne pepper. Just not mixed together.

Originally published in Iron County Todayhttp://ironcountytoday.com/columns/life-laughter/breaking-bread/

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Weird February Traditions

I guess people who survive January decide February is a great time to celebrate. But there’s really nothing to celebrate in February, so people just decided to make s*** up.

Take for instance:

Groundhog Day (2-2): Yesterday, all across the country, innocent groundhogs were pulled from their warm burrows with the demand that they forecast the weather for the next six weeks. (Keep in mind, meteorologists can’t correctly predict weather for the next six hours.)

Leave it to Pennsylvania Germans to create an observance that revolves around marmots. Lately, we’ve heard about groundhogs attacking mayors during these “celebrations.” I’m rooting for the groundhogs.

groundhog

(When groundhogs attack.)

Valentine’s Day (2-14): Regular readers of this blog know my impatience with this holiday created by Hallmarkians in the early 1900s. Honoring the people you love should be a year-round event. Not a one-time, box-of-chocolates, 7-Eleven rose bouquet toss off. (See Romance 101 or Romantic Ideas for Valentine’s Day.)

International Condom Day (2-14): This celebration coincides with Valentine’s Day, so just in case that box-of-chocolates, 7-Eleven rose bouquet actually works, use a condom. More than 5 billion condoms are sold every year. But the majority of those remain unused and are stashed in the wallets of hopeful high school students.

international-condom-day

(Not to be confused with National Herpes Awareness Day on Oct. 13.)

Presidents’ Day (2-16): As a government employee, I think we should honor a different president every Monday, with the appropriate day off to think about their contributions to the country. Whoever decided to combine Washington/Lincoln Day should be tried for treason.

Mardi Gras (2-17): Now that everyone has their condoms, let’s celebrate Mardi Gras! On Fat Tuesday, revelers spend hours drinking, dancing, partying and participating in all types of debauchery. This is in preparation for Ash Wednesday (2-18), or the beginning of Lent when people abstain from drinking, partying and participating in all types of debauchery until Easter. Or until their hangover wears off (2-19).

Chinese New Year (2-19): In 2015, the Chinese New Year ushers in the year of the goat/sheep and will be celebrated with fireworks, food and parties. So kind of like New Year’s Eve, only with goats/sheep. People born during this year are supposed to be sweet, kind, calm and easily fleeced.

goat

(This goat is obviously still recovering from Mardi Gras.)

And don’t forget to wear red on National Wear Red Day on Feb. 6 to honor . . . well . . . redness?

A Martha Stewart Christmas

Martha Stewart and I could be twins. She’d be the perfect, talented twin, and I’d be the evil, slightly disturbed counterpart who tried to eat her in the womb. We just have SO much in common.

I picked up the latest Martha Stewart Living magazine at the library (I’m not paying for that) and found her holiday calendar in the front of the publication. I was amazed at how similar our Decembers were with all the parties and decorating and such. Here’s a few examples of our activities that are eerily identical:

Dec. 4: Martha flew to Canada to speak at the Fort McMurray Public Library.

Dec. 4: I picked up this magazine at the Kearns Public Library,

msliving

(Uncanny.)

Dec. 10: Martha will stake the tomatoes in her vegetable greenhouse. (That’s darling.)

Dec. 10: I will clean the black, mushy tomatoes out of my vegetable bin.

(See what I mean. Twins.)

Dec. 17: Martha checks her back-up generators to ensure she’ll have electricity in the event of a winter storm and power outage.

Dec. 17: After the power goes out from the latest storm, I will gather all the birthday candles I can find and try to strike a match on the kitchen counter because I’ve lost the striking surface from the box.

Dec. 22: Jude and Truman stop by to make holiday cookies with Martha

Dec. 22: I contact E-Z Restore to fix the damage done to my home during my Christmas Cookie event with the grandkids.

Dec. 24: Today, Martha finishes decorating and cooking for her Christmas brunch. Her menu includes–Oysters with mignonette (?), Buckwheat crepes with mushroom filling (o. . k . . ), Creamed spinach with poached eggs (really??) and ham with lingonberry jam. (I need Rolaids just reading this menu.)

Dec. 24: I frantically shop for last minute gifts. At Walgreens.

walgreens(Selling tape and cheap toys 24 hours a day.)

Dec. 25: “Christmas brunch with family and friends–and caroling, of course.”

Dec. 25: Collapse in a holiday heap under the tree with a bottle of Patron.

Dec. 27: Martha remembers the birds this season, and makes birdseed pinecones with Jade and Truman. (Who the hell are Jade and Truman?)

Dec. 27: Christmas is over, people!!! I’m not doing anything else. Feed your own damn selves, birds.

birds(I don’t think they like your pinecones, Martha.)

Dec. 31: Martha finds room for improvement as she makes her list of 2014 resolutions!

Dec. 31: Screw it all. I’ll be in bed by 10.

Happy Retro Halloween!

Let’s travel back to 1975, when the world was less complicated and Halloween was a day-long sugar orgy. It was a simple holiday; I knock on your door–you give me candy.

Since then, Halloween has become a multi-million dollar business. Leave it to Americans to prostitute fear. And candy.

Costumes

1975: I’d open my costume box which consisted of a plastic mask with death-hole eye sockets and a plastic-tarp of a costume. Or I’d get a homemade princess costume.  (And BTW, being a graceful princess is difficult when you have five layers of sweaters under your ball gown, making it look like you just ate a princess.)

wonder woman

(My Wonder Woman death mask.)

Now: You can purchase elaborate costumes all year long. They’re expensive, gory and (for females) crossing the border into Slutville. You can’t just be a princess. You have to be a branded princess–with a history and a back story, and a bustier.

Pumpkin Carving

1975: Before the cool carving kits, all we had was a paring knife and our imaginations. You could carve triangles, squares or circles. That was it. Most pumpkins looked either a) scary, b) startled, or c) mutilated. Someone was always accidentally stabbed.

Now: Pumpkin carving is an Olympic sport. Displays of sculpted pumpkins adorn porch stoops. Intricately designed pumpkins mock my basic smiley-faced squash.

alien pumpkin(This never happened 40 years ago.)

Décor

1975: My mother taped Halloween pictures in the front window, and if she was going all out, she’d twist black and orange crepe paper across the window.  We were a simple people in the ’70s.

Now: People invest big bucks in Halloween decorations. Front lawns display graveyards, witch covens, torture chambers and colossal spider webs. People spend more on Halloween décor than I spend for Christmas shopping.

halloween display(It’s beginning to look a  lot like excess.)

School Parties

1975: Classroom parties consisted of four things. First, the Halloween parade where we’d dash through classrooms for fellow students and parents. Second, we’d play Halloween Bingo vying for a black and orange pencil. Third, we would decorate ONE pumpkin-shaped sugar cookie. (My cookie had more frosting and sprinkles than Ke$ha’s underwear drawer.)

Fourth, we would sit in a circle and sing Halloween songs. “Halloween Cat/ Halloween Cat/ Why do you mew and mew like that?/Neither I nor the moon/Like your tune/So SCAT! Halloween Cat” (I know. Pure poetry.)

Now: Schools are doing away with Halloween parties, parades, songs, and fun. What’s the point of going to school if you can’t dress up on Halloween? I’m predicting a rise in drop-out rates.

Trick-or-Treating

1975: Some kids used cute pumpkin buckets to beg for candy, but I had no qualms about looking like a greedy bastard when it came to getting my share of the Halloween booty. I grabbed a king-size pillowcase to gather my candy, never worrying I looked like a homeless Wonder Woman. Plus, the holiday was a night-long event where we’d travel the county looking for homes giving out whole candy bars.

Now: Sanitized versions of trick-or-treating have popped up all over the country. New rules consist of, “Only visit the neighbors we know,” “Stay off the freeway,” “Get home before 7 p.m.” and “Let’s all go as a family!” Babies.

And don’t get me started on Trunk-or-Treating.