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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Table Talk

Thanksgiving Turkey dinnerThanksgiving is a day of stress, even in the best of times, but Thanksgiving 2018 could take the cake. . . er . . pie. Dinner conversations have become landmines. Relationships are as strained as my jeans after five helpings of mashed potatoes. Families haven’t been this divided since the great Toilet Paper Orientation debate of 1954.

Here are just a few topics that could escalate your meal from a civil discussion to Grandpa throwing cranberry sauce into the ceiling fan: The national anthem–Kneeling v. standing; The Presidency–Trump v. a sane person; Women’s rights v. Rich White Men; Nazis v. Not Nazis; and the most contentious subject, Marvel v. DC.

Things are ugly, folks. People are tense.

There are marches and demonstrations covering every perceivable issue. Even asking someone their view on mayonnaise could spark a worldwide protest. So, what can we possibly talk about around the Thanksgiving table so we can still get presents on Christmas?

I gathered a group of unsuspecting family members to practice possible discussion topics. It didn’t go well.

Me to Grandson: Tell me about Fortnite.

Great Uncle Jack: What’s Fortnite?

Grandson: It’s an awesome video game!

Great Uncle Jack: That’s stupid, you namby-pamby! Do you know what my video game was? World War II!

So, I tried again.

Me: Elon Musk plans to take humans to the moon in 2023.

Second Cousin: The moon landing never happened. It’s a conspiracy to keep us docile.

Me: I don’t think it’s working.

Another effort.

Me: How about those sports?

Hubbie: Agents have ruined professional sports! Back in the day, athletes played the damn game. Now, it’s, “Oh, I need an extra $20 million before I can throw a pitch.”

Okay then. Next.

Me: What fun things should we do for Christmas?

Brother-in-law: We should stop pandering to the commercialism of a pagan holiday that has no foundation of truth. Might as well celebrate rocks.

I tried a different tactic.

Me: A delicious roast turkey sure sounds good.

Daughter: Do you know how turkeys are raised? It’s disgusting and inhuman.

Me: Turkeys aren’t human.

Daughter: You are dead to me.

I was almost out of ideas.

Me: What do you think about sweater vests?

Everyone: We hate them!

Well, that’s a start.

I’m worried most families will end up sitting quietly, heads down, creating volcanoes with the mashed potatoes and gravy, and making NO eye contact for the entirety of the meal. At least dessert shouldn’t be contentious. (Dessert: Hold my beer.)

There was a time when conversation was an art, a civilized form of speech. Someone started talking, then others respectfully chimed in with their opinions. Sometimes, discussions got heated, but it rarely became a knife fight. Or maybe I’ve just read to many Jane Austen novels where you had to actually pay attention to realize you’d been insulted.

Now everyone is insulted. All the time.

So. On Thanksgiving, let’s practice not being insulted. Let’s try hearing other people’s views without writing them out of the will. We don’t have to agree, but can we be kind?

And the correct answer is Marvel. It’s always Marvel.

Originally published in Iron County Today – http://ironcountytoday.com/columns/life-and-laughter-table-talk/

Top 5 Reasons Thanksgiving Gets No Respect

Shelved between the gory chaos of Halloween and the rabid excess of Christmas, Thanksgiving gets no respect. It’s the Rodney Dangerfield of holidays.

rodney

(Google him, you young punks.)

Is it because we’re not grateful? Is it because no one really likes stuffing and cranberries? Here’s my hypothesis regarding Thanksgiving’s no-respect status.

  1. We’re too busy formulating Black Friday plans. It takes a foolproof strategy to hit 17 stores before 4:30 a.m. to get free plush footballs and a jar of pickles for 25 cents. Instead of giving thanks, we’re shredding the fat Thanksgiving newspaper to plan our Black Friday pillaging.
  2. There’s no cute mascot. Along with Santa, reindeer and Baby Jesus, you have that rat-bastard Elf on the Shelf and his minions that are marketed to death for the Christmas holiday. Time to introduce Scruffy the Squirrel who sits in the tree outside your bedroom making sure you count your blessings every night . . . or else. . .
  3. Boring backstory. Once you’re out of elementary school, you’ve heard the story of the first Thanksgiving SO MANY TIMES you can’t take it any more. Blah, blah, blah feast. Blah, blah, blah pilgrims.
  4. There are no presents. Getting to the crux of the matter, if you don’t get free stuff (toys, shoes, candy, beer, etc.) you’re not interested. (Hint: We’re supposed to be grateful for what we already have.)
  5. Maybe we just forget. After Halloween, merchants remove ANY fall merchandise, including turkeys and pilgrims, to make way for Christmas. If you’ve ever tried to purchase autumn-toned napkins on Nov. 19, you are s*** out of luck.

napkins(Just pretend it’s a turkey, will ya?)

Twelve Steps to a Perfect Thanksgiving Dinner

In less than two weeks, people will enter my kitchen and demand a perfectly cooked dead turkey, smashed potatoes and chopped veggies. Sounds pretty violent. And although I STILL can’t cook a turkey so it’s done on time, I’ve found a way to make T-day cooking go a little smoother (yes, alcohol helps).

Before Thanksgiving Day:

1. Figure out who’s coming to dinner. Contact parents, siblings, children, distant relatives, grouchy neighbors and obnoxious co-workers to see if they will attend. Chances are, no one will tell you their plans until the night before the holiday.

2. Create the menu. It’s not that hard. Turkey, potatoes (mashed and sweet), cranberries (yuck), stuffing (double yuck), assorted Jell-O salads, vegetable dishes–and lots and lots of pie. With whipped cream. And sugar cookies.

turkey(Don’t mess with tradition. People expect turkey. That’s it.)

3. Divide menu items amongst the guests. Your cousin will bring a jar of pickles. Your aunt might bring a box of butter. Plan on making everything else yourself.

4. Purchase a turkey (and other Thanksgiving paraphernalia). To determine the size of turkey you’ll need, take the number of people attending and times it by 14. Subtract the cost of the turkey, and divide by how many parents you have (this includes step-parents). Add the time you’ll be eating dinner, plus the amount of time it takes to consume a bottle of tequila. Simple.

5. Prepare food ahead of time. Except for the turkey, potatoes, stuffing, rolls, pumpkin pies, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, chocolate cream pie and vegetable trays, everything else can be made the day before.

Thanksgiving morning:

6. Get up. Lying in bed, facing a day full of cooking, relatives, dirty dishes and calories, you might think it’s easier to snuggle back under the blankets and call in sick. Don’t bother. People will still show up. Start consuming caffeine/alcohol as soon as possible.

7. Cook turkey. As mentioned before, my turkey is either still gobbling at dinnertime, or has become turkey charcoal. To figure out cooking time, call the Butterball hotline, 1-800-DUMBASS. Or take the weight of the bird, divide it by the halftime score of the Cowboys game, add an additional 2.5 minutes for each time someone asks if dinner is ready, and subtract time spent crying in the bathroom. Should be golden brown (see above). At some point.

8. Set the table. Unlike Martha Stewart, I don’t have a banquet hall with full service for 25 people. So instead, I gather card tables, piano benches, concrete blocks, unused doors and a couple of old mattresses, and create a festive table with enough chairs for all!

T-Day(Eating outside keeps your home tidy. Caution: Not to be attempted during a snowstorm.)

9. Greet guests. You’re probably totally plowed at this time, so don’t say anything stupid.

10. Have a prayer. Even if you only pray when you’re in a plane hitting turbulence, assign someone to give a heartfelt thanks for surviving another year. And bless the food so your guests don’t die from food poisoning.

11. Eat. And continue eating for the next three days. Apple pie is good for breakfast any time of year. Turkey sandwiches are good only if made with leftover rolls. If you can sit with your pants buttoned, you haven’t eaten enough.

DSC_2960 - Copy(Eat until your eyes roll back into your head.)

12. Call “Not it!” when it’s time to decide next year’s Thanksgiving location.

I’m Grateful For . . .

In November, it is required that every person in the country make a list of things they’re grateful for. If  you don’t–you’re not a true American. But along with being thankful for food, clothing, shelter and chocolate, I am grateful for so much more.

I’m grateful for:

  • Underwear that doesn’t leave panty-lines.

(I think she might have some permanent damage.)

  • The fact that I’ll NEVER have to take an algebra class ever, ever, ever again.
  • Kim Kardashian’s fairy-tale wedding. What a true love story.

(This has restored my faith in the institution of marriage. I think they’ll be happy for ever and ever and ever. . .)

  • The platypus. How cool is that thing?
  • Dental floss. Not because it removes that make-believe plaque my dentist keeps nagging me about, but because if you ever need to tie off a severed artery–floss is your best friend.

(Get off my case, Mr. Bicuspid from hell!!!)

  • The Jersey Shore Christmas Ornament collection. Who wouldn’t want dem hangin’ from yo’ tree?

(All they need now is a Christmas CD. Possible titles: “Santa and his Hos,” “$%&* the Halls” or “Rudolph Shot Grandma With a Glock.”)

  • Fiction. Because reality sucks.
  • Daughters who aren’t currently in prison.
  • This picture:

(Bwahahahahaha!!!!! I think I just peed.)

Happy Thanksgiving!!!