Monday, August 29, 2011

Hippie Eggs

One day I really wanted scrambled eggs.  I mean, really wanted scrambled eggs.  Which is funny because I never really liked eggs until I was told I couldn’t have them.  So, I got out one of my trusty cookbooks for allergy-free cooking- The Everything Food Allergy Cookbook.  In it, there is a recipe for “ Egg-less Scrambled Eggs.”  A little tofu, a little turmeric, and I had a suitable substitute for scrambled eggs.  I mixed in some onions, mushrooms and a little vegan cheese.  Then I added some gluten-free toasted bread on the side and I was in heaven!

Hippie Eggs with Spam

 Of course, T- my youngest- also wanted some scrambled eggs, so I fixed him the real deal.  And then I fixed him another. And another.  And another.  As fast as I could cook the eggs, he would eat them and ask for more.   Finally, we ran out of eggs!  So, I forked some of my “eggs” onto his plate.  Suddenly, he wasn’t hungry anymore….  The plate was spilled on the floor a few minutes later and Biscuit the dog came running over to see what wonderous food had been dropped from the sky.  I’m not kidding you, Biscuit took one sniff of the turmeric-laced forgery and ran and hid in the other room!  That’s when I had to ‘fess up to myself: Tofu-Turmeric eggs are NOT eggs.  Not even close.  But it got me through the craving and that was what mattered. 
Note:  Yes, the above picture has Spam in it.  Yes, Spam is gluten-free.  Yes, there is a story behind why I was eating Spam.  No, I don't do it frequently, and no, I'm not going to tell you the story today- that's a whole separate post. Oh, the shame! :)

I’m a firm believer that if I’m going to get through this- and by “this” I mean live with these allergies for the rest of my life- I’m going to have to engage in a little trickery.  A sleight of hand, if you will.  Fool my eyes and I am halfway to fooling my brain.  Smooshed tofu turned yellow by the tasteless spice totally looked like eggs (well, maybe I had to squint a little bit…) and I survived another day happy and content with my lot in life. 

The longer I go without eating “the real thing”, the easier it is for me to accept the substitute.  Some days I am absolutely convinced that I have stumbled upon a carbon copy of whatever dish I am trying to replicate.  The people around me are less convinced.  But, you know, I’m ok with that.  They can have the original of whatever it is, and I’ll be happy with my substitute.   The dog and I’ll be over here enjoying our gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free treat!

  Biscuit!  Biscuit?  She really is a smart dog…

Friday, August 26, 2011

They’ve Got Rice- You’ll Be Fine!

You know, you are going along, happily living your life and minding your own business.  Then one day, fate decides to have a little bit of fun:  BAM- You can’t have gluten!  THWACK- there goes dairy!  SHAZAAM- eggs are now the devil!  

Suddenly, going out to eat is a major traumatic event.  Pitch-ins at church are a cause to cry.  Family meals are a mine-field.  You want to remain as “normal” as possible and you don’t want to cause trouble for anyone.  You don’t want to draw attention to yourself.  You don’t want to hear, “Oh, goodness!  Your life sure does suck now!” or “Just a little bit won’t hurt you.  Surely you can just have a small piece.”  You resist the urge to say, “Yes it does-and don’t call me Shirley” and most of the time you resist the urge to eat whatever goodie is proffered by the well-meaning friend.  But sometimes you don’t.  And those times, you pay for it; your husband pays for it; your kids pay for it.  Because it turns out that eating even a small, tiny, minuscule taste of the delicious and forbidden treat not only gives you a stomach ache and those other symptoms never to be discussed on the internet, but it also turns you into a stark-raving b$#@* about 24 hours after you eat the glutinous/milky/eggy delicacy. 

That’s what happened to me, anyway.  I’m convinced that my family thought I was half out of my mind when I came home with the diagnosis, but they completely rallied around me anyway.  They have all been supportive in their own way.  My husband encourages me to fix the entire family meal GF/DF/EF and eats whatever I fix, however I fix it- never, ever complaining (even if he probably should.)  My grandmother always has something that I can eat when I go to her house, and planning the holiday dinners has now become an exercise in creativity for us.  My grandpa is constantly quizzing my parents on what items I have found, and trying to find me new and inventive things to eat.  My sister-in-law makes some ah-may-zing GF food for me when we are together.  My father-in-law goes out of his way to make meals that have components for me, including finding a special bread mix that I continue to use to this day- Hodgson Mill Gluten Free Bread Mix.  My mother-in-law makes me birthday brownies.  My brothers make fun of me.  Its cool- if they didn’t, I would think they didn’t love me anymore!   And my mom became gluten intolerant herself.  If that’s not love, I don’t know what is! ;)

As we go along, I am learning to be more out-spoken about my needs.  And I have found that people don’t mind catering to the issues that I have.  Even my brothers are looking out for my welfare.  My sister-in-law decided one day that her pregnancy required a trip to the China Buffet.  Mom and I were in one car and they were in another.  We followed them, not knowing where we were heading, and parked in front of the restaurant.  About the time that Mom gets the words, “Can you eat anything here?” out of her mouth, my brother motions for me to roll down my window.  I roll it down and he yells, “They’ve got rice!  You’ll be fine!”  See?  He loves me!

Even friends at church have my back.  One gal makes a fabulous quinoa salad that normally calls for feta, but when she brings it to a pitch-in she brings a small “Val-friendly” bowl so I can eat it as well.  The amazing woman who often brings food for the women’s bible study is always finding gluten-free goodies for me, and hooks me up with peanuts or other fun treats when we go on road trips.  Another friend will always make sure that we go somewhere I can easily manipulate the food when we go out to eat as a staff- without me having to utter a word.  These are little things that these girls do because that is who they are- but it means so much to me that someone works so hard to make sure I can enjoy whatever activity we are doing. 

Allergies be darned, I am such a lucky girl!  Nothing warms your heart more than a family member or friend taking it upon themselves to do something special for you to help you feel normal- except maybe your brother yelling, “They’ve got rice…” 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A-blogging We Will Go...

Hippie by default?  Meat-eating Vegan?  Let me explain…
If you are a hippie or a vegan, please don’t be mad at me.  It’s just a good way to explain the funny curveball life has thrown my way.  Besides, I love hippies!  And vegans!  They are great people (for the most part) and they often have food I can eat, and you can’t go wrong if you can feed me! 

This crazy ride all started about a year and a half ago.   I went to the doctor with some icky symptoms and a general feeling that something was just not right with me.  I was napping 2+ hours every day, sleeping long hours at night, having frequent migraines, feeling depressed and all around sick and tired of being sick and tired.  (There are more graphic symptoms that do not belong on the internet- ick.  However, if you feel like it will help you, let’s talk.  Just not in public.)  My doctor started with blood tests,  and the results prompted a visit to a specialist and then an allergist.  Every time I talked to a different doctor, they had more test results that took more food away.  When it was all said and done, and I was WELL past my insurance deductible, it was determined that I have an allergy to wheat, dairy and eggs, and I am gluten intolerant.  (Gluten is found in wheat, rye, barley and oats.  Darn.) 

I grew up spending parts of each summer in Wisconsin, eating my weight in cheese.  My favorite snack when I was growing up was bread and nacho cheese dip.  I could take or leave eggs, but I sure like cake and cookies- which requires eggs! (Not to mention chocolate chips and flour- those are things that I now call “Dishes of Death.”  Double Darn.)  Seriously- what the heck happened to me?  A common theory is that a major event can trigger the onset for the gluten intolerance.  Maybe having that come out brought the other symptoms to light.  I really have no idea.  But, what I do know is that I can trace the beginning of my symptoms showing up with frequency back to the time when my second child was born.  It’s a good thing I love that kid!

So, now I can describe myself as a gluten-free, meat-eating vegan.  Think about it- true vegans don’t eat any diary or eggs.  Hey, me neither!  But I do eat meat.  Meat-eating vegan.   The hippie thing is how my husband describes all the “weird” food I now eat.  Seriously, would you even attempt Millet (a grain)  if you didn’t have to?  Most people don’t put tofu on their grocery list unless it’s on a dare…  So, Chris   says I’m a hippie by default.  As I said, I like hippies- nice people- so I take it as a compliment! 

Over the last year and a half, I have tried desperately to stay “normal.”  I miss cookies.  I miss cakes. I miss bacon-double cheeseburgers from A&W and taco pizza from the Pizza King in Greensburg.  I miss CHEESE!  So I try to find a substitute for all of them.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.  My husband said I should be writing it all down, and that I should share it with the world.  The whole, “If you help just one person, it’s worth it” thing.  Personally, I think he’s hoping that if I write it out to you, then I’ll stop talking about it to him.  Little does he know, this will backfire horribly.  Who else am I going to bounce ideas off of?  Mua-hahahaha!

So, I’m giving it a shot.  We will see what happens when we actually get into the swing of this, but I’m thinking that this is going to be a place to share the positive things I have found- and hopefully spare you from a personal experience with the negatives.  Most of this won’t be my own ideas, but instead a roadmap pointing you to fabulous things I have found.  For instance, the first thing I’m going to share is that if you haven’t been to, you should go there.  Right now.  Seriously, I’ll wait.  Nicole, the author of the blog and a cookbook by the same name, is down to earth, friendly and my gluten-free hero.  When it all just sucks so badly that I can’t stand the thought of one more bowl of rice, I go get a dose of her humor and sarcasm.  And her recipe for pie crusts, and chocolate chip cookies, and flat bread, and about 2 million other amazing recipes she has.  I’ll let her make them up, and I’ll send you to her.  As long as you promise to come back to me.

So, that’s it, in a very long and wordy nutshell.  If there is something you need to know, or you want me to discuss, share it in the comments section, or send me an email!  I’ve been thinking about writing this for about a month and I’ve got approximately 5 ideas.  It might get dicey after that…  Isn’t the internet grand?  J  But if I can help just one person…