Archive for May, 2011

A Glutton’s Tale

Enjoy the video of my interview on Good Morning Maryland, where I talk about my new column in The Valley Times, The Gluten-Free Glutton!  Needless to say, I am not some Indian woman demonstrating her deep love for crock-pots (though I do love curry chicken) like the link below would have you believe, but I did notice that I’m look a bit Cherokee on camera (different kind of Indian, I know).

I’m as giddy as a candida-afflicted kid in a sugar-free candy shop to have the priveledge to share my adventures and musings with so many people.

Today – Baltimore Metro.  Tomorrow – The World (and the day after that – perhaps The Universe!  Tardis needed)!



The Hope(fully giddy) Foodie


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Grainy Images

puts the "grrrr" in grain

And now, what you all have been waiting for – the silence has finally broken and he is no longer just known as a photo of a man’s back doing dishes!

Introducing a post by Mr. Tim “rice-is-my-friend” Taormino!

(and the crowd goes wild)

I’ve had allergies my whole life (or, at least, as much of it as I can remember).  Furry animals, flowers, you name it, I’d react to it.  I was plagued with a chronically stuffy, runny nose, I lost weeks of my winters to debilitating asthma attacks; if I went near a cat or certain dogs, my eyes would swell and itch.  Things got better as I got older.  After our beloved (though rather aloof and stuffy) dog, Snoopy, died when I was twelve, the asthma attacks stopped, and I found I could go near a cat without too much trouble, but dogs were still near-fatal.  Flowers still get me, too, especially roses, and I’m still a bit of a mess from late August until the frost lays heavy on the pumpkins (stupid weeds!)

I’d always been able to eat, though.  You name it, I’d put it away, except for mushrooms.  And broccoli.  And butter and cheese, for that matter.  Hmm, maybe I wasn’t such a “garbage gut” after all…  Some of those were just childhood peccadilloes; I actually came to love cheese greatly, and broccoli, too.  Still can’t stand mushrooms – we all need something we don’t like, I guess.  So it came as a bit of a sad shock when I realized that I was lactose-intolerant.  I had heard of it – my sister was diagnosed with it when I was still pretty young – but I figured, well, her asthma and allergies were much worse than mine, so it just followed.  But the increasing symptoms were just too hard to ignore, so I avoided dairy for a week or so, and then tried some, and really suffered.  Ironic that only about a decade after I learned to like butter and cheeses that weren’t on pizza, I’d have to cut back on them.  Then again, they did have those lactase enzyme pills; maybe they would work.  They did, actually, though I found I had to use more of them than recommended.  So, problem solved; I’d take it easy on the dairy, but when I really wanted ice cream or pizza, I’d use the pills.

Sounded like a plan, but over the next 10 years or so, I seemed to need more and more pills and be able to tolerate less and less dairy.   Sometimes it seemed like I’d have hardly any and be in agony.  Sometimes, I was certain I’d avoided dairy completely, and still have symptoms.  It was starting to get worrisome.  I thought for awhile that I may have been developing diverticulitis, so I started avoiding foods that I thought would aggravate it, like tomato seeds and nuts.  Still, the symptoms carried on.  I’d been talking to my cousin Holly, who was trying to decipher her own health issues, and she had come to the conclusion that she was at least gluten-intolerant, and possibly had full-on celiac disease.  In her research, she found that it can run in families; she began to see patterns in the women in our family, like my mother and her sisters, and we wondered if maybe our family was gluten-sensitive.  I, of course, avoided thinking about my own health issues in this light, as that would mean giving up a whole lot of things I really enjoyed; I mean what’s a Sicilian without pasta or bread?

During the course of all this I fell in love with and married Cellina, who was having allergy issues all her own.  She finally went to a holistic practitioner and went on an elimination diet, basically reducing her food intake to rice, some meats and certain vegetables.  I decided to follow along, and one day, after not having had any wheat products for days, I had pasta, and really felt it!  All of the symptoms I had been attributing to dairy were there.  I took a deep breath and decided that maybe I should try being gluten-free for awhile.  The more I stayed away from it, the better I felt.  The gastro-intestinal problems went away; the chronic acid reflux that I’d been fighting for so long cleared up.  Even the lactose intolerance has basically disappeared, though I still take it easy on dairy products.  It wasn’t an easy decision to make, and I’ve had to let go of some favorites (yes, they do make gluten-free beer, but there are so many more and tasty “regular” variations!), but all in all, I prefer how I feel generally to the suffering I experience when I do inadvertently get some gluten.  As we all hear, the restaurants are the biggest minefield.  The best advice I can give is ask questions until you can get the answers you need.  Avoid what can’t be pinned down as gluten- (or whatever allergen you’re trying avoid) free   And, if all else fails, leave; Cellina and I have, after some really bad experiences.  The plus side is, most places will at least try.  They may not be the best at it (“so, is this made with wheat?” “No.” “But it is made with flour?”  “Of course!”), but we’ve found that most people really do mean well.  So, food-allergy friends (we’re not “allergy sufferers!”  I live quite happily, thank you!), do your homework, stand your ground, and eat hearty!

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Grandma - why is there a dead bird in the freezer?

I’m kicking off Food Allergy Awareness Week on The Hopeful Foodie on a Friday, no less –  not because it’s been a rough week, our bathroom is out of commission leaving us to wash our hair in the kitchen sink and Facebook is a time-sucking hole but because of the symbolic tie-in between the deep mind/body connection of self-awareness and half the country’s deadly aversion to tree nuts.

Buy that and you’ll buy anything.

Better late than never, my mom always used to say (though I think it was an excuse to skip sitting through the first three readings at church)! I’m starting this entry off with a tale that warmed my heart and gave me some encouragement after a week of, “Help yourself to some cookies, hon” and “We are closed for the next seven days -no curried goat for you.”  During the next few days I’ll also be bringing in some guest editors to share their perspectives on how food allergies have changed their views on the foodie world.  I’m really excited about this and hope you enjoy everything this week (or the next three days) has to offer.

There’s a funny story from my daily devotional that I’d like to share with you:

The writer tells of a friend of his – a ninety-six year old woman, sweet as a lark and blind as a bat, who lives in the little beach cottage she’s occupied for probably the last 50 years, with no plan of leaving her comfortable abode simply because it makes her happy.

Well, one morning her cat captured a sparrow, triumphantly bringing it into the house for its assumed reward ( “Look what I found, Mom!”).  The woman proceeded to give the cat a fit, snatch away its fluttering prize with  sponge in hand (no one interrupts Fluffy’s mom from doing the dishes) and throw it out through the front door.  Only…….it wasn’t the bird she had released.  It was the sponge.

Obviously, that was made known quite quickly as the tiny, hysterical sparrow didn’t exactly appreciate not only being kidnapped but now scrubbed by force!

The tale continues with the woman, near to falling she was laughing so hard, ejecting the poor sparrow from her window and trying not to sprain her face with those uncontrollable giggles of a girl much younger than her ninety-six year old self.

When Tim read this out loud Wednesday morning we could barely hold ourselves up we were laughing so hard.  It made me think, though, how much this story is like life with food allergies –  sometimes you feel like the blind old person, set in your ways, going about life like you normally would, only to realize that you have a sparrow in your hand instead of a sponge.  Sometimes you feel like the sparrow, out of your comfort zone, drenched to the core, and wondering how you got here in the first place.  Sometimes you feel like every head chef is like that murderous cat – capturing you with fancy meows and sly moves, ready to go in for the kill (only it’s your bank account and large intestine this tiger is after).  And sometimes you are simply the sponge – tossed out in the wilderness wondering where all the dishes went and why you are suddenly feeling a bit left out to dry.

I guess my point is that when it comes down to whether you are a sparrow or a sponge or a giggling old lady (or that poor, disillusioned cat) you can either lie down and give up over the impending twists and turns of this saga called life, or you can laugh your ass off that you were blessed enough to make it out in one piece.  Spitting out a mouthful of evil eggplant in the middle of a restaurant or making a mushroom sarcophagus with your dinner napkin might sound like the beginning of a life-long nightmare, but it’s the stories and the laughter and the near-misses in the journey that really count.

I hope you are able to embrace this Food-Allergy Awareness Week for all its irony, all its crazy stories, triumphs and low blows (and most seriously for all of those who have suffered and lost their lives due to this nation-wide epidemic we have on our hands).

May the sponge be with you!


The Hopeful Foodie

PS: here is the link to my first column review in The Valley Times.  I highlighted one of my favorite neighborhood holes-in-the-wall, Frank’s Pizza and Pasta.  Mangia!


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