Tuesday 30 August 2011

My Fat Ass

A lot of people ask me if I have lost weight after going Gluten Free. My answer is usually a strong punch in the neck. You see, I have always been a slim girl, one of those that can pretty much eat most of what she wants to and feel little effects from it. Turns out that because of the Celiac, my body wasn’t absorbing most of the nutrients I put into it which contributed to the lack of girth. Granted, after I had my spawn I had to work at it a bit but really, slim has always been my all around shape. But it didn’t stay that way after I dropped Gluten from my diet. Not at all.

Recently, I was buying a Gluten Free cookie mix at a Safeway (which usually have a pretty gloomy, dusty GF section but I found one on sale) and the check out girl named “Kylee” stops smacking her gum for thirty seconds to inform me that her friend “Kaylee” went all “gluten free” and didn’t lose any weight so I should just give up on the whole idea “cuz if it didn’t work for Kaylee, it’s not going to work for a ‘lady’” such as myself. Poor Kylee went home crying that day… unfortunate thing.

But I do have a confession to make…after going Gluten Free...brace yourself reader…my ass fell. I am not being coy or silly, but literally, my ass fell down… like several inches. It was peculiar really. I was trying on a dress that I have worn many times. It’s my go-to wrap dress that works well at every occasion; if the Queen showed up on my doorstep with her Corgis demanding some tea, I would run upstairs and throw on this dress and yet I have also worn it on a hot day at the beach. So I slip into my dress and tie it up and turn around in the mirror and gasp. My ass is a completely different shape, and not in a good way, in an old lady, you should be wearing navy polyester on it kind of way. My poor butt is flat on top and all draggy and bunchy at the bottom.

 “What the fuck happened to my ass?” I yell (and yes, it is entirely possible my children heard me, go judge a Mom who cares what you think).

Trev BARELY looks up from tying is tie and muffles “Hmmm hmm”.

“Are you nodding?” I accuse, “Or just being non committal?” I can’t look at him because I am at this point, standing on a chair, poking my posterior with a lip gloss tube and shaking my head in repulsion.

“Hmmm Hmm,” he says again and when I whip around to get a straight answer,  suddenly he is gone….like gone, gone, like I think he was sitting in his truck waiting for me, gone.

How could this have happened? I stare at my backside, willing it to take its old curvature but it doesn’t, it just lays there all limp and heartbreaking. And I come to the awful conclusion that I did this to myself.

Yup, this was a case of a completely self inflicted ass fall.

You see, I don’t get treats often. I used to grab a chocolate bar in the check out aisle at Superstore because I deserved it. (I generally compare a visit to Superstore accompanied by two children with a visit to the 7th circle of Hell). But that isn’t always an option now. There is sometimes NOTHING that I can eat at a party or certainly not at a bakery or a candy store or ice cream store. So, when I get my grubby little mitts on something delicious, sinful and of course free of the wicked Gluten, I eat it. I eat it like it owes me rent. I eat it like it’s a competition and there is money to be won. After all, I figure, I DESERVE this, I can’t eat GLUTEN for petes sake…. And so I eat it, then I eat some more and more and more.

Examples of this blatant gluttony include but are not limited to:

 Baking an entire box of gluten free chocolate chip cookies and then eating the entire batch over the course of 48 hours. My children and husband know not to touch Mommy’s cookies; they are MOMMY’S cookies and more precious than all our other possessions combined. I am considering convincing the children that GF cookies taste like soap to ensure their safety.

There is a Gluten Free bakery on 90th Ave and they have these fantastic chocolate lava cakes. I got one once, ate it in the car, then went and bought two more and then ate those in the car. I was shame eating, no doubt about it and if it wasn’t so enjoyable I would have hated myself a little. - In my defense, I am not only addicted to Gluten but addicted to chocolate as well. I have a problem, so what?-  

A box of Gluten Free Cookies from the grocery store can be eight dollars for six cookies; seriously, I think pound for pound a human liver on the black market is more affordable. So when my charming friends host a party and pay good money for these cookies so I have something to enjoy, is it not my DUTY to eat them….all? It would be rude not to right? Right? So I eat all the delicious Gluten Free goodness and lick the plate like a good guest.

The result of these little episodes is a fallen ass. But one must mitigate the damages; I have upped my yoga regime and TRY very hard to curb my enthusiasm at the treat table and maybe it’s making a difference, maybe not. At some moments I have seriously considered that there might be a correlation between my general contentment and the sag in my ass. It seems that, the baggier the butt, the happier the gal because really, life is short, with or without Gluten so I gotta live a little.

Trev just told me my ass looks great. I’ll make him an eye appointment… after I polish off these cookies.

Monday 22 August 2011

Let them eat...........ewwwww

So I am all for trying new things. I am a big fan of adventure and taking risks. I have sky dived, and even swam with sharks. Nothing though, has prepared me for the risky adventure of baking Gluten Free. The baking recipies in GF cookbooks are filled with crazy ingredients like “arrowroot”, “sorghum flour” and “xanthum gum”. It’s bizarre for a girl who grew up on all things Robin Hood Flour. The problem that one faces with Gluten Free baking is that NOTHING behaves like real flour and you have to mix several different non-wheat flours together to get something that can be treated like a real ingredient. All these components are tremendously expensive and the thought of buying and mixing all that crap together to get a product that is still going to taste like play dough, irritates me. I started looking for a better way. You can buy mixes, although costly as well, they do work. It takes a lot of the glamour and fun out of baking though because you aren’t actually creating something from nothing; adding an egg to a box isn’t the way Grandma would do it. But it works and most people can’t tell the difference.

Therefore, I have no idea what I was thinking on the day that the “Cake Incident” happened.

The day that the “cake incident” happened was a big deal kind of day - a double good day really. You see, my daughter’s 5th birthday fell on Fathers Day this year. My son asks if he and I could make a cake for both my husband and daughter. “Like the way we used to, with ALL the stuff” he adds with a level of nostalgia reminiscent of an 80 year old man talking about the war. Well, who can turn that kind of guilt down? So off we head to the store, now, I admit, I cheated - I cheated hard core but I still don’t think I deserved the outcome I received. I found this stuff that hyped itself as a Gluten Free Flour Mix, “Use instead of regular flour in ALL your baking!” the box touts. And I thought, “its too easy!” And yup, it sure was.

So Ethan and I get home and we make the yellow cake from my “Better Homes New Cook Book”. My old standard, “Better Homes” is the cook book I have used for years. This cake recipe has been in their books for 50 years and it has been made by thousands and thousands of people, all with flawless results. But, the recipe for yellow cake in the “Better Homes New Cook Book” has not met a match like the Gluten Free Flour Mix and when the two came toe to toe, it was a battle to be reckoned with. Someone might as well have lost their ear. It started off fine really, the cake batter behaved, well like cake batter, maybe a little gluey but nothing that would send up a big red flag. My son and I have a grand old time, mix up this cake from scratch and pop it in the oven and bake it. So far, so good, I pat my self on the back for trying some thing original. The cake comes out looking fairly ordinary, it had a bit of a crust on the upper edge but it came out of the pan well so again, everything had to be fine. We even decorated the stupid thing, I made icing from scratch and we decorated one side to say Happy Fathers Day and the other side said Happy Birthday.

Of course Trev and Julia make a big deal over their cake. I personally am thrilled that I even GET to eat cake and I secretly plot that I will just eat the rest of it that night during True Blood. After dinner, we do the big presentation; I couldn’t find candles so we just sang without them, making sure to sing twice of course. As a side note, if the candles had been available, I might have been able to do some damage control but alas, it was not meant to be. When I present the cake, Trev and I smile at each other in that ‘we didn’t fuck it up today’ look that parents give each other. I get shivers, we are making memories, GLUTEN FREE memories I will have you know.  I hand the knife to my son to cut the cake he had toiled over and it all went to shit.

The cake had a hard crusty shell that had hardened substantially since it came out of the oven. Ethan had to hack at it slightly, not a good sign. When he finally got through, there was no evidence of cake inside the shell. I heard a small gasp of horror from Julia and peeked over her shoulder at the cake, which was totally and completely raw inside. The batter leaked like volcano lava, seeping all over the serving tray, mixing with the icing creating a river of colored goo that congealed and floated around. The crusty part sank inward releasing more gooey batter until we had nothing more then a purple and blue rimmed crust bowl filled with yellow snot. Trev loses it but is trying to contain himself, his head is down, his shoulders are quivering and a hissing noise is coming from him. Imagine Ernie from sesame street, this was the sound coming from my husband. Ethan doesn’t know what to do so he just stammers, “I didn’t do it” over and over. Julia however, being a young girl of 5 and just watching her birthday cake turn into a crappy science experiment, starts wailing like the diva that she is. There was nothing to do but laugh - so that’s what I did, I laughed until tears came to my eyes. For our little family of four, the best memories are the not so perfect ones. I taught my kids that not everything works out, laugh about it shrug it off and go for ice cream. I threw the piece of crap cake in the garbage and we headed off to marble slab.

Julia got over the incident, I’m sure the Tangled cake I made her for her birthday party helped but I have no doubt I may still be discussing this with a therapist of hers one day. Ethan has not requested to bake since that day. Trev still laughs out loud every once in a while and I am pretty sure he is thinking about it.

There are a few cake mixes that are good - Gluten Free Pantry makes all good mixes. It is available at some Sobeys, some Safeways and at most Superstores. It varies in price from $5.00 or $6.00. I have recently discovered Betty Crocker gluten free mixes and they are by far the best. My dear friend Ashley brought them back for me from Montana and since I have gotten deliveries from a few friends who traveled down south. I emailed the company and they said that Gluten Free Betty Crocker should be making their way slowly into Canadian markets this summer and fall. I have heard that some are already at Co-op for around $6.00. I rely on Betty from now on; she is after all, a professional.

Thursday 18 August 2011

My name is Laurie and I am a bread addict.

After the doctor and the blood test and all that fun, I had to educate myself. I went home and went to the easiest information source in the world. I checked with good old Mr Google who proceeded to present me with the largest selection of madness I have ever seen. First off, people are GRAPHIC about their Celiac’s on line. They shouldn’t be, you all have imaginations, have all drank too much and eaten a luke-warm hot dog from a street vendor at . You get it, ok? There are random diagnosis going on in chat rooms and people telling others to not consult their doctors, it was madness. Some people don’t eat out anymore or go to other peoples homes. It feels like I just got initiated into the shittiest club in the world. (pun not intended).  BUT over time, the internet has been a valuable resource. I have learned how my body works now and how to keep myself safe in my own home while still allowing my family the pleasures of Gluten. I eventually learned exactly what I could and couldn’t eat and how to read a label. So the on-line stuff can be helpful just take what you need and leave the insanity behind. And for any Celiac’s reading this, PLEASE keep your bathroom talk to yourself folks, really, no one gives a shit (pun intended).

So I head off to the grocery store, with Celiac, my new buddy, sitting on my shoulder ready to conquer. Well, I was ready to stand staring vaguely at a bunch of items I had never seen before. It was like shopping in a foreign country. I didn’t even know that these aisles existed in superstore. I felt like I had found a secret world, my own Narnia only instead of Turkish delight I find the weirdest food I have ever seen. I scramble to understand the labeling, does organic mean gluten free? Does wheat mean Gluten free? Does Gluten free even mean Gluten free. They should serve martinis in Superstore.

I grab one of everything, pay the lady a mortgage payment and head home only to realized that I had been scammed.... big time. First of all, Gluten free products are at least 25 to 50 percent more expensive then regular items which on a base level, pisses me off. As well, plenty of products sell themselves as being Gluten free and charge you more when they don’t need to. I’ll give you a hint, most BBQ sauces are already Gluten free, go buy the no name brand and check the label. I spent ten bucks on a jar of burnt bottom of the grill flavored water. YUMMY! I found a website that I check all random ingredients with and I added the link at the top of the page. I figured out I could carry it around on my phone and check every time I want to buy something not officially Gluten free.

The first thing I tried though was the bread. It had been more than a week without bread and I was having something akin to heroin withdrawals with it. So I buy this white bread in the frozen section. The grocers keep the bread frozen and so should you, it lasts longer. So I buy this bread and it looks JUST like wonder bread, well, maybe a little skinnier but it SMELLS just like wonder bread. I sat there and smelled it; this is how much of a junkie I am. So I make myself the most loving, delicious turkey sandwich, pour myself a big glass of chocolate milk and plop down on the couch, ready to be amazed. I am thinking different comments in my head, prepared for the greatness, “I can’t even tell!” I would exclaim with wonder, “Betty Crocker would not be able to tell it from real bread!” I was pumped and I square my shoulders, hunker down and take a massive bite.

Disappointment comes in many forms, from mild irritation like that of a broken nail to, my cat died level of disenchantment. This situation fell on the darker end of the scale….. way darker end. The consistency of poorly made rice bread is hard to describe, but I, dear reader, will put in a solid effort. Firstly, it has no flavor, at all….you might think that your bread doesn’t have much flavor but trust me it does. To test this, take a bite of your bread and then go ahead and take a bite of Styrofoam, understand now? The texture is remarkable, really, its some sort of botched science experiment - the bread in my mouth had liquefied into some sort of morphed tennis ball and yet the bread still in my hand was turning to sand; crumbling and draining away to a powder. This product could not have been further from bread and the frustration was tangible.

I could think of nothing to do so I just looked at Trev. He swallowed, trying to think of something encouraging, one of his funny one liners maybe but even he was at a loss. All he could do was mutter, “I’m sorry, babe”. I nodded, tears starting to form in the corner of my eyes. Would I never eat normally? Could I never enjoy food? I sighed. “We will just bring it back to the store,” Trev offers weakly and after my stare of hateful distrust he continues with “ok, so what, you’ve had some, I will throw this crap out and try another kind.” I attempted to respond at this point but the rice bread had turned into a brick inside my mouth, gluing everything together. My sentence came out, “bu i wa te dolla”. Trev smirks at me and replied, “Not te dolla, if it were TEN DOLLARS that would be something to discuss, but te dolla?” I start to giggle and he considers himself in safe territory so he adds, “but if it prevents you from talking, it might be the best thing that ever happened to us.” That did it. I laughed until I cried and Trev made me an egg.

I have lowered all expectations from that day forward. Nothing is ever the same as regular bread or pasta or cookies or cakes or anything but with a little looking and a lot of laughter, I found something VERY similar.

Udi’s bread – cheapest at Superstore at 5.99 a loaf, sometimes goes on sale at Sobeys but always the freshest at the Gluten Free Store (Sunridge) or Planet Organic.

Tuesday 16 August 2011

Can you hear the dramatic Soap Opera Music? It's time for......the Diagnosis!

Fast forward to October 2010, and I get sick. Really, very sick. It starts off like a tummy ache, Laurie ate too much……. shocker but then it gets worse. Way worse and it’s not going away. EVERY time I eat I get this stabbing pain in my stomach, it continues for days until I begrudgingly seek the assistance of my doctor. I will spare you the lengthily, painful details but it was December before things got figured out. I have now lost 15 pounds, I can barely function, I have no energy, I can’t eat, I can’t sleep, I am pissy and cranky and in a great deal of pain all day everyday. It sucked. The doctor has exhausted himself and me trying to find a reason for my sudden onset of pain and illness. Despite the many diagnostic tests he sent me for, the meds he tried, he could not find a cause for my sickness and I could tell, he was running out of options.

Now, I have a friend named Erin that I worked with when I was at Moxies and she has Celiac. I am very surprised that I can still call a lot of people friends after those several weeks that I was sick because I was stunningly horrible to be around. Like, really annoying. But they are all still my friends so I guess they just have pretty low standards. So anyway, I am once again bitching to Erin about how bad I feel and she says, "I wonder if you have Celiac Disease." I nodded and thanked her. I said I would ask my doctor and then I thought she was a crazy person and I walked away. (Erin, I am going to need a mulligan on that convo please. Love you, sorry I was a bitch.)

At my seventh visit to the doctor, I was in a horrific mood.....yes again. I had actually not eaten yet that day because the pain was so bad after I ate that I would have been unable to drive to the appointment. I sat brooding in his examination room, knowing that on some level, he had to be sick of seeing my pathetic self. I knew that I was sick of seeing the ugly loon picture on his wall.  So when he came in and suggests a diet change, I totally freak out. I inform him in something akin to a wailing child that all I have been eating is toast for weeks. How more bland can I make it? Toast, is what people eat on their death beds for fuck sake. Bread is my go to food, and it would never ever hurt me. He remains quite calm despite his most likely burning desire to strangle me and tells me to stop eating wheat, so no bread. I literally, rolled my eyes at him, this is how much of a shit I was being at the time, I rolled my eyes at the man who let me hear my children’s fetus heart beats for the first time. I was such an ass during this visit, I cringe to think about it. But I went home and didn’t eat wheat for two days.

That’s how long it took, two days and on the morning of the second day, I woke up a whole new person. I felt FANTASTIC. Now, I don’t know if I have never felt that healthy and well and awake or if just in comparison to the past several weeks, it just seemed that way but really it was splendid. So of course, I am healed, all is well and I bound down the stairs and make myself a bagel for breakfast. Horror of all horrors, I am dropping the kids off at school and double over in pain. I head back to the doc and tell him my tale.

            “Well, then you most likely have Celiac Disease.” He says to me and he DARES to have a glimmer of happiness in his eye, he’s solved the mystery hasn’t he, aren’t we pleased? Not so much on my end of the paper sheet, this sounds like a death sentence. I immediately begin to barter, telling him that I can go back to bread after a few weeks right? This isn’t forever, this CAN”T be forever! To which he responds with a small smirk, “you can try to eat gluten again but the longer you are away from it and the more healed your body is, the more damage it will do to your body if you consume it.”

 I stared at him blankly, shaking my head and nodding it at the same time. It was wretched really, I was a totally baby about it, I admit. I started to cry a little. Now the doc certainly put it into perspective, I don’t need a surgery, I don’t have to be on some random med for the rest of my life, I have to change my diet, no more bread, so what? Big deal! Who needs the stupid bread and cereal and cupcakes and cookies and gravy and ……….. I sniffed back my tears, nodded, took the offered pamphlets, and the requisition for the official blood test thanked him politely and smiled at the receptionist on my way out…. and then bawled more like a baby in the car.

That’s the way it started.

I stopped crying obviously, despite how I am presenting myself, I am not a sniveler and it’s not in my nature to be a total whiner so I pulled up my socks and got to work on having Celiac Disease. I thought at first that it would be a minor change but over time, Celiac has become a member of the family, sometimes welcome, sometimes despised but always there so I have come to accept him as my constant companion.

Monday 15 August 2011

Just so ya know....

I express here only my own experiences and knowledge. I am an expert on my own Disease, not on anyone else’s. Celiac Disease takes many forms in the way of symptoms and I can only speak for myself. If you have any real medical questions, go see someone with a bunch of letters after their name, not me. I will also discuss eating out with Celiac Disease and where I have had good or bad experiences, be warned that you may not agree with me. Be also warned that your disagreement does not concern me in anyway.

I am a freaking Celiac, get over it, I know I'm trying to....

So, I am a freaking celiac, yup, that’s me, Celiac. If you want to know what a Celiac is, search for it in wikipedia, you will get an explanation, one that is far more cohesive and scientific than I can give you. Basically, I can’t eat something called Gluten. Gluten is found in wheat, barley, rye and a bunch of other grassy things. It is basically a severe, internal allergy. The reaction is different though than other allergies, my throat won’t close up nor will I get hives, I get really really ill but I am sure we will get into that at a later date. Let’s get to know each other before we get too personal shall we? Bottom line, I can’t have a lot of foods that are considered staples; bread, crackers, pastas, baked goods, cereals or other foods that gluten hides in. There is no pill, no epi pen , or cure and despite my dreams, I will most likely have it forever.

 Doesn’t that sound pathetic hey? But really, I am learning to live with it, laugh about it and in some ways, love it and I thought you might want to hear about my adventures in avoiding gluten.

So first thing first, I LOVE gluten. Like seriously, love it in a deep and creepy way. I am the girl who would go to places for the soup/salad/breadsticks deal and just go with the breadsticks, batting at the salad when it was offered. I was always the one to finish your bread if you didn’t, make my own ravioli and eat the whole batch myself, I used to eat spaghetti for breakfast! I used to look at the waif-like girl who says vaguely, “I haven’t eaten bread in two years, it’s fattening,” with horror and awe and mumble, with my mouth full of pannini, “how do you live?” Yup, I love my gluten BUT I have also always had some serious abdominal issues, a lot of (non-faking) stomach aches as a child, I have always been prone to anemia (refer to wikipedia to explain), have been told I had appendicitis and ovarian cysts to explain sudden bouts of severe abdominal upset. So really, gluten has been kicking my ass for years and I still loved it, very passive aggressive unhealthy, I know.

I first heard about Celiac Disease when I took a part time job serving tables in the evenings at Moxies. I have been working in the front of house of restaurants on and off since I was 15 and I was going a little stir crazy during the day with the stay at home mom gig and wanted some extra cash. Richard is one of my old pals from my University Earls days and was now the GM of a Moxies. Now, Moxies has one of the best allergy policies around, (I think) and Richard was explaining it to me and he spouts off this word “celiac”. And of course I say, “what’s that?” and Richard says, “basically, they are allergic to wheat.” To which, I take a long moment to laugh my ass off. No one could be allergic to flour? Surely it would be the equivalent to being allergic to air, or water I think as I eyeball a particularly lovely piece of garlic toast on line.

Now, I know a great many funny people, Richard is one of those people which is why I was immediately suspicious. It would be very entertaining for him to make some stupid disease up and when I requested a “no flour” meal and the kitchen could have a good howl at the new/old girl who fell for the trick. How many new servers have I personally sent to look in the nonexistent basement for a Corona lime remover? Classic and funny, but I wanted no part in this current Richard comical moment. However, after questioning several other servers, ones that I was fairly sure would have no part of a Richard-esque type scheme, I came to the baffling conclusion that Celiacs was a real thing. And man did I ever still think it was amusing. Really, really hilarious.

That’s right folks, let’s just own that ironic moment please. I used to make FUN of people with the disease that I now have. I certainly followed all procedures for the allergy, never take chances, someone dying in your section is generally bad for tips, but I really thought the flour thing was a little dumb. Peanuts, I could understand, even something like mushrooms, get it, flour? How could a beautifully made spaghetti, twisted in a pasta bowl into a mountain, of well, lets be honest, love, EVER do you wrong? And really, I figured, what would happen to these people if they ate flour? A little gas? An extra trip to the powder room? Seriously? Grow a constitution people!

Oh Murphy, you and your laws chafe my ass.