Wednesday 18 April 2012

Mall Rats

Oh the mall- that bizarre cross-section of humanity.  The mall is not my favorite place, unless I have a bunch of gift cards or I am shopping by myself for myself. I don’t understand grown-ups who go and “hang out” at the mall. WTF is that? If you are too old to have a Chem Teacher, you are too old to wander the marble floors of your local shopping center.

The food court at the mall is the worst part of it all. It’s like the cesspool of civilization. I believe if there is ever an end-of-the-world event in our lifetime, the rescue bunker for survivors will strongly resemble the food court at the mall. You will have the thugs and their groupie females hanging off them in the corner laughing at nothing, the groups of families trying to corral their kids into washing their hands and the wretched old people who sit hunched and lopsided drinking coffee because they have nowhere else to go.

For a Celiac, the Food Court at a mall screams starvation. For some reason there are always at least three Chinese Food places and those are out because we can’t have the soya sauce. There are the pizza/pasta places which are gross even for the gluten eaters. There is Subway but they don’t offer GF options. There is of course your burger places which are out as well.

The main problem with the food court for the Celiac diner is the time factor. The food court places want you in and out of their lines because they understandably don’t want people to wait. Therein lies the problem for us Celiacs because we have to EXPLAIN what we need to someone who:

a)      Can’t hear us because it is deafening loud in food courts

b)       Aren’t trained on any allergy/celiac/sensitivity awareness or if they are, they…

c)       Don’t give a shit because they work at a mall food court

At food courts I can usually have the tacos from like Taco Bell or Taco Time. It has to be the hard side tacos and you have to ask them to change their gloves to make it. I always get ground beef because they seem unable to tell me what is in the spices of the chicken.

This is my food court fare…pretty fucking lame.

So one day when there were no lineups I decided to try a Greek food court store front. I went up and asked the girl at the till if they had a GF menu. She seemed very on the ball and said,

“We don’t have a gluten free menu but you can have the chicken skewers and the Greek salad. You can’t have the rice or the potatoes because their seasoning has gluten in it.”

 I am thrilled with this refreshing change and order the skewer and salad right away.

Then it all went to shit.

So I am watching the guy make my food. The girl has told him what I need and that it’s “an allergy”. Good enough.

I watch as he changes his gloves….check

I watch as he takes out a new skewer….check

I watch as he moves the bread over on the griddle and put the skewer in it's place…shit

Me: “Hi, um…hey..there. Um, I can’t have food that has even touched bread so you can’t put the skewer on the same spot as the bread was.”

Cook: Completely dumbfounded with my behavior, “It’s hot,” as if that explains everything.

Me: “Ya, it’s not like a germ or anything. I am so sorry but could you please clean the griddle and get a new skewer? Thank you so much. I really appreciate it.”

He does this with a smile…I think it’s a fake smile but I will take it.

I watch as he cleans the griddle and gets a new skewer and put it on …check

I watch as he uses the tongs to move the bread farther away from my food, creating a buffer zone…he gives me a smile…I smile back…we are off the races now.


I watch as he puts the tongs in the fryer.

Cook, “I will just clean them off before I touch your skewers.”

Me: “Wait! Don’t do that. What is cooking in the fryer?”

Cook: “Breaded Calamari.”

Me: “Ok, so now the tongs have the breading on them so you can’t touch the skewers.”

Cook: “The Fryer kills the gluten.” Please please sit with that dear reader because this is not the first time I have heard this theory. THE FRYER KILLS THE GLUTEN is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard.

Me: “Nope, it’s not a germ. You can’t kill it. You have to actually wash those tongs with soap and water please. Thanks so much. Really, I know it’s a pain so I appreciate all this work.”

Meanwhile the Spawn is running out of patience

Spawn one – “Can I please have those noodles from the Chinese place and I want a spring roll but I don’t want the sauce because the sauce is gross. And can I have a coke just a small one and I won’t drink the whole thing. Okay? Okay? Okay? Mom? Mom? Mom? Please? Please?”

Spawn two – “Can I get chicken fingers? Chicken fingers and fries. Chicken fingers and fries with apple juice. Chicken fingers and fries and apple juice with a toy. It has to be a girl toy because I don’t want the boy ones. Okay? Okay? Okay? Mom? Mom? Mom? Please? Please?”

Cook: Still with tongs in fryer- not smiling anymore. “No, the fryer kills the gluten…trust me.”

Me: “No, trust me, it really really doesn’t. If it killed the gluten then that calamari would not come out with any breading on them at all. It’s not acid, it’s oil and it does not kill gluten because gluten isn’t alive.”

Cook: “This works.”

Me: “I realize sir, that you are trained in this. I get it, I understand but please believe me when I tell you that hot cooking oil doesn’t clean ANYTHING.”

He ignores me completely.

A line up is forming and I have created a substantial bottle neck. The girl at the till has started making my salad in an effort to move things along.

I watch as she accidentally puts a piece of bread on TOP of my salad, I watch as she pulls it off very quickly and smiles her best ‘oopsy’ grin.

Girl, “Three second rule right?”

 Insert slow…fucking….clap

Me: “Nope.”

Cook uses “cleaned off” tongs (you can actually see chunks of breading stuck to them) to pick up the skewer and toss it on the salad.

They put the plate up and I just left it there and walked away.

The mall food court – stay away at all costs.

Thursday 12 April 2012


I got bored with the old background so I changed it. Don't panic...adjust to the change.

Wednesday 11 April 2012


Everything is better with pizza. It is, don't deny it, you know it's true.

Pizza can be both a treat and survival food. In our childhood, it is the ultimate food indulgence; the foie gras of kids parties. In your college years, you could live for a week on one pizza that you paid for with couch cushion money.

 There is something about the convenience of pizza that we love. You can eat it with one hand. Nothing gets better than one-handed foods and Pizza is the king. I think it is also the abundance of it. You can put as much or as little on a Pizza as you want and it's totally fine. Actually, the more you put on it, the better which makes it even more awesome.

Pizza crust is a big thing to us Celiacs because pizza is one of those things that we miss the most. Now, a lot of places carry GF pizza crusts. I would say that for restaurants, it is the number one GF items that places offer. Why? Well, because it's easy and most likely cheap and its a simple item to maintain a minimum of cross contamination. I can't even tell you how many emails I have gotten from people telling me about this place or that place having gluten free pizza crusts.

But as with most things, the devil is in the details and not all crusts are created equal. Please don't be angry with me but I do not like Boston Pizzas GF Pizzas. I wish I did because it is a really easy place to eat with the family. I generally, don't like Boston Pizzas food  though, I don't feel like they use quality fresh products and I think it shows in the taste. So, the odds are against them that they could make a delicious GF product.

Sadly, (and this is really going to piss you off) but I don't like the Coco Brooks GF Crust either. This is surprising because I have always loved Coco Brooks Pizza and I feel that they are very picky about their products. I think they use the same GF Crust as Boston Pizza and it's not great. So I don't eat that one either.

The Ochre Grill has a great GF crust as does Without Papers Pizza in Inglewood (provided of course by our good friends at People Food).

BUT I have just had one of the best pizzas I have ever had.....ever......even in my gluttony gluten days.

Yesterday, I ate at Avatara Pizza and holy shit was it ever fantastic.

For my Calgary Friends, it is located beside Lics on Memorial Drive. If you don't know where Lic's is, you aren't Calgarian, move immediately.

I was in the area because I had to bring the littlest spawn to the Children's Hospital for a follow up from her surgery (for info on that fucking debacle, please see the Pieman Post). After her check up we said goodbye to the Children's for (knock on wood) a long time and headed over the Avatara Pizza.

Side Note: My sorority sister Vicki told me about this place literally a year ago and I so wish that I had gotten in the car right then and gone but it somehow slipped my mind until we drove past it - Sorry I didn't listen Vicki you were right

There were tonnes of choices for different flavors and the option for making your own. They have lots of options for drinks and fresh Limonada as well which I didn't try but certainly will next time.
The guys at Avatara Pizza were really nice and made us two gorgeous pizzas.

The kids got just a plain pepperoni and they were thoughtful enough to not put the parsley garnish on. This small act saved me either hours of pleading and convincing that it was "green sugar" OR picking it off piece by piece. Kids are lunatics, what can I tell you?

 I got the Aristotle but I added salami to it because everything is better with meat. It was awesome! I do wish that I had gotten the kids a bigger one, because they literally FOUGHT over the last piece like a couple of feral monkeys. I wish I had it on tape because it was awesome, I threw money instead.

My first complaint with Avatara Pizza is the fact that it is just a To Go place. I would LOVE to sit and eat there. My second complaint is that there isn't one in the deep south of Calgary so I have to drive 40 minutes to get there.

Avatara Pizza - Make it your new fave, I know I have.

Friday 6 April 2012

Celiac Survival Guide

I have recently received a letter from my friend Sandra informing me that her sister in law was recently diagnosed with Celiacs and she didn’t know where to start. I have received many of these types of letters and I thought I would post something here to get people started.

Preemptively, I would like to make it clear that I think you should be diagnosed by a doctor. It can be by the blood test or the up the wassoo test or even just an elimination diet test but it should all be performed by a doctor. Especially the up the wassoo test because that is something that no regular person should agree to do for you. If anyone offers to do that test for you, keep your pants on and stay the fuck away from them.

So the Doctor, looks at you and says, “I think you have Celiac Disease”

Step 1: Don’t punch him in the face – despite your deep desire to. He will most likely give you some pamphlets or a website to look at. Ask any questions you want but you most likely won’t remember the answers.

Step 2: After you leave…freak out. Yes, be petty and babyish and stomp your feet and cry and punch things. You may do this only once so make that shit count. Like, go trash a Chuckie Cheese or something.

Step 3: IF you are not having symptoms (which some people don’t) eat everything you think you will miss. I know, I know, you are causing damage to your small intestine blah blah blah. I personally think that one last hurrah is therapeutic. Again, you can only do this once so make it matter.
 Literally, go and buy one of everything, a big mac, a taquito, a piece of KFC, loaf of sourdough bread, those mini donuts at the stampede, KD, pizza pops, cinnamon bun, chocolate bars, Chinese food from the mall……you get my point, take one day and eat yourself sick. This will help trust me. Have a good cry and say goodbye.

Step 4: Tell your close friends. DON’T post it on facebook to get a bunch of sympathy and attention from the randoms. Despite what you think, it won’t make you feel better. You will inevitably have the jerky friend who will say something stupid like, “well, it could be worse” and you would have to go to jail for killing them. Text or e-mail or call your best friends and tell them. Their reaction will remind you of why they are dear friends.

Step 5: Eat some cheese – it will help

Step 6: DON’T YOU DARE TRY TO BAKE ANYTHING RIGHT AWAY!  This is like someone finding out they got accepted into the army and so they figure they should drive a tank to the mall. Just buy a few things that will get you through:

First Gluten Free Shopping List

-          Udi’s Bread (Frozen Section – keep it frozen)

-          GF Soya Sauce - I like the San-J brand

-          GF Breadcrumbs - I like glutino
-      GF Crackers - I like Glutino here too - the square ones are great

-          Corn Pasta (or rice but I like corn)

-          GF Rice Crispies or Chex

-          GF Cookies (2 packages) - Easy life makes some good ones

-          A bottle of wine - I prefer a nice Pinot Grigio but whatevs

Step 7: Don’t scream when the checkout lady asks you for the money for these items. You will be tempted to accuse her of robbery….don’t. That’s how much it costs…get used to it.

Step 8: Drink the wine – go back and get more

Step 9: Eat some of the items you bought and realize that it isn’t that bad. I give you permission to eat all the cookies and drink the second bottle of wine

Step 10: Go out to eat. Don’t be afraid. Don’t turn into the creepy lady who wont leave her house full of cats and depends underwear, just go…it will be fine. DON’T go to a diner or a fast food joint, go to a medium to upscale restaurant. When you walk in, if they do not know what Celiac’s is, leave, I’m not kidding, run like its on fire. Please see my side bar for “Gluten Free on the Go” for some more restaurant tips.

Step 11: Create an email folder for Celiac information. Once you announce that you have it, people will send you lots of information. Some of it is useful, some of it is crazy town. One lady sent me a picture of her small intestine. Ummmm thank you?

Step 12: DON’T go buy 15 books on Celiacs. They will most likely all say the same thing and will overwhelm you and then you will cry like a baby again and then need more wine etc etc. Look at a couple websites (, maybe get one book and THAT’S IT.  I mean it, don’t make me bitch slap you into submission.

Step 15: After a while, go buy “Gems of Gluten Free Baking” and give baking a shot. It may be perfect the first time, it may suck ass (please see my previous posts) either way, remember to laugh about it.

Step 16: Print off or save this list on your phone to have with you at all times. The website itself is pretty great too but this list is my lifeline when I am reading labels.

Step 17: Post it on Facebook – join some Gluten Free groups on-line, Follow GF people on twitter. Embrace it and keep your chin up.

Step 18: Everyone has the right to feel sorry for themselves every once in a while. You also have this right but within reason. I give you permission to feel sorry for yourself  once a week for the for the first month and then once a month after that. THAT’S IT! No exceptions! If you continuously whimper about your Celiacs, your friends will hate you as much as you will eventually hate yourself. You may sit and feel sorry for yourself for 3 minutes and then shake it off and count your blessings.

Step 19: Find a great place to get GF food. I like People Food here in Calgary.  I also like The Gluten Free General Store because they deliver.

Step 20: Read this blog…laugh your ass off…repeat

Remember that Celiacs isn’t a death sentence; it’s a new way of living. Give yourself and your family time to adjust. If you go out and buy every product on the market, and every book and take everyone’s advice, you will absolutely lose your marbles. Just relax about it and slowly, over time, it will become just a part of your day without thinking. 

 Think of it as another personality trait; in addition to having a good ass and a nice smile, you now have Celiacs.

Celiacs is not WHO you are, it is just something that you have. Do not allow your Celiacs to define you. Every day, wake up, count your blessings and be proud of who you are.