Tag Archives: celiac

Stop saying cross-contamination – I beg of you.

I’ve had this topic on my list of things to write about, but I just can’t take it any more. As a community, us celiacs need to stop saying the phrase “cross-contamination when we’re referring to a gluten free food coming into contact with gluten, thereby rendering it unsafe to eat.

That’s called cross-contact, people!

It’s not just semantics, it’s a matter of communicating in an accurate way what we’re trying to prevent. Using the wrong word can confuse kitchen staff, waiters, and anyone else cooking for you.

Any trained cook or chef is taught that cross-contamination refers to food borne bacteria and diseases. They are taught to properly handle foods like raw meats by storing them correctly and heating them to a high temperature to prevent food-borne illness.

So if you ask a cook, “You know how to prevent cross-contamination, right?” They might think that as long as they wash their hands and cook your food enough, they’re all set.  If they use the same tongs/utensils, they might think it won’t matter if they used it for something with gluten in it as long as they cook it enough then the gluten will “burn off” or something.

Cross-contact occurs when a residue or trace amount of an allergenic or gluten-containing becomes incorporated into another food not intended to contain it, according to the FDA.

You’re probably thinking, “Fine, that’s the correct definition, but everyone says cross-contamination!” I thought that myself at one point as well.

I’d venture a guess that we are getting glutened more for that very reason. You have to talk the talk to be taken seriously. Being able to explain the difference between cross-contamination and cross-contact can help clear up people’s questions about how to safely prepare meals, and can help keep you from getting sick.

So, get with the program – start saying cross-contact. Even if it’s just to make me happy.

The Worst Gluten Free Menu You’ll See Today

As I was updating my “DC GFree Eats” page of recommended restaurants in the District, I began thinking of all of the places that I did not and would not include on that list. Number One offender being Ping Pong Dim Sum (locations in Chinatown and Dupont)

pingpong

Look at all the options on the “gluten-friendly” menu!

Ping Pong Dim Sum has what they like to call a “Gluten-Friendly Menu.” When I asked the waitress upon arrival if they have a gluten free menu, she insisted that they do not have a gluten free menu, but a gluten friendly menu. Also note that when you scroll over the words “Gluten-Friendly” on their website, the tool tip magically changes to say “Gluten-Free.” Confusing much?

When I asked what exactly that means, she said that it’s just “pretty much” free of gluten, only they include items that are fried in a shared fryer,  and a “black squid ink PASTRY” that is possibly gluten “friendly” just because it’s not white in color? Couldn’t tell  you.

There are also multiple dumplings that are on the “gluten-friendly” menu, but they couldn’t tell me why. Did they use a different wrapper? Was the sauce different? No one knew.

I wound up having steamed broccoli, bok choy, and rice – because that sounds like an incredibly filling meal, doesn’t it?

Bottom line: If you can’t provide gluten FREE meals to customers, don’t pretend you can.

5 Things Men Need to Stop Saying (Gluten Free Version)

This Thought Catalog post got me thinking about how certain things that men say affect women who are gluten free differently than they would your “regular” woman. Most of the men I know are extremely understanding and accepting of my diet, but there is still always the random jerk out there who has to ruin it for the rest of them. So, men, please do us gals a favor and stop saying these things:

“I want a girl who will order a beer over wine.”

I used to worry that men would think that I was high maintenance or not “one of the guys” because I can’t order beer or a burger at a restaurant. Sure I could order a burger with no bun, but in my opinion having your date eat a plain beef patty like a cave woman is not exactly a turn on. Now I’ve learned that what people choose to eat or drink is really blown out of proportion. Order a beer, order a fruity margarita with a twist, order whatever it is you feel like drinking that night. Same goes for food – girls who order burgers and girls who order salads have an equal chance of being “cool.”

“Reservations? Nah, let’s just play dinner by ear.”

Whenever any guy says that, I immediately assume that I’m going to be left starving in the middle of nowhere. Usually this of the carefree sentiment that you could just hop into a restaurant and grab a slice of pizza, or pull into a drive thru and order some sandwiches. That’s not an option for celiacs, though. I prefer to know when and where my next meal is coming from, or at the very least that there is some kind of plan for getting food into my belly in the next few hours.

“Do you want a bite?”

This is usually followed by an, “Oh, nevermind…you can’t have this.” Yes, thank you very much for reminding me. I know that usually the person just genuinely forgot that I can’t partake in whatever delicious donut or pastry they’re having, but every time I have to turn down a cookie it makes me die a little inside. Come on dude, just try to think a little before you speak.

“Don’t worry so much.”

Celiacs have to worry because if we don’t, gluten will get us. Seriously, it’s everywhere. I know it’s probably annoying that I have to ask the waiter 10 questions before we can eat, but if the alternative is dealing with me being grumpy and sick from getting glutened, I think you’ll pick the former.

“She could stand to lose a few pounds.”

This is true for all women, but I can see it happening to gluten free women who get that ever-so-attractive distended abdomen after getting glutened. Men are so hypercritical of women’s bodies, and then they wonder why we’re all so insecure. No man has ever said this to me, but if they did…God help them.

All my gluten free females out there – what do you think men need to stop saying to you?

Upcoming gluten free events in DC

When I was first diagnosed with celiac disease I had never met anyone else who had it. Since then I’ve had the pleasure of meeting some awesome gluten free friends, and I love being able to talk about food/life in general without feeling like I’m boring them with my gluten free drivel.

That’s why I’m excited that there are a few events coming up in the DC area where I’m sure there will be plenty of time to talk gluten, while enjoying some great food and drinks.

1. The Washington Post is hosting a gluten-free pizza and beer party at Pizzeria Paradiso

(source)

The dinner is at 6:30 p.m. on June 17 at the Georgetown Paradiso. It costs $65, including tax and tip, and includes full pours of all the beers. Pizzeria Paradiso beer director Greg Jasgur will introduce the beers and take questions about them. The menu looks awesome!

I also asked on Twitter about the cross-contamination precautions they take at Pizzeria Paradiso, and they said the restaurant uses different equipment and cutting surfaces just for gluten free pizzas and prepares the dough daily before the regular dough is made.

2. Some brilliant girl I haven’t met yet named Emily started a gluten free happy hour meetup group

The first meetup is on Wednesday, June 12 at one of my favorite bars, The Board Room in Dupont. There are already 15 people signed up to attend, and I’m looking forward to having a Brunehaut beer and playing games with some new people!

3. Dishcrawl is hosting a gluten free restaurant crawl on Barrack’s Row featuring four restaurants with gluten free dishes

Details are still forthcoming, but it will be held on July 16 and costs $45. I’ll have to miss this one, but it looks like it will be a ton of fun!

Hope to see some of you local gluten free folks at one of these events!

DC Gluten Free News Round Up

A few new things happening around DC. I have to say that I’m pretty satisfied with the number of places that I can get tacos in the District at this point – can I get a gluten free bakery, bagel, or sandwich shop to open at some point soon? Someone get on that.

1. The Chupacabra food truck now has a store front on H Street

With a ton of gluten free and vegan options on the menu, now you don’t have to chase down a restaurant on wheels to get some squash and eggplant tacos, chicken tortilla soup or fried yucca.

2. DC Gluten Free Expo is coming June 2

dc gluten free expo

I had a great time at the expo last year, and can’t wait to see what they’ll have this year. So many new products have come out and I’m excited to mingle and gorge myself on samples. This year I’m making a promise to myself to slow down though since I left the expo with a tummy ache last year due to over indulgence. If you want to burn some calories before the expo, you can also run in the Making Tracks for Celiacs Run/Walk in Arlington in the morning.

3. Lavagna in Capitol Hill has gluten free pasta

I’ve been to Lavagna twice for brunch, but now I’m going to have to stop by for dinner and mangia on some pasta. Thanks to Gluten Free NOVA Girl for the tip off on this one!

Let me know if you know of anything else coming up around the DMV!

Everyone’s a Celiac Expert Now

Last weekend I met two guys in bars who said they were gluten free. A year ago I would have thought, “No way! SOULMATES!” Now I try to suppress the urge to roll my eyes, and then ask them something like, “Oh really? Do you have celiac disease? How long have you been gluten free?”

One guy’s response was, “Well, I’m gluten free…on Thursdays!

What are you even talking about, bro? Is that a joke?

Context: This guy was out at the bar for his high school reunion. Because the planning committee knew that he was “gluten free,” they actually brought Redbridge beer to the event for him. What was he drinking as he was blathering on about his “gluten free diet”? Bud Light.

So, that guy was obviously just a jerk. But, it’s an example of how nowadays it seems like everyone thinks that they’re an expert when it comes to celiac disease.

Typically I try not to make my celiac disease or diet a topic at bars or when meeting new people, because it’s kind of a downer and there are other things I’d like to talk about. But now that my job is all about food allergies, it usually gets brought up within the first five minutes of talking to someone, immediately following the “So, what do you do?” question.

Then I end up answering all kinds of questions about what I eat, what I can’t eat, when I was diagnosed, what I can drink, what I can’t drink, etc. Then I’m subject to whatever cliche or tired commentary this person wants to give me. News flash: just because you saw something on Dr. Oz doesn’t make you an expert.

Things like: “Did you know that Dominos has gluten free pizza now?”

Grr. That was like 9 months ago, and I would never eat it because of cross contamination. Thanks though…

Sometimes I think about what life will be like in 5-10 years. Will all of the trend eaters fade away and just let us live our celiac hermit lifestyle? Will so many people be gluten free that we can finally stop making it a topic of debate and bar conversation?

Until then I’m going to just grin and bear it, I guess.

Have you had any interactions with these gluten free wannabes? Dish!

Fuel the Family: It’s Celiac Awareness Month!

Happy Celiac Awareness Month! The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness has really outdone themselves this year. There are a ton of resources and ways to get involved on their website.

NFCA Fuel the family_550x297

I’ll be sending out my usual email to my family and friends encouraging them to get tested. The average person waits 6-10 years to get diagnosed, which can lead to a slew of health problems, some potentially serious, like infertility and cancer.

I also posted Gluten Dude’s sweet poster in my cubicle at work, and I’ll be talking to any one who will listed about celiac disease. Just casually drop in a few facts around the office like this: “Thanks for sending over that file. By the way, did you know that an estimated 1 in 141 Americans has celiac disease, yet 83% of those who have it are either undiagnosed or misdiagnosed?”

Watch this video, and then download the toolkit from NFCA to plan how you’re going to help raise awareness this month!

Happy CDAM! (I don’t think that’s an actual acronym yet, but let this be its birthplace).

Not cool “The Book for Dangerous Women.” Not cool.

When I saw “The Book for Dangerous Women: A Guide to Modern Life” on the shelf at the library, I was kind of excited. I’d flipped through “The Dangerous Book for Boys” and “The Daring Book for Girls,” and I thought that they were cute, and encouraged kids to take risks, go outside, and be self-sufficient. I’m all for that.
photo (6)

I checked the book out, and flipped through the encyclopedia-like pages. It wasn’t the most enlightening thing I’ve ever read, but it was fun and had what I thought was good advice on some topics.

Then, when I got to the G section, this is what I found:

dangerous book for women

Apparently the authors have confused gluten intolerance or celiac disease with the Atkins Diet. Life’s too short to go gluten free? Actually it’s more like my life will be too short if I don’t maintain a gluten free diet, like the millions of people who need to stick to the diet to keep their bodies healthy.

I don’t know how stuff like this makes it to print.

How I got glutened when I ordered off of a gluten free menu

Once upon a time there was a waitress who glutened me. Here’s how it happened:

This weekend I was really excited to finally try Masa 14 with my dad. I’d tried to get in a few times for brunch, but they book up quickly and the wait is always really long if you don’t have a reservation. Masa 14 is a Richard Sandoval restaurant, which are are known for being gluten free-friendly. All of them have dedicated menus with clear directions on how to modify dishes to make them gluten free.

Being the great dad that he is, we both ordered everything from the gluten free menu so we could share. I love yucca fries, so those were at the top of my list. On the menu it says to order them with “no chimichurri”, but I just made clear that all of the dishes we ordered should have the modifications in place, so I didn’t pay attention to every change they were supposed to make. The waitress knew that I was the gluten free one at the table and my dad did not have to be, so I guess she took some liberties with our order so he could have the gluten-containing items that were left off of the dishes.

yucca fries

So the yucca fries are brought out by a food runner, not the waitress. There are two sauces with them, which I assume are both fine for me to eat, since we asked that all of our food to be made gluten free. I dip a couple of yucca fries in the green sauce (which I wouldn’t have been able to identify as chimichurri anyways). Then about 10 minutes later the waitress comes over and tells me that the green sauce is not gluten free. They usually combine the sauces, but she had them separate them into two dishes so my dad could have the green one.

Well, that’s just swell. Maybe you should have told us that you were bringing out gluten sauces before I had the chance to poison myself.

Sometimes I wish that the signs of a glutening were more visible to the outside world. No one will see me being tired, bloated, and having stomach cramps for the next week. No one can see the damage being done to my intestines or the brain fog that seems to linger for weeks. So when the waitress asked, “Are you okay?” I just said, “I guess so…” Because what was I going to do? I already ate it.

This is exactly what the celiac community has feared would happen since the “gluten free trend” has caught on. Wait staff don’t pay as close of attention and don’t take requests as seriously, and in most cases it won’t cause any consequences since they probably get a ton of orders for gluten free dishes from people who don’t actually need to eat gluten free.

I’m still looking for that perfect line to convey to wait staff that I really, truly need my food to be gluten free. I’ve been thinking about something like, “If you could tell the kitchen to be extra careful with my meal I’d appreciate it. I’m not on one of those fad diets; I’ll actually get really sick if I eat anything with gluten in it.” I just hate coming off as difficult, so I usually go with a softer approach. But after something like this I might have to grow some cajones and let them know I mean business.

What is your typical one-liner for wait staff to convey that you’re serious about your food being free of gluten? 

Seeing a Celiac specialist for the first time

Recently I decided that it was high time for me to get a check up on how my poor ole intestines and body are doing. The last time I got blood work /a physical done was about two years ago and it was normal, but I have never been to a Celiac specialist since my diagnosis in 2007, so I figured they would be much more helpful. Awhile back I decided to give up the majority of dairy products, which seems to have helped, but I have ongoing symptoms that I’m hoping this new doc can help with.

I went to the George Washington Medical Center, and my experience couldn’t have been better. The doctor (a gastroenterologist) was extremely knowledgable, and presented me with a few options for a course of treatment.

One option included eating gluten for two months to test my diagnosis. While it was tempting to have a doctor-approved gluten binge, I declined and went with the other option: a endoscopy and colonoscopy to see what damage there is to my intestines and if I have IBS or something else on top of my Celiac Disease.

celiac blood test results

Good news is I got my blood work back and the Celiac Disease Comprehensive was clean!

Bad news is (see above) I have to get an endoscopy/colonoscopy, which sounds like just about the least pleasant thing I can imagine. But, if there’s something I can do to get my health back in top form, I’ll just have to power through it.

I’d love tips/advice on my upcoming procedure – I plan on stocking up on jello and tea for the day of fasting, but any help is appreciated!

And a resource for those of you in the DC area – the DC Celiac Support Group keeps a list of favorite doctors in the area if you’re looking for one! Find it here.