I’m a mustard addict. Hardcore. It’s odd if I don’t consume mustard at some point, everyday. I’ll eat it on anything. I’m not against ketchup, but I only like it mixed in with other condiments, like mayonnaise. And more mustard. Growing up, I used to eat a lot of mustard and cheese sandwiches. While everyone was pouring ketchup all over their eggs and hash browns, I was using spicy mustard.
I still eat mustard on my eggs, but now that I have to avoid most diary products and gluten, I’ve had to research the best gluten and dairy free mustards because a lot of spicy flavored mustards have hidden ingredients and a LOT of sugar. One of my absolute favorites happens to be a local mustard made in Pittsford, NY by the Karma Sauce Co. My first brush with their garlic mustard happened while eating sausage at Swans Market last summer. I bought them out of every jar that week.
The Karma Sauce Co makes three kinds of mustard: garlic (my fav), chipolte (my second fav), cold process (my third fav). What’s awesome about their mustards is they are made with very few ingredients and no refined sugar. (When sweetener is added, they use maple syrup or raw honey.) My rule of thumb with condiments and processed foods is the shorter the ingredient list is, the better. I aim for 5 ingredients or less. The garlic mustard has water, apple cider vinegar, whole grain brown mustard seed, granulated garlic, salt, and black pepper. The only down side of mustard is it is often high in sodium, although given how little processed foods I eat, I rarely worry about sodium. Still, something to keep in mind.
A quick online search on the benefits of mustard was a enlightening–mustard aids in digestion (much needed!), is anti-inflammatory, high in antioxidants, speeds up metabolism, lowers blood pressure, and can be beneficial in reducing the frequency of migraines (which I have had at least twice a month since I was 11.)
They also have amazing sauces with different heat indexes and I love how much they use butternut squash in all of them. I’m thinking I need to try their kats’up. Maybe it will convert me to a ketchup lover.
One of the hardest (and most disappointing) aspects of having a lot of food-related health issues is that traveling is more than often really really hard. I keep thinking that I will get used to it, but it’s a real annoyance.
Most of the time, I travel with people who care deeply about my ability to function (and not spend the night in my hotel room getting incredibly sick) that they find ways to help me make traveling with food intolerances less frusterating. I’m extremely grateful for these people. But the reality is that even though it’s trendy to eat “gluten-free” these days, there is a lack of knowledge in the general public about the seriousness of the issue for those of us with actual health issues related to gluten. For those of us who don’t have an option, it’s much more than just a diet change: it’s a serious way of life that requires calculating risk in ways I have never had to before.
For example, this weekend I went to a Gender and Science Research conference in Philadelphia with my academic advisor April. We were invited to participate because of our research with urban girls and the after-school science club we run together. It was an honor to be invited. The trip was paid for in full. As one of the attendees, I was asked over email if I had any dietary issues. It’s hard to know what to write when you know you’re going to be held up in a room with 50 other people eating food prepared by a museum and a hotel. Trusting that some one would at least glance at what I wrote, I went with short version of the following:
I’m completely gluten intolerant. Soy is a serious issue, including soy lecithin. (Fun fact: Soy lecithin is derived from soy beans. It’s technically considered the “waste product” produced during the process of making soybean oil, but it’s widely used as an emulsifier, especially in chocolate because it keeps the cocoa and cocoa butter together. I’ve found that it’s almost always in diary-free chocolate as well. Some people claim they can eat soy lecithin even though they can’t eat straight up soy. I constantly mess around with small doses of the stuff and rarely is it okay with my body.) Moving on: I can’t have most diary. Meaning I can’t have products from cows, but I can eat eggs, and some goat cheese, but only as long as it’s made with vegetable rennet and not animal rennet (which is usually from cows). Who reads those labels and even thinks about what rennet is and where it comes from? No one but people like me. And most labels just say “rennet” so you can’t tell anyway unless you call and ask the producer. (Just a heads-up: 99% of the time I ask, it’s animal rennet. Turns out vegetable rennet is more expensive to produce and therefore more expensive for cheese makers to use.)
I figured that my chances of a museum and hotel cafeteria figuring out any labels in a massive kitchen were slim to none. So, I filled out the form and wrote “I’m used to traveling and figuring out my own food, so I’ll come prepared.”
Coming prepared means coming with 4 Larabars and a bag of salted almonds as backup. (Heads-up #2: Half of Larabars contain dairy. Read the labels to be safe. I’m addicted to the peanut butter and jelly flavor. If you’ve never tried Larabars, they are the expensive way of eating paleo nuggets.)
Day #1: My food the first day of the conference consisted of a lunch of dry lettuce and a few cherry tomatoes with no dressing (can’t risk the dressing when you don’t know where it comes from and what’s in it) and 4 dill pickle spears. Good thing I love dill pickles. I took a risk and had a scoop of potato salad. I got lucky and didn’t get sick from it. (Some mustards contain gluten, which was my main concern with taking the risk, but I had skipped breakfast and it was 1:30 and lettuce and pickles isn’t really filling.) Dinner was more dry lettuce and a piece of salmon made special with no butter or breadcrumbs. The very kind wait-staff brought also brought me some fruit.
Day #2: Breakfast at the hotel was 4 pieces of extremely salty bacon, some melon cubes and coffee. Despite having an omelet station, they wouldn’t make me eggs minus butter because they had no other oil to cook them in. I got lucky at lunch and ducked out to visit Anthropolgie and happened upon a farmer’s market where I found this gluten free flat bread and this hard goat cheese made with vegetable rennet. What I love about small businesses is that when you buy from them, you are often talking to the person who either made the cheese or knows what’s in it. The guy looked right at me and said “Oh yea, vegetable rennet for sure. That’s all we use.” I had a hard time not asking for a hug.
Dinner in the airport was rosemary flavored almonds, olives, and wine.
There are my thoughts on this trip:
*It was literally a 40 hour trip so there wasn’t much time to actually look for food. I got lucky happening upon a farmer’s market in the middle of the city. When you have to depend on hotels and museums to feed you, it’s hard to trust that what you are getting comes with a guarantee. And by no means do I ever blame the staff that served me: they have no idea and that’s okay. I’m happy to eat lettuce greens dry and some fruit. But I didn’t get to eat the Philly cheese steak appetizers, which was kinda sad, but then again, all that melted cheese on bread makes me queasy now.
*I’m very grateful that there are small businesses producing gluten, dairy and soy-free food like Larabars. Maybe in my next career, I’ll invest in a business that’s focused on helping people like me get through traveling.
*Taking a short trip to a city like Philadelphia reminds me just how much amazing food I will be missing out on for the rest of my life when it comes to traveling and experiencing culture through food. As someone who grew up near lakes and farms, I’ve always felt a strong connection to local food and food systems and it’s disappointing to realize that no matter where I go, whether it’s in the U.S. or internationally, it’s very likely I won’t be eating many of the things that my friends and family enjoy. I’m glad that I got to experience France and Italy in my early 20s and ate all the bread and cheese I could possibly fit in my body in 10 days. No regrets there.
*As much as I love traveling, it’s nice to be home where I know all the food I’m eating is safe and I don’t have to live in a constant state of panic that if I risk something, I may end up regretting it. Yay for home-made food!
exactly what i said out loud in the cold foods aisle of Laurie’s Natural Foods yesterday when i discovered that my favorite toasted coconut flake marshmallows have a “may contain traces of wheat” allergy warning. so disappointing. i ate them last summer, 6 months before tests showed i had a gluten intolerance, and never noticed the warning. of course, back then none of my doctors suggested i avoid wheat, so i ate what i felt like eating.
sigh. i’m only disappointed because i was saving my first intake of sugar in 7 weeks (i can’t believe it will be that long!) for s’mores on my trip to Maine next week and now i’m not so sure i’ll be eating more than the gluten-free grahams and the gluten/dairy/soy-free chocolate. i haven’t bothered to check the warnings on regular bags of marshmallows because i’m slightly grossed out by gelatin.
i hate that word “may”–maybe yes or maybe no? sweet and sara’s faqs page says that only one kind of marshmallow (of course, the s’more flavor!) contains gluten; however, all of them are made on lines that process wheat-containing products. once again, i’m kinda stuck: risk a belly ache and not know if it’s from contamination or from sugar? decisions, decisions. might just eat my weight in the chocolate. or maybe my sister and i could try to whip up our own recipe…
I’m determined to make the most of my food intolerances, so I try to make reading labels an adventure. I love it when I discover something odd. Case and point: chips vs. stix.
From the front of the bags, these two crunchy snacks don’t seem that different, except for the shape of the chip:
Good Health Natural Foods makes both of them. They are the same color scheme. Their labels are almost identical with the exception of the background color. Other than the shape difference, anyone would assume they are the same chip, just made in a different shape. For the most part, they are. A friend brought the Veggie Stix as a snack for a meeting a few weeks ago, thinking I could eat them. But she bought the “wrong” bag.
The traces of wheat warning is only on the Stix bag, not the Chips bag. The warning is in a little box under the ingredients list, but other than the boarder, it doesn’t stand out on the back of the bag. Hence, it’s pretty easy to miss.
I have no expectation that anyone buying food for me to consume should obsessively read labels the way I do. Honestly, I felt bad she went out of her way to buy something she was excited to have for me, knowing all too often I can’t eat most of what’s served at social events. My mom did the same thing a few months back: she went out of her way to bake me a loaf of gluten-free bread, but didn’t see that whey was listed on the ingredient list.
As a person living with food intolerances, I’m extremely grateful and consider it thoughtful when someone attempts to cater to my specific needs. It’s not easy to do, especially for most of the people in my life who don’t have to think twice about what they eat. In both of these instances, I’m just glad I read the label before I started eating. It feels a little awkward to second-guess someone’s choice for you, but I’m so glad I did, because in both of these situations, I would have ended up sick and everyone would have ended up feeling bad.
Veggie Stix: welcome to my enemy list.
Veggie Chips: let’s hang out.