San Fran gluten & dairy free!

*been in San Francisco for 7 days and have had so much good food: here are my favorites

*Bio on O’Farrell St in the financial district: a tiny little space with a large selection of gluten-free and vegan options like jalapeño tuna stuffed avocado halves and these amazing banana pudding bread muffins made with hemp milk. I loved them so much that I bought 5 so I could eat one every morning for breakfast.

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*Bio also made these amazing strawberry purees and vegan chocolate covered fruits, like these banana fudgey things that were unbelievably amazing.
*Can’t stop using the word amazing.

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*The Plant Cafe makes amazing fruit smoothies with coconut milk, which I forgot to take pictures of.
*Blowfish is a fun sushi bar that made me a special roll and tailored everything we ordered so that I could taste almost all of it without fear of getting gluten-ated. Our server Suzie was super helpful. She also had rad tattoos and neon pink streaked hair, which made me love her more. I had raw oysters and the most tasty dish of marinated mushrooms I have ever had in my life.

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*Fish, on the coast in Sausalito, blew my mind. I had trout over greens and C had some stellar salmon tacos that I wish I had ordered myself.

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*Finally, we are drinking the best coffee from Blue Bottle Coffee. This morning I had a New Orleans iced coffee with coconut milk.
*So pretty.

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*I’m here with my old bestie, Holly, who moved to Seattle a few years back and some other amazing friends!
*Finding it easy to eat gluten, dairy and soy free, although I’m cheating on the elimination diet with booze, coffee, and potato chips. Totally worth it tho! Back to the grind on Monday. Till then, we need more cocktails!

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long post about travelin’ with food drama

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!

day 20

it’s technically not day 20 of the detox because i’ve cheated on tea, wine, and some potato stuffs over the past 2 weeks. but my doctor told me i don’t have to start all over, but to just keep going and try to stick to the detox as much as possible. i’m actually thinking it’s about to get easier: tomorrow i leave for my annual vacation in Maine and eating in Maine is fun, fun fun!

here’s why:
*i’m staying at places with kitchens, refrigerators, lots of counter space and grills. i never have to eat out unless i really want to.
*i’m traveling/staying with my sister, who is also gluten, dairy, and soy intolerant. this means we plan all of our meals together and get really giddy about trying new things. (we might attempt this marshmallow recipe. stay tuned.)
*my sister’s husband loves to cook with me and i love to cook with him. what we’re making for our next meal is always a topic.
*i’m spending 3 days on the coast, so i’ll be buying seafood straight from the source: off the docks. giddy about this.
*i’m then spending 5 days at my family camp on a lake, a few miles from this organic farm. i buy a lot of produce here. bonus: they make all their own yard and the upstairs is a knitter’s heaven.

in other news, i’ve stopped taking pictures of everything i eat because i’m literally eating the same things over and over again: blueberries, cherries, peaches, asparagus, salads, fennel, meat, herbal tea, blah blah blah. i’ve started only taking pictures of the interesting stuff i eat. i’ve lost 3 pounds. my jeans are fitting better. this makes me happy.

detox + vacation = fail

after 3 solid years of elimination dieting and 7 months of gluten, dairy and soy-free eating, you would think i would be up for any diet-related challenge. i.e. i haven’t been tempted to eat a single pastry, muffin, or bagel in 8 months. i’ve learned to eat everything without butter and still love it. i haven’t had a beer in 3 years and went a solid 10 months without wine. sure, it’s not “fun” but it’s not exactly “hard” once you’re used to feeling really good.

i think the key to surviving a detox is to never eat out or travel when you’re doing it. we just spent 3 days in nyc and i had 3 epic fails: 1. i drank a total of 4 glasses of wine, a hard cider, and a sour cherry martini between the afternoon of day 11 and the late night hours of day 12. (no alcohol allowed)  2. i got lazy and ate gluten-free french fries cooked in peanut oil. (no potatoes or nut/nut oils allowed)  3. i sampled some tortilla chips and salsa because there was no where else to eat where we were and all i had for dinner was a few pickled green beans. (no corn, rice, or tomatoes allowed).

i don’t know what this means. i don’t know if it means i have to start over because i didn’t go a full 14 days but only 10. i really don’t want to start over, mainly because i’m going on another trip in a week and a half to Maine and i really want to eat the gluten-free gnocchi my sister is going to make me on our trip and at least 5 s’mores. (one for every night i’m here.)

i guess the good news is that i didn’t get sick from having any of those “cheats”– at least in the short-term. if i’m forced to start over, i won’t be complaining about it, since all those cheats tasted great, didn’t make me sick, and i was on vacation. the words vacation and detox should never been in the same sentence.

*i’ve been slacking on the pictures, simply because i eat the same 5 things over and over again. and over again. and again. this has been my new breakfast: turkey bacon and avocado. (grilled at 10 a.m. in the morning. yup. that’s me firing up the grill for breakfast neighbors.)


gf michigan

We’re in Grand Rapids, Michigan to visit C’s sister’s family and last night we went to an amazing, recently-opened pub: Brewery Vivant. The pub is located in a beautifully renovated church on Cherry Street and features a gorgeous wooden plank community table where you can sit with other groups of people. The bar is located at the front end of the church and looks out on the former sanctuary. There are beautiful vaulted ceilings, stained glass, and wooden hymn plaques that list the day’s beers. There was an installation of paper cranes hanging from the rafters, which gave us a lot to look at. The brewery is housed in its own building next to the church.

I miss being able to drink at breweries, especially because C loves craft beer. I haven’t had a beer in 4 years. Lucky for me, hard apple cider is becoming a brewery special, so I can usually find something gluten-free to drink. My three favorite gluten-free finds last night:

Vander Mill hard cider: This cider is made at a local cider mill and winery in Spring Lake, MI. I tried the apple cider, which was surprisingly dry. I’ve avoided cider in the past because it’s always too sweet for me. They also had a blueberry apple cider which was a lovely purple hue and also quite dry.

Deviled eggs: These were A-mazing. I’m not sure what the filling was made of but the added surprise was that they mixed in cloves. Never would have put together cloves and eggs, but I ate every one of them.

Truffle french fries: vegan fries make with truffle oil. Wow. Another thing I never would have put together on my own, but these were so good. Better yet, they didn’t make me sick because they never flour their fries and the oil isn’t mixed with the two other fries they make, so gluten free people like me avoid contamination.

If you’re traveling in or near Grand Rapids (or live here) check out Vivant: the space and food are great and the wait staff is really understanding and helpful when it comes to eating out with gluten and dairy intolerances.


gluten-free whoopie (pies)

My sister and I hit the jackpot last Thursday in Quincy MA for a family wedding: while wandering around the town looking for possible dinner options and finding absolutely nothing we could guarantee wasn’t going to make us both sick, we landed at Good Health Natural Foods in hopes of throwing together some semblance of a dinner, as well as breakfast and snacks for the following 48 hours. We spent 30 minutes having mini-freak outs about our new food finds, including: yummy popcorn; a sweet bean salsa; cocoa crispy cereal (Sarah’s latest addiction); chocolate candy bars (my first candy bar since last Halloween, a disaster story for another day); and Justin’s peanut butter cups with dark chocolate…

And the jackpot find: a gluten-free, dairy-free whoopie pie.

It was worth the 1,200 calories. No joke: that’s one thousand and two hundred calories of sugar, palm shortening, and heavenly goodness.

If you grew up any where in New England, you grew up eating whoopie pies. My entire family is from New England (mainly Maine and Massachusetts), so I’ve eaten a lot of whoopies in my life.

We bought two of them. One was for us to share with my uncle John (pictured with my sister), who has had crohn’s disease since the 80s. We were giddy to try it. The other one was for my brothers, who love to tease us that nothing gluten-free can be as good as foods containing gluten. Unfortunately, we forgot about it before my older brother left, so my other brother, Joel, got to share in the deliciousness. He was pleasantly surprised.

The fun part of extended family gatherings is that we talk a lot about digestive stuff. My uncle John and two of my cousins have crohn’s disease and a number of us have other digestive issues, so we always spend part of our time talking about our latest contaminations and gluten-free finds. While having digestive issues is no fun, I think I’m pretty lucky that I have a large family with a lot of similar digestive experiences: there’s always someone around to share in the gluten-free excitement.