Gluten Free Girl and the Chef Playing With Our Food Tue, 02 Sep 2014 05:43:27 +0000 en-US hourly 1 here we go. Tue, 02 Sep 2014 05:43:27 +0000 Desmond, who is asleep next to me as I write this, the sound of ocean waves softly murmuring near his ear, is five months old. We longed to meet him for three years and now…

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Lucy on the porch_

Desmond, who is asleep next to me as I write this, the sound of ocean waves softly murmuring near his ear, is five months old. We longed to meet him for three years and now he’s here, growing faster than we can imagine. He taught himself to roll over at three months, and now he’s like a perpetual motion machine. As soon as he could move from his stomach to his back, he wanted to go from his back to his stomach. And again. And again. He’s trying so hard, arms reaching and legs kicking, to crawl.

Kid, slow down.

(Good luck with trying to convince him of that one, right?)

This summer, there have been gatherings on the back porch of our home —— assorted children dancing or jumping on the trampoline as the adults talk —— most evenings of the summer. We sit in a circle, plates before us on the deck, and tell stories and laugh. Almost every night, we’ve had a different set of people with us, good friends from decades before or new friends. Having a baby who needs to nap and go to bed early means that we have been the hosts. Someone else is coming unexpectedly? Go grab a plate. There’s always food here.

And that food, which has been delicious and nourished us, is mostly thrown together at the last moment from whatever has been growing in the garden or what we picked up at the farm stand that day. Collard greens sautéed in cracklings from the ham we roasted, with smoked paprika and aleppo pepper. Cherry tomato salad with slivered romano beans, apple balsamic vinegar, and Moroccan olive oil, plus diced cucumbers with pickled ginger, fish sauce, and a bit of wasabi. Blueberry and peach crisp with Thai basil and honey, with an oat-almond topping. We play with flavors, and all the friends have been happy at the end of dinner, but there have been no recipes. Danny and I make something out of what is in the cupboard and fresh that day.

Whenever we finish a cookbook, this is how our cooking goes: simple and frugal, with some interesting little twist.

This has been the summer of the back porch.

I’ve been thinking often about this, how the food we make on a daily basis, the food we consider a feast with friends, rarely makes it onto this site. I get stymied by cookbook deadlines from updating more often. And when the manuscript is done (but edits coming back soon!), we need a rest. And then we start thinking of all the recipes people have asked us to create, and we go back into that mode. But this site, as it is, rarely looks like our real food life. We have some ideas about how to change that here.

It’s a time of change.

school supplies

This evening, we ate dinner at our dining room table for the first time in months. Desmond tried avocado. After Danny spooned some into his mouth, and he made the requisite confused pursed-lips look at the taste of something new, Desmond grabbed the spoon to eat more. He started eating solid foods two weeks ago and he’s already tired of us holding that spoon in front of him. He wants to eat everything himself, now.

And Lu? She wants to eat up the entire world by herself, now. Tomorrow is her first day of kindergarten.

The first day of the year is the first day of school. Heck with January 1st. That’s the middle of winter and a time of renewal on the calendar alone. But being the daughter of two teachers, a student for years and years, and a high-school teacher for nearly a decade, I have only one signal for the beginning of the year: newly sharpened #2 pencils. This evening, after we finished dinner and cleaned off the table, I sharpened six pencils for Lucy’s pen and pencil case. Danny and I watched her print her name on the green tape she wanted on her purple folders. I gave her the first of what I assume will be many black and white speckled composition books for her backpack. She giggled, delighted, then lined them all up by the door. In the refrigerator, waits her snack for the first day: black bean hummus Danny made today, slivers of red peppers, a little blueberry muffin with lemon zest and cinnamon (we made dozens this morning and put them in the freezer for snacks), and an apple. She went to bed smiling.

Need I mention that it all made me a little bit teary?

Tomorrow morning, she’ll walk with us to the end of our road, where the bus will pull up on the main highway. We’ll kiss her and hug her, tell her how proud we are of her. She doesn’t want us to drive her to school. She wants to go to school by herself.

It seems about twelve minutes ago that she was five months old, wriggling on the floor, just finding her voice. And tomorrow, she starts big-kid school, confident enough that she doesn’t need us there. It’s her world now. The moment she was born, I looked at her, fell in love with her, and thought to myself, “Now I have to let you go.”

Here she goes, our happy kind alive kid. Here she goes, walking into the world.

Summer’s over.

Bring on the next season.

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times have changed. Tue, 12 Aug 2014 21:13:13 +0000 It’s not often that Jack Bishop from America’s Test Kitchen stops by to bake biscuits with you. For us, it was a one-of-a-kind experience. (Desmond was only three weeks old when Jack came to see us. And…

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ATK Jack's hands

It’s not often that Jack Bishop from America’s Test Kitchen stops by to bake biscuits with you. For us, it was a one-of-a-kind experience.

(Desmond was only three weeks old when Jack came to see us. And somehow time has tumbled on itself these last few months, fumbling like fingers and thumbs on pliable dough. I’ve been meaning to tell you about this afternoon for months now.)

Jack is one of the kindest men I’ve met in this food world. He was a little weary from a whirlwind book tour for America’s Test Kitchen’s new cookbook, The How Can It Be Gluten Free Cookbook, but he arrived with presents for Desmond and enormous thoughtful energy for baking. I have to admit it — I’m a huge America’s Test Kitchen fan. The folks who run that place are geeks. (Around here, geek is a compliment.) I love the meticulous way the editors there lay out the kind of food they are trying to create, the narrative explanations of every permutation they tried, and the recipes that result. It’s not always my kind of food, but it’s my kind of mind at work. (I wish that I were as meticulously organized as those narratives imply, but I also remind myself that they have a whole team of people working on this! Our test kitchen is me, Danny, and Desmond, who mostly offers cuteness to the equation.) So having Jack Bishop here with us, when we were wildly excited and sleep deprived both? It was a dream.

(Thank you, Jack, as well as Beth. You’re both delightful.)

ATK collage

The How Can It Be Gluten Free Cookbook is in true America’s Test Kitchen form. They tell us what they were trying to achieve and then show us how they achieved it. There’s no question that the recipes in this book are meant for people who are trying to replicate white flour baked goods and more typical American recipes. That’s the largest audience, after all. If you want whole-grain breads or grain-free baking, this might not be the book for you. Those who need to avoid dairy or other foods have expressed annoyance that there is so much dairy in the book. But this book is, as Jack expressed to me, an attempt to create the best gluten-free book possible. It’s not an allergen-free book. And it’s a book intended for an audience who may not be able to find gluten-free ingredients in their grocery stores easily. Jack and I talked, as we made biscuit dough, about how much we love sweet rice flour. It’s starchy enough to bind ingredients together in a baked good, a little like gluten. I always use it in baked goods that work well with all-purpose flour. The folks at America’s Test Kitchen love it too, but they worried about its availability for the widest array of people, so they left it out of their flour mix.

This is a thoughtful, helpful book. After nine years of cooking and baking gluten-free, and especially after doing this for a living, I found much in the book to be a confirmation of what I have taught myself through trial and error. But I still learned from it — I love their trick about how to par-bake pizza dough to make sure we steam out the wetness before making the final pizza — and I still keep it at the studio as a reference. We honestly recommend The How Can It Be Gluten Free Cookbook to anyone who needs to be gluten-free.

When I was diagnosed with celiac in 2005, the phrase gluten-free didn’t appear on restaurant menus and grocery shelves. Once, I had to explain to a confused server in a restaurant that no, I wasn’t trying to avoid eating glue. I need to avoid any trace of gluten to keep myself healthy. Times have changed. It’s grown easier, in so many ways. Having one of the most respected sources on creating great food create a good cookbook about gluten-free baking? It’s a boon.

Thank you, Jack Bishop, and the team at America’s Test Kitchen.

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plenty Tue, 29 Jul 2014 00:30:38 +0000   When I lie down in bed at night, the room warm and the hour late, my mind starts flashing images of the day behind me. Desmond’s smile wide open, like a child’s drawing of the happiest…

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Processed with VSCOcam with s2 preset


When I lie down in bed at night, the room warm and the hour late, my mind starts flashing images of the day behind me. Desmond’s smile wide open, like a child’s drawing of the happiest face. Lu’s feet gripping onto the skateboard we gave her last week for her birthday, the pink knee pads hovering above them. The greens in the garden bolting bright with the heat and sunlight. (Anyone need some kale? We have plenty.) The sound of the ocean rushing continually out of the baby monitor as Desmond sleeps upstairs in his crib. He’s a sleeper, this kid. Oh heavens yes, he’s a sleeper. Lucy on my lap, a stack of books besides us, waiting to be read. Dishes in the sink that will have to wait until the cool evening air comes through the windows. Dinner on the back deck, plates set on top of the yellow chalk drawings and hopscotch squares. The quiet click of Lucy’s bedroom door shutting behind us when we finally realize she is asleep for the evening. (Remember that feeling of being a child in summer, perplexed at why you have to go to bed in broad daylight?) The relief of a hard day’s work finally done — no work or computers after 9 pm here — Danny and I together on the couch, talking through the day. And then we watch another episode of Ru Paul’s Drag Race.

(Can we talk about this show? We are obsessed. We don’t watch television, normally, but now, every night, we’re perched on the edge of the couch, watching. On Danny’s birthday card the other day, I wrote to him, “Shanté, you stay.” My dear friend Sharon, my best friend for 31 years, stayed with us this week. We started her on this brilliant parody of a reality show that is also a reality show and somehow manages to normalize drag queen life while also being relentlessly flamboyant and hilarious at the same time. She was hooked too. Every evening she visited, as soon as we knew both kids were asleep, we called my brother, who lives on the island, and he came over with his wife and pre-teen son to watch another episode. It may seem like an odd family bonding, but no one ever claimed to be normal over here. And honey, those drag queens are fierce. When I remember this time, I’m sure to think of it as the summer of Ru Paul.)

When Lucy is at camp or on play dates, the days are packed full of work for projects I can’t tell you about yet. At our studio, we’re hatching plans and writing emails and tackling to-do lists. Meanwhile, Danny stands at the stove, flipping onions in a skillet, then adding greens and bacon, goat cheese and lentils, and a couple of fried eggs on top. We may be broke after the adoption process but we’re still eating well. And that little guy kicks his legs and giggles on the table beside me and I stop thinking about money.

When Lu is at home, the living is slow. Mostly, there are popsicles. And board games. Jumping on the trampoline. Long walks before dinner. Chores in the morning. Lots of lying on the floor with a book open before her. And an entire troop of imaginary friends who make their way into our days. That’s sort of the feeling right now: everything fantastic, beyond our wildest dreams, and yet mundane.

I like the mundane days best.

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here. now. raspberries. Wed, 25 Jun 2014 19:14:08 +0000 Hi there. I’m waving hello from our kitchen studio, where the sun is shining brightly outside and I’m in here, sitting on my exercise ball chair, trying to pause from typing every 20 minutes or…

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summer berriesHi there. I’m waving hello from our kitchen studio, where the sun is shining brightly outside and I’m in here, sitting on my exercise ball chair, trying to pause from typing every 20 minutes or so. The first draft of the manuscript for our next cookbook, American Classics Reinvented (or is it Reimagined?), is due in 6 days.

This is the fourth book I have written since 2006. Fourth book! There’s magic in that phrase for me — the girl who always wanted to be a writer — and exhaustion — the woman only two years away from 50 with a three-month-old and very energetic almost-6-year-old. For most of the last year, Danny and I cooked and baked and schemed and planned and cut recipes and created foods we’d never made before and want to make again and again. Knishes! Reuben sandwich soup! Seattle coffee cake! California roll salad! Hash brown waffles! Smoked salmon eggs benedict! Elk and morel mushroom pot pie! Pimento cheese sandwiches! Baja fish tacos! Amish chicken and noodle! St. Louis gooey butter cake!  All of it gluten-free, of course. We’ve also created a grain-free flour mix we love, which those of you who have to avoid grains can use in any recipe. We’re really happy with this book, even this last week before it’s due.

It has been quite the year.

Usually, by this time of a book being due, I’m a frantic mess. Shower? No time. Food? Forgotten. Writing until midnight and getting up at 4 to write more? Of course. It’s just too easy to put my head down and work, work, work, and then look up and see the day has waned without my seeing it.

This time, however? Forget about that frantic flapping. I don’t want to live that way.

Part of this extraordinary year for me has been looking at my celiac more closely, realizing that it truly is an autoimmune disorder. For me, simply avoiding gluten is not enough to heal me now. Enduring the return to sleep deprivation for the sake of a lovely baby and the hormonal shifts of a woman who’s nearly 50, plus getting some gluten by mistake has made this a rough year, health wise. Still, I think there are gifts in every hard place, the times that question and throw everything into disarray. For me, this has been a chance to step back and decide how much to breathe and see how gently I can treat myself. Stressing out, not sleeping, forgetting to exercise, letting fear and anger and guilt burrow into my gut? Those are not the way to heal from an autoimmune disorder.

I think every day these days about this quote from Pema Chodron’s book, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times (Shambhala Classics): “We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.”

Every time before this one I would turn to Danny in the middle of the crash-and-burn ending of a book and say, “Look, when life calms down, after the book is done…” And eventually he’d laugh and gently smack me on the arm.

“Good one, honey. When does life ever calm down?”

Now. In this moment. Danny has taught me that. Lucy and Desmond have taught me that. My celiac has taught me that. Nearing 50 has taught me that. I’m tired of living frantically, waiting for the right moment to breathe. Now. Here.

Here. Now. Time to eat the raspberries picked this morning.

So I’m writing up the notes from recipes all day today, while Lucy is at stilts camp (yep, you read that right) and Danny is at home with baby Desmond, who’s a little under the weather from his first round of vaccinations. I have Cat Stevens playing, a cup of green lemongrass tea that needs refreshing, and a piece of writing I didn’t expect to tumble forth today. This evening, I’m playing softball and going to bed early.

I have a feeling this will be the best book we’ve done so far. Even if it’s not, it will be done soon, followed by relief and joy. Then, we start back to work again.

See you soon.

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Meet Our Sponsors: Dough Buddies Gluten-Free Donut Mix Mon, 09 Jun 2014 04:41:34 +0000 The other day, we called out to a group of friends hanging out at our kitchen studio. “Hey guys! Doughnuts are ready!” It seems that nothing can make people run faster, happily, than a batch…

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doughnuts sponsorship

The other day, we called out to a group of friends hanging out at our kitchen studio. “Hey guys! Doughnuts are ready!” It seems that nothing can make people run faster, happily, than a batch of hot doughnuts, ready to eat. Every one of the people in the room made little happy noises and exclaimed as one. “Oh, these are good!” Only after the doughnuts were gone did we tell them these soft, cakey doughnuts were from a gluten-free mix: Dough Buddies Gluten-Free Donut Mix.

We’re happy to announce that Dough Buddies is our latest sponsor. We truly believe that you’ll love this easy-to-use mix. It makes some darned fine doughnuts, gluten-free.

This small company is run by two lovely women, Karen Manarolla and Pat Landy. We’ll let them tell you their story.

Why did you start Dough Buddies?

Pat:  We met at the University of Washington in a French class, we became friends, and later colleagues as French teachers in Seattle.  Continually amazed by the frequency of “like-mindedness,” it did not surprise our friends and families that we would pursue an after-teaching career doing something together.  Dough Buddies – it’s all in the name!

Karen:  In 2006, I was diagnosed with osteoporosis caused by gluten intolerance and I loved doughnuts. Desperate in 2010 for a really delicious doughnut, I took a class on making gluten free doughnuts and a light went on!  I started experimenting with recipes and brought doughnut holes to school in containers marked A, B, and C.  Pat and the other language teachers would give them a try, talk about them and then send me the feedback.  After about 6 months of taste testing, I had a recipe we all liked:  a classic, cake doughnut that was yummy!  We widened the circle of taste testers to family and friends and the responses were all very encouraging.

Why doughnuts? 

Karen:   I have always loved doughnuts and I’ve eaten a ton of them.  It started with Spudnuts in Ballard many years ago, watching the doughnuts roll out on the conveyor belt and eating them warm and fluffy. In high school I ate doughnuts by the bagful.  At the University of Washington my favorite breakfast was a cup of coffee with a chocolate covered chocolate doughnut.  On road trips I’d buy those packaged, powdered sugar mini-doughnuts at the convenience stores.  I loved doughnuts.  In 2006 my doughnut eating came to a screeching halt when I was diagnosed with gluten sensitivity.  I still craved doughnuts.

Pat:  We want everyone to have the best gluten free doughnut possible.  Does that mean consumers need to make them themselves?  Or, can they go to a doughnut shop and buy a delicious gluten free doughnut?  We think having options is really important.  And we believe that most everyone would agree, a fresh, delicious, doughnut is the absolute best.  So we are looking for every opportunity to bring our doughnuts to consumers of gluten free products by marketing the mix to local grocery stores, selling through our website on the internet, and looking for restaurants with dedicated gluten free fryers or with the desire to offer baked gluten free doughnuts.  Whether doughnut or donut, we have one that the whole family can enjoy!

Can you tell us about the ingredients in your food and why you chose them?  

Pat:  First off, we looked for ingredients that, when combined, would taste good naturally, unembellished – without any frostings, toppings or glazes.

Karen:  Taste and texture drove the creation of Dough Buddies GF Doughnut Mix.  With each experiment in the kitchen we learned what the different flours and ingredients do and how they interact with one another.  The three kinds of rice flours combine to create a lighter and crispier doughnut that tastes the way we remember cake doughnuts to taste.  The spices are important:  nutmeg, cinnamon and turmeric for both taste and health. Turmeric imparts a wonderful color to Dough Buddies, too.

We found a small, certified gluten free co-packaging company in Idaho that offered us exceptionally good tasting ingredients and would make our mix in small batches. The ingredients are the highest quality milled rice flours and potato starch.  We have taken great care to insure that all of the ingredients are non GMO, do not contain any hormones, that the buttermilk powder comes from non-cloned animals and that all ingredients are free of pesticides and other unwanted chemicals and additives.  Our mix is Kosher certified and the facility is certified peanut free.  It’s important to us that great care is taken when our mix is packaged for our customers.

Pat:  Our doughnuts can be fried or baked which is a real plus for the consumer.  A lot of people are afraid of frying and although it’s really not that scary, we understand their fears. We suggest using a small saucepan with only a couple of inches of oil to keep the process manageable.  Regular-sized doughnut holes take only a few minutes to fry, so the process moves quickly.  When frying, we caution people to never leave the pot of oil unattended, never mix water and hot oil, and avoid splatters and we suggest using a thermometer to regulate the temperature.  A couple of hints from veteran doughnut makers: save your oil in the fridge to use from one time to the next because it imparts more flavor to the finished product, roll the warm doughnuts in cinnamon and sugar but save some that have cooled to roll in powdered sugar.  For those who prefer a baked product, we suggest using one of the little clamshell mini-doughnut or cake pop bakers.  They produce a great product with our mix, too.

Can you tell us a story about a customer pleased by your food?

Pat:  At the Mother Earth News Fair in 2012, one of our first customers was a mom with her 6 year old son.  She approached our trailer and asked about the gluten-free properties of our doughnuts. Assured, she commented, “My son has never tasted a doughnut.”  Wow, his first doughnut was one of OUR Dough Buddies!

Karen:  We bring samples of Dough Buddies to stores and restaurants and invariably we meet people who haven’t had a delicious doughnut for years because of gluten sensitivities or intolerance.  When they taste our Dough Buddies, their eyes light up, a big smile comes to their face and they say, “This tastes just like the doughnuts I remember from when I was a child.” Now THAT is a thrill!

What fuels you to do the work you do?

Karen:  Working together, we see how well our creation is welcomed and in demand.  We are a great team and see eye-to eye on the goals of our company and how to achieve them.  The company is growing and you never know where the path will lead.  Doors are always opening to new opportunities.  What started as a bright idea for two friends has become a creation that is enjoyed by many others.

Pat:   So many people approach our demo table saying, “I never thought I would get to have a real doughnut ever again.”  It’s all about equal access, quality options, no longer feeling denied or having to make a compromise. Karen has crafted an incredible recipe that we simply need to share!


Thank you, Karen and Pat, for creating this doughnut mix. We love it and we think our readers will too.

Karen and Pat have kindly agreed to giveaway three packages of their Dough Buddies donut mix. Please leave a comments about donuts (or doughnuts) and why you might like to try Dough Buddies

If you’d like to know more about why we do sponsorships on this site and how we do them, please read this

Winners have been chosen and notified. Thank you for your comments! 



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not again. Tue, 27 May 2014 21:59:16 +0000 “Gluten sensitivity is bullshit!” I stared at my email and sighed. Not again. Long ago, I signed up for a Google alerts for the words gluten-free and celiac, so I can keep up with the…

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gluten-free sourdough

“Gluten sensitivity is bullshit!”

I stared at my email and sighed. Not again.

Long ago, I signed up for a Google alerts for the words gluten-free and celiac, so I can keep up with the latest news on scientific studies for those of us whose bodies cannot tolerate gluten. Each day, I see gluten-free blog posts and announcements of yet another gluten-free brownie mix. There are also fascinating medical journal articles on zonulin inhibitors and the latest theories on the gut microbiome. (I’m a bigger scientific geek than often spills onto this blank white space.) Those I prize. The endless spewing about the sudden interest in gluten-free food? That I wish I didn’t see.

As you might know, a couple of weeks ago, everyone in the press and on the internet was discussing a study out of Monash University in Australia. The title of the study? “No Effects of Gluten in Patients With Self-Reported Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity After Dietary Reduction of Fermentable, Poorly Absorbed, Short-Chain Carbohydrates.”

Now, I understand that’s a mouthful. Most people don’t know what fermentable, poorly absorbed, short-chain carbohydrates are. If you don’t know what they are, they’re commonly referred to as FODMAPs. For those of you who don’t know, FODMAPS stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols. Now that’s really a mouthful. These short-chain carbohydrates, for reasons that are not entirely clear, ferment and digest poorly in the intestines of some people with irritable bowel disorder. Each person who has problems with FODMAPs seems to have a different set of foods that bother the gut, and it’s an intricate dance of eliminating high FODMAP foods and adding them back in, one at a time, to see what is tolerable. What kinds of foods are high in FODMAPs? Artichokes, onions, anything with lactose. Honey. Apples. Lentils. Pears. And wheat, rye, and barley.

Let’s just hold that in our minds. Wheat, rye, and barley are high in fructans, which are oligosaccharides, which cause pain, gas, bloating, distension, nausea, changes in bowel habits (such as diarrhea and constipation), and other intestinal disorders in some people.

As Roxanne Khamsi wrote in a measured piece about this in Scientific American“A final group of potential culprits belongs to a diverse family of carbohydrates such as fructans that are notorious for being difficult to digest. A failure to absorb these compounds into the blood may draw excess water into the digestive tract and agitate its resident bacteria. Because these resilient carbohydrates occur in all kinds of food—not just grains—a gluten-free or wheat-free diet will not necessarily solve anything if these molecules truly are to blame.”

So, in short, this study seemed to point clearly to the fact that some people who feel certain they are sensitive to the protein commonly known as gluten are actually sensitive to the carbohydrate in wheat, rye, and barley instead. Mind you, there were only 37 participants in the study, all of whom were suffering with irritable bowl syndrome. The scientists who conducted the study happen to work at the same university where FODMAPs were first named as a problem for people with intestinal issues, a university becoming famous for that work. And the study only looked for intestinal problems, not joint pain or headaches or depression, or any of the other myriad symptoms that can accompany gluten-related disorders.

However, it seems that the study was done to help people. Why are some people on a gluten-free diet still experiencing symptoms? If they’re not on the right diet, they need to find out what ails them. This could be great news for some people who suspect gluten doesn’t work for them but don’t know why. This could be a chance to help more people.

As the lead researcher on the study, Jessica Biesiekierski, stated, “We believe non-celiac gluten sensitivity probably does exist, but it’s not very common and we have a lot more to do until we fully understand [gluten].” As she and Peter Gibson, the co-lead researcher have stated, it seems that some people do not have gluten sensitivity but wheat sensitivity. Joseph Murray, the leading gastroenterologist specializing in celiac at the Mayo Clinic feels the same: “I’m starting to feel more uncomfortable calling it nonceliac gluten sensitivity. I think it might be better to call it nonceliac wheat sensitivity.”

In other words, this is an issue of semantics, in some part.

People who cannot tolerate wheat, rye, or barley because of the fructans still cannot eat wheat, rye, or barley.

It seems to me that these are the real implications of this study: people who have FODMAP problems still cannot eat wheat, rye, and barley, which are high in fructans. On top of that, they might also need to cut a dozen other foods out of their diet to find relief. As Biesierkierski wrote, “‘That means we really have to understand the differences between gluten sources and FODMAP sources,’ she says, ‘to help people figure out what’s upsetting their stomachs and how to avoid the triggers.’”

The story of this study should have been one of compassion, of complexity and nuance, about how hard it is to negotiate our own health in this world when we’re receiving so many mixed messages and the health care system is pretty woeful when it comes to anything related to food. It could have been an opportunity for news sources to teach, to reach people and communicate that they might not be taking care of themselves as well as they could.

Instead, there were headlines like this: “Unless You Have Celiac Disease, Gluten Sensitivty Is Probably In Your Head.” And that was from PBS Nova, folks.

The study was first published in Gastroenterology in May of 2013. Why did it suddenly go viral this May, which is Celiac Awareness Month? And it wasn’t just snarky internet sites that were using derogatory headlines. ABC News did a piece called The Doctor Who Started the Gluten-Free Fad Admits He Got It Wrong. Of course, in the piece, they identify the fructans these folks will have to avoid as wheat, rye, and barley. And yet, the coverage is glib and superficial, saying that those who are gluten-free are wrong.

This piece on NPR had a nuanced headline: “Sensitive to Gluten? A Carb in Wheat May Be the Real Culprit.” The New Yorker wrote a measured piece, called “Freeing the Gluten-Free.” In it, they quote Alessio Fasano, a leading celiac researcher from Massachusetts General, who was quoted as saying, “‘There is no question in my mind that it exists. Gluten is a very strange protein. We are not evolved to digest it.’ He regularly diagnoses patients with non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and he argues that the Gibson study was flawed because it only included people with IBS. People with NCGS often have other symptoms besides gut problems, he said, and limiting the study to IBS patients could have excluded patients whose main issue is gluten rather than FODMAPs. ‘They studied the wrong population,’ he said.

Even Gibson, the co-lead on the study, agrees. “Gibson says that he’s not trying to debunk non-celiac gluten sensitivity. He agrees with Fasano that it’s real, and that gluten may do much of its harm outside the gut. In April, he and his team published another study, with the same group of IBS patients, which found that eating gluten for three days had no effect on intestinal symptoms but did lead to increased symptoms of depression.”

This fascinating, intelligent Scientific American piece, written by someone who had been told to go on a gluten-free diet and improved, for the most part, is titled: “Gluten Sensitivity May be a Misnomer for Distinct Illnesses to Various Wheat Proteins.”

Why were the other articles, from other sources, not written with this much nuance? This isn’t a culture of nuance. This is a culture of 140 characters, quick fights, and making a deadline, fast. This is a culture of snottiness and righteousness. Writing a headline like “Gluten Sensitivity May be a Misnomer for Distinct Illnesses to Various Wheat Proteins” isn’t sexy. Writing “Gluten-Free is Bullshit” is snappy and snarky and gets the attention.

We live in a culture that goes for attention instead of attention to detail every time.



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the happiest place on earth Thu, 22 May 2014 20:15:38 +0000 This was a most mediocre and tremendous meal. It wasn’t locally sourced, grass-fed beef. I’m sure the guacamole came out of a tub. The beans were sort of spongy, the tortillas lukewarm. That pre-grated cheese…

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This was a most mediocre and tremendous meal.

It wasn’t locally sourced, grass-fed beef. I’m sure the guacamole came out of a tub. The beans were sort of spongy, the tortillas lukewarm. That pre-grated cheese didn’t taste like much. The taco buffet we make at home on Thursday nights has pickled radishes, slow-braised carnitas, and crunchy cabbage for the shells.

However, I’ll never forget this meal. I’m so very grateful for it.

You see, we ate this lunch at Disneyland, back in February. After we finished the official part of our potluck road trip tour, we spent a couple of days in Claremont, the town where I grew up. Thanks to our good friend Emily, we had a place to stay and friends with whom to laugh late into the night. It was a wonderful way to unwind from the drive down California, the public appearances, and all that we learned. But really, for Lucy, this was the only stop worth making. She knew that as soon as we were done with the tour, we were going to Disneyland.

Having grown up in Claremont, I visited Disneyland at least two or three times a year. My family and I went every August for my birthday, every January for my brother’s birthday, and sometimes at least once more. My brother and I called it D-Day! and the drive from Claremont to Anaheim always took an agonizing long time. We were convinced that every car on that freeway was headed toward Disneyland and they were all going to ride Pirates of the Caribbean before we could arrive.

(Memory is such a funny creature. When we were trying to figure out what time to leave for Disneyland the next day, I told him the drive from Claremont is at least two hours. Turns out it’s about 35 minutes. But man, it sure felt longer when I was a kid.)

A few months before, in a fit of nostalgia, I told Lucy childhood stories about the rides at Disneyland. Her eyes went wide. Already deep in princess mania, Lu wanted to see this magic place where Peter Pan and Sleeping Beauty and the Mad Hatter hung out in one place together. Thanks to the internet, I could show her parades and rides and character breakfasts. After that? Forget about it. She was never going to forget about it. We knew this was the last trip we were taking together, just the three of us, since Desmond would be arriving soon. Danny and I saved up enough money to make a day of it at Disneyland.

Look, I know it’s easy to knock Disneyland, and all things Disney, since it’s such a megalith of money-making, mesmerizing power. But I love that place. And the movies, which have been a source of stories for Lucy. She watched The Princess and the Frog and talked about making gumbo and beignets for months. So we figured out gluten-free beignets for her. Her brief spate of fixation on Cinderella made her ask her grandmother if she could mop the garage floor when we visited. (And she did it.) “I have to do my chores, just like Cinderella and Snow White!” she’d say to us. Go right ahead and watch that movie again, kid! I will always adore the Toy Story movies. But I’m very glad we didn’t watch Frozen until after that trip, since there are reports of four-hour lines to meet Elsa and Anna at Disneyland now. (By the way, do the songs from that movie ever leave your head?)

I had not visited Disneyland since I was in my early 20s, so as excited as I was to share the space with Lucy — and with Danny, who had never been before — I felt a little trepidation in my chest. What if it was shabby and crass, not the place I remembered as a kid?

No need to worry. It was a glorious day.

What struck me, as an adult, watching it through the eyes of my child, is this: Disneyland is a place of service. Every person who works there is helpful and cheerful. Every flower is bright, all the wilting ones dead-headed. The lines are organized, the characters are happy to listen to chattering children on their knee, and the entire park is set up to make each person’s day as free of care as possible. It’s about more than money. It’s a place determined to serve.

It’s this dedication to the people visiting that makes Disneyland the best place to be gluten-free.

People told me about this before we visited. Folks on Twitter and Facebook raved about the care the staff at Disney take to feed people with food allergies and celiac. This page explains the steps they take to ensure everyone can eat safely. Still, seeing it in action was something else.

Lu romped through the park, spinning on the teacups ride, skipping joyfully through Fantasyland, and taking it all in. But about 2 pm, she flagged. We were nosediving into Hungry Grumpy land, fast. We stopped at a generic Mexican place in California Adventure to see what we could eat. When we ordered, we told the server we were both celiac and needed to eat gluten-free. He sent for the chef.

At each restaurant or place to buy food in Disneyland, the head chef comes out to greet the customers when the staff is informed of a food allergy. (In our case, an autoimmune disorder.) The chef at this Mexican place asked us about any other food allergies or intolerances. She listened, seriously. She told us the dishes that would be easiest for them to make for us, gluten-free. And she wrote it all down. I sat down with Lucy, keeping her distracted from the wait for food with princess stories. Danny stood near the kitchen and watched. He watched the woman who had helped us personally supervise every ingredient being cooked, making sure that there was no cross-contamination in every single step. When this tray was set before me, I wanted to cry. This place I had loved so well as a kid? It fed me and my child with grace and compassion.

I don’t know why every food service establishment cannot be like this. There’s been a spate of nasty jokes and condemning stories about folks with gluten intolerance lately. Ironic, since May is Celiac Awareness month. But every time I hear something like this, I think of the experience we had at Disneyland. If your first impulse is to make fun of someone who says she has to be gluten-free? If, as a chef or server, you doubt the people you are feeding and think about putting flour in their food just to show they are faking it? Why are you doing this job? If you are in food service, your job is all about service, with food. Your job is to feed people. Not quickly or cheaply or condescendingly. Your job is to feed people, safely. And if you’re good, you’re feeding them with love. Taking care of someone who has food allergies or intolerances, so we don’t get sick — that’s a form of love.

If you’re making fun of people who have to be gluten-free, the joke is really on you. You’re not doing your work.

At dinner, we had the same gracious experience as we did at lunch. We went to a cafe on Main Street, and grabbed one of the last tables outside. Danny ran to Space Mountain while Lucy and I waited for the parade. We ordered burgers and fries, with cherry Cokes. This isn’t how we normally eat but this was a special occasion. We were at Disneyland, after all. I ordered for us and once again, the head chef came to talk to us. She was so kind, so caring, and clearly had such a clear protocol of how to take care of us that I actually did start to cry this time. “I’m sorry,” I said. “This is sort of weird to be crying, but I came here so many times as a child. To have you guys understand and take care of us like this? It’s just really wonderful.”

She smiled. I’m sure she has seen it before. She took our order inside and cooked it up herself. Lucy and I stood at the gate of the white picket fence in front of the cafe, waiting. I swung her onto my shoulders and felt her dance when she heard the music starting. She bounced up and down, shouting out the name of every character she recognized as they passed us. It felt the same as it did when I sat on the curb in the late 1970s, watching the Main Street Electrical parade pass before more. All that happiness and awe and warm nights and the joy, just joy, of being in that place. And now, I was sharing it with her.

Danny came back just in time for food. We all shared a meal and chattered happily together. Lucy and I ate safely. We didn’t worry for a moment. It couldn’t have been more normal and extraordinary at the same time.

Man, that burger and fries tasted good.

Thank you, Disneyland, for doing it right.

And the rest of America? Catch up.

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the last one Sat, 17 May 2014 06:06:18 +0000 Can someone please explain to me how it is May 16th already? Tell truth, I’ve had that sentence at the top of this piece I keep meaning to write, with different dates in there. How…

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Can someone please explain to me how it is May 16th already?

Tell truth, I’ve had that sentence at the top of this piece I keep meaning to write, with different dates in there. How is it April 3 already? How is it April 18th already? How is it May 1st?

Life with a newborn baby is like looking at a calendar and watching the dates melt off the page. We are so lucky — Desmond is a darling boy, sweet and calm. Honestly, we’ve heard him cry for maybe 30 minutes total since he was born. He sleeps in four-hour stretches now, at 8 weeks, so Danny and I each get up once a night to feed him and hold him. He’s smiling and cooing, talking at us in conversation. Lucy adores him and she wants only more time with him. Feel free to chuck things at me — this is as easy as it gets with a newborn.

But oh, it’s still a weird time warp to have a newborn, especially now that he’s almost two months old. Minutes pass in a hiccup, hours pass holding his ever-increasing gaze then shushing him to sleep. He needs to eat again? During the 3-week and 6-week growth spurt, he needed to eat every hour, on the hour, for three days at a time. I’m not kidding. At least we are doing this together, Danny and I, instead of me at home all day with a newborn while he works in a restaurant for 12 hours a day. This time, the word is calm.

Still, I definitely wouldn’t recommend having a newborn while having a 5-year-old while finishing a cookbook while getting gluten by accident. If I had the choice, I would avoid that.

When things feel a little exhausted and overwhelming, I think of this view we had of the ocean at Malibu in February.

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You see, we were in California in February, driving down that enormous state, eating and visiting with people who make food, meeting so many of you there, and taking in the sunlight. It was an extraordinary trip, a kind of listening tour for our next cookbook, American Classics Reinvented. Danny and I both came home knowing something that had only been inchoate before: we have such west coast sensibilities when it comes to food.

I mean, this giant plate of all kinds of citrus in our friend Emily’s home amazed us with its beauty, but it seemed like home too. Food on the west coast tends toward citrus, toward fresh, toward lots of produce in season. We’re both fan of big flavors and simple preparations. We know the farmers who make our food. Mexican food is comfort food for us both, as is Asian cuisine. Washington  focuses more on seafood and wild mushrooms than Californian does. We have to rely on celery root in February, while the people in Santa Barbara buy strawberries from their farmers. But essentially, we’re one big cuisine on the west coast. There will be a lot of that in our new book.

But the trip to California also showed us that the rest of the country doesn’t necessarily eat this way. It has been a blast to dig into the food of the South, the Midwest, Hawaii, and the Northeast while working on this book. We could probably spend years more working on this book, to be honest.

Still, the first draft is due soon.

So, since we took this trip nearly three months ago (what??!), and I have many more recipes to type up, let me just show you some photos, and point you in the direction of a salad you might want to make this weekend.

SB to LA- big Mexican guy_

If you’re driving through Malibu, on your way to Los Angeles, you can’t miss this guy.

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And when you wake up in downtown LA, in a hotel room high up in the sky, there might be a view like this.

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Seven years ago, I wrote about eating at the Casbah Cafe in the Silverlake neighborhood in Los Angeles. In February, Danny and Lucy were there with me, with our nephew Patrick. And I ate the same sweet corn salad with black, wrinkled olives, fresh tomatoes, and tuna I ate seven years ago. It was still satisfying.

SB to LA- foods from Silverlake cheese store

Afterwards, we walked down the street for treats from the Cheese Store of Silverlake. I have to go, every time we are in LA. This time, we let Lucy choose the cheese: St. Andre from France and Redwood Hill Farm Bucheret. (Kid, you have expensive taste.) There were tiny little yogurts from Switzerland, castlvetrano olives, a package of speck, and some cinnamon sugar marshmallows from Little Flower Candy Company. (Seriously? Ridiculous.)

I love picnics. Especially picnics in places we don’t live.

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We needed treats for our Los Angeles potluck. Thank you to all of the lovely people who came out to Silverlake Park for the gathering, the potluck, the laughter and sweetness. It was so good to meet and talk with you all.

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Later, we took Lucy and Patrick to the Los Angeles Farmers’ Market. I remember going here when I was a kid. There was a stall that served enormous slices of hot pizza, the first pizza I ever found I could fold in half before I ate it. Sometimes, my dad took me there after we drove into Los Angeles for auditions. I never forgot the taste of that pizza.

The farmers’ market itself hasn’t changed much. But the world has.

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We didn’t talk about Desmond’s arrival on this site or anywhere public before he was born. We knew in January that his mama wanted us to be his family. The entire trip down California, we talked about our hopes that this dream was actually coming true. (And now he’s upstairs asleep in our room as I type.) But we were also acutely aware of the fact this was our last trip with Lucy as our only child. Our darling girl, the joyful goofball who makes us laugh every day, the girl who sits in her room every night after we close the door reading a dozen books to herself, the child we longed for six years ago, the one who almost didn’t make it through her first week alive. Soon, she would be the oldest of two kids in our home.

In Los Angeles, we loved our girl even more keenly than we had before.

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It was, without a doubt, an extraordinary trip, possibly the best one we have ever taken.

And it was the last one we’ll be taking for awhile. Right now, there is a sweet baby boy and his darling sister, asleep upstairs. Tomorrow there will be a ballet recital for Lucy, more time discovering his toes for Desmond, the farmers’ market, recipes to type, and the small joys of daily life at home.

I say yes to them both, the travel and the being home.

Thank you, Los Angeles.

SB to LA- mozza salad_

When we were in Los Angeles, we had the true pleasure of sharing lunch with our good friend, Brooke. This woman is a marvelous being, deeply devoted to service and the discoveries of writing. She’s incredible. She also worked as a server at Pizzeria Mozza for years. So when we mentioned that we wanted to go, she joined us there for lunch. She pulled our server aside, explained about my celiac and the need for Lucy to be gluten-free too. He nodded and assured her they would take care. Oh, they did.

That lunch at Mozza will be in my mind forever. I can still taste the roasted carrots with cumin vinaigrette, the fresh burrata, and the eggplant caponata. The pizzas looked incredible, and Danny and Patrick sure seemed to enjoy them. But I didn’t need them.

Frankly, I couldn’t think of anything better in the world to eat than this chopped salad. It mesmerized me when it arrived in a tower of salami, chickpeas, caponata, radicchio, and provolone. I hovered my fork over it and then dove in. Honestly, I don’t think I looked up until I was done. I didn’t share. The dried oregano in the vinaigrette! As soon as we were home, waiting in those weeks before we left for Arizona, I made that salad several times. It’s just so nourishing.

In fact, as exhausted and happy as I am now, I think I need another one this weekend. You should make one too.

(I could try to rewrite the recipe in my own voice and claim I adapted it. Forget that. The LA Times already wrote it up for you. Thanks, Russ Parsons. Thank you, Nancy Silverton. Thank you, Los Angeles.)

We’d like to send out a huge acknowledgment and thank you to Erewhon Organic for sponsoring this California tour. Without them, we wouldn’t have been able to meet you and gather material for our next cookbook. Erewhon Organic makes some of our favorite foods in the world, including their new quinoa-chia cereal and their buckwheat-hemp cereal, which was our favorite breakfast on this tour. They do things right. 


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Meet Our Sponsors: Better Batter Wed, 14 May 2014 04:23:18 +0000 We like making our own flour mixes in our kitchen. But we’re weird. I don’t mind the flour flying onto my black pants as I measure it out onto a bowl balanced on a scale.…

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better batter

We like making our own flour mixes in our kitchen. But we’re weird. I don’t mind the flour flying onto my black pants as I measure it out onto a bowl balanced on a scale. I like playing with new flour combinations every week — maybe we should go back to sorghum? I feel like a bit of a mad scientist when I mix almond flour and buckwheat, millet and sweet rice. This crazy process is something I truly enjoy.

But I can’t imagine everyone likes doing this or has the time. After all, making food in our kitchen is what we do for a living. And now that we have two kids instead of just one, I understand even more keenly why people might not want to spend part of their Sunday afternoon mixing flours into a cambro and giving it a big shake. It makes sense that the more occasional baker would just like to buy a mix of flours.

We’ve tried all the gluten-free flour mixes on the market, and one of our absolute favorites is Better Batter. We’re happy to announce Better Batter as our latest sponsor.

Better Batter is intended to be a cup-for-cup replacement for wheat flour. It’s not a whole-grain or high-protein flour mix. Instead, it helps you to make your grandmother’s chocolate chip cookies, gluten-free. This all-purpose flour mix works well for making pies, cookies, cakes, muffins, and quick breads. If you need to be gluten-free, but you don’t love to bake and play mad scientist in the kitchen making up new recipes? We think you would love the Better Batter all-purpose gluten-free flour .

Their seasoned flour mix is great for making fried chicken and fish, onion rings, or anything you wanted battered before you fry it. The Better Batter pancake and biscuit mix makes Lucy’s favorite pancakes of the moment. The Better Batter brownie mix makes fudgy, lovely brownie mix. And the Better Batter yellow cake mix and Better Batter chocolate cake mix make fluffy, moist cakes. If you have a gluten-free birthday party coming up, or you want to make a batch of cupcakes so your kid doesn’t feel left out at birthday celebrations, these are truly wonderful.

(Note: the Better Batter mixes do contain xanthan gum. I can only tolerate xanthan gum occasionally, so these worked for me when we were testing them. Those of you who cannot tolerate xanthan might not be able to use these regularly.)

These are, in our opinion, some of the best gluten-free flour mixes on the market today.

We encourage you to click those links and buy some Better Batter through Amazon, which is the best way to find them. We also wanted you to hear more from our sponsors. Their story is part of the reason we love this company.

What compelled you to create Better Batter?

We began our gluten-free journey because my child was dying — literally.  Teeth loose, bowels even looser, shedding intestinal tissue — he was a mess and a half! I was 100% committed to giving him a normal diet, and so I began to look for gluten free alternatives. When my younger son and I were also diagnosed with celiac… and then my sisters and father (!)…  I knew gluten free would be a permanent part of my cooking.

Back then, there weren’t any gluten free products consistently available (2003) and the recipes that were out there just weren’t great (boy have things come a long way!!) and even more than that I couldn’t make the foods my family made. My dad is a retired executive chef, as is my granddad, so that was seriously traumatic. I was tired of making “other people’s food” — I wanted to make MY mom’s pie, not someone else’s.

Better Batter itself (the flour) was dreamed up, on a night after I quite sincerely cast up a prayer to heaven to have some kind of solution to my problem, so I can’t take much credit for the initial creation of the product, except to say it’s been a literal God-send, but the urge to help other people to live a normal life and the urge to give charitably is what compelled me to create Better Batter (the company) and what continues to compel me to create new products.

Why do you think Better Batter works as a gluten-free flour mix?

Well, as you have told your readers many many times, it’s about getting the mix of starches, binders, proteins etc into the right combination. I call these bodifiers, modifiers, starches, and binders, and we have a combination that is similar enough to real gluteny flour to work in real gluteny recipes, when measured properly.

Can you tell us the story of a customer(s) pleased by Better Batter?

Sure! We have a customer who has a child with both celiac disease and autism. They were really struggling because their son was extremely self limiting in what he would eat. At the time, he was only eating a popular orange powder brand Mac-n-Cheese and breaded chicken fingers.  She was at her wit’s end, because the sensory issues that come with autism made it next to impossible for her to feed him alternatives.

She came to us to ask for help, and fortunately, I was able to be there for her in a very real way because my older son (who also has autism) was very self limiting, at first, too. We decided to switch to a great brand of gluten free pasta elbows and use the powdered cheese from the company and to make homemade chicken fingers using our flour.  It worked! She couldn’t believe he would actually eat the alternative, and I explained that if the taste and texture is perfect — and it has to be perfect — you *can* make substitutions.

Fast forward a few weeks: Her son randomly grabbed strawberries from the table and tried a bite. The next day, he grabbed some breakfast cereal (also gluten free). And the food list started to expand for him. As his body healed, his ability to tolerate different foods increased. As a result of better nutrition, he grew a great deal (about 8 inches) and his neurological function improved dramatically, to where he became very high functioning. He was able to communicate enough to help her realize that he loved playing the piano, and now he’s pursuing that with passion.

Sort of a long, roundabout story — I guess she’s happy with our product because it gave her hope and her son a chance to have a healthy, productive future.

Here’s a story straight from the horse’s mouth (so to speak!) from one of our customers at

“Since my daughter was diagnosed with celiac disease 8 months ago, I have tried so many different flour blends — both the kind I purchase pre-made and many I have made myself following various recipe blends. There is NO COMPARISON. This flour is by far the best I have used. I have recreated my old gluten containing recipes using the flour as the substitute and recipes come out perfectly. I thought I would never be able to do that again! Importantly, I find the my recipes using this flour are moist whereas with everything else I’ve tried, the recipes didn’t have the same moistness, they were often very dry. I have had friends and family who eat gluten eat recipes I’ve made with this flour comment that they would have had no idea that the recipe was gluten free if I hadn’t told them. It is so nice to not have to try to mix flours to come up with the right combo. I use this flour exclusively for any recipe that I’m converting from gluten containing to gluten free.” ~Jessica

Those types of people, and those stories are what keep me doing this and why we sell our products.

What do you hope Better Batter brings to people’s lives?

In one word: life.

I want our products to give people their lives back — their recipes, their memories. I want people to be able to bless their gluten-free relatives without having to relearn everything they know about cooking. I want gluten free folks to feel normal, for their kids to be able to have what all the other kids have. I want holidays to be less stressful, for menus to satisfy the whole family, and for budgets to reflect real savings. I want a world where to eat gluten free isn’t to feel weird or different or to have to accept mediocrity.

I want our company to give people life to the fullest. I want people with autism to have therapies they need and advocacy when they need it. I want the poor, the orphans, the widows, and the oppressed to have justice, clean water, good food, shelter, and education. I want to change the lives of people who don’t have the means to change their circumstances.

Most of all, I want people to partner with us as we pursue this dream,  because I want them to experience how rewarding it feels to leave a legacy for future generations.

Naomi Poe
Founder and CEO
Better Batter

The good folks at Better Batter would like to offer a sampler pack — one of every mix they make — to two readers of this site. Please leave a comment here about why you would like to win one of these sampler packs. Comments will be closed after Sunday, May 18th. Winners will be chosen at random and notified by email, so please leave a working email address with your comment. 

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no laughing matter Fri, 09 May 2014 15:59:23 +0000 Last night, I lay in my daughter’s bed, holding her as she shuddered in pain against me. She cried, hard, just as she had after I lifted her off the toilet a few moments before.…

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Last night, I lay in my daughter’s bed, holding her as she shuddered in pain against me. She cried, hard, just as she had after I lifted her off the toilet a few moments before. Her eyes were red with crying and the exhaustion. She told me again that her head hurt. Her stomach hurt. Her entire body hurt. “Mama, why do my knees hurt?” I tried to keep calm, talking to her in a quiet voice about what was happening to her body. But my body hurt the same way, in the same places, and my sentences stumbled in the middle, the words coming out jumbled. I know this feeling, the start of three to five days of pretty agonizing pain and exhaustion, emotional volatility and discomfort. But watching her go through it is more difficult than I can say.

“Honey, I just can’t stand gluten,” I told her, holding her hand and stroking her back.

“Me too, Mama. I can’t stand gluten too.”

* * *

For years, I hoped that Lucy had somehow missed the hereditary burden of celiac sprue. Statistics vary but it seems to be about 1 in 20 first-degree relatives of those who have celiac end up with celiac themselves. That’s a pretty good chance, but it also seemed like a pretty good chance she wouldn’t have it. We talked with our doctor about this before she was born, and he was pretty clear: there is no one protocol in the medical community for how to introduce children to gluten or look for celiac in children. That makes sense, given that so many doctors are ill-informed about celiac, its symptoms, and how to test for it. Ours is not. He’s kind, wise, and always up to date on the latest information. But given the lack of solid information, for decades, about the true prevalence of celiac in this society, there is no one clear path for how to feed and raise the child of a celiac.

Danny and I talked about this endlessly her first year. We decided, on the advice of our doctor, to do what seemed natural: feed her what we eat. We don’t have any gluten in the house. We weren’t going to bring it in for her first foods. Lucy ate roasted sweet potato, avocados, raspberries, and the pureed leftovers of whatever we ate for dinner. Pretty quickly, she wanted to skip the purees and simply gnaw on whatever we gave her. Salmon, roasted potatoes, broccoli — this was her food. There was no need to give her a hunk of bread, unless I had made some gluten-free bread for recipe testing and she reached for it.

After she was a year old, we let her try some of her dad’s bread at a restaurant. I remember that feeling so clearly. Here we go. Here comes the gluten. But there was no dramatic effect. She seemed fine. She has always been very alive, this kid. She loves her food, laughs out loud, dances whenever possible. I kept looking for dramatic signs: diarrhea or stomach pain, achy joints, blotchy skin. And there wasn’t any. Maybe we were lucky. Maybe she could eat gluten.

I never wanted her to be gluten-free. Lord knows it’s easier in this culture to be able to eat gluten. Most people don’t seem to understand this condition and I didn’t want her to have to endure the ignorance and bullying I see all around me. To send her to preschool and let her eat the little pretzels the teachers tumbled onto the table at snack time seemed like a blessing. We sent her with lots of good food in herl unchbox. I didn’t mind the occasional packaged treat at birthday parties or sharing Dad’s sandwich when we ate out. We ate so well, and she ate so many vegetables and interesting foods that I never really worried about it. She seemed fine.

Except, not really. Something in my mama-mind knew something was off. We knew that her skull surgery, when she was nine months old, was a deep trauma. She didn’t sleep more than an hour at a time for four months after that surgery. So the fact that she spent the next three years not sleeping seemed like her. But every once in awhile — and to be honest, it was more often than I wanted to say — I would think, “Man, when I get gluten, I can’t sleep either.” Lu didn’t sleep through the night without waking once until she was four years old.

(Side note: people keep asking us how we are dealing with the exhaustion of having a newborn. Frankly, we’re fine. Desmond is already a much better sleeper than Lucy was at this age. Sleep deprivation? We’re used to that!)

But I didn’t want to be the mom who refused to let her eat gluten just because she might have celiac. Lots of kids don’t sleep through the night until they are older. She wasn’t suffering. By the time she was three, there were nights she was up in the middle of the night making up musicals in her bedroom, singing and happy. I didn’t want to blame gluten for that. Maybe that was just her brain.

However, as she grew older, and started going to preschool more than a couple of hours a week, we started seeing changes. The night after we had spent a day in the city and she had eaten macaroni and cheese at a restaurant, or some of the extraordinary pizza at her uncle Brandon’s place, she had fitful sleep with lots of bad dreams and gas pains. The next day, she was spacey and lethargic. Sometimes we had to run to the hospital because the moment she got a cold like every other preschool kid, that stream of snot turned immediately into strep with a double ear infection and raging fever.  Luckily, she’s so naturally healthy that this only happened a few times, but it reminded me of my childhood, when I caught nearly every bug that went through the school and ended up with pneumonia or bronchitis every single winter.

And then it all started to pile up by the time she was four. Our bright and lively girl started spacing out when we talked with her. We talked with friends. Oh, that’s the age. They can’t listen to a thing! But it didn’t feel like her. She started having toilet accidents, after she had been potty trained at two. Nearly every day, she came back from preschool with a wet pair of pants and underwear wrapped in a plastic bag in her backpack. When we asked her about it, she told us she had been playing and forgot. But it didn’t make much sense. I started watching more closely. It never happened on the weekends when she was home with us and ate entirely gluten-free. But how could this be related? By last summer, she was at times so kinetically crazily physical that she started to seem hyperactive. One day, I found her on the couch, leaping from one end to the other, repeatedly banging her head into the pillow at the end of the couch. When I stopped her, and asked her what she was doing, she said, “I don’t know, Mama. My brain just keeps telling me to do this.”

She lost all the color in her cheeks. Our bright-eyed and bushy-tailed girl seemed dull and a little bit grey.

One day, out of nowhere, she said to me, “Mama, every time I drink cow’s milk, I get a tummy ache.” I looked at her, surprised. Really? We talked and talked about it. It seems like she inherited Danny’s lactose intolerance. We always marveled that when we took her for an ice cream cone, she would take five bites and throw it away. Now, I understood it was making her sick. We thought this was it. We took her off all dairy for awhile, then realized she was fine with cheese and yogurt. We made almond milk and bought her sorbets instead. I thought that would take care of it.

But it didn’t take care of it. She still complained about stomach aches. I knew it was time to take care of this.

This fall, when we were in Italy and traveling around New England in a minivan, we let her eat all the gluten she could. In order to get an accurate celiac diagnosis, you have to be eating a lot of gluten. How much? Some doctors say gluten at every meal, every day, for six weeks. The idea of that gives me the willies. It’s no wonder that some folks don’t need the official diagnosis to know how to live their lives. They’ve already gone off gluten, seen a dramatic difference, and they don’t want to do this to their bodies. I can’t imagine eating gluten at all, much less for six weeks. But we wanted to test Lucy. The genetic testing was too expensive. And I worried she had active celiac, so we wanted her to have a celiac blood panel, to see. So we let her order all the pasta she wanted in Italy. She ate pizza in New York. We stocked up on good kid snacks for the car and kept them in the back seat, away from my food. She ate a moderate amount of gluten. There was only so much we could get in her. She seemed to resist it.

And then the endless wondering. Was she cranky because we were traveling? Or was it the gluten? Was she not sleeping, tossing and turning and muttering in her nightmares, because of the gluten or because we were in an unfamiliar bed? Was she sick? Or was it the gluten? We just kept going, trying to get her at least six weeks before the test.

By the time we reached home, it felt pretty clear to me. She talked about the “blizzards of poo” she started having every day. She clutched her stomach often. She woke in the middle of the night, crying, and I had to go into her room and pump her legs like she was a baby, to help the gas move through her system. One evening, we went to a family night at our church. Someone brought pizza from Costco and Lucy ran to have a slice. After eating half of it, she put it down on the counter and ran to the bathroom, her face white. She still talks about that pizza. “I did not like that pizza, Mama. I don’t want to ever eat that pizza again.”

To me, it seemed pretty obvious. But I still didn’t want to jump to conclusions. Did she have a flu coming on and that’s why the pizza made her sick? No other kid got sick, so it wasn’t food poisoning. But maybe it wasn’t the gluten. It’s near to impossible to perform scientific experiments on yourself. There are so many variables.

Finally, we went to the doctor’s office to have her blood drawn. She was brave as they tied the rubber band around her arm, then watched as the blood scurried up the tube to the waiting bottle. We told her, “It’s possible that you can’t eat gluten, like Mama. We’re going to take this test to find out. While we’re waiting for the results, you can’t eat any gluten.” At breakfast just after the blood test, she said to the waitress, “I can’t eat any gluten! What can I have?” Immediately, she started advocating for herself. At every party or friend’s house, she asked, “Does this have gluten in it? I can’t eat gluten.” Lucy told her teachers that she could no longer have the pretzels. She needed popcorn instead for snack that day. She has watched me politely interrogate every waiter in restaurants we have visited for years. She has seen me skip dishes at potlucks and asked why. And for years, she sat on the other side of the table from me at restaurants, so her food wouldn’t drop onto mine. Without us saying anything, she sat down on my side of the table after the blood test. “Now I am gluten-free, just like my mama!” she told us.

Three days after she stopped eating gluten, she started sleeping through the night again. By the end of the week, she stopped having accidents at school. There has not been a single one since. There were no stomach aches any more, no blizzards of poo. She found more energy. She started dancing before school again. Her body calmed down. And by the next week, her cheeks were back to pink. We hadn’t seen our kid in awhile.  It felt so good to have her back.

But the celiac test came back negative. According to those results, she didn’t have it.

Danny and I decided, on the advice of our doctor, to keep her off gluten. The results were so dramatic that I couldn’t imagine going back. Maybe we hadn’t given her enough gluten for the test to be accurate. (Since I have published this post, I was told by a reader that a pediatric celiac specialist in Los Angeles told her that her daughter needs to eat three slices of bread, every day, for three months, in order for the adaptive immune system to form enough antibodies to the gluten for the test to be accurate. Three months! I couldn’t get Lucy to eat gluten for six weeks.) Maybe it was a false negative, which happens often with that test. Luckily, we have a doctor who knows this. It’s possible she has gluten intolerance, we thought. Or non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Since we don’t have gluten at home, and thus she eats 95% gluten-free anyway, this just kept her away from the Costco pizza and terrible packaged kid snacks at social gatherings. If nothing else, it was a great chance for her to learn to advocate for herself. So she was completely gluten-free for the first time since she was one. And she clearly felt fantastic.

This year, since October, Lucy has bloomed. Always alive and kind, she is feisty and funny. She has the kind of energy that can only come from finally feeling well. Plagued by two or three ear infections a year, she has not suffered one since she went off gluten. She no longer has problems sitting still at circle time at preschool. Her focus is incredible. We don’t have to ask her to do something 14 times before we finally get her attention. She dances and swims and walks through the world with a wonderful confidence. Last week, I asked her if she had a good day. Puzzled, she looked at me and said, “Mama. Of course. I always have a good day.” That wasn’t true when she was three or four. At five, she clearly feels healthy.

However, it seems that our hopes that she would only have gluten intolerance have been dashed. A few weeks after she stopped eating gluten, she had a couple of bites of gluten-flour pancakes by mistake. She complained of a stomach ache and fell asleep in the car for two hours. This is a girl who doesn’t nap anymore. She hasn’t since she was two. But after those couple of bites, she passed out. A couple of months later, she ate french fries with friends while we talked with their parents. After she had eaten a few bites, I remembered that this place did not have a dedicated fryer, and those fries were cross-contaminated with gluten. But she has gluten intolerance, I told myself. She’s fine. Ten minutes later, she was crying and blotchy faced, stumbling to the bathroom. She came back and fell asleep in my lap. We have been as careful with her since then as we are with me.

Since the test came back negative, we don’t know that she has celiac. And we’re not willing to test her on gluten for three months, and watch her be sick again, just for that confirmation. I do know that no matter what we call it, no matter what the mechanism — right now, and maybe only right now — Lu doesn’t do well with gluten.

Two nights ago, we slipped up, somehow. We’re tired. Our little guy is sweet and lovely, as calm a baby as I have ever met. He’s already smiling and laughing, freely, with dimples to boot. And he sleeps three to five hours at a stretch. Still, Danny and I are tired. We’re working nonstop on the last recipe testing and writing for our next cookbook, which is due June 1st. There’s a lot going on. So the other night, when we looked up at the clock and it was 6:30 and we had no plan for dinner, we decided to go out for pizza. There’s a pizza place on the island that uses a gluten-free crust and careful protocol to make a gluten-free pizza for its customers. Three or four times, we have gone there for dinner together, and I have always been safe. Of course, I remind the people working there how to take care of me, and now Lucy: please take off your gloves, wash your hands, make the pizza in your dedicated space, use toppings that have not been touched while you made other pizzas. They’re a family place and there are a number of families here that can’t eat gluten. They have always taken care of us before. The other night, we were so tired that we decided to call ahead and order our pizzas in advance so they’d be waiting for us when we arrived. We told them we were gluten-free but the girl on the phone kept missing parts of our order. But we felt safe. It felt good to carry the sleeping baby in his car seat, put him on the bench beside us, and share some pizza with Lucy. It felt normal.

When we returned home, I cuddled both the kids on the couch and read them books. I kept mixing up my words, slurring sometimes, stumbling. In my tired stupor, I thought, Man, am I getting old? Lucy seemed pretty volatile before bed, but she fell asleep quickly. I had a terrible headache, but I’m exhausted. And then, I was awake from 2 to 4 am, a cruel fate when it was my turn to sleep for awhile that night. Lucy was awake too, so we spent some time in her room reading. My knee hurt so badly I couldn’t sleep. My hands didn’t want to move, all the joints achy. My belly was a mess. It took me until the morning to piece it together. Oh crap. I must have gotten some cross-contamination. Flipping gluten. I could barely walk to the kitchen for coffee, my entire body aching. The trips to the bathroom began. I haven’t gotten any gluten by mistake in almost a year. I had forgotten somehow, the misery, the return to the halting stumbling pain and ache of every muscle in my body, the roiling rumbling sheer terror of pain in my stomach and the rest of my abdomen, the bone-tired fatigue. I wanted to lay my head down on the table. I couldn’t. There was a baby to care for. A kid to get off to school.

The kid. Oh crap, the kid got gluten too.

When I picked Lu up from her first preschool, she was in tears that I was the last parent to pick up. She started crying when I said we had to wait a few moments before we drove to her afternoon school so I could feed Desmond. She threw herself onto the floor in a full-blown fit, something I hadn’t seen from her since she was three. I tried to stay calm and console her but then I lost my patience since i felt like crap. We somehow we all made it to the car and started driving. Somehow, she cracked a joke and we started laughing. She apologized for getting so upset. I did too. I urged her to eat, since she hadn’t touched her snack and I thought she was hungry grumpy. My head was in too much of a fog from the gluten to make the connection.

“Mama, this cheese makes me feel like cow’s milk,” she said.

“What, honey? What do you mean?”

I figured it out. Stomach ache. Quickly, it became clear she had been suffering with a stomach ache all morning, like me. A headache too. She started to cry again. “Mama, I don’t feel well.”

I told her she didn’t have to go to school, but she loves this afternoon school, a place she can romp free with friends who are dear to her. I told one teacher what had happened and drove back to our studio to work. Or, try to work while I nursed a horrible headache.

When I went to pick her up, she was in tears again. She hadn’t eaten. She was a trooper, her other teacher told me. I had no idea she was feeling sick until the end, when she told me about the gluten. I’m so sorry.

On the way home, as we stood waiting at a stop sign, I looked back at her in the rear view mirror. She had the same glazed expression I had been wearing all day. She looked miserable. She tilted her head and I said, “Go ahead, sweetie. It’s okay.” Her head fell to the side and she passed out, asleep. I carried her upstairs and she took a two-hour nap.

The rest of the evening, she clung to me, flushed and unhappy, needing to run to the bathroom, her voice hoarse from crying. She perked up when good friends came over for dinner, and tried to be happy watching cartoons with her friends. But she didn’t eat any dinner. Nothing sat right. She turned down the chocolate cake I had made for Adrienne’s birthday. By the time they left, she was in agony. Writhing in pain, she begged me to carry her upstairs. I brushed her teeth for her, whispered in her ear that I understood and I felt the same way, and I rubbed her back.

For nearly an hour, she slumped and shuddered in pain. I soothed her as best as I could, trying not to cry myself, even though I felt the same way. Finally, I coaxed her into sleeping.

Lucy and I suffered through this because some employee probably forgot and dusted her work surface with flour before making our gluten-free pizza.

* * *

I wasn’t going to write about this. We have so much going on — a new baby, whom we waited three years to meet; a cookbook due; a James Beard award (!); new plans for our kitchen studio; life to live — and I haven’t been writing about the deeply personal lately anyway. I know there will be some  people who will scoff that Lucy needs to be gluten-free because she didn’t have the official test come back positive. And frankly, I don’t think it’s the business of any damned fool who wants to meddle. I was going to keep this to ourselves.

But the other day, before I got gluten, I saw this video from Jimmy Kimmel. You’ve probably seen it. It’s making the rounds. His crew went out to a park and asked people if they were on gluten-free diets. If so, could they define gluten? Of course, the four people they found to talk incoherently about gluten (“Um, it’s in potatoes?”) managed to sound just as stupid as the producers had hoped. I’m infuriated that anyone is eating a gluten-free diet and doesn’t know what gluten is. It makes our lives more difficult, those of us who truly have to avoid gluten. Just doing it because it’s a fad, and you think it’s a weight-loss diet, makes you seem pretty foolish. But more importantly than that, when you ask for a gluten-free meal at a restaurant, then decide to have the cookie at the end anyway, you make wait staff and cooks across America doubt those of us who need to avoid that little bit of cross-contamination. You are making our lives harder because you tell people you are gluten-free when you don’t even know what it is.

But more for me, I’m annoyed with Jimmy Kimmel and the spate of comedians who seem to think it’s funny to make a lame joke about gluten-free folks. As a friend of mine wrote to me the other day, ‘these “stop average people on the street to make them look like idiots on national TV’ bits have always been awkward, unfair, and pretty exploitative, regardless of the subject matter.” As we’ve been telling Lucy, just putting poo and pee in a sentence doesn’t make it funny. Just making fun of people who are different than you is not funny, comedians of America. This piece was not as infuriating as the piece where Jimmy Fallon did a mock-interview with a cookbook author who said he is deathly allergic to gluten and then shoved a pie in his face. What in the hell is funny about that? However, Kimmel said in the opening how annoyed he is with the gluten-free trend. “I mean, I know there are people who have to be gluten-free for medical reasons. I get that, but I still find it annoying.” (And there was a New Yorker cartoon published this week: “I’ve only been gluten-free for a week and I’m already annoying.”)

Hey Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon and the legions of smug people represented by that New Yorker cartoon — screw you. Seriously? Sorry that my 5-year-old daughter’s medical condition is annoying to you. If I had cancer would you say that? “I mean, I know there are people who have colon cancer, but I find it annoying.” Hey Jimmy Kimmel, do you want to try the searing abdominal cramps or explosive diarrhea that my daughter and I have been enduring for the last 24 hours because we got a little gluten by mistake? And then, do you want to hear some numbskull on television say you’re annoying because you’re sick, just for an easy joke? And then, do you want to see thousands of people posting that bit from tv on Facebook and Twitter, saying, “See? I told you so! People who are gluten-free are just as annoying as you think!” Even Michael Pollan — Michael Pollan! — posted a link to that clip by saying, “Gluten-Free People Actually Have No Idea What Gluten Is.” Really, Michael Pollan? I was hoping for a little more nuance and compassion from you.

That’s what it comes down to, for me. There’s so little compassion in this. Sure, some people are blindly following a gluten-free diet (even if they mistakenly think it’s some low carb thing) because they hope it makes them lose weight or feel better. But can you blame them, when we live in a society that says we should be ashamed of ourselves if we’re not at perfect target weight at all times? That says we deserve bullying if we’re outside the norm? Because that’s what all this blithe conversation and cavalier attitude toward those of us who have to be gluten-free really is: plain ignorant bullying. And I’m sorry that my daughter has to grow up in a culture that’s so quick to throw around jokes about her medical condition.

We’re going to make sure that she has more compassion for others than our one-line, quick-joke culture does. I hope this will only make her more interested in other people’s stories than holding onto her idea of the truth. And I’m going to keep working to raise awareness of why so many of us truly do have to be gluten-free. (I’m also going to work hard at dissolving my wish that Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon, that New Yorker cartoonist, and even Michael Pollan develop celiac so they can see what it’s like.) Danny and I love playing in the kitchen, making up food that anyone who is gluten-free can eat. I feel even more compelled to create good recipes in the face of this.

But mostly, a little kindness goes a long way. I wish we lived in a culture that prized kindness over disdain.

I could say more. But it’s 4:30 in the morning, and i’ve been up since 1 am. There are always a few nights of unshakeable insomnia after I get gluten by mistake. I just heard Lucy crying from her room. Sounds like the gluten is keeping her awake too. I’m going to let this go and go to her.









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