The other night, as we sat around the dinner table eating pork chops and mushrooms, our daughter looked down at her plate and stopped talking for a moment. She had just been singing about something that had happened at school that afternoon, so her silence confused me.
“You okay, kiddo?” I said, reaching out to pat her hand.
She nodded, then started talking about a friend of hers. She and this other little one have been the dearest of friends, joined at the hip, so madly in love with each other that they told everyone they knew for months that they are getting married someday. But lately, there have been fewer playdates, a bit less time together. They still climb trees and swing and make up imaginary games. But there has been a bit of…lessening. We asked Lu what was wrong.
She talked about her friend’s cautious nature, the way she clings to the side of the pool instead of swimming, the way she admonishes Lu when she’s doing something her friend thinks is risky. We talked for a bit, explained that it’s in her friend’s nature to be more guarded. Could she still love her friend, even though they are so different? Yes, of course, she expressed.
And then she said this, sighing: “I just love the world. My friend is more scared of the world than she loves it. I don’t know how to convince her to love it more.”
Sometimes that kid blows me away.
I’ve been thinking about that conversation ever since. How much Lu — and Danny and I — love the world. It’s in Lu’s nature to be ebullient, fearless, and in love with everyone she meets. It’s how she entered this world, I believe. And I just love her wish: to teach her friend to love the world more than fear it.
I’ve also been thinking about a talk I heard a few weeks ago, given by a rabbi visiting our Unitarian fellowship. She told a creation story, that the creator was so full of light that the entire universe was full. Breath held, an empty space formed. And that space was filled with our world and humans, made up of shards of light from the creator. Our job is to reunite what has been broken. To collect the shards of light. To gather the sparks and return them to creation. We all choose to gather light in whatever way fits us. There’s plenty of brokenness to go around, after all.
But it’s that brokenness, that fear of the world, that seems to dominate media, social and otherwise. We dwell on horrible stories. Celebrity gossip — my goodness, what a waste of time. And I feel like most of us must elbow our way to find a place in this world, with SEO rewards and more money and shiniest hair, because we forget we’re just supposed to be collecting light.
Oh goodness, I should say something funny. This has all grown a little deep. But this is where I’m standing today, hands open, just looking for shards to grab.
Here are some stories that moved me this week. Maybe they’ll work for you too.
Sam Polk, founder of Groceryships, wrote a courageous piece on the true problem of Wall Street: wealth addiction. Unfortunately, it affects all of us.
I love Charles Blow’s op-ed on the power of books. Did you know that 25% of Americans did not read a single book this year? The James Baldwin quote he cited left me breathless:
“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me the most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.”
This boy loves his sister so much that this video made me long for Lucy to have a sibling.
This young man, Sam Bern, is one of the most eloquent and sweet-hearted people I’ve never met. He knew more about living life than most of us.
Diana Nyad’s TED talk on her swim from Cuba to Florida is going to live on my computer permanently. If I start to feel sorry for myself, I’ll watch it again. As she says, find a way.
I have gone back to Bee Walker’s photography tumblr every day this week, just to pause and take in the beauty of her world.
And in the only one of these related to food, this TED talk by Sandra Aamodt makes it clear why dieting doesn’t work and why it may not matter in the long run. Did you know that 80% of 10-year-old girls say they have been on a diet already? Not our kid. Not if we can help it.
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We’re also trying to gather a little light in the world by answering your questions. Danny and I get so many questions in our emails and on Facebook and Twitter, and we do our best to answer them all. But we thought Fridays might be a good time to answer some of them here, so everyone can read the answers.
“What types of baking recipes are easiest to convert to gluten free?” — Amber
My one-sentence answer is this: the kinds of recipes that don’t require gluten!
Now, instead of leaving you there, let me explain.
For hundreds of years, we’ve used wheat flour for baked goods predominately because it has been the most widely available. Teff flour wasn’t known outside of Ethiopia, for the most part, until the 20th century. If we had all known teff, I think it might have become the required flour for chocolate baked goods long ago. But, since wheat flour is the only we’ve really known, we’ve used it to death. That might be part of the reason for the rise of celiac: wheat flour was the only choice. And we really like our starchy, bready sweet things in this culture.
However, if we designed the best flour for making quick breads, muffins, and cakes right now? We would never choose wheat flour. Think of the directions for a typical cake recipe. Once you add the dry ingredients, it always reads “Mix until just combined. Do not over-mix!” Why? Because we don’t want to activate the gluten. Make a cake with the right ratio of gluten-free flours and you will never have a tough cake.
Why does banana bread need the stretchy, elastic qualities of gluten? It doesn’t. The best banana bread I have ever made uses almond flour, arrowroot flour, and buckwheat flour. Not only is it gluten-free but it’s free of grains as well. It’s soft and tender and stays moist for days.
So think of all the recipes that do not require the stretchy elasticity of gluten or the structure it contributes. Bread? Yes, it requires gluten, although there are ways around that. But brownies, banana bread, bar cookies, and birthday cakes? Heck with the gluten.
“I’d like to know based on the laws in place today should I trust something that clearly states gluten free with no warning of processing/exposure environment? Or do I need to do the due diligence?” — Cathy
Advocate for yourself, always.
Gluten-free has become so ubiquitous that companies are jumping on the bandwagon to make sales. Hurrah! And yaboo sucks! Just because something is naturally free of gluten, like corn, does not mean the final product is gluten-free. You have to ask every company about their practices. What are their sources? What care do they take to avoid cross-contamination? What about transportation of ingredients? Is there a dedicated gluten-free line or is it just throw on the same line as the gluten products, right after? Are those tortilla chips fried in the same oil as flour tortillas?
This is part of the reason we run our own sponsorship program on this site. We want to recommend the companies who make great food and take the greatest care. You can see their ads to the left of this post. Check them out. There are more on our sponsorship page.
Honestly, I do not put a bite of food into my mouth until I have ascertained for myself that it is gluten-free. That’s why having celiac can be annoying and time-consuming. But it’s not worth the risks to get a little bit of gluten, occasionally. Or often.
“I’d love to hear more from you/others about personal body care products, not just food. Personally my sensitivity got noticeably worse this year and I find I no longer need to ingest gluten to have a reaction. Topical application also triggers it. I am not used to reading the labels on my conditioner, sun screen, etc. Lately, it seems as if wheat and oat germ protein and oil are in every product I find!” — Jamie
It’s hard enough to explain to family and friends why you can’t eat the dinner rolls or stir fry they made for you. It’s even harder to explain why you can’t use the shampoo in their guest room!
The official line, even in some of the most trusted celiac centers, is that cosmetics and lotions don’t have to be gluten-free since they aren’t being eaten. But thousands of celiacs disagree. If I use a shampoo with hydrolyzed wheat protein in it? My hair turns to straw the next day. If your lipstick has gluten in it, you’re eating a little bit of gluten when you dress up for a party.
I think it matters. So do many people. Look at the post on the Facebook page of the University of Chicago Celiac Center, where people weigh in with their favorite suggestions. There are plenty of ideas there.
Me? I use very little cosmetics at all. I wash my face with a soap made by a farmer here on Vashon, which is made with lard from their pigs. (It’s like I live in Little House on the Prairie, really.) I use avocado oil or coconut oil for lotion, on my body and my face. My skin is super-soft without any chemicals. Trader Joe’s sells a citrus shampoo that works for me, and sometimes I use baking soda and lemon juice. Of course, I live on a a rural island and rarely wear makeup, so this routine might not work for some of you.
If you have celiac, what shampoos, soaps, lotions, makeup, lipstick and other cosmetics do you use without a reaction?
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I hope this helped bring you a little light for the weekend.