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Eating Out: Gluten Free Style

Raise your hand if you’re gluten-free and your general experience with gluten-free menus in restaurants has been a wrinkled, stained replication of the restaurant’s online menu, or worse yet, a nutritional guide that’s so confusing to follow, that you just give up and order the cheeseburger because that’s what you were craving anyway?

In my experience, this has been common for when I eat out. Granted, restaurants are getting better at offering gluten free items, or at the very least, recognizing the gluten in their ingredients, but it still feels like they want to hide the fact that you’re ordering gluten free. You get the “menu” slipped to you shamefully, like when the flight attendant gives you the seatbelt extension—not outright, but in an underhanded, “hope no one notices” kind of way.

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Stuffed House, Filled Cookies

My grandmother was one of thirteen children. Her sister, the eldest of the thirteen, had seventeen of her own. Needless to say, my mother’s side of the family is staggeringly huge. This resulted in Thanksgivings, Christmases, and Easters that were more akin to a theatre production than a family dinner. I can’t say how many ever attended. Of course, it was never all at one time, but my best guess would be close to forty relatives on any given holiday.

Christmas Eve, in particular, conjures the most memories for me. Held in the home built by my great-grandfather in 1909, then shared by my grandmother and her sister—both divorced, they raised their children there together—the cramped two-room ground floor of the house swelled at its fittings, holding umpteen brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, spouses, kids of varying ages, and presents for all, that spewed at least ten feet out from under a large freshly-cut Christmas tree.

My grandmother and great-aunts would work for weeks making candy and cookies for the festivities. Dinner was all homemade, from scalloped potatoes and farm-raised ham, to dinner rolls tinted with red and green food coloring, to my grandmother’s date-filled cookies, a crumbly, beautiful blend of vanilla sugar cookie and creamy, luscious date filling, that I can still taste to this day if I close my eyes and remember hard enough—although it’s probably been twenty years since I had them last. Read more

“A” is for Apple

I’m taking a food writing course this fall, hoping to hone my writing skills and discover more about myself as a potential food writer. Yesterday’s “Writing Prompt” (a fifteen-minute daily excercise) really hit me on who I am as a whole. The prompt is this: “Much has been made of the apple as cultural and literary symbol.  Write your own apple memory– be it the first apple pie you made, planting an apple tree (you Johnny Appleseed, you!), apple streudel, apple eaten down to the core, apple blossom parade or festival (there really are such things), drawing an apple on construction paper, the Wicked Witch’s apple in Snow White, apple whatever.”

Here’s my response:

I wish I could say that when prompted by the word “apple” that it conjures memories of the iconic fruit — so engrained in our society and culture through fairy tales, fables and lunch boxes. I could say that it harkens me back to my grandmother’s apple orchard, and her homemade applesauce that to this day, I cannot find any that compares. That I was always the first one served the steaming, fresh-from-the-pot sauce because I was a chubby kid and I wasn’t allowed to have sugar in mine.

I could say that it reminds me of the first time I ever visited my husband’s parent’s house and I picked an apple from their crabapple tree, not knowing that crabapples must be the spawn of the Sour Patch Kids.

I could also say that “apple” reminds me of learning to type in school on an old Brother electric typewriter, the hum of which is still stuck in my head. That the word “APPLE” was one of the first words they had us type in order to limber our fingers while learning the QWERTY keyboard.

Alas, no. None of these things come to mind immediately when hearing the word “apple”. These are memories that had to be dug out and re-cultivated. For me, when I hear “Apple”, it’s inherent meaning is my computer. My livlihood. Apple Computer. Macintosh. For over twenty years, I’ve had one incarnation or another of an Apple computer, usually several at one time, and cannot imagine my life without it. My first being an Apple II SE, a tiny all-in-one unit with a 12″ black and white screen and a whopping 20MB hard drive, which by the way, is displayed proudly on a shelf — I never had the heart to get rid of it. So even though the apple is the daddy of all fruits, that which keeps the doctor away, or poisons wayward princesses, to me, it’s home for another reason. It sustains me as a designer and every morning when I sit down at my desk and look at that little apple with the bite out of its right side, I know that today, life is good.