As some of you may know, a few years ago I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease. Thank God for EGD's and of course, the detective of a doctor extraordinaire (and equally handsome as HOUSE character Hugh Laurie) the one and only DR. MARK MCCAULLEY. This man is my hero, although at times I just want to smack him silly when I realize that my deep affinity for all things gluten is driving me bonkers.
For those of you who are lucky enough to not know what the perils of Celiac Disease are: It is your digestive system's inability to properly break up and digest such tasty items as GUINNESS BEER (well, I had to give that one up due to jumping on the sobriety wagon), beautiful, aromatic Russian rye bread, that you might find with a Reuben Sandwich, any and all round objects of my eternal affection - the household donut - and pasta. Ooodles and oodles of noodles! Gluten, in all its glory comes in all forms of culinary delights, even down to cosmetic items, lotions, shampoos and most food items that contain MSG and/or preservatives. It is not a disease for the faint of heart - nor, even more dastardly in my case - having a son who is a master chef. It just downright sucks.
Some of the signs and symptoms of this pleasure driven dietary nightmare can be, but are not limited to: severe abdominal bloating, gas, constipation, swollen joints, auto-immune disorders, headaches, malnutrition and fatigue. So, if stuffing yourself silly with Macaroni Grill's Pasta Dishes, fantastic, near orgasmic bread loaf with olive oil wasn't enough, the aftermath of such a wonderful dish will be a "Mama Mia" moment with the porcelain God and anti spasmodic drugs to settle your stomach.
I can always tell when I have ingested gluten. Whether intentional or not, I will usually wake up with the swollen joints, headache, and a mother of all stomach aches. It isn't enough that God gave me menopause early, a bladder that forgot to function properly or that my once beach blond southern California locks are turning grey - no God threw me another curve ball by restricting my diet to bread that can double as a lethal hockey puck if over toasted.
One thing that is gluten free is chocolate. Pure milk chocolate. Snickers...thank you Snickers for being my saving grace when all others are shoveling cheesecake onto their culinary palettes. And certain ice creams are safe. So is Tapioca and Rice Pudding. To be honest, there are actually a few brands out there of gluten free Mac n' Cheese that do not taste like century old MRE's from World War II.
Grocery shopping for those victims of Celiac Disease is an adventure. There is a great deal of having to shop the out aisles of grocery stores. Everything prepared from scratch is the safest way to go. Thank God the almighty cow is Gluten Free...to give up any form of COW, eergh, I mean NY Strip or Beef Tenderloin would probably cause me to go kill myself. Most fish is safe too, and drawn butter is a safe food. Baked Potatoes are okay, and given that I am Irish, and the potato is a staple of our diet, I suppose God has taken some pity on me. Even though I can't salute this tuber with a wee shot of Jameson or even a proper pint, due to my wagon always carrying me around. (2 years sober on 6/9!!!!!! YIPPIE)
Other items which are free foods: Luna Bars, some other forms of protein bars, homemade fruit smoothie (I can make one hell of a loaded mean fruit smoothie) Brusell Sprouts (which I love) all greens, etc of veggies, peppers, onions, which are best served with the Beef Tenderloin (BIG HAPPY FACE!!). and some but not all cheese. I never could bring myself to stomach Blue Cheese so I feel that I have the upper ground on that, and Gorgonzola, while mighty tasty stuffed into a hamburger is awesome, it would cause hours of unhappiness down the line.
As a former Southern California Girl, the TOMMY BURGER is most assuredly out of the question, although once a year I throw caution out the window, and my best friend Kris and I go to the drive thru, or the old Tommy's down on Beverly & Rampart and order a single with cheese, extra chili, the almighty chili cheese fries and ice teas. What follows within 2-3 hours is a digestive holocaust and then at least one day of self exiled suffering where I can blame no one but myself. Oh and let us not forget Pizza. That is so far out of the picture that I can't even remember what they taste like any more. Gluten Free pizza is similar to a rice cake, with tomato sauce, sparse frozen cheese and well, nothing else. Why bother?
When my youngest niece, Ally, discovered that I had Celiac, she was over the moon with joy. The poor little thing was diagnosed with it very early on in life, and her disease is even more sensitive than mine. She no longer felt like the odd man out. There was someone who could understand that pasta is hit or miss, (rice pasta tends to fall apart) pizza is a forbidden treasure, and that while other little girls are at birthday parties, with big cakes, Ally needs to bring her own cupcake. One of her luxuries with this disease is that she was diagnosed so early in her life that she did not know what she was missing in some of the greatest things on earth - like croissants, donuts, Gorgonzola hamburgers. Such a lucky girl.