A note to a gluten-free friend

Several dear friends, including my mum, have embarked on this quasi-Paleo low[er] carbohydrate way of eating over the past two months. We're each encountering various benefits--lost weight, reduced joint pain, diminished asthma, improved energy, all kinds of compliments from others. And we're all having some difficulties in negotiating cravings.

I have continued to abstain from all grains and to eat meat at least every few days, but I had a two glasses of fresh pressed vegetable juices last week and ate at Cafe Gratitude where I suspect a fair amount agave nectar is lurking in even the savory dishes.

Another thing I've noticed is resistance to thinking about what to eat so much of the time. I was habituated to the level of awareness required to remain successfully gluten-free, but now I'm half-assedly tracking carbohydrate intake. This week I became preoccupied with omega fatty acid ratios and suddenly nuts became potentially problematic.

This is getting crazy I decided.

And it is boring.

I decided to stop reading and just eat for a bit.

A Joyful Celiac I almost photographed yesterday's three egg omelet with shiitakes, chevré, shallots and tomato, with rainbow chard and garlic sauteed in bacon fat on the side for A Joyful Celiac but nutritious as it all was, I just wasn't excited enough about it.

Here are my notes to A.B. after we commiserated yesterday. 'I just want to eat popcorn!' I complained, 'And I'm never making another coconut flour pancake. They just wind up being egg-y and not like pancakes.'

A.B., 'I just want gluten-free toast. But that's grain.'


Home made coconut flour chicken nuggets.

I seem not drawn to bring birds home--too technical, too many bones and moving parts--but maybe on our dream date we could make this.


I'm going to trying to use more spices and added flavors. I bought pesto at Rainbow today (made with only olive oil--not padded with damaging cheap safflower or sunflower or corn oils sneaking in and more ever--I only just realized that most of my favorite restaurant food--Dosa, for example--is made probably with bad PUFA--sad.). I usually make my own Za'atar though it never tastes as good as store-bought for some reason. Today I found a mix that's from a Palestinian women's collective in Gaza--so that seemed like a good idea. I wonder if it would work as steak rub. Usually I just mix it in olive oil and spread it thickly on toast. But that was back in the years of gluten-free toast. Now maybe I put it on steak as sauce, or on seed crackers.


As long as I'm not so drawn to meat I'm going to try to eat smoked salmon, like lox, almost daily. This has been my (expensive) vision for being energetic through Rohatsu when I'll want a fierce protein source I can eat easily and without cooking. Also The Fatted Calf just opened a Hayes Valley store and they have home-made non-glutened beef jerky from grass-fed Marin Sun Ranch cow-people. (Sadly Prather Ranch puts wheaty soy sauce in theirs so I am so happy that the Fatted Calf is here now.)


Lots of vegetables--yummy ones. With mushrooms. Yum. Using egg in soup like hot and sour soup where it's kind of disguised and functions like noodles. Kelp, too.


Going to try to dial back my carb intake. I think that it has been creeping up and that might be contributing to my cravings. I went back to cow yogurt because Rainbow was out of goat's milk yogurt for a week. Work has been rough sometimes and I was tired and I was eating more then a medicinal level of chocolate too. I suspect that hormones are also playing a large role in this.


Going to finally buy Nourishing Traditions for inspiration, and reread key chapters in Good Calories Bad Calories to remind myself why I am doing this at all. When all else fails and the hand is reaching for the maple syrup, popcorn, toast, or the mind is imagining Gracias Madre's gorgeous starch-laden, blood-sugar escalating rice and beans with mushrooms and greens, I recite to myself, 'Glycation! Glycation! Glycation! Dementia, arthritis, depression, diabetes. Do you want to walk happily to your grave on your birth-knees or wind up with expensive after-market joints at the risk of infection? (And worse, Johnson&Johnson just recalled a bunch of artificial hips! And they'll only pay for the surgery to replace them--not the actual total cost in case of complications or addition hospitalization as a result!) Glycation! Inflammation. Nothing tastes as good as being ambulatory and cognitively intact when you're ninety. Here, go eat some butter.' Sometimes reading people's stories on the internet helps.


When/if the oven is fixed, it'll be easier for me. Roasted mushrooms with bacon, kale chips, roasted cauliflower, coconut flour biscuits.


Gary Taubes tells it to you

Don't feel like reading 500 meticulously argued and footnoted pages this week, but curious about some of the assertions in my previous post?

Here's Gary Taubes himself, in all his academic aquiline elegance, telling you the basics in an hour and a half.

Steakatarianism, Part I

All my thinking about food has changed since my last post in August.

Over the past six weeks I have cut out grains and sweeteners completely and now track my carbohydrate intake. I began eating meat after twenty-two years of vegetarianism punctuated with a few years of veganism and the very occasional medicinal fish.

How did everything become different? First I noticed I had been hungry for months, maybe longer. It became apparent I was eating more and more eggs and cheese and feeling distractedly hungry even as I was washing the dishes directly after a large meal. I was snacking so much I was typing clinical notes at work with one hand, the other hand ferrying nuts or crackers. I started having dreams of drinking blood and tracking and killing antelope and elk. During my waking hours I fantasized about eating steak though steak hadn't passed my lips in more than twenty years. I was concerned that my weight was creeping up for the first time.

I wasn't sure what to do about any of this and then I happened on an archive piece on the benefits of working standing up. I am one of the lucky and I am employed with a flagship state university. After developing intense hip pain that left me sitting for five months on an old copy of the Physicians' Desk Reference, I was fitted with a supportive Steelcase chair and a sexy adjustable height desk that allows me to stand or sit at the touch a button. I went looking for more information about the physiological impact of standing for hours and happened on Mark's Daily Apple. The tenor of the site was a bit self-promotional for this New Englander--you will never see a photograph of my abs on A Joyful Celiac--but after I got through the piece on working standing, I began reading about Mark's take on eating.

I found an entire world of people who have decided that gluten is poison and wheat is not fit for human consumption.

For a month now I have been sifting through Paleo, Primal, and low carb blogs learning about grass-finished beef, how to order bison flesh in the mail, and why the glycemic index is nonsense. I have learned a whole new vernacular in which formerly innocent unadulterated foodstuffs are outright dismissed as neolithic. Adherents scuffle over whether nightshades are paleo or if sweet potatoes are edible. There are innumerable forums where beginners petition for sources of grass-fed dairy products and coconut flour. And everywhere gluten is denigrated as neolithic poison, as bad as high-fructose corn syrup. The Paleos slander the Primals and everyone hates Atkins, Inc. not so much for the low carb message but for flogging processed low-carb non-food.

The famed Melissa McEwen illuminates the territories with an elegant Venn diagram.

Science journalist Gary Taubes, author of Good Calories, Bad Calories: Fats, Carbs, and the Controversial Science of Diet & Health, has become my public health hero and geek celebrity crush. Here's the New York Times article that started him researching the pseudo-scence that resulted in the high-carb low-fat dietary recommendations that led to the astronomical increase in diseases of civilization and suffering of so many people I love. Overweight, diabetes, arthritis, dementia, and depression can all be traced back to the endocrine changes induced by the chronically elevated blood-sugars incited by carbohydrates.

Thus, my eating has changed drastically. (You just don't do anything half-way do you? observed an old friend when I explained I'd just eaten a lamb for dinner.) I got rid of all my grains and beans. I eat organic, free-range animals and Alaskan salmon almost daily. I bought a glucose meter and an iPod app, and I track my blood sugar levels. I aim to keep my blood glucose under 100 mg/dl to the damaging effects of glycation. I track carbohydrate intake more loosely with the intent to keep the daily carb intake under seventy grams. This allows for some fruit and dairy, but most of my food is dark leafy greens, nuts and the flesh of others.

After several weeks of this here's what I have noticed:

I am no longer cold all the time. I thought this was simply part of being me, apparently it was part of spiking my blood sugar and/or avoiding flesh foods.

Almost immediately I lost four pounds. It was water that flushed out when I reduced my carbohydrate intake. Without that fluid cluttering my tissues, I suddenly have all sorts of visible muscles.

I don't get shaking grumpy hungry the way I used to. I can go seven or more hours at work without eating or getting hungry. And then I don't become incapacitated, it just occurs to me to eat.

When I experimentally ate three slices of the vaunted Grindstone Bread--whole grain millet and quinoa with apparently low carbohydrate count--slathered in blood-glucose damping butter and cheddar--my blood sugar shot up sixty mg/dl to 153 and took more than four hours to drop below 100. This morning my fasting blood glucose was ten mg/dl above normal. This tells me that it's likely the ultra healthy no-processed sweets, whole GF grain diet with many leafies that I used to eat--that I suggested you could eat--probably had my sugar spiking over 150 several times a day and averaging over 120 most of my waking hours. (Gary Taubes and cardiologist Dr. William Davis explain why blood glucose readings over 120 are dangerous and lead to heart disease, weight gain and insulin resistance.)

I stopped adding salt to my food per Paleo instruction and soon after found myself dangerously near fainting whenever I stood up. Salt does bump up blood pressure slightly and it seems that when I salt my food I don't have to put my head between my knees when I get up.

I always floss now. It is intense and intimate to eat the body of another. Paleo, Primal, perhaps, low carb certainly, but the idea of sleeping with someone's flesh in my teeth is simply barbaric. (Also, good oral hygiene reduces chronic inflammation and chronic inflammation creates disease and death.)

I continue to offer my own experience with the hope that it may be helpful to others who navigating life with celiac disease. However, I am not sure what will happen to the Joyful Celiac, because now my writing seems less focused on supporting those newly living with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity, and more oriented towards my own experience of adapting to an even more radical diet. I don't think I can write about joy and food without acknowledging the importance of lowering carbohydrate intake for lasting health.

Whatever happens, I will be posting the recipe for coconut flour pancakes with almond butter.


Return to Joy: Today's lunch

A dear friend and esteemed food blogger had me to tea and wonderful nibbles last week. We talked about abundant eating gluten-free in a pastry-shop world and she generously gave A Joyful Celiac mention.

A Joyful Celiac is an offering to people with celiac disease, gluten-intolerance, and those who simple want to reduce their gluten intake. I post sporadically and I respond to questions about living and eating joyfully celiac disease.

Above, a thrown together lunch of several colors. Vintage tomatoes sauteed with lacinated kale & sprinkled with chevré, Cultured's Lemon Garlic Dill Live Kraut and most of an avocado.


Simple yet sumptuous

Last night I made lentil soup. In order to include some fat, I sprinkled goat's cheese on it after I took the picture.

I know everyone knows how to make lentil soup. I'm just reminding you that it's so easy and delicious. If you live where I do, the evenings are getting foggy and windy. Perfect soup weather.

Here's my basic recipe.

1 cup lentils, washed and examined for stones
1 medium white or yellow onion, chopped
About a thumb's worth of minced garlic (If your thumb is bigger than mine then clearly you need more garlic.)
A carrot, sliced into rounds
One rib celery (But who has one rib of celery? I usually leave out the celery)
Can of crushed tomatoes, including the tomato water
A few handfuls of chopped kale or mixed braising greens
A bunch of herbs (This soup had dried rosemary, thyme, sage, and tarragon, tied up in a cheesecloth, later to be removed and composted.)
Splash of olive oil
Salt & pepper
5 cups of water
If you eat dairy, garnish with some kind of fabulous cheese--asiago, real parmesan, or chevré.

Take your heavy bottom soup pot and heat your olive oil up a bit over medium-low flame.

Throw in the chopped onion for about five minutes and stir it around occasionally.

Add your minced garlic and your carrot rounds and celery for about five minutes, stirring about sometimes.

Now put in the tomato, your cheesecloth herb ball and some salt. Let it all cook for about ten more minutes.

Toss in your lentils and five cups of water and bring to a gentle boil for a moment, then put the lid on.

Simmer for about forty minutes, or until your lentil are cooked but not falling apart.

Remove from heat, free the herb ball, salt and pepper to your preference and stir in your chopped kale or greens.

Put in a bowl and garnish if you wish.

Store the rest in glass and eat over brown rice in the future.

One pot makes approximately five servings.



Dear Ms. W,

I am wondering about powders that you mix into drinks to make them fortified (and hopefully, their drinker fortified as well). I look at the packets and containers in the health food store and am kind of appalled—lots of them have evaporated cane juice and also many other ingredients I cannot pronounce or identify. There are quite a few that claim to be gluten-free and these seem to have the most healthful i.e. least manufactured i.e. most food-like attributes. Are there any you can recommend? Preferably that do not turn one's smoothie bright green?

Love, your faithful reader, etc.

Dear Faithful,

It is appalling! I too am frustrated by the near-universal sweetening and chemicalizing of the American food supply.

Of course the makers of powders have a good reason to add 'evaporated cane juice' and 'organic fructose' (that's corporate organic code for sugar) to their elixirs--their powders usually taste awful without sugaring .

That said, I have limited experience with fortifying powders. I have used the powders that one can add to smoothies.

Is this what you mean, Faithful? Or are you thinking more along the lines of (fructose-sweetened) Emergen-C?

I have used two different supplement powders in the past six years and drank Emergen-C very occasionally.

Both of them resulted in a vibrant green smoothies, unless I used a cup or more of blueberries.

The powder I have used the most is Ultimate Meal. It's got a comprehensive ingredient list that prompted a beloved to remark that it's globalization in a can. There are no unpronounceable mystery ingredients.

To me, Ultimate Meal tastes green and chalky even when prepared exactly as directed. (And the Ultimate Meal people are very directive.) I prefer it with a cup of blueberries. The website is quite emphatic about the product and their beliefs regarding human nutrition, and while I find this off-putting, they seem to be offering a high quality product.

Personally, I shy away from powders these days. They were a helpful nutritional short-cuts during darker days when I wasn't eating solid food, let alone complete meals.

Nowadays, if I want a smoothie, a high-speed blender allows me to purée many nutritious ingredients together.

For example, I might put in a base of fruits, including frozen berries, and then add hemp seeds, raw cacoa nibs and bee pollen. I've put walnuts and kale in with blueberries. Enough berries will obscure the taste of crumbled seaweeds as well.

If you're seeking high quality nutrient fortified convenience, I would go with the Ultimate Meal. Know that like most organically grown value-added unsweetened foodstuffs, it has a hefty ultimate price tag.

The price of inadequate nutrition, fatigue, irritability and potential loss of bone-density is higher in my book, though. So if you're not finding that you're eating fruits and vegetables several times a day and/or not consuming the amount of calories you need to maintain a healthy weight, high-quality nutrition powder blended with fruits and/or vegetables could be a good option--and if you add enough blueberries your smoothie will be bright blue! Perhaps you'll find blue more palatable.

Also, speaking of imbibable nutrient dense foods, I've become a fan of goat's milk kefir in the last month. While it's more expensive than cultured cow's milk, it's much richer so I find I drink less of it per week and enjoy it more.

Note to celiacs: Emergen-C now states that none of their products contain gluten.


Thanks to Gluten-Free Kathy for a nice cup of herbal tea

Tonight I am reveling in cabin-sitting on Mount Tam's southern big toe.

I made dinner (a bowl of sautéed shiitakes, braised greens, red quinoa with chevré) using a borrowed never-been-glutened cast-iron omelet skillet and pristine bamboo cutting board.

In a bag of safe foods left by the friend who'd provided the equipment, I found Yogi Tea packets. As I have mentioned in a previous post herbal teas can contain all sorts of things--including barley malt.

So I went to the internets to see if I could drink Sweet Thai Delight. Yogi Tea has a lush website but I could not find any allergy or ingredient sourcing information.

Quickly I found that Gluten-Free Kathy had already written to Yogi Tea and blogged the company's response.

Thus I had a lovely evening cup of herbal tea while enjoying Gluten-Free Kathy's wonderful blog.


How to get onto an airplane: packing a TSA-friendly picnic

It's been a rough year and half for my family and so I've been flying back and forth across the country to the Northeast more than ever before. This month alone, I went back East and also to Arizona for a total of forty-one hours of travel. There were long weather delays and I was grateful that I had lots to eat as I stared out at sleet and runway lights at JFK. The long-promised gluten-free foods at JetBlue Terminal 5 have never materialized despite all the calls and letters to the airline, so even in places we were promised help, we're on our own.

But that's okay because with a little forethought we can eat well anywhere.

My mother figured out she had celiac disease decades before I did, so I had long known that airports and train stations were devoid of gluten-free sustenance. By the time I was diagnosed, airlines had stopped offering meals on domestic flights, so I have turned down a hundred 'breakfast burritos' and bags of chips and pretzels. On international flights I found that I couldn't get vegetarian and gluten free meals and so I request fruit plates.

Sometimes though there are miracles. For me there was a hastily booked Delta flight on the trip home from Salamanca to San Francisco in 2006. I was told my meal hadn't been boarded for the Madrid to Atlanta leg. It was an eight or nine hour flight and my picnic was sparse. I was prepared to be stoic, but a thoughtful flight attendant wrinkled her brow, asked me if I ate dairy and disappeared down the aisle.

She returned a few minutes later from behind the curtain separating coach from first class bearing a ceramic plate, cloth napkin and metal cutlery. The plate was heavy with fruit slices and a selection of pleasant cheeses. My fellow passengers in steerage craned their necks and peered and pointed. Soon I heard them asking to have what I had received.

Thinking about travel food:

--Maximum calories and nutrition for weight

--Nothing too squishy. Ripe fruit can explode and leak.

--Make it diverse, yummy and pretty. When you're tired and sleep-deprived you are particularly vulnerable to making poor choices. The way to avoid eating risky foods in airports is to have a picnic that is more appealing than anything else in sight.

--Make it big. Who knows how long you may be delayed in an airport or on the runway where you really have no hope of procuring safe food. I increase the size of my picnic based on the likelihood of delays. The worse the weather forecast, the higher the number of connections, the more notorious the airports, the more food I pack.

--Have enough that you can give some away. People around you may notice the delights in your bag. It's lovely to be able to share. If you want to, you might explain why you have to travel with so much food and raise awareness about celiac disease while savoring clementines and muffins together. Last December I wound up on a flight from SFO to JFK with an empty seat between me and a high-powered business executive who turned out to be celiac and we shared treats!

--The TSA can accuse cheese of having the consistency of a gel, so harder cheeses are less likely to be confiscated.

Sad memory of Portland, Maine security officers taking a big expensive chunk of Humboldt Fog away from me as I protested that I had medically-necessary diet and I was going to be traveling for another twenty-four hours. The cheese had constituted about fifty percent of the three thousand calories I thought I was going to need to make the journey comfortably. My destination was in a foreign country where I knew no-one and had no sense of where I was going to find safe food upon arrival. But they had to throw my cheese away to protect public safety.

So what do I bring?

I have an enormous, tough leather satchel and I fill most of it with food.

Usually I pack both tiers of the tiffin.

In the tiffin I have at least one lunch. The second tier can protect fruit and cheese, or hold crackers and seaweeds. On a trans-oceanic flight I might pack two meals in the tiffin and carry the rest of the treats separately.

If you pack a tiffin be prepared to open it up and show the TSA your comestibles. I've never had a problem once they've examined my meals, though one officer seemed disgusted by the kimchee and pickled sea vegetables in a Cafe Gratitude ensemble I had packed in there.

I have wooden hashi (chopsticks) and spoon that always go with the tiffin. Metal on metal makes a teeth-shimmying noise.


--Two varieties of unsalted, raw nuts

--GF food bars: Lara Bars, Raw Revolution, whatever. Bring many! If you don't get stuck in Heathrow for two days or on the LAX runway for four hours, you can put them in your emergency kit or eat them at home.

--Fruit with structural integrity: not-too ripe pears, apples, and/or citrus. I especially love citrus on planes. A mandarina smells like heaven and peels very unstickily at 39,000 feet. Pack the fruit in a protected part of your bag so your books, magazines, tiffin and heavier foods won't weigh on it. One way: back to front, heaviest to lightest/most crushable. Then always lay the backpack or satchel on its back under the seat ahead.

--Dried yumminess: goji berries, golden Inca berries, mulberries, raisons.

--Crackers: Mary's Gone Crackers

--Crunchy seaweed

--Dark chocolate bars: crucial for maintaining cognitive function & positive mood through customs or during snow delays.

--Seed and nut brittles

--Maybe a GF muffin or two: perhaps a loving friend made you muffins or you were near a dedicated GF bakery.

--Something breath-freshening to chew on: cardamom pods are nice and they're not sweet.

Also: Metal water bottle, size dependent on flight lengths. You can fill it from the public fountains in the terminals and never lack for water on the plane. Remember to have it empty when you go through security.

For me, the difference between a miserable schlep and a journey where I meet amazing people and enjoy the wild weirdness of travel, is being well-nourished.

Be safe and joyful!

Friday night dinner in Arizona

Last weekend I spent three and half days in a blissfully cool Tempe, AZ with beloved non-celiacs. We roasted maitaake mushrooms and scattered them over a stack fresh tomato slices, roasted eggplant, Cypress Grove Humbolt Fog goat's cheese, atop lightly braised kale strips on a bed of mixed rices.

No recipe: just olive oil and sea salt & pepper for seasoning.

Grateful photo credit to Ms. JLowe, MFA, MA, MA


Safe GF Thai in Scottsdale, Arizona

Malee's Thai Bistro offers appealing Thai cuisine and a complete gluten-free menu. Our server was welcoming and seemed well-informed about gluten-free needs. The offerings were somewhat limited in the realms of options that were both vegetarian and gluten-free, so I had veggie Pad Thai and mango spring rolls 'with a hint of crab.'

The Pad Thai also made for a fine lunch the next day.

I eat Thai very rarely as a social treat. Though I have been told that traditional Thai food does include gluten, Thai restaurant food in the US features white rices and noodles and many dishes taste sweetened. It's all a bit higher on the glycemic index than what I aim to eat daily.

More on the glycemic index, and why I care about it so much, in a separate post.


Gentle change: beginning a new way of eating

Today over lunch one my closest beloveds told me she is considering taking wheat out of her diet. She'd heard from other (non-celiac) people that they felt better, mentally sharper and less fatigued when they abstained from wheat. She is a person with a very rich and busy life. Most of us feel daunted when embarking on changing the way we eat so tonight I'll share one way of looking at gluten-free change.

Don't look to replace all gluten foods with non-gluten replicas. Though gluten-free versions of most foods are available, they tend to be nutritionally bankrupt (e.g. rice bread), disappointing (e.g. rice bread), and/or too expensive for regular enjoyment (e.g. Grindstone bread from Sonoma). Sure you can get gluten-free pizza with a pretty good crust and I do very occasionally in Fairfax (though beware contamination issues).

Maybe light-crusted gluten-free pizza shouldn't be daily fare. The socca version with a chickpea flour crust is probably more nutritious and tastes fantastic. I have linked to a pretty schmanzy version--but I usually make the crust with just chickpea flour, water, olive oil and salt. On top I put anything--sautéed chard, sundried tomato pesto, brie, goat's cheese, shiitakes, parmesan sprinkles. One could make it sweet with pear slices and figs and cheese.

My point, before I began rhapsodizing about socca pizza possibilities, is to find out what function is served by the daily gluten foods in your diet. Do you need something delicious and quick in the morning? Do you need a cheese delivery device? Are you looking for something comforting to eat between tasks? Is crunchiness required at lunch? Do you want to feel less anxious and, thus, doughnuts appear?

Once you know what purposes your gluten foods serve, look to replace them with gluten-free items. For example, the quinoa-rice mix that I have made up most of the time can be a savory base, but also a sweet one warmed in an iron skillet with butter, sprinkled in cinnamon, and served with fruit chunks for breakfast.

Sleep is a crucial part of my gluten-free diet. I will continue this post in the future.


Have you tried tahini?

Tahini! Versatile, energy-dense, and delicious, tahini is made from sesame seeds that have been soaked. Tahini may be most familiar as a traditional ingredient in hummus.

Raw tahini is available (for a price) but most store-bought tahini seems to be made from roasted sesame seeds that have been ground into a smooth rich paste.

You can also make your own pretty easily, though I haven't tried it yet.

What to do with your tahini:

*Drizzle on your salad, quinoa, or toasted GF bread

*Blend with ginger, lemon juice and fresh ground black pepper for a salad dressing or sauce.

*Combine with wheat-free tamari soy sauce, a smidge of sesame oil, and rice vinegar. Add minced green onions and black pepper. Toss with your completed vegetable stir-fry. (Don't heat it too much, put it on already cooked food.)

*Dip apple slices in a bowl of tahini for snack.

*Blend tahini with salt, lemon juice, and garlic, with a little water. Use as a sauce for kale or spinach.

Like all oily rich foods, keep tahini the fridge in a glass container.

Real tea: Confessions of an aspiring tea snob

Real tea is made from leaves from camellia sinensis. White, green, macha, oolong, puerh, and black tea all come from this plant. Real tea is, obviously, gluten free. Strangely though a fair amount of packaged bagged product known tea is not actually tea and is not gluten free.

A fair number of Celestial Seasonings teas contain gluten. Bless them, they started clearly labeling their boxes a few years ago.

I am not opposed to GF herbal tea-like brews. I drink rooibos when I don't want to imbibe caffeine. I will drink bagged actual tea when its offered. I just don't think it tastes anything close to as good as real tea. In the privacy of my own home I drink tea. Mostly oolongs.

I have a full leaf tea for work, a straight forward Dragonwell which can stand up to ten or more infusions and a fair amount of abuse in the form of oversteeping and excessive water temperature. I keep a tea pot, cup, and thermos at my desk.

As I write I am drinking a Formosa oolong (Tung Ting, charcoal roasted) from my favorite tea shop in the City, Red Blossom Tea Company.

Other fine tea emporiums, which also do web business, are Cooks Shop Here in Northampton, Massachusetts and Imperial Tea Court in San Francisco and North Berkeley.

I found real tea when I was living in a remote Buddhist retreat center in the mountains of central California. I'd grown up in a cold climate drinking wonderful stinky loose lapsang souchong, and bagged Earl Grey & English Breakfast. Good stolid tea. Comforting and dependable, but not transcendent by any measure.

At the Zen center there were tea enthusiasts who would gather in the mornings or late afternoons and brew full-leaf tea for each other. There were also Japanese tea ceremony practitioners--a lovely but very different offering. One summer morning when I was luxuriating in a day off from work, a serious monk whom I held in regard offered me a cup of green tea he was drinking. It was called Clouds & Mist. It smelled and tasted like a murky heaven, clear and clean but with a body that deepened into a kind of marshiness. The next time I was in the City I went to Imperial Tea Court and spent my stipend on tea.

I chased the remembered taste of Clouds & Mist for a few years, ignoring the central wisdom of tea practice: there is only this one unrepeatable moment. I confessed to the monk years later that I was still looking for that rapturous Clouds & Mist and he laughed at me kindly.

"Any green tea could be called Clouds & Mist. Among green teas only Dragonwell is always some form of the same processing, same leaf, but with different grades. Someone could sell you tea factory floor sweepings labelled Clouds & Mist. Do you know how many tea plantations there are in China? Thousands! And every harvest is different. You'll never taste that tea again."

He went on to point out that the water at the retreat center was natural, mineral-rich, barely treated spring water, that temperature and barometric pressure all influence the tea's taste.

I understood and I stopped yearning for my memory of that tea, that morning on the screened-in porch in the wilderness.


I am not suggesting that celiacs ought to drink full-leaf tea, though it is hailed as having all sorts of health benefits.

I seek and drink tea because it's a sensual enjoyment--the look, smell, and taste of full leaf tea, drunk from a simple bowl, is beautiful. Beauty as I read or write at home is a treat. Beauty in the midst work on a psychiatric crisis team is sustaining. It's like drinking stillness.

We give up a great deal in order to care for ourselves. There's little ease or spontaneity in having to interrogate everything you put in your mouth. For me, real tea is an accessible pleasure.

But real full leaf tea is so expensive!

It can seem that way. But once one does the math, drinking really good tea is cheaper than drinking mediocre coffee. I spend approximately a hundred and eighty dollars a year on tea. I usually have four teas of differing grades and characteristics. A daily Dragonwell and three oolongs. One to two tablespoons of leaves in the pot, and then I infuse them up to twenty times. I drink the same leaves all day. The taste deepens, changes, and then lightens. Cheaper than three dollars a day on lattés. For me, more enjoyment.

What about caffeine?

If you don't want caffeine, don't drink real tea. White teas have the least caffeine but it's still pretty close to the amount in green tea. Oolong has a higher caffeine content, and puerhs and black teas more than oolong.

Bear in mind that caffeine in high quality green teas don't seem to have the same effect on the drinker as the equivalent caffeine in other beverages. People report not feeling uncomfortably activated or jittery. Some speculate that this is because of the amount L-Theanine in the young leaves of green tea.

The caffeine in tea tends to create a softer effect than coffee infamous rise and crash. But again, if caffeine doesn't work for you, obviously, don't drink it.

I am not particularly sensitive to caffeine though I have certainly experienced the uncomfortable nervousness and crash of too much coffee. When I drink cappuccino (two super smooth espresso shots with foamed milk) a few times a month to celebrate the weekends, I may get a bit bouncier for a few hours.


Every Saturday is like Christmas Eve

Because tomorrow is the farmer's market that's held down the street from my house and the farmer's market is where the fresh-pressed pomegranate juice comes from.

It's so tart and zingy that the friendly seller offers all sorts of suggestions for diluting it.

Add sparkling water! Add another juice! Mix it with vodka!

To hell with all that. Drink it straight and feel the power!

In case of emergency

Today for lunch I had brown sushi rice with raw dinosaur kale and Tasty Bite Bombay Potatoes and Jodphur Lentils. I am eating my expired emergency kit purchased in October 2008. (And though the boxes state they expired last July, the food tastes fine.)

Actually, denial runs deep in San Francisco. My so-called kit consisted of ten boxes of Tasty Bite meals on a shelf in my closet. I guess I'd always imagined that when the shaking stopped, I'd run into my closet on the second floor of the house and throw the food and anything else at hand into a bike pannier and ride away across thickets of downed power lines and oceans of glass.

Recently, affected by footage from Haiti, I was able to conceptualize more likely scenarios. One of my housemates and I envisioned how to protect the house baby in the event of a big quake and I realized that I would very much want to stay with my housemates and to be able to help the City. Now the plan is to have real personal earthquake kit ready.

I've just done my taxes and happily the Feds are returning me quite a lot of money. I intend to take a stack of bills (and the bike coalition membership that allows me ten percent off everything I buy) to our venerable co-op to assemble a real emergency bag following Joanne Bradley's instructions.

Her ideas seem solid. Joanne was escaping flooding, an unlikely event in our neighborhood. I will tailor my improved kit with earthquake in mind. I'm expecting to need to be totally self sufficient in terms of food for five days and water for three. The Red Cross will certainly bring water--but not gluten-free food. In the event of a major earthquake, if I were uninjured, I would be working/volunteering so I would need at least 1500 calories a day to be able to function effectively. After water, I am prioritizing energy dense foods that don't require preparation or cooking.

1) 3 1/2 pounds of nuts
2) 1/4 pound dried coconut shavings
3) 1 pound Goji berries/Golden Inca berries
4) 24 Raw Revolution food bars
5) 8 GF Tasty Bite entrees (Only 200 calories each but sometimes one needs to eat something resembling a meal)
6) Fish oil tabs
7) Multivitamins
8) Wipes, tissues, and hand sanitizer in a Ziploc
9) Migraine meds/Tylanol/Naproxen
10) Wooden bowl/hashi/wooden spoon/Leatherman
11) Black tea bags (I am habituated to morning caffeine.)
12) Dried GF soup packets (for comfort more than nutrition)
13) 4 Green & Blacks 85% Cacao Chocolate Bars
14) Matches
15) G/F nutritional drink powder
16) Water
17) Panties & socks
18) Sunblock
19) Windbreaker
20) Long underwear
21) 3 Survival blankets
22) The Pocket Zen Reader
23) An extra pair of eye-glasses

I expect that everything on this list will be pretty heavy and it may exceed my bag's capacity. I'll be packing it into the tough water-proof wheeled carry-on I got on sale early last year (photo above). Joanne suggests including a three cup rice-cooker but I don't want to depend on having access to electricity. I'd be more likely to pack my campstove since I'd likely wind up living in Golden Gate Park with approximately 100,000 other people. It's likely that I would give away a lot of the kit, and possible that it would be stolen. I'd rather have something to lose then to be utterly unprepared.


During the Katrina disaster the American Celiac Society reported receiving very little support for their efforts to get gluten-free food aid to survivors. The first gluten-free food pantry in the entire country opened only last year.


Regarding GF Tasty Bite foods: They taste good, appear to be mostly unsugared, are made from food instead of industrial products, and are packaged to have a long shelf life without preservatives. For example, the Bombay Potatoes ingredients list reads, merely, Potatoes, Chickpeas, Tomatoes, Onions, Sunflower Oil, Salt, Ginger, Garlic, Corn Starch, Coriander, Chilies, Cumin, Spices. (Yes, they capitalize the ingredients. Very respectful.)


Julie's Organic Ice Cream

Yes, Julie's ice cream is made with sugar. If you're gluten-free person who eats sugar you're in luck. I called them today to ask about their blackberry ice cream bars. A friendly live person answered the phone! He transferred me to 'the guys in the lab coats' once I asked about gluten in the products.

The lab coat guy told me that there are no gluten ingredients in their ice cream bars and that they make a gluten-free ice cream sandwich. He then carefully outlined how they save their 'allergen containing products' till then end of the day and wash and flush all equipment with protein-destroying agents between and following 'allergen batches.'

I thanked the lab coat guy for being so thorough and helpful. I told him I'd tell everyone I know about Julie's Organic Ice Cream. Then I ate a delicious ice cream bar--and nothing happened. No pain, no gastric drama, no mental fog, no sudden crippling fatigue, no reaction.

What is The Joyful Celiac doing eating and promoting sugar, the demon drug?

I don't know. More on stress, sugar, orthorexia and living with celiac disease coming soon.

Healing celiac silence

Just before Christmas, after a cold bike ride involving much hard descending and braking, my right thumb became stiff and swollen. A few days later the pain strung from fingertips to elbow. I have been taking naproxen, splinting at night, abstaining from cycling, and seeing a gifted acupuncturist. The symptoms are much diminished.

Minimizing typing outside of work has meant benignly neglecting The Joyful Celiac.

The Joyful Celiac will return to sporadic updating in the next few weeks.