It's Monday morning, and by "morning" I mean 12:30pm. Monday is the first day of the service industry weekend. I'm coming down from two double shifts and a closing shift at the slow food pizza duo Pizzaiolo and Boot and Shoe Service. My girlfriend won't wake up, and we are out of coffee.
After navigating the dreadlocks, bird tattoos and ironic pop music on the record player at my local cafe, I find myself in line at our local gluten-free bakery. I hate this place. I don't know where the end of the line is, and the classical guitar soundtrack is killing me. I pick up a bag of "dinner rolls" and give them a little squeeze. The bouncy nuggets are covered in either tapioca starch or rice flour, and they are $6 for a bag. I'm looking around at all the tags, each stamped with the earthtone butterfly logo and labeled with GF/DF/NF (gluten-free/dairy-free/nut free) or some combination. Gluten free, Dairy free, Nut free. Some of the pastries even say Vegan. A couple of ladies are chatting behind me, "You know I had this bread and it really wasn't that bad..."
I get to the counter, and even though the whole place is GF/DF/NF/LALALALA, I still have to ask a question, "Do you guys use oat flour in those cupcakes?" Unfortunately I'm allergic to gluten-free oats as well.
"Um," the counter girl opens up a dingy white binder, "let me check." This binder has all of the ingredients of everything they sell listed in very plain language, and they keep it out on the counter for everyone to flip through. That's kinda nice. "Um..." she keeps making thinking noises, "no, nope, no, no, nope, no, Nope!"
OK. I get two slices of pizza and an orange cream cupcake. The pizza is like insult to injury, a pale and foamy looking dough with bad cheese and slimy tomatoes.
Keep in mind, I work at Pizzaiolo where perfect, sizzling pies fly like magical saucers out of a glowing orange wood oven.
Topped with things like pancetta, grana, squid, stinging nettles, heirloom potatoes, wild arugula; these pies are probably some of the best in the world. They make it easy for me to feel absolutely victimized by the melted cheese on a kitchen sponge I'm about to eat.
Welcome to my life, or the life of anyone who has a food allergy. Describing food as not that bad or almost tastes like the real thing, or you can't even tell(!) is pretty common (its also why I don't make a habit of eating replacement foods, more on that later). BUT! It's waaaaaay better than being sick. I was in and out of the hospital most of my life with misdiagnosed illnesses. Was I anemic? IBS? Chrones? No one knew. Eventually I just chocked it up to stress, after all aren't most digestive issues related to stress? Wait, what if digestive issues are related to what we eat, aka what we are actually trying to digest?!? Think about it.
Unfortunately, digestion is not the only thing that is affected by diet.
I got a text from a friend recently:
"Dearest friends, I'm really sick and I'm going to the hospital for a damn blood transfusion. Send the love :)"
BLOOD TRANSFUSION?? She had been losing blood through her digestive system for almost a year. It made her anemic and she may have Crohn's disease. The verdict: no smoking, no drinking, and a pill a day for the rest of her life. I'm doubtful. The doctor also said, "There is no cure, but it could almost disappear through diet and exercise." Wait, it could almost disappear?? Sounds like a cure to me. Just saying.
My dad texted me this:
"Hey! How ru! I prolly shoulda told u before now, but last friday I had to have some stents put in my left leg to open up arterial blockage in that leg. @ that time they also found that I need some stents in my heart also (remember how much trouble I had walking in carmel??) I did not tell u now cause I figured all that would accomplish would b 2 make you worry. I'm fine went back 2 work today. Prolly gonna try 2 get the heart stents done within next couple of weeks. Luv, dad"
A stent is a tiny metal woven tube used to open up clogged arteries or blood vessels. My dad's doctor told him he needed to watch his diet. The problem: Dad is a nurse, and he eats at the hospital every day. Imagine that! The very place where we go to get well is making people sick with the food.
So, there is alot of confusing information about what is healthy and what is not. There is also some pretty big players in the game: Michael Pollan and his vendetta against corn; Monsanto, the keeper of the seeds; the FDA and the big corporations that tell us what is "healthy" while selling it to us as well; Michelle Obama and her new food chart; raw food; slow food; fast food; food trends; locavorism; veganism; the dairy lobby... it goes on. Luckily, my hobby is researching food and, well, eating. I'll tell you everything I know.
*Lizzy is based in Oakland, CA. She recently launched The Grease Box, a mobile kitchen cooking up some soulful fried chicken, waffles, et al. All GF/ DF/ NF of course.