Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Pandora's kitchen

So today we had dinner with JP's aunts. They invited us for dinner since we hadn't hung out with them in months. They are actually second cousins, but it's easier to just call them aunts. They're relatives on his father's side.

Anyway, women in the restaurant business, you'd think they'd know about dietary restrictions. And they do, to an extent. His one aunt is a diabetic. He is also a diabetic, although not to the extreme that most of his family is. I give myself 50% of the credit; he deserves the other 50%. He eats remarkably healthy for a middle aged man (oy, who feels old?) Part of that is because I take a LOT of responsibility in meal planning. And it's a challenge between my Celiac disease combined with his blood sugar "ish." And who doesn't love a challenge?

Celiac disease, for those of you that don't know, is an autoimmune disorder where the body attacks itself as a result of some kind of catalyst. With Celiacs, it's from this lovely little protein found in wheat, rye and barley called GLUTEN. Gluten is a very elastic molecule that gives bread its "stretch". Gluten, by itself, is not harmful. Not to be confused with a "food allergy," Celiacs do NOT have anaphylactic shock (life threatening), but rather the body produces antibodies that attack healthy tissue as a result of a catalyst, which would be gluten in this case. For Celiacs, the antibodies attack the intestines which interfere with nutrient absorption. The level of sensitivity and severity of the reaction vary from person to person, which makes this particular autoimmune disorder so difficult to diagnose.

A large majority of Celiacs have emotional roller coaster issues once they've been informed of their condition. Others, like myself, come to this conclusion independent of a medical professional, and discover their "sensitivity" completely by accident. Fortunately for me, my grandfather was diagnosed as a Celiac over a year ago, so I was "vaguely" aware if the genetic predisposition, as well as possible symptoms. Once I started noticing suspected symptoms, it wasn't a HUGE leap to conclude that gluten might be the culprit.

Anyway, there are those that give a crap about my dietary restrictions, and those that think of it as a "minor aberration." For instance, I don't have a moment's worry about going to my mother's house since I know she is well versed in what I can and cannot eat. I wouldn't think twice about visiting my grandparents, since my grandfather is a Celiac, and I'm reasonably sure their house is relatively gluten free. I doubt seriously my daughter would even unwittingly cook anything that would in any way create the potential of an adverse reaction, even though her entire household can consume gluten worry free. My boyfriend, no problem with gluten, would check almost instinctively before allowing me to consume anything that would endanger my comfort or health. Then there's the REST of the families.....

For the last few days I've been having what us Celiacs refer to as Food Panick. That's where you're simultaneously excited about the prospect of going out to eat somewhere and terrified that you'll eat something that will make you sick. Now, I used to chortle at other Celiacs for their Food Panick, feeling very superior in the excessive care I take in Making Sure I do NOT consume gluten in any way, shape or form. HA ha hahhhh! Food Panic was an affliction of the Less Informed, and my entire family KNEW that I could get DEATHLY ILL if I was even exposed to this poison-otherwise-known-as-gluten! They all CARED! They all LISTENED!

Then I had this enlightening conversation with my father a couple days ago; referring to our Pennsylvania excursion in the near future: "You'll just have to pack whatever you CAN eat; we'll all be having our bacon and eggs for breakfast, and you'll be eating your gluten-free stuff."


Ok, the PA trip is 6 weeks away; no need to overreact. Perhaps he just wasn't paying attention. No biggie. I can deal. I'll bake myself a loaf of bread and take it with me. Whatev. Right?

But it's been almost a YEAR. Everyone in the family knows that I can't eat gluten; how can you NOT know what it is after 8 months? 8 FRIGGIN' MONTHS?!? Not an issue. Everyone has their own lives to deal with; other stuff going on. I'm not the center of the universe (whine!!), other life events take precedence. I'm OK with that.

So in the midst of my Food Panick, my boyfriend's aunts invite us over for dinner. In case I've never mentioned it, I love my boyfriend's family. They're my "idea" of normal. Sure, they have their drama, but it is in No Way even close to the extreme that comes from MY side. They renew my belief that people, as a whole, are normal. Not normals in a milktoast kind of way, but in a "as seen on TV" kind of way. Mostly boring with a little hokey thrown in to keep it interesting. I love them. In a way that's impossible to put into words. Totally. Completely. Unconditionally. They'd have to decide to be TONS crazier than my family (not gonna happen) before I even thought about disliking them even a smidge. Impossible. I love them. Period.

So we go to his aunt's house for dinner. They're both there with the Yorkies (pocket dogs.) We have pot roast smothered in gravy, asparagus with hollandaise sauce, mashed potatoes, garlic bread and lemon cake with butter cream frosting. Now, for those of you that do NOT know what gluten is, let me inform you that it's a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. Gravy is made from flour, which comes from wheat. I can't eat that. Hollandaise sauce is mainly a butter sauce, however the instant stuff is made from wheat starch. Cake, as you know, is made with flour -- which comes from wheat. Buttercream frosting also has wheat starch in it. My dinner, for the most part, consisted of mashed potatoes and plain asparagus. Thank you, and goodnight.

My boyfriend was "this close" to walking out and rescheduling dinner. I spent the entire night feeling like the most high maintenance, pain in the arse person on the PLANET.

Good times were had by all. :)

Next time, I'll plan ahead.

But I'm feeling slightly more justified in my Food Panic over our PA trip in May.