Guest Post: Eat Sunscreen

OK people, once again my lovely, generous, talented wife has dug herself a hole with all the people she’s promised to help at once, so I’m picking up the slack and doing a blog post for her. I’M BACK, BABY!

*crickets*

(I knew I shouldn’t have written “Wait 30 seconds for applause to die down.”)
*Ahem* And here we go!

Ladies and Gentlemen: Eat Sunscreen

By a show of hands, who remembers the late 90’s song “Everybody’s Free (to Wear Sunscreen)”? *OK, now put your hands down. I can’t see you.

I’ve been thinking about that song a lot lately, especially the lyric “Understand that friends come and go, but a precious few you should hold onto.” That’s been going through my head every time this winter that I’ve cooked what could charitably be called “comfort food.” Why would I be thinking about Baz Luhrmann and Rozella while cooking? Because the next words of the song are “Work hard…”

For nearly a decade and a half since I learned to cook (don’t do the math!), there have been few dishes that have been quite as quick, easy, tasty, and just gosh-darned comforting as a meal that we just know by the simplistic sobriquet “chicken and rice.” That name encompasses fully half of the ingredients (not counting basic spices) of this dish, which takes all of 30 minutes to cook, serve and eat. There are few things as hearty, warming and filling on a cold winter’s eve that get me out of the kitchen in time to actually enjoy the meal with Audrey and whoever else we might have over.

I’m not going to waste your time sharing the recipe; that’s not the kind of blog this is (the recipe for The Perfect Roux(tm) notwithstanding). Besides, if you really want it, you can find it on the back of the Minute Rice box like I did. Yeah, that’s right. I’m not too proud to admit it. I’ve tweaked the recipe a bit over the years, added and subtracted things as the mood strikes. But we’ve always wound up going back to the original when we’re in a pinch and we just need food that tastes and feels good.

Or at least we did, until Audrey’s diagnosis. Suddenly we started reading cans (or running them through an app, or reading company websites, or etc. etc.), and we found out that most Cream of Chicken soups (yes, you now have 3 of the 4 ingredients, go nuts) are thickened with good old wheat gluten.

We went nearly a year without our go-to winter comfort food before Then one day I looked in the crisper drawer of our refrigerator at some fortuitously abandoned carrots, celery and onion (Quick! Who can tell me what those ingredients are called in cooking? Answer at the end of the blog.)** and thought aloud “Well, how hard can it be?” A quick internet search and a flurry of chopping, sauteing and simmering later, and I was staring down at a beautiful homemade cream of chicken soup…

…OK, I’m lying. It wasn’t quick. It wasn’t quick at all. I stood over that stove at the end of a long day at work, wondering what possessed me to even attempt this. I measured flour mixes and figured out what would thicken my soup without making it grainy (and didn’t entirely succeed, at least that time). I simmered, thickened, whisked out lumps, added cream and simmered some more. But at the end of all of that…I had one of my four ingredients. And no meal yet.

I seriously considered telling Audrey that I had made cream of chicken soup for dinner that night. I really did. But that wasn’t what I wanted for dinner. I wanted comfort food. And so I chopped and cooked more veggies, shredded chicken, cooked rice (because after all of this, I’m gonna just use Minute Rice?), simmered some more, dipped in a spoon and…

Heaven. Comfort. Bliss. I glopped it into bowls and brought it out to the living room where Aud was too engrossed in another project for another friend in need to notice what I was handing her. She put down her crocheting and eyed the bowl suspiciously before she tentatively dipped her spoon in.

And that’s when I saw it. The look on her face. Heaven. Comfort. Bliss. Pure, unadulterated joy at getting back something that she had just assumed she would never have again. And a long day at work and a long evening over the stove just melted away. It was all worth it for just that moment of comfort.

Since then I’ve dug out several more comfort food recipes that we’d written off and figured out how to make them GF. I’ve also figured out shortcuts so that I’m not spending hours at something that used to just take minutes, but the truth is that these recipes are going to take more work than they used to. But it’s worth the work. Because recipes come and go, but a precious few you should hold onto.

“Work hard…”
soupscreen
* Fun fact: One of Audrey’s first jobs was at the radio station that made that song popular (right around the same time too-don’t do the math)
**The quiz answer is “mirepoix”

F*&k You Food Network (and a plea to change)

This weekend my mother texted me to tell me that Rachel Ray’s show made gluten free thanksgiving stuffing out of cheerios…I honestly don’t know how I feel about that. Part of me is going, well that is just the Glutocracy thinking their being inclusive to us in the Celitariate…well it might be. It’s not hard to make gluten free bread into croutons, or dry it out. I mean half of GF bread is nearly dry enough to be crouton anyway. And the stuff that is really moist will never make croutons, just don’t try. But then again, I suppose I should be happy that gluten free food is getting some showtime on food TV.

I am very glad that we have a TiVo, or a DVR at all, because it lets me skip over food commercials. Although, all weekend, my Cruchyroll account was playing the same Subway ad over and over and over again. Sometimes 5 times in a single 30 minute show. And you can’t skip those ads. It was enough to make a girl want to pay for the service just to make it stop. There’s only so many times you can see a Thanksgiving turkey sandwhich before you REALLY want a sub. And you can’t have a sub. Sometimes, it just makes me mad, like eating a chocolate bar in front of someone on a diet. I know you can’t always get the food you want, but damn it sometimes it would be nice to know you can have something!

I feel the same way about Food Network, like giving it a big middle finger. To watch Food Network is to be taunted with all of the food that you really really really really really want and not being able to have a single bite. Sure you can do the complex calculations needed to make the same gluteny gluten recipe gluten free, and we all have done it, but that doesn’t really address one of my main issues with Food Network and Food TV in general. No one addresses substitutions or allergies. Chiefs think about it, they have do in a restaurant, but the average home cook or food blogger only has to think about substitutions once or twice a year. So, people with allergies or food limitations, have to thing about how to make correct the recipe.

I think about this around this time of the year. Food Network does this emergency call in live special where viewers are allowed to ask their Thanksgiving cooking questions. It’s all part of their special 3 months of holiday programming. I’m fine with that. 3 years ago, all I thought of asking was about how to make a Cranberry Sauce without orange juice (my one really random food allergy). I figured that one out on my own (really good Cranberry pepper jelly), but I still feel like food TV is missing something. There’s shows on how to cook healthy. There’s shows on barbecue and and entire show about sandwiches. There’s shows of food science and cooking competitions, but no one cooks for the allergies.

Honestly, I don’t think there needs to be a whole allergy cooking show. I just want a month or maybe just a week. Just one gluten free week, maybe in May. There’s a whole level of education that could happen around what it means to be gluten free. How to keep a gluten free kitchen. Different gluten free grains and how to cook them. Heck, give Alton Brown a one hour Gluten Free Baking Special (please give Alton Brown a one hour gluten free baking special because it would be amazing!) Just give it some coverage.

May is Celiac Awareness month, and it would bring so much attention to the issues if we could get the Celitariat to band together, maybe start (dare I say it) a movement. It’s not hard. Below I have included a letter that you can copy and paste and paste into a word document. You can customize it however you like, or just use it whole cloth. That’s the first part. Not take it and go here. Submit a “question” to Food Network asking them why they don’t celebrate Celiac Awareness Month.

With that done, there is phase 2, and that is harassing enlisting the Food Network talent to join in. So go to their Twitter, Facebook, and personal website and spread the world. Share this post with them on facebook and twitter. Choose a dozen or so and spread the word. I mean it’s a good old fashioned letter writing campaign, and just with these new fangled social networking thing .

But the third and final part is the most important. We can’t really start a movement with the 15 people who read this (I’m totally realistic that we’re not reaching a lot of people here.) So, for this to get anywhere, we need you to share this post. Share it with your friends and family. Share it with your gluten free support group (and yes those exist) or your family members who have Celiac. We need all of them to take this up too. Mention this in a gluten free forum or on another gluten free blog. Tweet it. Reddit it (I’m not sure how Reddit works, but am going to say it works like that.) If you have a blog, re-blog it. Just share the letter and encourage people to participate.

And if you want to get really involved, go here and sign the petition that I put up on Change.org to see if we can make this happen.

So, here’s what you can do:

  1. Go to Food Network and post the following letter asking for a some gluten free programming in May for Celiac Awareness Month
  2. Go to some of the Food Network Talent’s Websites (below the letter), and see if they will also lobby for gluten free programming in May for Celiac Awareness Month.
  3. Go to Change.org and sing the petition asking for gluten free programming in May for Celiac Awareness Month
  4. Ask your friends and family to also do steps 1-4 of this process in hopes of getting gluten free programming in May of Celiac Awareness Month.

And if we can all do these 4 simple steps, we might be able to get the word out about Celian and Non-celiac Gluten Sensativity. Hopefully we can dispell some of the myths around the gluten free diet and maybe (once and for all) get across the difference between those that choose the gluten free life and those whom the gluten free life choose.

Dear Food Network,

Over the years you have provided a lot of top quality food programming and created a community around people who love food. You have millions of loyal viewers who come to you for advise and education when it comes to cookery. You hare raised a lot of awareness in regards to feeding the hungry and offer advice and assistance for people all over the nation. There is a very important issue that we would like to bring to your attention in hopes that you might give some focus to it in the future.

1 in every 33 people suffers from Celiac Disease and need to follow a gluten free diet for medical reasons. Often times, friends and family do not know of understand how to support the special diet that people with Celiac need. Because a maximum amount of gluten containing materiel as small 3 crumbs of bread can make someone with celiac disease sick, it’s often difficult to cook for someone with the disease, meaning that people with celiacs will often choose to eat at home of only a few restaurants that they can eat at.

There is an opportunity to educate the public not only about celiac disease but gluten free cooking together. There are a plethora of alternative grains that can be explored from amaranth to quinoa along with the gluten free flour mixes and gluten free beers. This can expand the repertoire of the best home cooks.

Gluten free cooking is more than just substituting gluten free flour into recipes. There is a balance of careful alchemy to create the balance of starch and protein of wheat flours, and different mixes have application that they are best used for. Anyone that has ever tried to make gluten free food for their gluten free friends can tell you that there is more to baking or cooking gluten free than just buying some Bob’s Red Mill gluten free flout and substituting it in a regular recipe. The best way to address that is through education, and the best place for food education is Food Network.

We hope that you would consider  celebrating Celiac Awareness Month by having some of your host feature gluten free content, hosting a gluten free cooking week, or inviting some gluten free food bloggers as guests on their shows. There is so much good that it can do for the gluten free food world, and those of us who have Celiac Disease or Non Celiac Gluten Sensitivity

Thank you for your time.

Food Network Stars (and how to contact them:

Ina Garten: Website    Facebook   Twitter

Bobby Flay: Website    Facebook   Twitter

Giada DeLaurentes: Website    Facebook   Twitter

Guy Fieri: Website    Facebook   Twitter

Ree Drummond: Website    Facebook   Twitter

Trisha Yearwood: Website    Facebook   Twitter

Valerie Bertinelli: Website    Facebook   Twitter

Sunny Anderson: Website    Facebook   Twitter

Aarti Sequeira:    Facebook   Twitter

Geffory Zakerian: Website    Facebook   Twitter

Alton Brown: Website    Facebook   Twitter

Ted Allen: Website    Facebook   Twitter

Jeff Mauro: Website    Facebook   Twitter

Marcella Valladolid: Website    Facebook   Twitter

Katie Lee: Website    Facebook   Twitter

Tyler Florence: Webstie   Twitter