Thursday, June 16, 2011

Digestive Discrimination: Don't be Rude. Get with the Program!

Seven years ago, I was diagnosed with food allergies, including gluten and dairy, which I call "the big ones." At the time, I was a dedicated sandwich eater—Dedicated. I was also heavily involved in the food community as a server, and as the girlfriend of an up-and-coming celebrity chef. 

Suddenly, I felt like an outsider. To put it lightly, many people went out of their way to make me feel that way. I experienced strong digestive discrimination from friends, relatives, and strangers at restaurants, social gatherings, and dinner parties. I even received threats from chefs and owners of restaurants, who thought I shouldn't be working in in the industry if I couldn't eat their food. 

Now that so many people are being diagnosed with gluten intolerance and Celiac disease, I am considered a valuable member of the food industry. I am able guide people around menus, and I can teach chefs and bakers about the differences between glutenous and non-glutenous grains. 

Digestive discrimination has lightened over the last year or so, but it is still a problem that needs to be educated out of our society. 

Only a few days ago, the burger featured above got me into an argument with a random patron at a McMenamins pub in North Portland. The guy must have noticed that I had brought my own bread into the restaurant. I'm sure that, to any other patron, I must look extremely particular bringing in my own bread. But that's my business, and if the guy had been listening, he would have heard me tell the waiter that I couldn't eat gluten. Anyway, I overheard him making fun of me from across the room when I started taking pictures of my food. And you know, the boisterous laughs from his friends that quickly followed grated against my already sensitive digestive system. 

I told the guy that he didn't need to be a jerk. Red faced, he said he was just joking. None of his companions turned to look at me. I told him to joke more quietly next time. So he did, and his companions laughed even louder at my expense. I looked directly at their table, but not one of them had the courage to look at me. 

If you know anything about the passive-aggressive nature of Portlanders, you know how unexpected my reaction was. Not even a minute later, the guy was suddenly interested in an evening walk.  Before I put my camera away, he and his friends left without another look in my direction.

I'm sure that many of you have experienced digestive discrimination since your diagnosis. But be strong. We deserve to eat out just like everyone else. And here's an encouraging thought: people who have discriminated against me, have later come to me for help (or at the very least, for support) after they were diagnosed with food allergies. I was nice enough to embrace them, even after they were rude to me. This blog isn't called Eating Friendly for nothing! 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Product Review: Udi's Bread

There are a number of gluten-free (GF) bread products available in supermarkets and natural food stores, but they are expensive, and some of them taste like cardboard. To keep from being disappointed and wasting your dollars, you simply need to know which products to buy.

Meet Udi's, the company that is revolutionizing the way GF bread is made. Based out of Denver, Colorado, Udi's makes a number of GF products, including bagels, pizza crust, granola, and muffins. You can find them (and their store locator) at

For those of you who know how dense GF bread is, and how easily it crumbles unless toasted, you will appreciate the soft, springy texture of Udi's breads. The slice shown in the picture below wasn't toasted. I pulled it straight out of the bag, pressed on it, and took a snap-shot. Un-toasted, the bread was spongy, chewy, and slightly sweet. For flavor, I gave it an A-. I'm still waiting for Udi's to make me think of mom's home baked when I bite into their bread. For convenience of use, I gave it an A+! I purchased this loaf for $4.99. Some brands of GF bread loaves cost up to $7.00!

The hardest thing about eating GF bread is its portability. I remember, years ago, fantasizing about building a portable toaster that had interchangeable plug-ins: one that inserted into a car's cigarette lighter, and one that inserted into a wall socket. I used to lay in bed at night and think of how a toaster could be made small enough to fit into a computer bag. Well, that fantasy is over, because Udi's bread is very portable. It's soft and enjoyable, and it doesn't require a toaster to make it so. Last summer, I took a bag of Udi's bagels with me on a road trip, sometimes leaving it in the car in temperatures as warm as seventy-plus degrees. Most GF breads need to be refrigerated or they will go bad. Udi's bagels were tasty to the very last. 

Like all GF breads, if you are eating something juicy, like a burger, toasting the bread helps keep it from falling apart. If you're eating a regular sandwich, like ham, or PB&J, the bread will stay together, it will be soft and chewy, and it will taste great!

I enjoy Udi's plain bread and bagels, more than I enjoy their whole grain version. To me, it tastes more like fresh baked bread, but not quite like the real thing (yet). The raisin bread is very tasty, especially when toasted and eaten with cream cheese (I used tofutti sour cream: De-lish!) When toasted, Udi's bread is light, crunchy, and it almost melts in your mouth. I tried to eat a burger with the whole grain bagel (un-toasted), but the saying "Where's the beef?" came to mind. See image below:

All it means is that Udi's bagels are not hamburger buns, which I hear that Udi's now makes. Once I get my hands on some of Udi's buns, you'll be reading about it here.  

Happy Eating Friendly! And enjoy those summer barbecues with the convenience of bread portability!