Andy has celiac disease. We found out on Thursday, when he had an endoscopy to confirm what a blood test he got a month before had indicated. Backing up. Andy has Type 1 diabetes, which he was diagnosed with when he was 14. He’s seen the same endocrinologist since then, but that doctor moved to a private care model a few months ago, where you have to pay $1500 out of pocket to keep seeing him, so Andy switched doctors. In his first appointment with the new endocrinologist, she asked him if he had ever been tested for celiac disease, since it, like diabetes, is an autoimmune disorder. He said no, he didn’t think so, but that he didn’t think it would be possible to have it because he eats gluten all the time and feels fine. She did the test anyway, and three of the four markers for celiac came back positive. So we scheduled an endoscopy to confirm, and Andy was encouraged to keep eating his normal diet, because switching to a gluten free one can make celiac harder to diagnose. (Side note: Do you remember the cinnamon rolls I made last month? At the very end of the post? I made those for Andy after he found out about the blood test indicating celiac, because they’re the recipe he picked to try out of my new Bravetart baking book (I really picked the wrong time to get a fun new baking book) and I didn’t know if he’d be able to eat stuff like that for much longer. When the kids and I showed him the cinnamon rolls they said, “We’re sorry you have a disease, Papa” so they’ll forever be “sorry-you-have-a-disease cinnamon rolls” in my mind). After the procedure, the gastroenterologist walked by Andy’s recovery bed and said, “I definitely see signs of celiac. You should have your children tested too.” and just kept right on walking. So I guess we’ll have to set up a follow-up appointment with someone to get answers to the trillions of questions in our heads right now. I feel so bad for Andy, who is such a bread and meat guy. He’s happiest with a hot dog on a cheap bun, a hamburger, a slice of pizza. I’m sad for me too, because it means giving up a lot of the baking projects I have long been fantasizing about. I’ve been wanting to build a cob oven to bake sourdough bread, and pizzas, and pies for so long. I was scrolling through Instagram and someone’s picture of homemade English muffins made me so sad. Because even if I took the trouble to make them, in a house where we really shouldn’t even have regular flour around anymore, I couldn’t share them with Andy, not ever again for the rest of our lives. It probably seems dumb and trivial just reading that here, but honestly it breaks my heart to not get to share that stuff with Andy. There will be no great American sandwich tour, like we’d planned on taking just as soon as the kids were old enough to not make a drive across the country sound completely miserable. Eating at restaurants, at potlucks, at holiday meals will forever be difficult. Yet, at the same time, I am so utterly grateful that Andy switched doctors, and that this new one thought to look for celiac. With no symptoms, this could have stayed undiagnosed for a long time, during which time Andy’s body would absorb less and less nutrients and become more susceptible to developing cancer. It’s a huge gift to know this early and to be able to do the right thing to keep Andy, and possibly the boys, healthy. So for now, we’re eating gluten-free meals. We kept some regular pasta in the pantry and a loaf of white bread in the freezer for the kids, who love buttered noodles and toast with jam, but maybe (probably?) we’ll lose those too. I’ve read that people with celiac are better off not eating grains of any kind, so maybe we’ll transition to that eventually. It’s a lot. I’m so behind on a blog post too, and had so many other things to share here- how our CSA box subscription is going (spoiler- I’m up to my eyeballs in large radishes and turnips), how my presentation about food blogging went (pretty good!), why I didn’t write another epic post about breakfast tacos in Austin this year, and our trip to Portland to play in the snow and see my family. I’ll try to hit the highlights below. Here’s what the last month looked like.
We went to Portland and built this creepy snowman. And we went skiing for the first time. And just before that, I sprained my ankle. We had just pulled into Timberline Lodge, and I got all the warm weather stuff on the kids and we hiked up the snowy hill next to the parking lot and played for 20 minutes, but it was way past lunchtime and we needed to eat, so I called the kids to come back to me. Henry was at the bottom of a big hill, having ridden the sled down there, and it took him a million years to drag his feet through the snow to the top of the hill. His glove came off in the process (I spent much of my time in the snow fixing errant kid gloves (the other kind of kid gloves)) so I headed over to meet him to fix it and as I was leaning down I said “Don’t let go of the…” right when he let go of the sled. So it started to slide back down that big hill, the one that takes so long to climb up, so I lunged for it and the snow buckled beneath me in a weird way and my ankle rolled to the wrong side and I missed the stupid sled after all and as I was walking down to it, I realized I had really hurt myself. My ankle swelled up and bruised and it hurt to walk on that day. It’s the very ankle that is relaxing in this picture with the creepy snowman. Anyway, my mom got me ice and gave me ibuprofen, and it felt a lot better in the morning.
That night, we ate dinner at the super fancy restaurant in the lodge. This probably should not have been attempted with two kids who aren’t great in restaurants anyway, who were adjusting to Pacific time, and who were exhausted from running through snow drifts for hours. But we got through it, and probably it was even worth it because I got to eat a really delicious salmon with ‘nduja butter. Also, aren’t my parents cute? Henry took this picture of them, during one of the brief and shining moments when he and George weren’t lying sprawled out in their chairs, moaning about how tired and hungry they were.
Boy did these kids hate skiing. George said, “I fell down a thousand times and I had to be helped back up again every time.”
My mom and I did pretty okay though! We both made it through our first-ever skiing attempts unscathed, and my ankle felt fine, locked into that tight, rigid plastic boot. And clearly, we looked good doing it.
My brother Cameron moved with his family from Humboldt in California up to Portland to help open this new chain of ramen restaurants. The kids and I were out with my mom one day around lunchtime and realized we could go check out Cam’s new restaurant. We drove to the location where we thought he would be, but we were wrong- he was at another location 10 minutes away. The kids were starving and finding a parking spot at this location had taken 15 minutes so we just ate at the non-brother ramen location. It was delicious! They put a smoky charred tare on top that’s really great. Also while here, a lady walked into the single-occupancy bathroom while I was peeing (I thought I had locked the door but I had not twisted the lock far enough) and the kids were just in there standing around waiting for me, cuz they had already peed, and we were all really surprised when that lady opened the door. What just popped out of my mouth was “No thanks!” and she was like, “Ack! You didn’t lock the door!” and it was all super awkward. I avoided eye contact with her on the way out of the bathroom and did enjoy my ramen very much and sorry I shared this story with you. It was probably unnecessary.
We basked in the brilliance of these wonderful cousins, Jack and Leon, who are both kind and beautiful people. I wish we got to see them more often. Huge thanks to my parents for showing us a magical, wonderful time.
Bo Bun Salad. It’s in Gwyneth Paltrow’s book, It’s All Easy. That’s such a good cookbook, you guys. Forget all the other stuff you know about Gwyneth and check it out from the library and make this salad- the dressing is glorious- and lucky for us, it’s gluten free, so it can continue to be a part of our lives. The hot pink thing is pickled purple daikon, which turns a lurid pink when you pickle it. I loved it on this salad, but when I opened up the tub the next day to use some more on leftover chicken tacos, that pickled radish smell was not good, not good at all. I don’t know what that’s about. I have so far received 6 of these giant daikon radishes from my CSA box, along with a heap of black Spanish radishes and watermelon radishes and it’s just too many radishes. I can’t keep up. I think they keep in the fridge for a long while, so that’s good, and I’m going to put some daikon in kimchee when I get my hands on some cabbage, but that’ll probably only take care of 1 of my 5 remaining daikons. So let me know if you want a giant radish.
Ramen with Blue Earth Farms Pork Belly and Marinated Soft Boiled Egg. All the best ramen shops in the country use Sun Noodles ramen noodles, and I just discovered that you can buy them frozen at Asahi and they are spectacular. To make ramen, I first make chicken/pork stock in a big pot with its lid on in a 300 degree oven overnight. The whole house smells thickly of chicken stock when you wake up the next morning, and a lot has evaporated, but what is left in the pot is dark and concentrated and dreamy. When I’m ready to make ramen, I flavor the stock with tamari, sesame oil, and scallions. For the pork belly, I rubbed a pound of pork belly chunks with equal parts salt and sugar, and let them cure in the fridge overnight. The next morning, I put them in a 450 oven for an hour and absolutely incinerated them. It was too hot for too long and mostly what was left was charcoal. But in the very center, when I scraped all the black stuff off, there was something that resembled meat. So we ate the meager portions of not-destroyed pork belly with that gooey egg and perfect noodles in a rich stock and savored it.
Faux-tisserie Chicken, Roasted Carrots with Honey and Rosemary, Roasted Brussels Sprouts. Something I’ve gotta work on- a meal doesn’t feel like a meal to me if it doesn’t include a starchy/carb-y thing. This plate is missing something. It should be enough, I know. It’s so privileged and even a little gross that I could say that this beautiful local chicken, raised by my sister-in-law and her husband, roasted for three hours until it’s meltingly tender, these vegetables grown in my own town, organically, and delivered to my door step once a week, are not enough to satisfy me. But that’s where we are. I think I just have a mental block about this because I subsisted on buttered noodles and chocolate chip cookies for so much of my life that the rich, heavy feeling of them has become entwined with my conception of ‘dinner’. Do you know the book A Hole Is To Dig? It’s a charming book of clever little definitions (“A lap is so you don’t get crumbs on the floor.”), and the definition about mashed potatoes illustrates my feelings on this subject exactly: “Mashed potatoes are to give everyone enough.” I’m gonna rewrite the definition of dinner in my head to include meals without starchy carbs. Yes I will, yes I will.
This is a giant bacon and kale Korean pancake, called jang deeok. You make a thin batter with flour and water and gochujang and then you mix in a ton of chopped kale and bacon and serve it with a sauce made with vinegar and soy sauce. I liked everything about it except that the bacon goes in raw, and it doesn’t get crispy, and I felt a little like maybe I was poisoning my family by serving them a meal with almost-raw bacon in it. If I was gonna do it again I’d cook the bacon first.
White Bean Stew with Rosemary and Garlic. I first blogged about this recipe, as you’ll see if you care to read about this bowl of beans enough to follow the link, back in 2012, when Instagram filters still came with optional quirky borders. I’m just saying I’ve liked this stew for a long time and I bet you’ll like it too.
My yin and yang offering to Yawp’s Valentine’s Day party. I made a platter of crudites with ultra creamy hummus and beet chips, and a platter of girl scout cookies, with an addition of homemade trefoils frosted with royal icing from BraveTart. The beet chips are also from Gwyneth Paltrow’s cookbook and they are, as of this writing, the only way I have found that makes eating beets enjoyable (for me!). My CSA keeps sending them to me, and I tried making citrus and beet salads out of roasted beets and they’re just too sweet and dense and weird for me. I honestly hate them. The kids didn’t like them either but decided to force some down after hearing that eating them could make their pee turn red. Alas, neither kid ate enough to produce that magical red pee. But beet chips are a whole other story. They’re sliced as thinly as you can get them with a mandolin, tossed with olive oil, salt, and chopped rosemary, and baked for 20-30 minutes in a 325 degree oven. They shrink up a ridiculous amount but what is left is crispy and salty and delicious. I just pull the sheet pan out of the oven and eat my way across it.
Dai Due Tacos from Fareground. I’m so glad Andy got to try these flour tortillas before he was banned from gluten forever because they are the most delicious tortillas I’ve ever had. I love the wild boar al pastor and the venison barbacoa tacos too.
Voodoo Doughnut. Since we were living it up downtown with all the gluten-y things, we walked up to Voodoo Donuts too, and stood in that line for a long time, and then ate some donuts. The kids barely dented theirs- they preferred to use their fingers to scoop out all the jam inside- but Andy liked his Butterfingering donut (their name, not mine) and I enjoyed my witchy donut- a chocolate cake one with a pentagram piped on top. But they were no better than any other donut from any other place and you have to wait in a half hour line to taste them so I’d say I wouldn’t recommend it.
This looks super weird, I know, but I loved this dinner. Andy and the boys ate regular hamburgers, but because I have an oppressive amount of CSA vegetables to get through every week, I ate my burger salad-style, with a big blob of guacamole and some roasted sweet potato discs and it was honestly fantastic.
The chicken, aside from looking like a decomposing thing I dug out of the yard, tasted great, but I did a terrible job on the collards and an even worse job on the rutabaga and potato rosti. I simultaneously burned and undercooked it. It was one of those dinners where I could tell things were going badly while I was making it and I just wanted to throw everything away and eat peanut butter toast for dinner instead. I soldiered on though, and only the rosti turned out to be inedible.
The leftover chicken and leeks made for a glorious filling for some hand pies for a dinner a few nights later.
I have heard so many good things about Six Seasons, but I just couldn’t get into it. What’s wrong with me? Will you tell me quick if there’s something you loved from this book? Because my copy is due back at the library in a day or two and I’d love to cook more from it before then but I’m feeling uninspired. Anyway, back to my story- I needed a quick dinner, and so I made this offensively green kale sauce to serve with fusilli. George refused to touch the stuff, but Andy and Henry and I all ate it and had the same feeling about it- it tasted far better than we expected it to, but after a few bites we had no interest in eating any more of it. I ate mine anyway but everyone else wandered off to the pantry to figure out something else.
How about we close out this blog post with a lighthearted hiking story to make up for all the doom and gloom and bad dinners? The boys and I have been using Mondays to hike and explore new playgrounds. So two Mondays ago we set out for an exploratory hike at Mary Moore Searight Park. It was such a beautiful day, and we brought our big old dog along and relished the feeling of the warm breeze on our faces as we wandered around the huge network of trails. And then we thought it was about time to wander back to the car, and we took the path we thought would lead us there and we walked forever, on and on, and finally came out in a neighborhood. Which was definitely not right. I had intended to just wander and explore, but at that point I really had to pee, so I got out my phone, searched for the playground at Mary Moore Searight in my map, because we had parked near it, and then headed off toward the red dot the map helpfully provided us with. When we finally got there, it turned out that that red dot was in the middle of nowhere, I don’t know why, and at that point I really really had to pee and George had decided that he could not go on and things looked real bad. I thought, we’re in the middle of nowhere, maybe I can just pee behind a tree here? But literally as I was thinking that some random lady walked by and was like, “Nice day for a hike!” and so I gave up on my peeing in the woods idea. I had the bright idea to look at the satellite view of the park on my map and find the playground that way, and then we were only 10 minutes (10 adult-hiking minutes, not whiny/exhausted kid-hiking minutes) away from the bathrooms and our car. George wanted to stop for a rest every 30 seconds because he was tired and I was angrily rushing him along because I had to pee and it felt like we were all going to murder each other there in the woods, ten minutes from where we wanted to be. But then we made it to the bathroom, and then to the car, and everything was right with the world again.
I talked so much about pee in this blog post. How odd.
Thanks for listening to my tales of woe and urine. Next time, we’ll embark on the new gluten-free chapter of this blog/our lives. Wish me luck ❤