Jon and I, a couple years back, after making our own Thanksgiving cornucopias.
My favourite time of year has always been ‘holiday season,’ and by that, I’m not being politically correct. ‘Holiday season’ is an exhilarating eight-month deal for me, as I consider September (the kick-start to fall and harvest and all that good stuff) to April (spring-time flowers and Easter) book-ending this. Do I show favouritism towards any specific holidays within this eight-month span? Of course. Christmas tops my top-3-favourite-times-of-year list, and Thanksgiving and Halloween follow.
So naturally, being September and all, I started thinking about the first event slated in the (Canadian) calendar: Thanksgiving, which this year falls in two weeks.
I’m especially excited for it this year, as I didn’t celebrate it last year. Why? I was busy getting married! While my husband I made sure to infuse fall-themed meals and flavours into our day, we missed out on the turkey, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie. So, naturally, this year I plan on going all-out with as many gluten free equivalents as I can muster up. ‘Maybe I can even make those cornucopias again,’ I thought. This is where my excitement started to really percolate.
It’s already August and looking back I can say with confidence that this was a summer of parties. From the exciting events leading to a couple of best friends’ wedding to toasting a new home, I had an unofficial part-time job as hostess this season.
The truth is, playing hostess is a fun pastime I don’t think I will ever tire from. But wow, can it get expensive. Especially if you’re planning a unique g-free menu. I’ll admit for a couple gatherings I took the easy way out and opted to prepare solely ‘normal dishes’ (aka, gluten-filled) just for convenience sake, but munching on veggies while my guests indulged in mouthwatering appetizers always ended up being a regret.
I think I’ve found my footing now, and it’s fun discovering new ways to satisfy my guests’ taste buds, and mine. So what were some items I served?
The end result of my 5-hour shopping trip: A combination of free samples and items I purchased at Canada’s Gluten Free Market.
A little over a week ago I had the pleasure of attending Canada’s Gluten Free Market in Mississauga, Ont. I was accompanied by my mother and cousin, two family members who decided to give g-free living a go. It was perfect timing. What better time to try a new diet than at an event with a wide assortment of free goodies? The event was the perfect place for gluten free newbies and veterans alike: along with food, there was an abundance of information. The event ran from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and we arrived bright and early and left around mid-afternoon. I was wondering how big a crowd the show would draw. Of course, gluten free living has become rampant in recent years, but this type of event caters to a niche audience — or so I thought. The venue was rammed! A massive line of people gathered before the doors even opened and the aisles and booths were packed with eager and hungry gluten free enthusiasts the entire time we were there. In fact, one vender was rushing out just as we were, promising she’d ‘be back with more products,’ as her booth was completely emptied of treats.
Gluten free enthusiasts lining up for the big event roughly 15 minutes before it even opened.
My review of Mary’s Organic Crackers
First let me start by saying, I’ve been a bit delinquent on my blog. And no, it’s not because I ran away screaming from my last post (a solemn vow to eat more salads). Life got really busy all of a sudden, and it looks like the past three weeks may have just set the tone for the rest of the summer. I often thought about my blog and all the other glorious blogs I was not reading, and finally decided enough is enough — I’m just going to sit myself down and write dammit. In the *shamefully admits* roughly-just-under-three weeks I was MIA, I did regularly update a list in my phone of things to blog about. So, a lot’s coming and I’m looking forward to it.
And, after roughly three weeks of not posting, I decided my big comeback post would be about…CRACKERS. But wait, folks, these gluten free crackers are so good they are in a class all on their own.
Last year I missed out on my nonna’s pane di Pasqua, or ‘Easter bread’ in English, or ‘squooti’ in her Siderno, Italy dialect (don’t ask about that last one). Even if you’ve never tried it, I’m sure you have seen it: bread braided to nest or hold eggs. I’ve come to look forward to this treat every year, so much so, in fact, that it has become a staple of Easter in my mind. I didn’t want to go another year without it, so I spent all of yesterday in the kitchen with my nonna – a day she probably never saw coming, as I’ve never been ‘that’ Italian girl. I have always gone out of my way to stay as far from the kitchen as possible. Why should I help with anything domestic when my brother gets to sit with the rest of the guys in the living room? I always found it unfair, and to be honest, I still do. But it was nice having that one-on-one time with her. We didn’t have to serve anyone; we were simply having fun adapting a decades-old recipe into one that was gluten free.
My proud nonna, taking my gluten free Easter bread out of the oven after a long day in the kitchen.
Before we got down to business, my mom surprised us and popped in. Would this be a case of ‘too many cooks stirring the pot’? I’ve seen what happens when my mom, nonna, and uncle (who happens to be a chef) cook a meal together; it can very easily turn into Hell’s Kitchen. Truth be told, my mom’s presence was a godsend. She had been helping with the recipe all week, translating my nonna’s instructions into English, and actually having her in the kitchen was helpful, too. She acted as translator when the language barrier got in the way, but, more importantly, she became our unofficial ‘Overseer of Operations’ when my oh-so hard-headed nonna would try to veer away from the written instructions and toss in a few extra ingredients. Normally I’d say, ‘nonna knows best,’ and back off, but I’ve read gluten free flour mixtures can be finicky, and I didn’t want to take any risks with how this bread would turn out!
John Pinette is my favourite comedian. He is the master of self-depreciation; it’s just enough to not make me roll my eyes. And he perfectly combines exaggeration with dry non-reactions. Really, he is everything a standup comic should strive to be.
My family and I first discovered Pinette a few years ago on the Comedy Network. From his bit on eating in Italy to his confession on juicing a ham, we lost our minds wheezing with laughter. One skit that always stuck out in my mind was the one about gluten. Truth be told, I didn’t quite know what it was at the time, but I knew it had something to do with wheat, and, like Pinette, my diet led me to agree with him: I was fairly certain I was ‘mostly gluten.’
Omitting this omnipresent elastic protein from my diet was not as simple as nixing bread and bread alone. Oh no. I had to start examining the labels of everything I picked up in a grocery store. Hot dogs can have gluten. So, too, do many BBQ sauces. Bouillon cubes and pickles were a couple other surprises. And now for my favourite: soy sauce. Sushi has just never tasted the same without it.
Pinette was right. What is gluten? Check out the video below and find out.
Of course, my mindset has come a long way since adapting to my new lifestyle, but as a newbie gluten free gal and a long-time fan of Pinette, how could I not devote a post to his take on the subject?
After years of believing the best part about being Italian is the food, I came to a brutal realization in recent months. I cannot eat gluten. This discovery was bitter-sweet. On the one hand, I felt relief because I was finally able to pinpoint what was giving me excruciating, ongoing stomach pains. But on the other, well, no gluten means no pasta, no lasagna, no fettini (breaded cutlets), and no extra bread to sop up the leftover tomato sauce on my plate. Or so I thought.
As I continue to grapple with my new permanent diet, I see there are plenty of substitutions for the foods I once loved. And sometimes these substitutions are even tastier and more satisfying than the original dish I grew up with. Sometimes. There are still times when I just want to chomp down into a fresh baguette.
Changing my diet has ultimately changed my lifestyle. I have become a healthier person overall, but I still stumble over little annoyances.
‘Oh, we’re going on an impromptu weekend getaway? Time to load my bag with an arsenal of gluten free snacks.’
‘You want to eat at your favourite pub tonight? Let me check out the pub’s website to see if they have anything for me.’ *time passes* ‘No such luck. How about THIS place instead?’