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October 30, 2008 @ 5:44 am


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After I quit smoking in 1996, I barely wrote anything for almost a complete year.  I’d always associated smoking with writing, and it took me a long time to reestablish new habits that felt natural to me.  One of those habits was Totino’s Pizza Rolls.  Just imagining the taste of them inspired me to write.  The years went by, and when I started participating in NaNoWriMo, I would prepare by stocking up on Totino’s Pizza Rolls, frozen bagels, and cream cheese.  And, of course, coffee.  Lots of it.   (If I wanted to really treat myself, on a weekend morning, I’d go through the Dunkin’ Donuts drive-through and pick up one of their bagels and coffee.)  This became such a nice writing ritual to look forward to, and added another fun level to the preparation phase for November each year.

I used to make banners for my old online diary. Here is one announcing my preparation for NaNoWriMo 2005 (note the coffee):


And then, in April of 2007, I realized I was gluten intolerant.  And everything changed.

Fortunately, I didn’t go for another year without writing.  I recognized that I was going to need to plan for this and figure out some new NaNo food rituals.  I discovered Glutino bagels, which don’t taste like Dunkin’ Donuts bagels, but are the best gluten-free bagels, in my opinion, that I’ve found.  I like them. Very much.  I haven’t found an alternative to Pizza Rolls, however.  (I did email the Glutino company one day not long ago, and I told them what a happy camper I’d be if they could come up with a gluten-free snack that tastes like Totino’s Pizza Rolls, and also a cracker that tastes just like Cheez-Its, though to be honest, I used to keep eating Cheez-Its until I’d get sick. I never learned how to stop when I’d had enough.   So maybe wishing for a gluten-free version may not be in my best interest.)  The gluten-free bread that I like the best (not counting home-baked) is very good when used to make grilled cheese, patty melts, tuna melts, etc., so I had an idea last year to make grilled cheese with mozzarella and pepperoni (maybe a few mushrooms) and cut them into bite-sized pieces and dip them into heated pizza sauce (I believe Ragu’s is gluten-free, if I’m not mistaken). I never actually tried it, but I may give it a try this year.

I’ve been seeing a lot of mention on the NaNo site this year of writing while under the influence of Halloween candy.  I don’t remember seeing so many mentions of it in past years, but maybe I just wasn’t paying attention.  This year, I got to thinking, and liking the idea of Tootise Pops and Peanut Butter Kisses while writing.  I bought a variety of candy, doing my label-reading and web-site checking to make sure everything was gluten-free. I bought Tootsie Pops, Necco Mary Jane Peanut Butter Kisses, small-sized Hershey bars, and a Starburst Fruit Chews and Skittles mix-bag.

I’m on the Harris Whole Health emailing list, and got an email the other day that included the updated list of Gluten-Free Halloween Candy.  (It’s under Recent News on their site.)  It confirmed what I’d learned about the candy I bought, and I felt comforted by that.

Well, I had one hell of a gluten reaction to something over the weekend.  It started Friday night and I didn’t start to actually feel “better” until Wednesday.  As often happens when I’ve been “glutened”, I wasn’t sure where to start, to figure out how it happened.  Was it one of the brands of candy, and the manufacturer didn’t realize they have a possible cross-contamination problem?  Or was it just “being out in the world” and not living in a bubble?  I mean, all it takes is the tiniest crumb, or fraction of a crumb.

Here is a little tip I figured out: those who were good at the “cootie” game as kids probably have the best aptitude for living gluten-free. When I first began exploring the world of the gluten-free and reading posts on message boards where people discussed things like the spatulas in their kitchens and the wheat-germ in their hair products, I thought they were over-reacting and being paranoid.  But then I learned.  You have to be paranoid.

Sometimes someone will post on one of the message boards and say that one need not worry about things like hair gel or skin cream or soaps, because the gluten reaction only happens when the gluten is introduced into the digestive system and that what is absorbed into the skin makes no difference, but these people are completely missing the point.  Anything that has the slightest trace of wheat, rye, barley, or oats, and touches your hands, can make its way into your digestive system.  If you ever touch your mouth, eat finger food, or nibble a cuticle, there is your introduction.

So, this recent gluten reaction may have happened when I wasn’t thinking and set my coffee cup on the top of the microwave at work, where the coffee maker is, and where my coworkers leave their crumbs from sandwiches and frozen pastry-type foods that they microwave.  I am usually extremely careful that nothing of mine rests on any surfaces where coworkers eat or prepare food.  This can be tricky at times.  If I picked up crumbs on the bottom of my coffee mug, I may have transferred them to my desk, and then to my hands.  Or maybe, when I went to the grocery store, I may have used a cart that someone used who bought flour.  You know how there is always some flour on the outside of the bag?  It gets on their hands, then on the cart handle, and then on the next person’s hands.  I’m more careful not to touch my face when I’m out in public, until I can wash my hands, but mistakes happen.

Just to be on the safe side, I triple-checked the listings for the candy I bought (and even emailed one of the companies to ask if they use shared equipment – they responded and said that that candy is the only one made on that equipment), and I’m comfortable that the candy is gluten-free.  I’ll “test” it over the next few days by only eating one kind each day and making sure I have no reaction, but I suspect the cause of the reaction I had was something else, and something I may never know for sure.

So I’m ready to head into NaNo with my Glutino bagels, experimental grilled-cheese-pizza-bites, and Halloween candy.

And coffee.  Lots of coffee.


One Comment

  1. Comment by marie36:

    The gluten thing would be tough!! My goal is to get through the month without relying on halloween candy. Last year, I easily gained 5 lbs after halloween.

    In the two days since I’ve decided to participate in NaNoWriMo, I’ve managed to cook ahead a bit…so hopefully my family won’t starve! 🙂

    (Trying to pull this off with three young children may well be the craziest thing I’ve done in my life. But there you have it.)


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