Let me preface this by saying I do not have Celiac's disease. Hence, I am not on a gluten-free diet. In fact, I’ve always sort of scoffed at the sudden prevalence of all things gluten-free, assuming it was linked to a fad rather than grounded in actual necessity. My assumption does hold some weight; however, having recently been introduced to the ramifications of gluten intolerance by friends who truly have one, my perspective has changed.
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that affects an estimated 1 in 100 people. When a disease is categorized as “autoimmune” it basically means that it takes some sort of physical or emotional stress to initiate it. So, that friend you grew up with eating pasta and loaves of bread that is suddenly gluten-free due to a Celiac diagnosis? She/he likely endured some sort of stress in recent years that kicked it in (ahem, college.). And what happens if someone who has celiac disease eats gluten? At first, it sounds like just a bad stomach ache, but it's actually much more serious.
See, we all have these tiny, wavy hair-like fibers called “villi” on our small intestine’s lining. The villis’ job is to absorb nutrients from our food, which is a pretty important task. With someone who has celiac disease, however, eating gluten damages the villi to the extent that the villie lie flat or are even nonexistent. This means that nutrients can’t be trapped and transferred to the bloodstream, which is bad news bears. And that is your health lesson for the day.
Now, moving on to the more enjoyable part which, naturally, includes eating. Earlier this week, I had the chance to sit down to dinner with Katie Kauliis, owner of the blog Gluten Free Blondie. Katie, myself and my friend Kathy all headed over to gluten-free hotspot Friedman’s Lunch. I didn't order anything gluten-free, because again, I don't need to. However, the food was still phenomenal and I had the chance to spend time with some really wonderful ladies.
Take a look at my Q&A with Katie, plus recommendations on the best g-free spots to grab a bite in NYC.
Q: Tell me about yourself
I grew up in NJ, and now live in NYC. I work for a technology company in the Interactive/Social TV space. I blog about gluten free life/food/etc in my spare time. I want to own 58 dogs, mostly pitbulls, all with people-names. Some of my favorite foods are olive oil, butter, cheese, and kale (for balance). I’m quite particular. I burn through a lot of stamps trying to keep snail-mail alive. I watch Guy’s Grocery Games. (Wait are these supposed to be confessions?)
And finally, I REALLY love lists. Which is why this answer kind of is one.
Q: How'd you come about starting your blog?
I’ve always been super-obsessed with food, cooking, becoming Ina Garten’s adoptive daughter, etc. So the desire to start a food-related blog has always been fairly strong. However, it wasn’t until I was diagnosed with Celiac disease that I felt I actually had something somewhat specific and interesting to contribute to the interwebs. Sometimes you just need a little bit of direction, ya know?
Q: What do you think makes it different from other g-free blogs?
Ummm I try not to complain too much.. <insert frightened emoji here>. I should probably first caveat that there are a LOT of really wonderful, smart bloggers who advocate for Celiac disease and safe gluten free dining environments, which is a really freaking tough task when you’re up against a diet that’s coincidentally also become ‘trendy’. That said, there is also a lot of negativity and finger-pointing when it comes to the gluten free community. Perhaps there’s a time and a platform for it (e.g. emailing a company directly instead of blasting your biz all over Twitter), but if you ask me I’d rather seek comfort in the fact that it’s kind of hilarious that I’m terrified of a piece of bread and have actual dreams about crescent rolls. (If you see any humor in that then you might also enjoy http://wheniwentglutenfree.tumblr.com/.)
Q: What's the biggest misconception people have about being gluten-free?
Well for starters, world, no I am not trying to lose weight. Though if you need further proof I’m eating a pile of gluten free cookies while I write this because I haven’t felt like making dinner yet. Yes they are delicious. Yes they have calories. As does gluten free pizza, and gluten free donuts, and gluten free fried chicken. All of which exist and I would be happy to recommend my favorites so long as we’re clear that these are not ‘diet’ foods just because they are gluten free.
Also, I am not trying to be hip, or whatever. That’s what red lipstick is for. (I also have recommendations for that, if you’d like.)
Q: Favorite homemade recipe?
Ok so probably to a bit of disappointment I’m not going answer with something like ‘the world’s best homemade gluten free pizza’ (though I totally want that immediately.) But a few months ago I learned a tip to make the CRISPIEST pan-fried tofu, and now I crave it constantly. It is literally one single ingredient that makes all the difference, and you can find the recipe here: http://www.glutenfreeblondie.com/2014/03/how-to-make-crispy-pan-fried-tofu.html.
Anyway, I’m not entirely sure that even qualifies as a recipe so here is some chili: http://www.glutenfreeblondie.com/2014/10/recipe-hearty-turkey-two-bean-chili.html.
Q: Break it down. Favorite NYC restaurants for a gluten-free lifestyle?
I have a list of gluten free restaurants on my website (here: http://www.glutenfreeblondie.com/p/eat-out-in-nyc.html), but to be honest it’s in major need of an update. Here are a few that aren’t on there quite yet: Meatball Shop, Lilli and Loo, Rhong Tiam, Siggi’s, Cocotero, and Big Gay Ice Cream Shop. (I don’t care if it’s freezing out they have gluten free CONES people!)
A new one that I’m reaaaaally wanting to try is The Little Beet Table. The entire menu is gluten free. I repeat. The ENTIRE menu. So if anyone wants to go out and NOT listen to me ask the waiter a zillion questions………