Monday, January 31, 2011

My blood pressure...

...elevated. I felt it as I opened the door. My usual 80/40 raised to at least a normal person's pulse. Once, an acquaintance who was taking an EMT certification class wanted practice taking blood pressure; he took mine and said, "If we picked you up in the ambulance, we'd think you were on your way out." Well. How encouraging.

The knocker of the door was my neighbor. Since I moved in 6 months ago, she has been saying that they want to have me over for dinner -- she and her husband, and baby, and dog. I hoped that they'd forget; that, it was just one of those nice things people say. An intent incomplete. In this instance, not following through would have been a virtue in my eyes.

I take a deep breath, gutting myself...

...and as I describe my dis-ease my right hand moves over my insecure intestines, a subconscious shield protecting my body from my words, undressing layers of clothing and muscle and fat and flesh. I have grown accustomed to this part, to this stripping of my healthy robes, revealing the ratty cotton garments underneath.

Dining is difficult, and eating somehow less appetizing when my gastrointestinal workings must first be explained. There is just something about diarrhea and headaches and cramping and gluten eating holes through my intestinal walls that makes people lose their appetite. And, rightly so. I used to explain it kind of like an allergy. But it's not. Celiac is a disease, and a nasty one at that. A "reaction" just doesn't describe it. I was just telling someone (much to his surprise, I think) that I am always thinking about poop...always thinking about digestion and elimination. Always analyzing "how did that set?" in hopes of someday figuring out the mystery.

I'm a scientist examining scat.

See, I told you this would make you lose your appetite.

Tonight was the night...the night the intent completed. And, sitting here a few hours later, the verdict is (yes, a drum-roll would be very appropriate at this moment): I feel fine. But that is the rub of it, you see -- with celiac, there is always that moment of truth. There is always that split-second before you bite when you wonder: was the pan really scoured and spotless?; was there a crumb on the counter when the potatoes were wrapped in foil?; has this knife been use on toast the morning before and the knife on spaghetti at lunch? -- few people's standards of a "clean" dish match that of a celiac's.

The package may say "gluten free" but the preparation has no such guarantee. And yes, a crumb has made me sick before...yes, a crumb...

I've started viewing this new land of Eating Outside My Home as "eating adventurously." It helps. In my mind I'm the spitting image of Indiana Jones...I swear this is true, that I see myself in dirty khaki garb, a brown fedora, and sometimes I even carry a whip. I have a vivid and childish imagination and I know how to use it.

Plus, I've always had a thing for Indiana Jones.

6:45 p.m. and down my snowy driveway I trudged with a bottle of wine in one hand and a glass bowled beet salad in the other. True to my anti-domestic obsession and rantings of late, I realized that I didn't have any salad serving utensils. I didn't just realize that I didn't have any with me, but that I didn't even own any. This made me feel good. I don't think Indiana Jones would have serving spoons either.

Baked potatoes, tomato soup, and a beet salad. It was adventurous. I held my breath before I bit. I even held a baby. And, I didn't lose my hat. Indiana Jones never loses his hat...


~ Roasted golden beets, fennel & tarragon, baby romaine lettuce, balsamic vinegar & olive oil. ~


Friday, January 21, 2011

Pin-up pizza.


I am easily distracted these days. Thoughts spring while body still hibernates.
Another cold weekend at home. Winds whisk like sky-held beaters, peaking snow stiff like egg-whites. Naked ground brownly belies precipitated covering, accumulating warmth in absence. Lights fail. Time dies...reviving moments later, blinking a minute late. Behind, but on time. If, that is, you remember to think back...

...slowly, to a time and place where things roasted.

This winter I have treasured these days at home...alone. I have savored this time and place. I have taken the time to roast...tomatoes.

I don't like replacing real things with replicas --imitations -- since when has imitation anything been believable, or even passably good? Imitation crab; Tofurkey (if you want to eat turkey, eat turkey. Otherwise, please just eat your damn tofu!); margarine, also known as "buttery spread" (how are soybeans, artificially agitated to cream, better for you than milk churned straight from a cow's teat?)....the food world (don't even get me started on thepeople world) is filled with these imitations...and I want none of them.

I want the real thing. I crave the real thing. In food. In writing. In people. In love.

I haven't eaten pizza since I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease, almost 4 years ago now. My mom tried making a gluten free pizza once (I don't remember what crust recipe/mix was used), and she reported back to me that the toppings were scrapped off and the crust given to the dogs. Well, she tried to give the crust to the dogs. They would have none of it. Dogs sticking their noses up at food -- people food? Obviously, this 'people food' wasn't even passable to pets. Even dogs can sniff out the false front...

Don't try to pass off an imitation on me. I spend a lot of time with my dog. I can smell you out.

I didn't want my first pizza back to be only a doughy imitation, breaking through years of crustlessness. I wanted something different. A thought popped like corn, around in the pan of my head for days...loudly...and it left me no old maids...only this kernel...

...polenta.


Somewhere, I had seen a pizza made with a polenta crust. I don't remember where now, but I'm sure it was probably in one of the foodie magazines whose pictures I lust over like an adolescent male just discovering certain black-plastic-wrapped magazines...strange new things...

In my case, this new thing? Polenta.

I pinned it up. It would be the centerfold, the layout, the understated knockout. This crust was going to be the sexy smile beneath the layers...

Pizza Crust ~
(adapted from The Brown Eyed Baker)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, more for pan
½ cup whole milk
2½ cups water
Salt
1 cup Bob's Red Mill Polenta
1. Brush a layer of olive oil on a pizza pan or cookie sheet. In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine milk, water and a large pinch of salt. Bring just about to a boil, reduce heat to medium, and add cornmeal in a steady stream, whisking all the while to prevent lumps from forming. Simmer, whisking frequently for 10 or 15 minutes.
2. Stir 1 tablespoon oil into cooked polenta. Spread onto prepared cookie sheet, spread it evenly to a thickness of about ½ inch all over. Cover baking sheet with plastic wrap and put it in refrigerator until it is firm (I am not absolutely convinced that this step is necessary).
3. Heat oven to 450 degrees F. Put polenta in oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until it begins to brown and crisp on edges.

4. Top with sauce (tomatoes, garlic, basil, oregano, oilive oil - roasted at 400 degrees F for around 2 hours and then blended together), mozzarella, and basil.

5. Cook until cheese is melted and browning slightly.