My First Coke.

Yesterday marked the end of my second 30-day period, wherein I avoided all foods I didn’t prepare myself. Meaning, only drinking water, no processed foods, lots of cooking, etc. Nothing packaged except raw grains and beans.

I don’t have an appointment with my doctor til sometime next week, when we’ll do a hopefully cool blood test that will determine why this is all happening in the first instance (woohoo! research!), so I had planned to wait until then to break the diet.

But then I started craving coke. Not the drug, the soda. Last night, I just needed an ice cold coke. It was like I was a polar bear or something. And when that feeling lingered this morning, and even after I ate lunch, I realized it wasn’t going anywhere. And unlike the coke cravings I was having over the last few weeks, I could technically do something about it.

So with the green light from my mom, who’s more of an allergist at this point than some doctors I know, I bought a mexicoke – aka coke in a glass bottle from Mexico that uses sugar instead of corn syrup. Some people call it Passover coke, but in LA, it’s available year-round. I figured it was a better idea than wasting a corn (which I can only eat three times a week) on soda.

It was delicious. At first, it tasted weird and totally not what I remembered. I think I was remembering chocolate and cherry coke, which isn’t quite the same. So after a brief “oooh was this a waste of time?” moment, I realized it was not, it was sugar and deliciousness and processed and helpful. I hadn’t realized how worn down a sugar-mostly-from-fruit and caffeine free diet had made me. Not that eating healthy is bad, but with limited amounts of food sometimes you need those extra calories. 150 should bring me up to…460 so far today! That’s like a whole muffin or something. Or a Starbucks iced white mocha latte.

Anyway, it was magical. I savored that coke. I drank it slowly both to manage my body in case something happened and to enjoy every moment of it. I wanted to actually “enjoy Coca-Cola.”

And I was fine. My body was a little shocked from the caffeine intake, and probably the processed food of it all, so I had a minor cramp in my left arm and back, but it was nothing a good stretch and pressure point massage couldn’t fix. But the more I drank, the less the shock became, which is a good thing, and made me realize it wasn’t an allergy attack.

I made the news my status on g-chat and got a couple of “Um, that’s a weird thing to say” comments. Which I get. Because it is weird, if you can eat everything. I mean, it’s just coke. But to me, it was an awakening.

Am I finally somewhat desensitized?

When I go back to Captain Crunch? Or Corn Chex. Which I’m absolutely craving beyond my wildest dreams. Seriously. In my wildest dreams I never thought I’d crave something as mundane as Corn Chex.

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Pumpkin Oatmeal Muffins – Vegan and Gluten Free

There are three days a year I absolutely need to eat pumpkin pie: Sept 13 and May 12 & 13. I do this in honor of my beloved late friend Bernard Herman, who loved him some pumpkin pie. We started a tradition in May 2005 to buy Bernard a pumpkin pie for every momentous occasion, in homage to him eating my friend Elyssa’s pie when she was out of town, in the most Goldilocks of ways. It was just so something he’d do, and he loved the food so much. Plus, as my friend Zach pointed out, what college students ever got to say the sentence, “We’re going to buy Bernard a pie?” We did.

And so every year since his passing, I keep the tradition alive by eating pumpkin pie on his birthday and the anniversary of his death/the following day when I found out about his death.

Except I can’t eat pie. It’s been secretly breaking my heart since the whole “no wheat or eggs” thing started 60+ days ago. How would I eat pie today? What if I couldn’t eat pie again?

Enter pumpkin oat muffins. I’d made them before as an erroneous cookie, and I’ve experimented a bit since, but since the whole “3 times a week” diet thing started, and since I’ve been trying to avoid any contact with egg yolks so egg whites are out of the picture, I’ve steered clear of desserts. Until now.

The following recipe is based on a pumpkin oatmeal cookie recipe from Cooks.com. I had the original before this whole thing started, and it’s delicious. But if you’re looking for an egg and gluten free alternative, the muffins are great. Also, since I can’t have nutmeg, cinnamon, or ginger, I replaced those with extra sugar and brown sugar. Refer to the original recipe for the proper spices. But seriously, delicious either way.

I don’t typically measure so much when baking, especially when I’m playing around with ingredients, because you really can’t tell how many oats equal one cup of flour. So the below are total approximations, but I feel like you can sense the consistency as you’re baking. Plus, if it’s a little gooey (it was the first time) you get a great souffle. Who doesn’t like souffle?

3/4 cup corn starch

1/2 tsp baking soda

~ 2 cups oats

~ 1 tsp brown sugar

a heaping cup of sugar

3/4 cup oil

1 tsp salt

1 can pumpkin

1/4 cup applesauce (to make 1/4 cup applesauce, since I can’t eat prepared foods, I used this applesauce recipe from allrecipes.com. I trimmed the portions to 1/4 the original amount to make sure I only made as much applesauce as to replace one egg, ie 1/4 cup).

Preheat overn to 375.

Mix flour, sugar, bakind soda, salt, brown sugar, and oats. Add in pumpkin and appleasauce. Mix well.

Drop into a muffin tin. If you don’t have little paper liner things, dab a little corn starch into the tin to keep the muffins from sticking.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until a knife can be removed without any residue.

Go Away, Stupid Allergies

The following is an essay I wrote i fourth grade, on November 29, 1995. I feel pretty similarly right now, in this moment that marks one week since xanthan gum in sunscreen took over my body and decided to be mean. Except the 25 year old version of me wants to use all sorts of words the 8 year old version didn’t know yet.

“Before I start let me explain that I am very allergic. It didn’t bother me much until one day when I came home from school…

‘Hi Ma! What’s for dinner?’ my sister Judith asked.

‘Hi Ma!’ I whined.

‘Hi girls. Judith, I don’t know. Cindy, is something wrong?’ my mom asked me kindly.

‘Yes,’ I cried.

Then I burst into tears.

‘What’s wrong Cindy?’ my mother inquired.

‘My stupid allergies. I am very anoyed [sic] about them,’ I told her.

‘Oh. Judith, please leave the room,’ my mom said. ‘Why are they annoying?’ she asked.

‘People make fun of them, they tease me about them, they wave the foods in front of me, and they treat them like a joke. How would they like it if they had allergies, and I did what they do to me?’ I dragged on.

‘Well honey, I’m sorry about that. I don’t think they’d like it,’ she replied helpfully.

And for about an hour, I cried and cried and talked. The only other thing I remember is this:

‘Why is it me? It’s not fair. Why me?’ I complained.

‘Because that is how God made it.’

And that is the longest time I cried nonstop. And sometimes, when I’m alone, I still cry.

The End”

Now, it’s less that people make fun of me and more that I can’t eat without something going awry. And it’s incredibly frustrating to have to choose between eating and getting sick. The new diet – where I only eat foods I cook myself, absolutely nothing processed, only organic fruits and vegetables that are peeled, and only the same food three times a week – was working, and I was getting into the rhythm and feeling healthier, albeit busier. But then I used sunscreen with xanthan gum, and anything I touched after that had the xanthan gum on it and I kept reinfecting myself in this xanthan gum cycle. It’s been a week of benedryl every few hours and I’m getting annoyed. And tonight, anything I eat gives me a reaction. Not a severe one – hives on my arm, mild throat swelling, ear itchiness, headache – but nonetheless, a reaction and I’m on this new “take care of myself” swing so I’m taking the benedryl.

So “Go Away, Stupid Allergies.” Or, “F*** you, xanthan gum. And you too, histamines.”

Dried Fruit is the New Cookie

I’ve gone almost two months without a real cookie (unless you count merengues for Passover and oatmeal/pumpkin eggles flourless cookies that turned into more of a souffle).  As a dessert person, these last couple months haven’t been exactly easy. (Oh, and this all started at Girl Scout time, so insult and injury became besties).

I remember as a child being allergic to chocolate and having to pick off the chocolate from bakery cookies. Or rather, my mom having to pick it off.  We’d get the rainbow sprinkled ones or the seashell shaped ones with the powdered sugar on top or the half moon or heart shaped sugar cookies and before I could eat them, I’d bring them to my mom to cut off the pieces of the cookie that had been cross-contaminated with chocolate.  It was a long process and sometimes the batch we’d get have too many chocolate pieces to make it work, but on the occasions we’d get some clean cookies, I remember it being awesome and so exciting, and one time, I remember being lazy and not cleaning the cookie and eating a teeny bit of chocolate (think a crushed sprinkle) and I was mostly fine and that’s when I knew I could soon try chocolate for real and become a normal kid.  That sprinkle meant the ability to someday eat a Twix or an M&M or have chocolate cake at my birthday party.

Have you ever thrown a birthday party for a bunch of 9 year olds without chocolate cake? It’s not so easy. I remember my ninth birthday really vividly, my sister had baked this vanilla ice cream cake and worked all day on it so I could have a special cake (thanks again!!!) and when she brought it to the table and everyone sang, two of my best friends (who I absolutely still love and harbor no ill will against, because 9 year olds are always 9 year olds and it’s kind of cute) started chanting, “Chocolate cake! Chocolate cake! Chocolate cake!” Luckily for them, my mom had also bought a bakery cake (because my lack of chocolate meant I got to have two vanilla options – that may have been the precursor to my celebrating my birthday for three weeks), which the bakery had sworn was chocolate free. But when we cut into it – mocha filling. After some crying, I found it in me to be so happy my sister had decided to bake me the ice cream cake so I could have birthday cake, and my friends got to eat their chocolate cake, and even though I felt sad to be the only one of my peers eating the ice cream cake, I was grateful and hopeful for the day I’d get to eat chocolate and actually chant with my friends and eat two kinds of cake and not hate bakeries.

And lo and behold, I was able to eat chocolate a year or so later, maybe even just a few months. It was a magical experience which we’ll cover here soon. But I could eat chocolate from about 1996 until March 6, 2012 and so tapping into that memory makes me realize that my dessert-less days aren’t over. I can play around with gluten-free vegan nut-free cinnamon free xanthan gum free recipes (once it’s worth using a ton of ingredients per food because I’ll be off my each food three times a week only diet) but I also know I will be able to eat real desserts soon. And much like that vanilla ice cream cake, or the half cookies, I can find a substitute. Now, it’s dried fruit. Raisins, pineapples. Tomorrow I’m being brave and trying a banana which seems foul but hey, I’m hungry. And for all I know, when cookies come back on the table, when December 2nd hits and I’m eating a giant chocolate cake, I’ll think, “Where’s the dried pineapple? That shit is goooood.” I mean, I still do prefer vanilla Oreos. They seem like more of a part of who I am, and food nostalgia is a pretty powerful thing.