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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

gluten-free Os cereal

gluten-free cheerios

Little Bean loves to eat.

Of course, we were hoping this would be so. She has been in the kitchen with us since she was a mere mite. Nearly everything we cook we waft under her nose, so she can experience what we are eating through smell. But there are no guarantees in this. She could have easily decided that solid foods were scary and put off the chewing until later.

(And nothing says this avid eating of nearly everything we give her will last.)

She still doesn't have her first tooth, so the chewing is pretty gummy at the moment. Thick purees still seem best. (However, she did have some roasted pork shoulder, chopped into a paste that she seemed to really love.) Roasted sweet potatoes, crushed-up prunes, fresh avocado — these all make her giggle. Right now, they are enough.

But I was just starting to wonder — what are we going to do without Cheerios?

Right now, we don't know if Little Bean can eat gluten. You see, there is no accessible test to determine these matters yet, as far I can tell. There is a genetic test, to see if she has the genes that can lead to celiac. But those tests are expensive, and we just can't afford it. Even if she has the genes, she could go years eating gluten before the celiac triggers, through something mysterious like an injury, or puberty. So we don't know.

The image of giving her gluten ("Here, honey, have a hamburger with all the fixings.") feels like handing her the keys to the car when she's three. I don't want to do it.

But if she can gluten, I want her to experience all the food in the world she can eat. I want her to eat with relish and gusto, giggling as she reaches for another bite. That's how she eats now. I want that to continue.

The only plan we have, at the moment, is to wait. No seven-month-old will languish if she doesn't have barley cereal. Our doctor has told us that he receives an update on celiac and living gluten-free every single day, from the medical journals he reads and the conferences he attends. Maybe, by the time she is a year old, there will be a clearer path.

However, what were we going to do without little o-shaped cereal, just the right size for her fingers to grab on their own off her highchair?

Now, I don't have to think about it. The good folks at Nature's Path have made Organic Whole O's. Organic brown rice flour, organic corn flour, organic granulated sugar cane juice, pomegranate juice concentrate, and sea salt — these are the only ingredients. They're a heck of a lot healthier than those little chocolate chip cookies cereal. (Remember those? The only time I ate them was at 4:30 in the morning with a friend, because he had no other food in the house, and we were drunk. And I still thought they were awful.) And I actually love the crisp, oh-s0-slightly sweet taste of the Whole O's.

This is a cereal I'll be happy to give Little Bean. Just as soon as she has teeth.

(Any day now. Come on, little one. Pop that tooth out, please?)


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The School of Essential Ingredients

The School of Essential Ingredients

Before last week, I had not finished a single book since Little Bean was born.

This is, for me, an utterly astounding sentence. I used to read the way I breathed air: continuously, sometimes quickly, sometimes slow and consciously, always. I used to read while walking down the street, brushing my teeth, and sitting at red lights in the car. I grew so attached to the world within the covers of books that I deliberately slowed down when I loved one, for fear that it would end soon. When I finally finished Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, I actually flung it against the wall and shouted, "F_ you for being done!" (Truly, I loved that book.)

So, to go almost a year without reading a book all the way through? Goodness, who is this?

Hi, I'm a mama. And a writer.

There are no more languid hours, the way I had when I was a kid, bending my back over the arm of the couch, the book over my head, to catch the dying light in the sky by which I was reading. Now, I have half-open books perched on surfaces around the house. I've been waiting for some time without writing a book to get back to them.

Now that I have done this twice, I know: I can't read books when I'm in the middle of writing one. Words bleed into my sentences, ones I had never considered before. Phrases I read on white paper make it onto my screen before I notice fully, and then I have to erase. Magazine articles, the newspaper cover to cover, essays in books, and an endless array of oddities online? I haven't stopped those. But entire books? Nope.

Not until last week, when I sat down while Little Bean was napping, and read The School of Essential Ingredients in a day and a half. And when I closed the last page, slowly, I grew a little teary that I had finished it so soon.

I don't want to tell you too much, because you might want to read it yourself. Just know that the story circles through a cooking school, run by a woman named Lillian who has a calm demeanor, capable hands, and an understanding for people that comes from her past. Stories emerge with each class, from homemade pasta and chocolate cake. Not that much happens, in the Hollywood sense, but everything rumbles under the surface, in the glacial way that human relations actually happen.

And the way that Erica Bauermeister describes food — slow and sensuous, filled with poignancy and a sense of presence — made me lift up my eyes and take them in. And they made me hungry.

I read this book as I slipped under the hot waters of a bath. I picked it up as Little Bean napped, my hands curved around a hot cup of coffee. And I devoured the last pages in the warm lamplight of the living room, on the end of the couch where I fed Little Bean just a few hours before.

I finally read an entire book. This one was such a wonderful warmth and loveliness to begin it all again.

p.s. I believe in sharing, especially because plenty of us cannot afford new hardback books these days. So I'm giving away my copy, now that I have finished it. Leave a comment here, and make sure I have some way of reaching you. The Chef and I will randomly select a number at the end of the week and choose one of you! We'll put the book in the mail, with a little present for you from us.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

GaGa sherbet

gaga? oh yes.

I'm sorry to so easily fall into the pun the makers of this delicious concoction clearly want us to use, but we are honestly gaga about this stuff.

Do you know why I don't have a photograph of the creamy, tart lemon goodness in a bowl, slightly melting, so as to entice you to bite into it? Because the Chef and I ate all four pints the company sent us before we even thought of photographing them. Nights in a row, we'd settle down to watch Jon Stewart as Little Bean slept, and he'd look at me and say, "Do you want some of that sherbet stuff?" Of course. And we'd dig our two spoons into the carton, determined to not eat the entire pint, and failed every time.

I'm lucky I could save the carton for photographing.

Is it sherbet? No. Sherbet contains milk, but not cream, and not enough to call it ice cream. But proper ice cream contains eggs, and this does not. So it's a hybrid, something in between, all its own.

Just call it amazing and put some in your freezer. It won't last long.

"Creamy lovely goodness," the Chef just said, when I asked him to describe it. "It should be illegal." Tell truth, he's so obsessed with GaGa that he's making a citrus sherbet in the kitchen right now, trying to replicate it. He's good, but I don't know if he'll do it, right off the bat. There's some magic elixir in this, something mysterious that makes you eat an entire pint of the creamy sweetness in one sitting.

All the ingredients are natural, not indecipherable. The lemon flavor really does taste like lemon, with a puckery tartness. It's a family-begun business (the name comes from the nickname for the grandmother). And it's gluten-free.

Right now, GaGa is not available in Seattle. If you live here, ask your grocer for it, now. If you live somewhere where GaGa is available, then what are you doing reading this? Run out and buy some now.

GaGa Frozen Dessert