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There are two types of gluten intolerance

In the past two or three years gluten free lifestyle and food have gone quite mainstream.
Unbelievably so when you compare it even to just ten years ago. Now most groceries have a gluten free aisle, and most restaurants have on their menus a clear sign for what will work and what will not. It’s not like trying to order vegan food in the 90s when in so many places you’d get a dumb stare and then “vegan” chicken or sausages on your plate (at least if you didn’t live In New York, San Francisco, London, or other fancy place).

I feel this change is good. When you’ve gone gluten free, now you find more foods that will work, and if there is a food you miss, the chances are someone has made a gluten free, wheat free, even grain free version of it. And it probably won’t taste like cardboard or be that awkward to ask or order.

But in these same two or three years, I have realized there are two types of gluten intolerance.

“The real” celiac disease and just gluten intolerance that is milder than the above? No, that’s not what I mean. I mean something completely different.

The first intolerance is when a person is intolerant to gluten. Whether it’s a doctor-diagnosed case of celiac disease, or an allergy that requires one to carry an epipen for the event of an exposure to gluten, or if it’s any other disease or feeling unwell that would or could get better with a diet consistently gluten free. Rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, eczema, psoriasis, acne, depression, really bad depression, PMS, problems getting pregnant…. And many others. Many of those have in common that your body is inflamed, and since most people don’t get only an accidental amount of wheat every few months, the cause of the inflammation or pain may well go undetected for years or decades. Maybe once your doctor had decided you have rheumatoid arthritis, there is no motivation to find out if the condition would actually resolve or at least ease with dietary changes (and finding a causal relation between some foods or the lack of them in a diet and health or the lack of it isn’t exactly something the medicine industry wants to explore. Medication is more profitable). So if in the case of a non-gluten-related-or-diagnosed malady or unease one was to clean their diet… Well, in a few weeks or months you would see if it did something for you. Give it a month – a reasonable time to see if there is any change in your mood or health, long enough to notice, and yet short enough that if there isn’t, it’s not a big deal if your average lifespan is close to eighty years.*

What if what you or someone close to you have suffered for decades would just ease when you went gluten free? Try it.*
I suspect my dad would have benefited from it too. Before he died, he had four decades of severe rheumatoid arthritis (which was medicated with many things, most of which had terrible side effects, and in the end it still didn’t help, so he needed joint replacements), and psoriasis (for which the medicines from rheumatism surely were not helping) among other maladies. If there was ever any thoughts or tries to change his diet to see if that would have helped, it must have been when I was really young, and those thoughts were probably killed by my mother. I wish we had had a chance to try. So while I can’t vouch for him, I could vouch for myself. Pain and depression (let’s just leave it vague like that) are much rarer now.

But back to the two categories – all of those are still in the first category. Any case where being gluten free helps, whether you’d die of the exposure of it or if it just helped you get rid of that acne, lose fifty pounds that haven’t melted even after years of dieting, or if it’d help you get rid of suicidally bad PMS.

The second category is for gluten free intolerance.

You read that right.

In the past three years I’ve seen and heard (mostly in the Internet) of (usually people who are on a gluten free diet themselves) some rather odd thoughts about others going gluten free. “It’s only for those who have a real medical condition, like a doctor-diagnosed celiac disease” is one of the most common things to hear. Yes, “only people with real celiac disease should eat gluten free foods. You people eating gluten free foods is bad for everyone else“. Uh? Sure, since now having more selection and easier availability is so bad. “It’s not for everyone – often the gluten free foods have more calories and will not help you lose weight.” “By leaving out wheat, you will keep your body from getting all the vital nutrients it needs.” (Shouldn’t that be one of the arguments for not having wheat? You could actually eat some more nutritious food instead)

Clearly other people going gluten free is bad for these gluten free intolerant people. Like in the grocery store when you have more than one type of pasta or bread to try, and when the gluten free store brand pasta costs $2 a packet instead of that fancy $14 a packet fancy brand one. Or in a restaurant where you don’t get that awkward blank stare for asking if this or that item on the menu can be prepared gluten free. What is in the change that is so bad for you? Not being so special any more?

Think of these gluten free intolerant views with any other dietary terms and you see how much sense they make.

“Only real diabetics should drink sugar free sodas.”
“All artificial sweeteners should be used only by those with type 1 diabetes. You, healthy people, drinking and eating foods sweetened with artificial sweeteners is bad for everyone!”
“Only fat people should eat diet foods or have lunches that are marked light.”
“Only morbidly obese people should select from the light menu at the restaurants! You normal weight people eating light foods is hurting everyone!”
“Only real Jews should eat kosher foods.”
“Only real Orthodox Jews should eat kosher foods – you shiksas ordering a kosher meal is hurting everyone!”
“Only Muslims and pregnant women should avoid alcohol in their diet.”
“You are not a Muslim or a pregnant woman; your refusal to drink is bad for everyone!”
“Only those with real doctor-diagnosed lactose intolerance should drink lactose free milk, or water with their meals.”
“You are not lactose intolerant! You should be eating cow milk with your dinner instead of that water or glass of wine. You not drinking cow milk is bad for everyone!”
“Only those deadly allergic to peanuts should eat peanut free foods.”
” only Hindus should eat vegan food. You are not a Hindu – you eating vegan food is bad for everybody…”

Imagine hearing any of these types of statements in any of these other cases?
Yep, that’s how they would sound like if anyone actually said something like that.
Fortunately I have not yet met a single person telling how all sugar free items should be for diabetics only.

So y’all of the second category, fake a gluten free, lactose fre, sugar free chill pill without traces of peanuts or shellfish. Live and let live. Or enjoy what you are having and let others enjoy their foods as well without turning to a raging vegenazi every time someone else orders your fancy foods.

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* If you need medical advice, ask your doctors. If you don’t like what they tell, feel free to shop around until you find a better one.


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Living in a city with a new plastic bag ban, month 1 – is it all just about brushing your city’s eco image?

Because no one in the city marketing or advertising departments had a clue what 4 millimeters is like

From last year’s Chronicle, a local newspaper – a way to have *less* plastic bag waste was to require the plastic bags being sold to be at least 4 MILLIMETERS thick?

Austin joined the list of the cities with a plastic bag ban in the beginning of March this year.

The plastic bag ban means that you no more get plastic – or paper – bags at the grocery store checkouts, or when you order take out food.

This will supposedly make such a huge impact in not having any plastic bag waste around the landfills or on the sides of the highways and so on, according to the marketing speech.

At least the city is no longer demanding that the reusable plastic bags would have to be at least 4 milimeters thick.

So now that everyone brings their own  bags, problems listed are going to be solved, right?

When you buy produce at the grocery, you still get those extra flimsy bags for packing your napa cabbage or rutabagas or whatever jackfruit you buy. Those bags are extremely single use. Ever tried to use those for trash or anything else after they have served for their original purpose as a bag to carry your produce home? I wouldn’t trust any less than 5 layers of those bags for just innocent kitchen garbage in. For things like doggie bags… I wouldn’t even dare to think.

Oh, the doggie bags? They still tend to be plastic (at least I’ve never seem a non-plastic bag for scooping your dog’s poop in). So now instead of reusing a bag you had, you have to BUY plastic bags. For scooping poop in them and then throwing the poop bag away… how is that not ending in the landfill or on the sides of the roads (like they now do)? The last time I tried to dissolve or compost a “biodegradable” plastic bag got no “biodegration” after months in a compost pile.

You still have to buy the garbage or trash bags. The city doesn’t like it if your garbage is in paper bags – or, gasp, without any bags at all – in the refusal bins (that are so carefully set 5 feet apart of something, because that makes also such a huge impact in being an environmental city somehow). If you used all the bags you got from the grocery previously to bag your trash in, now you have to buy, guess what? More plastic bags. That you will use only once. And to just put trash in them and then throw them away. I’m sure that’s so much more environmental.

So apart of people selling you plastic bags for e.g. trash and doggie bags, there are other people too who benefit of the ban. Namely those who sell reusable bags (at least for a few months). And the city, since it’ll be seen as such an avant-garde location in everything environmental. Even though for the city image it seems to be like driving a Prius or shopping at Whole Foods. Just because you drive one or shop in one doesn’t make you automatically great for your environment. (Grow your own food and walk at least sometimes! It might be a bit better for the environment).

It’s at least some effort to make the city greener though. But there are better ways.

If we decided to ban something in the city, why exactly just the plastic bags (and only at the grocery checkout points and restaurants)? Why not for instance bottled water? There are water fountains everywhere, in nearly every public and commercial building. Bring you own damn bottles and reuse them. While the now banned plastic bags could be used for so many thing (more in a bit), what can you do with a plastic water bottle that has been used for its original purpose? Not much usually. Please do tell me how exactly the plastic single use water bottles are not a waste problem like the plastic bags were.

Or why not bag the phone books? I believe you still get the white pages but only if you have a landline. Even if you don’t, you still get the yellow pages. Every house and apartment gets it, every year. When was the last time you used one? For me it must have been in the early 1990s. Why not simplify the (white and) yellow pages, and make those an opt-in? Call if you want to get a copy. It just seems 99 % of the yellow pages (which don’t have an easy opt-out method) end up straight to the landfill, still wrapped in the plastic they came in.

I’m sure phone books can be reused for something else as well… if you’re tired of ideas involving mod podging them in every surface of everything, here’s an idea for your old phone book:

This dress used to be a phone book before Jolis Paons, an artist, got her hands on it…

Single use water bottles and phone books are just two small things, but they would save more waste from landfill than the plastic bag ban ever will. Or if the plastic bag is now suddenly an issue at the landfill, can we have some other options than plastic bags for the garbage in the first place? Why not make composting mandatory? Where I live there’s no composting, and there’s no sorting or recycling the waste either (because a housing complex or area of under or over 1000 apartments can do exactly what they please for the waste, recycling, composting or the lack of the last two. Which in the case of where we live is from the recycling perspective nada).

Meanwhile, if you have copious amounts of plastic bags saved, you could – if simply reusing the bag is not good enough for you – use it e.g. for making plarn for your craft projects or fuse the plastic to a durable fabric you can use in some project that needs durable and waterproof fabric.

Meanwhile… as I’ve lived as a kid in a country that charged for the flimsy bags at the grocery checkout, it’s not an issue to have my foldable bags with me when going shopping. But apparently it’s a major annoyance since I see and hear every day people complain about how horribly inconvenient it is to think ahead and bring your own bags when you go shopping.

Well, let’s see what effect the ban will have on the landfills in the next 5 years. For our household plastic use it will not reduce it but increase it as now we will have to buy all the bags we use for garbage. Including for everything that should really go in the compost pile.

Gluten free pizza with cauliflower crust

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Cooking experiments… With low carb foods. Cauliflower in this case, since that just happened to be in this week’s weekly box of Greenling.
Delicious.

Crust
2 1/2 cups cauliflower, grated
1 1/3 cups of cheese (mozzarella, cheddar, what you like or what you have)
1 1/2 eggs
Spices to taste: salt, herbs etc
1 tsp baking powder

Tomato topping
(Use a pizza sauce if you have, or my version below)
1 can of chopped tomatoes
Salt to taste
Crushed red pepper to taste
Herbs (fresh if possible)
1 tsp olive oil
Garlic (if you like)

Toppings
Cheese (mozzarella, ricotta salata, chèvre – what you like or what you have)
Other stuff you like on pizza and have available
(example above: asparagus, green bell pepper, green onion)

Set the oven to 450F.
Grate the cauliflower to small pieces, or use a blender to get it to pieces.
Microwave the grated cauliflower for 8 minutes. Let it cool a few minutes.
When it has cooled a bit, mix the cheese, cauliflower, eggs and spices to a paste.
Form the pizza crust on a baking sheet. Bake in 450F for about 15 min. After that, you’ll add the toppings and bake it again.

Meanwhile, make the tomato sauce. Use a ready made one if you prefer – I am simply used to making my own.
Mix all ingredients together, blend until smooth. Use as much as needed – with this crust I recommend tiny bit less than usual. So for the amount of crust above, maybe 1/2 of a can will do fine. Add what you like and have available on top of the tomato sauce, then cover with cheese of your choice (and availability – by the way, pizza is great for using any cheese ands and leftovers, alone or mixed with other cheeses). Bake again until it looks ready (5-15 min).

It doesn’t taste like cauliflower.

The “dough” is easier to work than most gluten free doughs, and when it’s baked, it tastes like crust. No carb coma! So perfect for diet too, even if you didn’t care about the gluten free plus side.

Of course, the dough scales nicely. And you can make easily modifications to it. On the example, I had added 2 tbsp of flax meal, and I had run out of eggs, so it was egg protein powder and water for the equal of 3 egg whites.

Kitchen Experiments: Texas Harissa (with green roasted jalapeños)

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Back to kitchen experiments: I still love Moroccan food. For some reason decent harissa is hard to find, so I was in the mood to try my own. All the recipes I found use dried red peppers – the local groceries didn’t have those, and I wasn’t patient enough to wait for the next CentralMarket shopping trip to get some. And as harissa is usually made without the seeds, using the big container of crushed red pepper was out of question. Two options then: use some home grown and dried Thai peppers, or experiment with the fresh ones. Today I chose the fresh ones. The grocery had just jalapeños and one other variety, so harissa experiment #1 is with fresh jalapeños.

Ingredients:
Fresh jalapeños
Garlic (fresh)
Olive oil
Salt
Spices: I chose ras el-hanout, sumac, and a bit of cilantro

Tools:
Something to grill or roast with
Blender (or coffee grinder)
Knives etc

First put gloves on – the peppers will hurt otherwise. I cut the jalapeños in smaller sizes, removing the white parts, stems, and seeds, and peeled two big garlic cloves the same way. For roasting I used our George Foreman grill, but oven or any roasting device will do. They don’t have to get extremely cooked, just softer and nice smelling.

After roasting, cool them down. Then add the jalapeño pieces, garlic, and olive oil to the blender, and blend. Test the taste, and add any spices you prefer, and add olive oil as much as needed to get the proper harissa consistency. When you are happy with the flavor and consistency, can the harissa and enjoy. Add 1/4 inch of olive oil on the top before you put the lid on.

On the smaller jar I have a variation with some bhut jolokia. I had some dried jolokia in my cupboard, so I soaked two peppers for an hour, discarded the soaking liquid, and tried to deseed the pieces (with gloves on!), and added the jolokia parts to a small portion of the green harissa, and continued blending. I was expecting the flavor to be – well, extremely hot, but it seems soaking and deseeding took care for most of that, so it’s not as hot as I expected.

End result is not the typical harissa. I was prepared for a jalapeño flavor, and it has that. It has heat as I hoped. It seems to me when using fresh peppers it’s much harder to get the proper thick consistency. (Perhaps with scotch bonnets it would work better) Meaning simply that today’s batch will soon be used on anything one would use harissa on, and I’ll grab the dried peppers I need from CentralMarket. Overall the flavor is right, but the consistency is not as I was looking for because I used fresh peppers.


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I used to use LinkedIn actively. It was useful; I even got a job I really liked by using it.

But I’ve been lacking it for a white. As I wasn’t doing “much”, I didn’t really want to update what I do. Like with resume, I prefer the cleanness; less is more. While too many European thinks that as a 27 year old applicant for a job their resume (in the annoyingly academic format of curriculum vitae, no less, filled with junk that should not matter one bit when applying for the job they are applying for) has to be at least six pages, I’m shrinking from 1,5 to 1. Why do you need six pages (or two) anyway? Steve Jobs’ resume would have fit fine just on just one. Learn to see what’s relevant, and quit wasting time. The purpose of the resume is to get to the job interview, nothing more. That’s where you finish the sale.

What I wanted to update wouldn’t have worked ideally. Neither for what I probably want next (undecided between what I used to do and what I do or what else I would like todo) nor even updating with what I do. When it would require adding a whole department or business within the city… no. If someone else had added it already, yes, then perhaps. But to add or not? It took a while of thinking, and I didn’t add.

My whole resume is not in LinkedIn. Just a few key pieces. The rest is when I actually send it or apply to something. It’s also for a matter of privacy.

I’ve had a few curious observations about LinkedIn somewhat recently:

1. A while back a lot of LinkedIn passwords were stolen. Fine – when it happens on most sites anyway… except when in this case the passwords were kept incompetently. When you are a the major site for jobs, resumes and recruiting, you’d think the databases, user data and everything else was kept in a proper, hashed format. Apparently not. Even though my password was not apparently stolen, I changed it of course, and this was just another thing making me distance myself from the site a bit.

2. The new look. Why do all the sites have to get the “Web 2.0″ look bug? No matter if you’re in WordPress, LinkedIn, Twitter, … they all look the same. They all want to be so web 2.0 (or is it 3.0 by now?). Share something. Share the same posts, statuses, and your ah so original instagram photos in LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Quora, Google+… you name it. But I see no reason to add even my Goodreads or Quora to LinkedIn. It’s a profile of which the target audience is different. Just like the target audiences of Facebook differ – create groups, share what you want to share with just the people you want to share something with. Why does everything have to be shared with everyone anyway?

3. The recommendations… this is really baffling me. I haven’t logged in to the site for quite a while now. I haven’t asked for recommendations, yet my friends are now recommending, more than one a week. Is this something LinkedIn is asking for them to do on my behalf? I’m kind of tempted to log in around November, and then count how many I’ve got now… Are all my friends just being nice recently, or is LinkedIn asking them to be nice?

Don’t take me wrong – I’m glad my friends remember me. Especially when it’s the friends that I worked with and that are now doing well themselves. It just feels odd.

Feel free to try it yourself. My guess is that you too (as long as you were fun to work with) might notice something similar.

My theory for how to get more LinkedIn recommendations would go as follows:

1. Do your job properly

2. Add decent people from your work in your LI

3. Ignore LinkedIn when you’d want recommendations (like for 3 months). – However I’m curious if this part works better when you don’t have a current job listed

Restaurant Impossible Drinking Game

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Restaurant Impossible Drinking Game

Since No Reservations and Bizarre Foods have their own version, time to have a drinking game for Restaurant Impossible as well.

Simple version:
Drink every time
– Robert gets a case of robertirvinitis (= gets an urge to knock down a wall with a huge hammer)
– When the result of robertirvinitis creates more work (and frustrates Tom)
– When something is “terrible”, “has no taste”, “outdated”, or is “the worst I have ever seen”
– If the food before is unseasoned
– If the food before comes out of a can

Advanced version:
Drink also when
– Some guest they interview after opening the renovated place says he has been coming to that restaurant for at least ten years – when the average amount of customers per week prior to the intervention clearly underlies the lie
– When anyone cries
– When they show the Lexus (bottom line? I don’t mind. If it helps finance the best show on Food Network, go for it)
– When they show the HGTV paint bucket (for this, or for Lexus, only when it’s in the show – if it’s on an ad break, ignore)
– When someone says “wow” or “oh my god” when the new look is revealed
– If the owners had no clue about restaurant business when they opened the place
– If the owners have no clue about their food cost
– When the chefs and owners are amazed how much difference adding salt and pepper can do to the taste of the food
– When the owners who had no clue and no experience bought the restaurant, they bought it so that they could spend more time with their young children

Extra – when the owners don’t like the new interiors – finish the whole bottle. (So far I have not seen a single case where they would not have liked the interior, so pretty amazing job for the interiors too)

No Reservations and Bizarre Foods Drinking Games

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No Reservations (or any other show with Anthony Bourdain) Drinking Game

Simple version:
Drink every time
– Bourdain drinks
– Bourdain is drunk or otherwise intoxicated
– every time there is something beeped out (but start counting from the second beep each episode)

Advanced version:
Drink also when
– in an episode with Zamir, Zamir drinks
– or Bourdain wants to get a revenge to Zamir
– every time Bourdain makes a mentions some white chick Travel Channel show like that of Samantha Brown
– every time Bourdain mentions cocaine
– every time an animal is butchered
– every time Bourdain mentions “porn”, “come to papa”, “gluttony”, “bad boy”, “punished”

Bizarre Foods Drinking Game

Simple version:
Drink every time
– Zimmern uses the words “nutty” or “earthy”, “oh my god”, “amazing”, “so good”

Advanced Version:
Also drink when
– Bourdain would be drinking if it was his episode

Also – Restaurant Impossible version of the game

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