This past year has been almond butter, popcorn, La Croix. Minestrone soup, coffee with cream. Not much. A lot of air.

23 was Amsterdam: pasta carbonara, aged gouda cheese. Yogurt on granola. Translating Dutch in the grocery store, balancing bags on my bicycle handles. Learning to cook perfect hamburgers for a family of four. Belgian beers.

22 was senior year: roasted brussels sprouts, vegetable omelets with hot sauce, bottles of red wine while writing literary critiques.

21 was France: chunks of brie on fresh baguettes, ratatouille crêpes from the underground shop. Too much Nutella, never enough Nutella. French wine: red, white, rosé, depending on the weather and time of day. Street food in the 12 countries I traveled.

20, 19: Cheese quesadillas. Whatever booze someone would buy me.

18: Perfecting the water-to-grain ratio of brown sugar instant oatmeal, prepared in my dorm room microwave. Dining hall salads, or whatever else was vegetarian. Red cups of bright fruit juice mixed with cheap vodka, poured by frat bros. I lost 8 pounds that year.

15, 16, 17: Jager bombs, beer bongs, various fruit-flavored rum. Buffalo chicken bites and cups of ranch from the Irish-themed burger joint I worked at, where older men told me I should smile more, before making their way to the bar.

14, the year of my diagnosis: turkey and cheese sandwiches slathered with mayonnaise, cups of vanilla pudding, boxes of apple juice. The year I first drank alcohol: airplane bottles of Smirnoff, warm Natty Lights we got from someone’s older brother, taking a sip, passing it around.

My childhood, from 5 to 13, was artichokes with lemon-butter. Sometimes cups of raspberries, and other things, depending upon which of my parents I was with that night. Mondays and Tuesdays with Mom. Every other Wednesday with Dad, and every Thursday. Every other Friday, Saturday and Sunday with Mom. Back and forth like that, with my pink duffle bag. The way I know how to live: adaptively, in motion, a baby bird taking flight.

They would call me as I re-packed my bag at the other’s house, and ask me what I wanted for dinner that night.

I never quite knew. I said artichokes, my answer consistent, familiar. Whatever I hungered for, it was always the same.

 

I am a self-professed street food connoisseur.

As a traveler (or human in general) who is perpetually on a tight budget, street food is the most cost-efficient way to try a country’s local foods. In a lot of cities, street food is really its own culture, anyways, and has grown to be a large part of the city’s local cuisine as a whole. Portland, for instance, is famous for its food trucks and food truck courts. People don’t just go to them because they are fast and cheap; they go to them because they are a staple in the city, and because they are good.

Here are some of the Amsterdam street food staples that I’ve experienced so far.

(Yes, I ate all of these things. Yes, I’m sure I can eat them. No, I haven’t forgotten I’m diabetic, but thank you for the reminder. While we’re at reminders, I’ll just put it out there that I probably know more about my own chronic illness than you know about my chronic illness. A perk of having one, I suppose! Nothing personal!)

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Yes, they are as good as they sound. Gluten has nothing on these.

So many thanks to Katy, who read my post about going gluten-free and sent me this with wonderful recipe!

Any one of my friends can vouch for the fact that I’m not really that into sweets*. I would choose a bag of salty chips (preferably Trader Joe’s Olive Oil Potato Chips because SO GOOD) over a cupcake or handful of candy any day. But around my sophomore year of college, I stumbled upon a recipe for sea salt chocolate chip cookies, and they were the perfect balance of sweet and salty, and I really couldn’t get enough of them. I mastered them. They were so delicious and everyone loved them, but I had to refrain from baking them because my blood sugar couldn’t handle anymore “I think I’ll just have 4 cookies for breakfast” kind of mornings.

I’d actually forgotten about that sugary phase of my life until I read the recipe Katy sent me the other day. I read Chewy Dark Chocolate Chunk Cookies with Sea Salt and it all came flooding back. And I decided this definitely had to be my first gluten-free baking experiment.

So yesterday, these happened:

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And they were awesome.

The only thing I did differently is use regular granulated sugar instead of coconut sugar because that sounded very cool and exotic but also very Whole Foods aka very $10 for a small bag of sugar. (I could be totally wrong. I didn’t even look into it.)

The recipe is completely grain-free, so instead of using flour, they call for a cup of raw almond butter. And somehow, they still manage to have the perfect coveted crispy outside and chewy inside that every cookie tries to live up to (without a weird nut butter taste or anything.)

It’s a GF chocolate chip cookie miracle! 

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*this excludes Sugar Shack doughnuts and all milk chocolate


 

EDIT:// I think (actually I KNOW because I’ve already had 2 for breakfast) that these cookies are even better the next morning. Nom nom nom.

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I’ve been sick, really sick, for months.

It started with complete appetite loss in mid-April. Like flicking a switch, my appetite just shut off. Later came the stomachaches, nausea, bloating, extreme fatigue (really weird for a normally high-energy person like me), weakness, lack of motivation to do anything, brain fuzziness, and irritability. = Extreme sadness and extreme extreme extreme frustration, also.

When the symptoms were only worsening near June, I made an appointment with a gastro specialist. I was afraid I had celiac disease, as 10-20% type one diabetics do, and I matched many of the symptoms. I had a blood test done, waited a week. Negative. Had an endoscopy the next week, and that, too, was negative for Celiac and/or anything else. I was very relieved it wasn’t Celiac, but throughout all the waiting and tests and more waiting, I was still suffering all of those symptoms every day and I just wanted a goddamn answer. I just wanted a pinpointed diagnosis. I’ve spent so much of this summer lying in my bed, too tired or sad or sick to do anything. I just wanted an explanation. So next, I had a gastric emptying test done to make sure I was digesting food at a healthy pace. This is literally one of the weirdest things I’ve ever had to do:

  1. Eat a radioactive egg sandwich (no, really)
  2. Lay under a machine for 2 hours to track radioactive lunch being digested

nuclear

When the results came in, everything checked out. Again, I felt relieved, but empty handed, still aching. (Not to mention now sifting anxiously through a growing pile of medical bills.) So I backtracked. I thought maybe something outside of my stomach was causing my problems. I went back to a general doctor and got a Complete Blood Count. Everything looked good…. except my blood sugar at that precise moment (whoopsie). I had tests for pancreas function, thyroid function, liver function: check, check, check.

Nothing.

I told the doctor how frustrated I was, how something is fucked up, and I was thinking maybe I had an intolerance to something, like gluten or dairy, because what else is left? And you know what she said to me? Experiment. Only you know how you feel. A patient knows their body far better than a doctor does.

So, I’m experimenting.  One week ago, I cut gluten out of my diet. (What a weird word, by the way, gluten.) It’s been easy(ish) because weirdly enough, when I lost my appetite in April, I especially lost all desire for bread-y things. (It’s the secretly hidden gluten-y things that are tough.)

And I’ve felt so much better ever since. It makes me happy and sad, but mostly relieved. It’s actually hard to believe how much better I feel. I was sick for so long, it was wearing me so thin. I was breaking down. I was so worried. And now, what, it’s over, as long as I don’t eat gluten? I guess we’ll see. My friends feel bad for me, saying things like I can’t believe you can’t eat gluuuuuten! What about beer?! What about bread? What will you eat? I could never give up those things.

Which is when I politely offer the same response as when someone tells me You have to take shots? I could never do that! I’m not good with blood. I’m not good with needles!! Eeeeek!!!!

Lol. As if there is a choice.

My response: You would be surprised by the things you would do to survive.

Me eating gluten free cheese bagels while everyone else eats french toast

My breakfast: Gluten Free Cheese Bagels // Everyone else’s breakfast: Baguette-style French toast

Not being able to eat gluten isn’t the end of the world. It’s certainly the end of a world of mine, at least for now, the end of a more carefree world where I could drink beer and eat pizza and breadsticks and “only” have carbs and blood sugar and insulin to worry about. It’s another thing to worry about, to scan the Nutrition Facts for. It’s another thing to avoid and another health-thing to take up space in my head. But it’s not the end of the world.

When I was first confronted with the idea of a gluten-free life, back when I thought I had Celiac, my mom said, “So if that’s what it is, you’ll just have to re-adjust your lifestyle. It’s not like you haven’t had to do that before.” And that is what pisses me off. The fact that I have done it. I molded my entire life to a dramatic degree 9 years ago, upon diabetes diagnosis. I’ve done this. I’ve done it. And now, after being brave and positive and strong for so many years- now this too? This new obstacle, this new limitation?

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that I can handle whatever is going on. Of course I can. Diabetes is a hell of a force to be reckoned with, and my skin is 1000x thicker for it. But I guess I’ve just always had the lightning doesn’t strike twice in the same place mentality.

And so it seems that, too, will need re-adjusting.

PS- If anyone has any awesome GF recipes/brand suggestions, send ’em my way please & thank you!

Sometimes, you just need  to eat pancakes.

But I’ve learned over the years that as amazing as normal pancakes taste, eating them really throws off my whole day. I can never get the bolus right, and it just turns into a lot of anxiety and high blood sugar. If anything in the world should not be anxiety-inducing, it is pancakes.

This recipe has been all over the internet for a while now, but I think it’s important to talk about them every so often because TWO (healthy) INGREDIENTS. And they are so good. I started making them while I was studying abroad in France last year, because they were so simple and I had a very limited amount of cooking appliances. (Read: I had one fork that I used for 10 months. These pancakes were only made possible after someone gifted me a spatula.)

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So, the ingredients are 1 egg + 1 banana. That’s all. (but I do suggest adding a tablespoon of cinnamon too, it helps hold them together)

All you do is mash the banana with a fork, crack the egg into the same bowl, mix it together, and voila: healthy, wholesome pancake batter!

I usually cook them over medium heat, and make silver-dollar sized pancakes because they hold together better than larger ones.

If the banana is ripe, I usually don’t even add sugar-free syrup or honey, but if the banana isn’t as ripe, I’ll add a little bit.

They’re such a good, lower carb alternative to regular pancakes and they’re actually really good for you!

Happy Pancaking!