Wednesday, February 22, 2017

A Little More About Those Pops

Update:  A day after I posted this piece, I heard from the culinary development representative again.  Her news is good for the Dallas/Fort Worth area.  The DFW Steel City Pop locations use chocolate from Unrefined Bakery, a 100% gluten-free establishment that is owned by a mother/daughter team who have Celiac.  However, locations in Houston, Alabama, and Kentucky are still at risk due to the use of Ghirardelli cocoa powder in some of their products.  
I posted a statement to Facebook yesterday about my disappointment in Steel City Pops because of their refusal to deal with ingredients that might contain gluten while still advertising their food as gluten-free.  I stand by my concern, but I wanted to add a bit to that since hearing from their culinary development representative this morning. Here's the breakdown:

Their representative from Ghirardelli is giving them a completely different story than the person I was in contact with.  Here's the statement I received from Ghirardelli about an ingredient Steel City Pops uses:

At this time our products are not certified as being gluten free, the FDA requires products to be tested to confirm that gluten level is below 20ppm. Currently Ghirardelli products are not tested to this requirement and therefore we cannot make any gluten free claims for our products, production lines or manufacturing facilities. If a Ghirardelli product contains gluten it will be noted in the ingredients. 

What this means is that Gharardelli does not require that their products meet the lowest possible standard for a gluten-free designation.  Thankfully, after years of being considered an enemy to the Celiac community due to their lack of transparency, they are finally giving a straight answer and saying they just aren't taking the extra step to guarantee anything.  I can at least respect the honesty. 

However, Steel City Pops' Ghirardelli representative tells a different story and says the company is on the verge of being certified gluten-free, they just don't want to pay for the designation.  Given the company's past and my exchange with a Ghirardelli rep. yesterday, I don't believe it.  

Steel City Pops is looking to change to a company who provides certified gluten-free, organic cocoa powder, but they haven't yet and I don't know when they will.  For us, that means this dessert destination is out.

All this to say I can't recommend this place to those with severe gluten-intolerance or Celiac, but I do commend the company for taking my concerns seriously and sending my emails up the chain of command until I was able to have an exchange with someone who seemed to moderately understand why I was concerned.  That is something, and I will take it.  

I also want to warn the Celiac community that I believe issues like this are going to become more prevalent for a couple of reasons:  number one, we're trending.  To eat gluten-free now is to be the cool kid at the lunch table, but that means many restaurants and manufacturers are cashing in as opposed to actually checking out how to help those who actually need this diet to live.  

Number two, governmental standards are going down the tube.  This is not completely new since the last administration seemed to owe a large portion of their souls to Monsanto, but I fear in this current climate where making money is the primary consideration for those in office, things are going to get very hard for those of us who need to verify ingredients in food or medication.  

To survive, research and question more than ever.  Eat at home when you can.  Eat whole foods that are less in question.  Eat certified GF.  Be careful. 

Sunday, February 5, 2017

What Simple Looked Like in January

The beginning of this year was a challenge to the simple mantra, I'm not going to lie.  I've spent much of the last several months feeling displaced in many areas of life, such as politically, spiritually, and in a sense in community because I like being a hermit and want to run at signs of conflict, and I don't know if you've popped your head outside the door or logged onto a social media account lately, but conflict abounds.  Plus, I am an anomaly whose views do not fit in any one group, a mutt of sorts, so I've watched people take up pitch forks and just waited to see which direction they were going to hit me from. 

This is how I walked into my year of simple.

What I have tried to do this month is to boil life down to what I want to accomplish and how I get there cutting out all of the BS along the way.  Try this if you want a sure fire way to see how full your life is of BS.

Here's what has helped me make my way back to the simple this month:

Uno: Yep, the kids' card game has done wonders for simple in this house.  Everyone feeling cranky and stressed?  Uno.  Everyone leaning too much on junk food and technology?  Uno.  Too cold to go outside without your six year-old suffering frost bit because he won't wear pants? Uno.

Kodaline's Album, In a Perfect World:  Music centers me, and one of the things that scares me most about losing my hearing is losing my memories.  They are tied up in song and the sounds of people laughing.

This album is beautiful and haunting and never fails to help me center and release tension.

Picnics:  These are not elaborate picnics with an actual basket and a trek to the woods.  We picnic in the backyard.  We picnic in the living room.  It's a great way to fellowship together that feels exotic because we don't do it every day.

Coffee:  Do I really need to explain this?

Story Time:  I recommend the following books for stellar story time: The Day the Crayons Quit, The Day the Crayons Came Home, Naked (it's a children's book, I promise), and Leo, the Terrible Monster.  They reset us every time.

Writing:  Writing is a great way for me to avoid therapy.

Actions Over Words: I am opting for actions over words, which isn't to say I won't use words, but they will be in putting out there what I think is important and not arguing with people who don't agree. I'm not going to try to convince other people, but I am going to protest.  My kids already know how to call their representatives, so I'm teaching action as well as practicing it.

Prayer:  If I love someone, I pray for them.  If I don't, I begrudgingly throw their name out there and let God deal with me.  It works either way, and it never fails to calm me and give me purpose.

Simple is not easy, but I think it's going to be worth it. 

Thursday, February 2, 2017

January 2017 Book List

Sex Object by Jessica Valenti:  I cannot say this book was enjoyable, but I still appreciated Valenti's story and the reason she felt it necessary to share.  In a world where people criticized Valenti for the title of her book, proclaiming she wasn't attractive enough to be a sex object, we need to remember that being called an object isn't a compliment.  That was Valenti's point.

The current climate of boys will be boys makes Valenti's story of leaving college due to harassment about her sex life even  more important.  The boy who targeted her after their break up, of course, was not vilified for the sex they had.

This book is not one of hope.  Sharing decades worth of family trauma as it relates to women being treated like objects, Valenti doesn't hold back.

News of the World by Paulette Jiles:  News of the World landed at number one on the Book Pages list for this year, so I had to read it.  I don't miss their numbers ones, and I've never been disappointed.

News of the World was no exception.  Taking place in Texas in the 1800s, this book follows Captain Kidd as he takes news from one Texas town to another, reading from the papers to the people about all that is going on in the great, big world.  When he is tasked with returning a young girl, Johanna, who was taken by Kiowa raiders four years early, to her home in San Antonio, he has to avoid the law, the Kiowa's who want her back, and other malicious people who don't have Johanna's best interest at heart.

This book is tender and hopeful, though at certain points I wanted to hide for fear of what was going to happen to these two unforgettable characters.  I would have never grabbed this one on my own, but I'm glad it was on the list because I can't imagine not knowing this beautiful story.

Tomorrow Will Be Different by Maria Semple:  This was on my Book Page List for the year, and it was very enjoyable.  The protagonist daily makes a list of how her day is going to be different, better, more grown up, and she regularly fails to meet her own goals.  As the story unfolds, we are permitted flashbacks that allow us to see her in a different light.

Semple's writing is hilarious and real, and she doesn't spare her protagonists close examination of their own faults that created the mess they are living in.  The characters are memorable and the story relevant.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple:  I will read a great  book by an author and then vow to read more of their work, but then I don't.  I decided to break that pattern by following up Today Will Be Different with Semple's previous New York Times bestseller, and I was not disappointed.  In fact, I like Where'd You Go, Bernadette even better.

Told through emails, memos, and narrative, we learn about Bernadette, a former architect who is now just trying to avoid people while living in Seattle with her husband and daughter.  The moms at her daughter's private school, or the gnats as she calls them, make it hard, and just like in Today Will Be Different, we learn more about the past that led Bernadette to where she is through flashbacks.  When Bernadette disappears, the past becomes extremely important for tracking her down.

This book is hilarious and delightful.

Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett:   The reader is warned from the beginning that this is not going to be a carefree, upbeat ride.  From the opening pages of this story, which is told by alternating narrators, we know that tragedy will occur in some way.  The story then takes us back to how this family started and to how they landed where they are.

Margaret decides, even after her fiance suffers from a depression so deep he has to be hospitalized, to marry him and have a family.  Their three children then carry on the story of their generation, with troubled oldest child Michael at the center of everyone's concern.

The writing is flawless, the story heartbreaking but honest and at times humorous. Haslett knows families, and my breath was stolen away when, using Margaret's voice, he described being a mother as hearing and feeling but not often actually seeing our children, a truth most any mother can attest to.  This one is worth the read and the heartbreak.

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood:  I maybe picked the wrong time in life to read Atwood's book about a dystopian environment where women are basically used for parts by a government masquerading as a religious entity, or maybe it was the perfect time.  Either way, this book that was written decades ago gave me the creeps and kept me hooked until the last page.

Offred is a handmaid who is assigned to a commander and his wife to try to conceive a child for them.  She has a limited amount of chances before she is deemed worthless, and the clock is ticking.  As Offred remembers her life before this world emerged, she also learns of a resistance growing in the heart of Gilead.

I may be one of the last to pick this one up, but if anyone else hasn't read it, grab it now.  It's disturbing but wonderful.

Transit by Rachel Cusk:  This book is a sequel of sorts to Outline, a beautiful piece of literature that I read and loved.  The narrator continues giving us snippets of her life in transition as she moves back to London with her young sons after a divorce.

This novel is not what most people expect when they think of telling a story.  Certain details are left completely out, and the story is more a series of very deep conversations that cut to the bone of meaning than a strict, detailed narrative.  Cusk's writing is breathtaking, and I want to sit at a table with people and dive to the heart of conversations the way her characters do. 

Jesus Without Borders by Chad Gibbs:  I want to see more of Gibb's hilarious, relevant writing on Christianity in the world because he is spot-on without being preachy, serious and yet hopeful.

Gibbs grew up in Alabama and decided he wanted to see what Christianity looked like in other countries around the world.  With an advance from Zondervan and travel hacking tricks, he went to 12 different countries, worshiped with other believers, and asked what they thought about American Christianity.  The answers and experiences were eye opening for Gibbs and for me as a reader.

As our country delves further into a dangerous trend towards nationalism and forgets that we do not have a monopoly on Christianity or what it looks like in real life, Gibb's book comes along and shows what following Jesus looks like in other cultures.  It should make us question our Christianity wrapped up in an American flag and our allegiance to politics over the actual words of God.