An Epic Night with Mr. Dylan

I was super excited when I bought my tickets to last week’s Bob Dylan show in FW. However, I was hesitant to expect too much. For years now, I have heard that Dylan shows were hit or miss – hit meaning great and miss meaning unintelligible “singing” and lyric memory loss.

The FW show at Parkview Field was definitely a hit. My favorites were Make You Feel My Love (I haven’t smiled that big in a long time – it was glee inducing), Highway 61, Like a Rolling Stone, and Tangled Up in Blue. He also offered up All Along the Watchtower, Blowin’ in the Wind, Rollin’ and Tumblin’ (last encore tune, which I missed) and The Levee’s Gonna Break, among others.

Mr. Dylan performed his classics beautifully. He performed the tunes as though he was reading poetry (my Sister’s astute observation) rather than singing the songs as they were produced on albums. He sounded great and the band was solid. It was a once in a lifetime show. Although, I am a little biased because I will now forever have the memory of dancing to Like a Rolling Stone with my Mommy 25 feet from the stage.

It does not get much better. It was epic indeed.

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Gluten-Free Dining in Fort Wayne

Gluten-free eating can be pretty easy and very tasty at home. Whole foods do not contain gluten, so eating gluten-free at home is a healthy and naturally low-calorie way to eat. Just whip up a meat and three and you are good to go.

Eating gluten-free outside of your own kitchen can be challenging. The challenges can include the type of cuisine (hello, Italian), the knowledge and understanding of the chef and staff about the dietary restrictions, or your (my) own fear of cross-contamination (you don’t know what happens to your food before you get it). So far in my gluten-free adventure I have encountered uninterested, cynical, and disbelieving servers and restaurant owners. You know, the ones that think you are asking for a gluten-free meal because you are a low-carb weight loss diet (which is fine if you are – just say it and stop claiming you have a disease, allergy, or legitimate intolerance). This is why I have started using the word Celiac as much as possible. I hope to bring at least some awareness to a handful of people.

Anyway, for every one of those people, I run into two or three people who are genuinely interested in making sure I have a positive dining experience. They ask questions, offer suggestions, and take recommendations happily. Below is a list of the places in Fort Wayne where I have enjoyed great gluten-free food and service so far. I plan to share as many as I can find that are worth a share. I hope this helps guide you to the happiest gluten-free places in town.

Acme Bar & Grill – I love the hamburgers at the Acme. So, when I went in recently and asked for one, sans the bun and fries, my server never missed a beat. I had a salad instead of fries and it was a great gluten-free meal. Remember if you are not sure the fries are prepared in a dedicated fryer then they may be contaminated. Booo.

BakerStreet Steak, Seafood, & Spirits – This spot is one of my favorites, it has a great gluten-free menu as well as attentive, caring, and knowledgeable servers. I had a perfectly prepared steak with asparagus, a spinach salad, and a to-die-for flourless chocolate cake. Top notch. Also, if you want to participate in their dining events (they do some farm to fork dinners) then let them know when you make the reservation that you are gluten-free and they will make sure you can participate.

Casa – This Italian eatery has a comprehensive gluten-free menu that will satisfy the biggest, baddest pasta craving! Other than the bread, you would never know that you were eating gluten-free.

Firefly Coffee House – You can get a gluten-free Oregon Chai latte (my favorite) amongst other tasty safe drinks. They serve gluten-free cookies and crustless quiche from their kitchen. The staff is also never too busy to answer a question, show you a product label, or listen to any helpful suggestions. The folks get it. They have also started carrying almond milk in addition to soy for those of us who can’t tolerate lactose.

Friends – They do not have a gluten-free menu but they do have an accommodating kitchen and a flexible menu. Enjoy the chicken souvlaki with potatoes and a great Greek salad (it has pineapple and beets on it – I love it).

Grabill Country Store – Call ahead to this lovely Amish store in the burg of Grabill and they will bake you a loaf of your favorite bread – gluten-free. The Grabill Store also has a large selection of gluten-free flour, mixes, and other fixins. The daily breakfast and lunch buffet has naturally gluten-free options also (eggs and bacon are beautiful things).

J.K. O’Donnell’s – JK’s has outstanding salads that are gluten-free. For those that enjoy a snort every now and again, JK’s offers a gluten-free beer as well as a selection of ciders that are naturally gluten-free.

Madeleine’s Bakehouse – During your next shopping trip to Jefferson Pointe stop into Madeleine’s and enjoy one of their many macaroons and a cup of tea. Both are gluten-free and lovely!

The Oyster Bar – There is no gluten-free menu at The Oyster Bar but the chef is knowledgeable about gluten-free cooking and can whip you up some great fish, gluten-free. There are many things on The Oyster Bar’s expansive menu to enjoy gluten-free, including oysters.

Spice & Herb – Asian food can be tricky in regards to gluten, it is hard to know exactly what thickeners are used and there is typically no gluten-free menu. This is not a concern at Spice & Herb, I had a great lunch of noodles made of mung beans, tea, and salad, all gluten-free. The server was attentive, helpful, and knew exactly what I needed.

There are fast-food joints that offer pretty solid gluten-free options . . . Red Robin has a good gluten-free menu, Chik-fil-a offers gluten-free fries and chicken options (no bun), Culver’s custard in a cup (I only eat vanilla) is gluten-free, Chipotle is accommodating and can make a super gluten-free salad, and in a pinch you can get a bun-less cheeseburger at McDonald’s (although I prefer to go inside as I feel it is harder to mess up my food if you have to look directly at my face).

This diagnosis has been very hard for me – my hobby and great pleasure in life is finding and enjoying good food. I love to eat adventurously and being gluten-free has certainly changed how I can do that now. The days of not thinking about food are over – I have to pre-plan all my meals and carry snacks everywhere I go. But there is hope, in fact, after writing this list I feel a renewed hope that not all of my going-out-to-eat options are lost. That sure is a pretty thought.

Be patient, friendly, kind, and smile a lot and more often than not you will find someone who truly wants to meet your food needs!

Tickled and Other Words Midwesterners Don’t Say

I recently spent a lovely evening looking at art with fellow Southern refugee, CLW. When we are together there is no absolutely no dead air and the conversation moves quickly from one topic to the next. Like, it will make your head spin quickly. But neither of us really notice, we just roll with the laughter. As we chatted a few classic Southern words crossed my friend’s lips. Words that I never hear anymore, because Midwesterners just don’t talk like Southerners. Here are a few that I miss . . .

No one in the Midwest is “tickled.” Well, they might be but instead they would say happy, amused, pleased, or excited. In the South we are tickled if we get a sweet gift or a nice compliment. Or as you might recall from the epic Southern tear=jerker, Steel Magnolias, if you are Southern you might find yourself “tickled pink.”

Also, no one here gets any “sugar.” You know, come on over here and so I can “give you some sugar.” Sugar as in affection – hugs, kisses, love. It is sweet! Literally and figuratively.

I have not seen anyone in FW that would admit that they were “fit to be tied.” If you are angry then you are if you are fit to be tied.

When someone stays out late having a “big time” my Daddy would say that they “laid out.” If Daddy says you laid out last night then he also thinks you were drunk.

Piddly. No one says piddly in the Midwest. It means little, insignificant, or inferior. Like she came over here on that piddly ole bicycle or your raise might have been piddly. Piddly always reminds me of kindly . . . that box is kindly small for your present.

If you don’t know the name of something or someone it is a thingamajig, whatchamacallitwhatshisname, whatshername, or a hootenanny. Of course, you can also lay out and have a big time at a hootenanny.

Now, I don’t recommend or advise that you call people names but some women are huzzies. my Mommy on occasion calls The Queen a “huzzy” when she is being difficult. It means a female of ill repute, if you will. People don’t say that here.

If you are poor in the Midwest, you are just poor. In the South “you don’t have a pot to pee in.” We like graphic images.

In the South after dinner, you might “be about to pop” or be “full as a tick.” Here you just had too much to eat, booorring.

If you are talking ugly about someone in the South you are probably “bad-mouthing” them.

Where I am from “cain’t never could do nothing.” In the Midwest you do hear an “ain’t” here or there but folks here have not graduated to “cain’t,” as in cannot, yet. We like to compound our negatives, proper English be damned.

What’s really sad is that no one here knows what it means if you are gonna “run down to the Pig.” Ahh, I miss the Piggly Wiggly. “The Pig,” as it was affectionately referred to, is the first grocery store I remember. Later it changed to the Food City, but it took years for Mommy to stop calling it The Pig.

Southern talk never gets old and it always sounds sweet even when it is not. That is why when I chance to spend time with my fellow Southern expatriates arises I jump on it like a duck on a junebug!

Here’s a little country from one of my favorite Southern women (introduced by my favorite muppet) . . .


Gluten-Free at Home

My Midwestern adventure has supplied me with the answer of years of medical intrigue. I like answers and having one is great. Although, I’d prefer it not include eliminating a big chunk of my diet. But I digress. The adventure this answer brings is relearning how to eat. Realizing that I have to plan my meals carefully beforehand. Eating whatever, whenever at the drop of a hat is not going to work anymore. The good news is that I have found that it is not all that hard to eat gluten-free. As long as you eat at home. Restaurants are challenging, no matter what, but that is a post for another day.

As for eating at home, I received the best piece of advice from a friend (who was also a former professor of mine) who has been a Celiac all is life, practically. He told me, don’t try to find gluten-free substitutes for the foods you love. He is right, they are almost always disappointing. With that in mind, my strategy has been to find ways to eat interesting food done simply and healthy. So here are some of my recent examples of gluten-free love at home.

I love cobbler. My Mommy and Auntie M make cobbler that is life altering. My favorite is blackberry. So I won’t try blackberry. However, peach cobbler has never been my favorite, although I won’t turn it down. So, I decided that I would make gluten-free peach cobbler. The idea of experimenting with different kinds of gluten-free flour to see what works makes me cringe. So rather than try to make the cobbler dough from scratch and inevitably become annoyed I used gluten-free pancake/waffle mix. Because I have become lactose intolerant from the Celiac I can’t use cow’s milk so I sub my new favorite – coconut milk. I prefer unsweetened original (although I am sure sweetened vanilla would taste great). Also, I was too lazy to go to the farmer’s market or fruit stand so I used canned peaches (gasp, wail).

You should know that despite my normal obsession with rule following I do not cook according to rules or recipes. I pinch and toss ingredients and see what happens. Usually it works, occasionally it doesn’t. I learned it from my Mommy and every other Southern woman I’ve every seen cook . . . at little of this and cook it at about this temperature until you just know it’s ready.  As far as I’ve seen recipes are merely suggestions.

Two cans of peaches with a little of the juice, a pinch of cinnamon, and a squirt of agave syrup go into a pyrex dish. Stir. The mixed up pancake mix goes on top of the peaches in no particular way. Bake at 325 or so until the pancake mix browns a bit on top and the peaches are bubbly. I serve it warm with some milk (coconut or almond) poured over it (just like my Daddy taught me). In my opinion, it tastes better than gluten-tainted peach cobbler.

This lovely cobbler experiment followed a gluten-free dinner of barbecue chicken baked in the oven and salad salsa. Barbecue, you say, yes, barbecue. Stubb’s barbecue sauce is naturally gluten-free! I bake the chicken for 15 minutes at 350 covered in aluminum foil. Then I take it out and coat it with Stubb’s and bake it for another 10 or 15 minutes until it is firm to the touch. Super juicy and tasty.

The salad salsa is awesome . . . fresh garden tomatoes, half an avocado, one jalapeno, onion, cilantro, and green pepper, one can each of black beans (washed), chickpeas, and corn. Combine with salt, pepper, and the juice of one lime. I vary the ingredients depending on what is in the fridge, freezer, or pantry. I serve the mixture over iceberg or romaine lettuce with a tablespoon or so of Annie’s Cowgirl Ranch gluten-free, organic salad dressing. It is spicy, tasty, and good for you. Oh, and it also tastes great with corn chips.

Same except no chickpeas or corn and I added lime juice . . .

Gluten-free cooking can be fun and it is getting more interesting. Even pretty!


The Indiana Coast

I am super lucky to have parents that love to come and visit me and The Queen. I love seeing my family and spending time with them. As my Sister once said, “we are not just family, we like each other. We are friends.” Truth.

However, my parents, Sister, and I all live very differently. My Daddy spends his free time watching TV, checking the stock market, building things, playing with the dog, and practicing his household chore skills (retirement is teaching him a lot). My mom reads, cooks, and cruises the interwebs. I, on the other hand, don’t have cable television (my Daddy doesn’t understand this concept), I don’t keep a lot of food in the house, and I spend my free time at home reading, writing, and watching random programs on Netflix (a lot of Law & Order). The rest of my time is spent at work or traipsing around the country side.

So, in an effort to avoid hanging out around the house staring at each other, and napping, we loaded up in the tricked-out minivan and headed toward the Indiana coast. Seeing the Indiana coast of Lake Michigan and the Indiana Dunes State Park has been on my short list of adventures for a while now.

We started the day with a drive through Northeast Indiana, including Ligonier, Napanee, and Chesterton. We arrived in Chesterton, Indiana and checked out the weekly European Market. It was lively and full of food, crafts, and friendly dog-loving folks. Next, we headed to the Indiana Dunes State Park. It was beautiful and scorching hot. We walked the dunes and The Queen got her first visit to the beach. She’s not a fan – apparently she only likes still, quiet water.

The Indiana coast is not the Atlantic or Pacific but the inland sea that is Lake Michigan is beautiful and lined with huge sparkly white dunes. The waters of Lake Michigan are clear, warm, and at least three shades of blue. We were all surprised by the quality of the water and beach. We are used to lakes that are full of opaque water that covers former valleys and farms (hello TVA) with the occasional tree, log, or car tire floating along the surface. Lake Michigan is not like a lake at all. It is very pretty.