Gluten Can Be Your Bitch, Too
Biggest gluten-free party in Austin history is this Friday
By Margaret Shugart,
11:00AM, Wed. Jun. 5, 2013
I have been waiting to write a post about this woman since March. On paper, she has a witty, side-splitting humor like Tina Fey. In person, she radiates a palpable compassion that fills a room. And now she is coming to Austin Friday, June 7, to throw the biggest gluten-free party this city has ever seen.
April Peveteaux was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2011, and immediately started a Wordpress blog called Gluten Is My Bitch to help her process the ramifications of the disease. As she expanded upon its scope and audience, the blog became a book by the same name, released last month. I was lucky to receive an advanced copy and stayed up late the first night, laughing at the realities of our condition.
From her intro:
"So what seems to be the problem? Check one:
- I am bloated, gassy, and no fun to be around.
- I have a rash that won't go away. No, it's not syphilis. Stop looking at me that way.
- I am so tired I've given up on the disco nap and just take a pre-bedtime nap.
- I am pretty sure I'm allergic to turkey, rather than the delicious sourdough it is served upon. Stupid turkey.
- Between the brain fog and creaky joints, I've turned into that old man who screams at chairs.
- I'm losing a scary amount of weight, and it's really not awesome anymore.
We are a fun bunch, are we not?"
We met at Wildwood Bakehouse and Cafe (3016 Guadalupe) in March for an interview and some uncontaminated goodies. Peveteaux showed up wearing a shirt that said "Gluten Is My Bitch" and a button that read "Fuck Flour." As we talked, it became evident that she was not only channeling her anger and frustration with celiac disease to make her life better, but she wants others to find their best path as well. The whole experience caused me to take a second look at the last seven years of my life and diet and to consider its impacts in a new light.
What struck me most about Gluten Is My Bitch (Stewart, Tabori and Chang, $19.95), besides the hilarity, was the subtle way Peveteaux encourages readers to consider their condition seriously and to take all necessary measures to protect themselves. It was such a relief to be empowered from a positive place, and I've changed my approach to several situations since, particularly eating out. I didn't feel so alone or freakish anymore... or at least not alone. In addition to covering diagnosis, eating out, travel, research for future cures, and gluten misinformation (that was a really good section), two chapters of the book that set it apart from others I've read were one about children and one full of delicious recipes.
As a mother of two and an editor at mom.me, Peveteaux shows serious sympathy for parents raising a child with celiac disease, in all stages of growth from eating gluten-ridden Play-doh to monitoring a child in the tweens and teens (lovingly nicknamed the “Age of the A-hole”). Although her own children don't share her celiac sensitivity, she has done thorough research on the pitfalls and traps and gives myriad suggestions for how to keep kids on the diet and how to inform (and maybe scare a little) the people in their lives about the seriousness of the disease.
And the cooking. "It's time to bust up some gluten and dive into the gluten-free pool of deliciousness. No, I'm not kidding. You can have deliciousness without gluten. I swear on my mother's muffin pan," Peveteaux says. There are over 40 recipes throughout the book. Some are from her family’s cookbook (with gluten-free modifications), and others are inspired by restaurant/ food truck offerings like “Spinach Lasagna Cupcakes” and “Chicken and Waffles.” Peveteaux also includes several vegan and paleo creations because oftentimes celiac disease is accompanied by lactose intolerance, and has a chapter of recipes to satisfy the celiac child. She’s not afraid to fry or use traditionally delicious ingredients like cheese and bacon, and offers a lot of options for enjoying comfort food again. Peveteaux said she made each recipe at least three times to check for consistency and ensure correct proportions. In addition to the meals and snacks, she gives a few gluten-free cocktail suggestions because, “Let’s face it, gluteniacs, you need a drink.”
I saw April Peveteaux speak at a panel during SXSW Interactive, and her compassion was confirmed as people approached the mic with questions. She offered sincere apologies to those who were struggling with a new gluten-free life and listened intently to each person's questions and request. After the talk, she was surrounded by a gaggle of young gluteniac girls, eager to share their own stories and suggestions. She handled the rush with admirable grace and I am sure each person walked away feeling better about their situation.
So what about this "amazoid" party? It is this Friday, June 7, from 4pm-7pm at Frank (407 Colorado St), her brother's restaurant. Sponsored by Frank, Udis, and Omission Beer, there will be free beer and hot dogs, as well as the chance to meet Peveteaux in person and get your own signed copy of Gluten Is My Bitch: Rants, Recipes, and Ridiculousness for the Gluten-free. (If you can't make the party, I highly recommend you order it online.) The first 100 guests get an amazoid gift bag. I'll race you to them.