Friday, January 11, 2013

Religion & Dietary Restrictions

On Christmas Eve, Eric and I attended services at his church, First United Methodist.  The sermon was a touching story that brought tears to my eyes (all I can say is that the story involved an orphan child and his homemade nativity, which happened to have two babies in the manger instead of one…because he didn’t have a gift to give the Baby Jesus, so he thought that maybe it was okay for him and Baby Jesus to be together in that manger so he could keep Baby Jesus warm).  It was perfect.  Until we went up for communion.

Now, I’m a religious free-agent.  I was raised Southern Baptist as a child, adopted the Episcopal church as an adult because of personal and spiritual beliefs, but currently attend the local Methodist church with my partner because of their community-giving tenets aligning with mine.  So, by virtue of my Episcopal and Methodist leanings, I’ve taken communion many times.  And communion has come to mean a lot to me as it is one of the most intimate and beautiful and holy things that a congregation, that any group of people, can do together, whether it is at a church alter or at the dinner table.  I love communion.  And still do, despite what happened on Christmas Eve…

Everything started off as it normally would during communion, the walk down the isle, the taking of our places along the prayer bench.  Palms up to receive the Host, which is smallish square pillow of a cracker.  As the body of Christ was blessed and placed in my palm, I realized that I had not received communion since my gluten allergy diagnosis, therefore I had not thought about the digestive consequences of ingesting a non-gluten-free Host. 

Instead of all the prayers I had planned on praying, other thoughts began racing through my mind as I placed the Host on my tongue.  I had not consumed any gluten in the past two years other than that from cross contamination.  What was going to happen?  It could be bad, and I could be sick for the next three days.  Surely God would protect my digestive tract from the inevitable GI distress and the full-body rash…it was the body of Christ, after all!  I thought of faking a cough and palming/pocketing the Host, but not remembering what level of sin that might be, I decided it would be best to take my chances…And while I ticked through these panicky thoughts, I accidentally swallowed the Host whole.  And on Its way down my esophagus, It turned sideways.  And lodged there.

I won’t go into the uninteresting details of me trying to work the Host down my throat as silently as possible so as to not disrupt the service (picture large heartworm pill and dog).  Nor will I go into detail about the itchy thick feeling that quickly developed in my throat, an allergic reaction to the gluten.  And I won’t bore you with details of the painful squeezing of my esophageal muscles as they automatically worked the Host down on its righteous pathway to nourish my body and soul and how Eric thought he might have to cart me out of the service before we shared the flame of the Christ candle…

My alternate title for this post was Choking on Jesus, but I thought that too irreverent and/or blasphemous.  I have faith that with God knowing what is in my heart, he knew that I meant no offense when I thought and wrote those words just now.

Friday, January 4, 2013

New Year's Eve 2012

2012 was a good year.  Yes, sadly, there were losses (some I've blogged about, others, I've not yet found the words to blog about.  Maybe one day.).  But it was a beautiful year for figuring out what is important (mostly people and the simple things) and to begin New Year's resolutions early (again, pertaining to people and simple things).

Eric and I closed things out on New Year's Eve with a gathering of friends.  The Bungalow is small, and parking is never easy on our street, so the number of folks we can comfortably accommodate is limited.  Those who came were brave merry souls...

NYE 2012 at The Bungalow.  With permission, by Laura Catoe.

What may be my favorite photo of the evening is the one below, again by Laura Catoe.  I am wearing a vintage set of jewelry given to me last year by my mother.  The earrings and necklace were hers when she was a girl.  The painting is of her as a teenager.  She is wearing the necklace in the portrait.  I love the jewelry.  But more importantly, I love my mom.  I was more than happy to pose for this shot.  I may have even been giggling when Laura snapped it...

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Part 3 of the Asheville, NC Top-secret Surprise Holiday Trip

22 Dec 2012

As Mom & Dad quietly celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary back home in Gadsden (Happy Anniversary, you sweet lovebirds!), Eric and I explored the Biltmore Village area of Asheville (we opted to NOT tour The Biltmore grounds as we found the holiday rates too cringe-worthy…I’d rather drop that kind of cash in the spring, when the gardens are in bloom.  But that’s just me).  We window shopped the overpriced cook wear, knives and appliances at Williams-Sonoma.  We procured rocks for the neighborhood kids at The Compleat Naturalist (some nice iron pyrite or Fool’s Gold which should inspire awe).  We drank copious amounts of coffee at the Starbucks.  And we scoped out the locations of a few of the local breweries.  Then we returned to the downtown area for more urban explorations before resting up for our evening meal at the gluten free restaurant Posana Café.

Yes, that’s what I said.  We rested up before dinner.  Because didn’t I mention that Eric and I were old timers?  Pre-meal slumbers and early-bird specials are what we’re all about.

Again, Eric had made reservations at a stellar local restaurant, the Posana Café, which boasts a menu of simple foods made from seasonal, local goods.  And everything on the menu (excluding some of the beers) is gluten free, including their incredible-looking pastries and desserts. 

We began our meal with a lovely vegetable-heavy Vietnamese Spring Roll (shrimp, rice noodles, carrots, cucumber, ponzu) and then moved on to our entrees, an Ashley Farms Chicken for me and a Hickory Nut Gap Farms Braised Pork Shoulder for Eric.  My Ashley Farms Chicken was a succulent and tender hunk of roast chicken (white and dark meat) nestled on a bed of fingerling potatoes, with royal trumpet mushrooms and caramelized onions.  Eric’s Hickory Nut Gap Farms Braised Pork Shoulder looked like a mini pork roast sitting atop a mound of white cheddar stone-ground grits, surrounded with a moat of braising jus, crowned with yummy hot pickled green tomatoes.  Both cuts of meat fell apart at the touch of knife and fork.  That tender!   Dessert was a chocolate-y, raspberry-y Caramel Almond Nougat Bombe which had a shortbread cookie in it!  A SHORTBREAD COOKIE!  I was embarrassed at how loudly I cracked that cookie apart to gobble it up…

Ashley Farms Chicken, Posana Cafe.  Asheville, NC.

Hickory Nut Gap Farms Braised Pork Shoulder, Posana Cafe.

Caramel Almond Nougat Bombe, Posana Cafe.


23 Dec 2012
With the Blue Ridge Parkway closed due to snow and fallen trees on the road, we opted to spend our last day in Asheville watching the newest James Bond film Skyfall in the swanky Carolina Cinemas.  Having never been to a lounge theatre before, Eric and I wondered around like two country cousins until we claimed a mid-theatre sofa to sprawl ourselves upon.  If we hadn’t been so excited about the movie, we would’ve taken a nap right then and there, because we were already thinking about our dinner at the Black Bird Restaurant…

Speaking of which, The Black Bird restaurant is yet another amazing local eatery where Eric secured dining reservations.  And as with the Posana Café, The Black Bird menu is a list of beautiful foods made from seasonal and local products.  For this meal, we began with the Arugula Salad, sprinkled with spiced pecans, shaved fennel, blue cheese and wine-poached pears.  For our entrees, I chose a Foie Gras Burger with shoestring potatoes while Eric had the Pan-fried “Little Ear” Pasta with mozzarella, artichoke hearts and new potatoes.  The foie gras burger was to die for, as were the shoestring potatoes.  Eric commented that although the flavor of his pasta was delicious, he found the meal to be a little heavy.  We both thought that perhaps this was due to the fact that normally Eric is gluten free in solidarity with me, but had fallen off of the wagon in a royal way on this trip and was feeling its effects.  Gluten can do that even to the tolerant…

Arugula Salad, The Black Bird.  Asheville, NC.

Foie Gras Burger, The Black Bird.  Asheville, NC.

Little Ear Pasta, The Black Bird.  Asheville, NC.

More Asheville, NC street art:


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Part 2 of the Asheville, NC: Top-secret Surprise Holiday Trip

21 December 2012

Despite what the Mayans thought would happen that day, Eric and I decided to make the most of it. We bundled ourselves against the fiercely blowing cold winds and ventured out into downtown Asheville to follow the self-guided 1.7 mile art and history tour known as the Asheville Urban Trail.  What a wonderful way to learn the city!  Stops included, but were certainly not limited to, an O. Henry homage of brass hair combs, braid and watch fob imbedded in the sidewalk (William Sidney Porter, better known by nome de plume O. Henry and even better known for his wonderful short story The Gift of the Magi, lived in and is buried in Asheville), numerous Thomas Wolfe mentions (a life-sized cut-out image of Wolfe marking his neighborhood, a pair of big brass shoes in front of his childhood home which served as a model for the boardinghouse in his 1929 novel, Look Homeward, Angel and a tombstone complete with carving implements that marked the spot where Wolfe’s father’s tombstone shop once stood), and architect Douglas Ellington’s gorgeous Art Deco S & W Cafeteria building (opened in 1929 by two World War I mess sergeants, closed in 1974, currently being restored and converted into lofts and retail space).

O. Henry's The Gift of the Magi.  Asheville, NC.

Thomas Wolfe's neighborhood marker.  Asheville, NC.

S & W Cafeteria building.  Asheville, NC.

But, some of my favorite art came in the form of the wall dogs and graffiti that decorate the town.  

Merce Cunningham & John Cage wall dog.  Asheville, NC.
Paper flowers on a tag.  Asheville, NC.

Ishmael tag.  Asheville, NC.

That evening, Eric had reservations for us at Curatè Tapas Bar, a Spanish cuisine restaurant owned and operated by James Beard Rising Star Chef nominee Katie Button.  The menu is full of the most amazing delicacies, all of which are flagged with food allergy alerts where applicable.   The atmosphere was relatively quiet (we were early, old folks that we are), and the vibe was relaxed.  Just as Eric and I were questioning our server about certain items on the menu, the electricity blinked…twice.  We joked about the day not being over yet and how the Mayans may have indeed known exactly what they were talking about and oh, let’s order quickly so that if the world ends, it will end for us with bellies full of delicious tapas…

And so that is what we did.  We ordered Marcona almonds for an appetizer, the Tabla de Jamon (a sampling plate of three different delicately sliced hams from Spanish pigs, each fed differently, and each tasted subtly differently), Esparragos Verdes (green asparagus with the to-die-for red-pepper based Romesco sauce), and Gambas al ajillo (sautèed shrimp and garlic).  We followed everything up with dessert, Espuma de Chocolate (described by The Carolina Epicurian as “a plate smeared with hazelnut praline anchoring deeply flavored chocolate mousse, candied nuts and raspberry sorbet”)  for me, Helado de Romero (Rosemary ice cream) for Eric.  Everything was gluten free except the bread, which was served on a separate plate for Eric (who was quick to inform our server of my food allergy).  Nothing disappointed.

Later that evening, we experienced a blackout at the hotel.  For all our joking about the end of the world being nigh earlier in the day, it was very unsettling to look out of our hotel window and see blackness.  No streetlights, no restaurant lights, no super market lights.  Only the lights of cars, bravely motoring along in the dark.  

Marcona almonds, Curatè Tapas Bar.  Asheville, NC.

Tabla de Jamon, Curatè Tapas Bar.  Asheville, NC.

Gambas al ajillo, Curatè Tapas Bar.  Asheville, NC.

Espuma de Chocolate, Curatè Tapas Bar.  Asheville, NC.

Helado de Romero, Curatè Tapas Bar.  Asheville, NC.