Sunday, September 26, 2010

A friend from university once told me that the ability to humour one's self is priceless. I think she put it as simply as this: "you know so-and-so? They're hilarious! They can really crack themselves up". That was the expression she used, to crack yourself up.

At this time, I didn't really understand what she meant. I suppose that the concept of humour for me came always as an interpretation of outside forces, exterior situations to be reckoned with. But over time I began to understand what she really meant. People who can find amusement in the comicality of their present moment whilst recognizing that their contribution is clever or absurd or just entertaining to them even if it entertains no other party... well, these people have a pretty special gift.

Side note - I have a grade 8 student who cracks herself up all the time. It's fantastic, even when the rest of us just don't understand.

Leading a gluten free lifestyle has allowed me to somehow develop my own capacity to find lightness in the most frustrating of situations. This took awhile though, because for the first year, at restaurants and grocery stores and friend's houses, I was much more focused on getting myself through a menu, the weekly list or a meal without getting fed up or being rude. But now that most of the cravings are gone, and my friends and family understand the basics, I can wander out and find myself in the most unlikely places - I'm becoming braver.

For example, I recently ate at McDonald's. This wasn't my intention, trust me, but I found myself ravenous at the Alexis Nihon Plaza about a month ago. I know the McDonald's Angus Burger is 100% beef, and the fries are gluten free, so instead of dropping 15 or 20 bucks on sushi, I paid a visit to the golden arches. I asked for my burger to be served sans pain, and found myself face to face with a stupefied sixteen-year-old. I quickly offered my explanation - I just have an allergy. I only want the burger, all the toppings please, no bun. It took four McDonald's employees (including the manager) and ten minutes for them to figure out they could serve it to me in an empty salad container.

I'm not trying to make a point here that McDonald's employees are sub par in terms of intelligence - I have a friend who is currently pursuing his Ph.D. at McGill in pure mathematics. When he was in high school, he worked for McDonald's. After many hours of tedious flipping, he noticed that the beef patties were not efficiently placed on the grill. He took it upon himself to reorganize the patty placement to maximize space. His boss was so impressed that he wrote to Mickie D's national headquarters with the new formula, which was accepted and adapted all over America. Quite evidently, "one billion served" is directly contributed to my friend Mark.

On Friday night, the eve of my 25th birthday, I took the bus to Costco in Verdun to pick up a prime rib roast for my 2nd annual gluten free birthday potluck. There was nobody else on the bus, and the bus driver appeared surprised when I asked to be dropped at the door of the king of bulk foods. "Tu vas..... à Costco?". "Oui, comme là là". I motioned across the street. He shrugged and drove off.

Note - I'm the first person in the history of Costco to ever take the bus.

I walked up towards the entrance. As I was awaiting my brother to arrive by bike (he's the one with the golden ticket - the Costco membership), I watched SUV after SUV swankily pull into the enormous parking lot. I tried reading my book but my mind was too focused on three main things - the prime rib roast, the 750 grams of Balderson sharp Canadian cheddar and the last bus home from Costco that I had to be on in 45 minutes.

Mike finally arrived and we got down to business. We were both starving, him stuck without $1.00 for a jumbo hot dog at the cash-only restaurant inside and me, well, stuck with all the gluten options the restaurant had to offer.

Despite his mild embarrassment, I opened a jar of mixed nuts for us to dig into.

Upon paying, the kind lady at the cash asked me how many boxes I'd like. I replied none, thank you, and pointed towards the 60-litre traveling pack my brother had brought for me. And at this very moment, again came the blank stare that I saw a couple weeks at McDonalds. I can only imagine what was running through the cashier's mind - "the girl is leaving tonight to tour South America with a prime rib roast, chicken breasts, three pounds of cheese, one pound of nuts, and one box of Cliff Bars".

Side note - Cliff Bars, with all their substantial forms of protein and deliciousness (I remember) are not gluten free due to...... malt extract. That's ALL! Damn it.

I paid, took out cash-back so Mike could get a jumbo wiener, and was hurrying to pack my bag and catch that last bus. By this point, my brother (who looked like he'd been without food for a couple of days and was drifting towards the food line) remembered his lonely bag of limes, his sole Costco purchase of the evening.

"Kristen! You can't go! We have to go out together! They'll ask for my receipt, and I don't have one for the limes!"

I told him to shove those limes in this backpack. I had to hit the road.

"They'll check my bag! They'll go in it!"

He was acting the way my students do when I ask them for their locker combinations at the beginning of the school year. Luckily, he's 23 and not 13, and at the absurdity of the situation we both burst out laughing. Still hungry but in high spirits, I caught my bus, arrived home around 7:30 and made myself a quick fish and quinoa salad dinner.

The next evening, we all had a blast. Check out what my friends and brother now know about Celiac Disease a year and a half after my diagnosis.




  1. This is amazing! I wish I could have made it to your birthday celebration, but my brother made it into your blog! xxo

  2. That's a wonderful blog. You sure cracked me up! Was it your bro Greta that rearranged Micky D's?? I didn't know that!
    And, more importantly, I DIDN"T KNOW that we could have the angus burgers!!! You're sure there are no wheat crumbs holding it all together??? So exciting!
    PS Am I the one who brought the saying into your vocabulary? I think I say "They crack themselves up" all the time... oops.

  3. sweeeet sweet potatoes yummmm :)