Hello, my name is Meghan. I am a gluten-free pescetarian.
I stopped eating gluten four years ago, right after my 29th birthday. No diagnosis. Actually, a doctor told my mom to stop eating (so much) gluten and I, in the throes of debilitating heartburn and diarrhea that made me miss 3 days of work each month, decided to try an “elimination diet.” Week one was gluten. At the end of the week, I felt amazing. So that was that.
As for the “pescetarian” thing, I don’t like meat. I’m an adult, I don’t eat things I don’t like. I don’t care what you eat. I’m not gonna eat sausage, but I’m not gonna quote Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle at you if you do. So. Whatever.
My dietary preferences — it’s fair, let’s call them preferences — sometimes make me feel like an asshole. Like when we go to three different restaurants to find a lunch spot and I can’t eat anything there because OOPS! Soy sauce or OOPS! Bread! 99% of the time, I’ve got a snack in my purse, and if we gotta, you can eat, and I’ll snarf a Larabar while we’re walking. It’s fine. I’m the asshole. I don’t mind!
But sometimes, I feel profoundly broken. Like when I’m having a blast at a wedding, and all of a sudden my stomach rumbles and I dash to the bathroom and have a …. blast, let’s say, and we have to dash to a Lyft and hurry home because I’m going to be sobbing into the trash can on my lap sitting on the toilet sweating all night long, and I hate myself for not being more careful.
I hate to dwell on the negative.
“Oh, I can’t eat that, it has soy sauce.” “Oh, I can’t eat quinoa, it’s made me sick the last three times I had it.”
Have I ever told you The Tea Story?
It was Christmas 2013, and I’d been gluten-free for about 4 or 5 months. My psoriasis flare cleared up, my hair stopped falling out, and my bowel movements because so regular, you could set the atomic clock by them. Tick, tock, flush! I felt better than I ever had, like a veil of reality had been lifted. It occurred to me that I’d just always accepted that being alive meant being slightly sick to your stomach at all times. Now I walked down the streets of New York a changed woman! Bopping along and nodding at all the other generally healthy people, who didn’t live in fear of getting trapped on the E train to Forest Hills without a toilet!
Then, I went home for Christmas.
I was careful! Or, I thought I was. I was offered a cup of tea — tea! And some gluten-free cookies.
Not only did my insides immediately turn into a cement mixer, that old familiar feeling of being WAY TOO AWARE of my digestive process, but my chest (my roses!) broke out into an itchy, bloody rash. I stopped eating the cookies, I stopped eating pretty much everything, and for the duration of the holiday, all I can remember is eating canned green beans and tuna (with a little salt) because I didn’t trust any food and drinking that tea.
Ya ready for the kicker?
That tea, I later learned, contained barley malt, which triggered an INTENSE reaction and caused my rash and all the other deeeeelightful stuff to happen. Merry Christmas, Ho Ho Ho.
I am happy to report that I eat things. Normal things! Not just canned green beans and canned tuna straight from the can, not anymore!
So when people hear about my…odd…dietary label, they usually ask me, “So, what DO you eat?”
And I cheerfully reply, “Lots!”
But mainly, it’s this:
what the fuck am I going to eat for breakfast? Bacon and waffles? Fuck no! Breakfast can screw itself. For breakfast, I’ll usually eat:
- a hash brown patty: I buy mine at Trader Joe’s, they’re dirt cheap and basically flat, large tater tots. Yum!
- Indian food: either Tasty Bite or the cheaper, Trader Joe’s brand. I like Tasty Bite’s Paneer Makhani or the TJ’s Jaipur Vegetables. I’ll boil this in a pot on the stove, and stir in some dried TVP before eating it for extra protein. YES!
Whether or not I eat lunch largely depends on whether or not I’m home. If I’m at the studio or out running errands, I’ll eat:
- A Larabar: they fit in my purse and they aren’t messy. Win-win. I really like the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough flavor if I’m being completely honest. I used to eat the Peanut Butter Chocolate one like every day, and I think I got sick of it, but sometimes I’ll have a craving for one. I love trying new flavors of these. It’s actually exciting to me. Is that sad?
If I’m at home, I’ll use this opportunity to cook something for myself. For me, “cooking for myself” usually means:
- A Quesadilla: If we’ve had tacos, I’ll take the leftover taco fillings and stuff my quesadilla with them. No matter what, my quesadillas also must have sour cream and salsa verde on top. Otherwise, why bother, am I right??
I’m snacky, and I won’t deny it. I wake up at 5:30, and I’ll usually have lunch by 10am, so around 3:00 I’ll get hungry and need something to tide me over until dinner, which could be as late at 8 or 9. Snacks are easy for me to find, amazingly! Trader Joe’s has the BEST snacks.
- Dolmas: from TJ. These are sold in the canned goods aisle, near the olives. These are one of my favorite snacks, I’ll always buy like three of these when I go to the store, and they never last me very long.
- Cheese: Again, I love the TJ’s Spanish Cheese Trio, and occasionally I’ll splash out on a fab little cheese for myself to snack on. I love Manchego or a soft and stinky cheese. The problem is, I live with a notorious midnight snacker, so my cheese goes missing all the time. My best defense is to hide my cheese at the back of the drawer, behind a bunch of cheese sticks as decoys. I buy cheese sticks for my BF, but I’ll snack on those too.
- “Emergency Chocolate:” this isn’t really so much a snack as it is like, a medicine cabinet staple. I’ll buy chocolate and keep it in the cupboard (or fridge, in summer) in case of emergencies. Emergencies include period cramps, sudden onset of sads, or reading stressful news on Twitter. This chocolate can also be deployed in celebration, or just for chocolate cravings. It is VERY IMPORTANT to always have this in the house.
If I’m cooking for myself and my boyfriend, I’ll usually put in more effort. I’m working on perfecting my cooking methods, so I’ll find something I want to learn how to cook and then just practice that OVER and OVER until I’m happy with it, and then once I’ve got it, it’s so easy, why not just keep making it!
- Fish: I have learned to sear tuna steaks like nobody’s business. I’m working on applying the same technique to salmon fillets. I grow fresh rosemary, which is delicious on both fishes! When I’m lazy or haven’t defrosted any fish during the day, we’ll make Mahi Mahi Burgers from Trader Joe’s.
- A vegetable on the side: I like to chop vegetables on my days off, and then store them in big containers in the fridge so that when it comes to cooking them, I just pour them into a pan with some oil. So easy! If I’m pinched for time, I like to sauteé green beans or asparagus in a pan. If I have more time, I’ll chop carrots or Brussels sprouts and roast them in the oven. Basically, whatever vegetables are on sale, is what I’ll buy and cook. Whatevs.
- Taco Night, Motherfuckers!: Trader Joe’s Soy Chorizo is the backbone of this meal. Heat it up and you’ve got vegan, gluten-free “taco meat.” I’ll chop onions with orange, red, and yellow peppers, and sauté those as well. Then we steam our corn tortillas in the rice cooker/steamer so they’re soft and maleable, top with cheese and sour cream, and you’ve got TACOS, BABY! These are so delicious, I’m seriously drooling thinking about them right now. Best of all, is there’s always LOADS of chorizo and onion/peppers leftover (hack: store them together to keep the chorizo from going dry & the peppers from getting slimy) for quesadillas.
But if I’m on my own for dinner, I’ll be super lazy and either make myself a quesadilla or a packet of the same Indian food I had for breakfast.
Not gonna lie, going to restaurants is stressful. There’s a dual dichotomy of worrying about finding something on the menu that I’ll be able to eat, then worrying about being an asshole and requesting a change of venue if there isn’t something on the menu that I can eat, and also worrying that I’ll eat something that will give me horrible vomitting and diarrhea while I’m trying to enjoy a night out! That last thing happens more often than I’d like, but I’ve found a few things that tend to be safe:
- Sushi: certain words like “sauce” and “crunchy/spicy” can be triggers, they usually either mean soy sauce is involved (hella gluten) or little gluten crunchies will be mixed in with the fish (spicy tuna rolls are notorious for this bullshit). If I’m worried, I’ll order sashimi and eat it raw & plain. I love fish. That’s why I eat it! And why I’m worried I’ll never be a “full vegetarian.”
- Tacos: If they’re corn tortillas, I can eat and enjoy tacos! It’s always fraught asking if the tortillas are made of corn, making sure the fish taco is grilled and not breaded & fried, etc etc. Mexican food tends to be a very safe choice for me!
- Pad Thai: If I’m at a Thai place, a safe bet is the rice noodle dish.
- Omelettes: y’all, Omelettes are a vegetarian’s best friend. Amid a brunch menu of “French Toast This” and “Sausage Patty That,” there’s almost always an omelette option with cheese and veggies or a side salad that I can enjoy. Amazing, right?
- French fries: I hate that this is the way, but in a “worst case scenario” when there’s nothing else on the menu, I can always get an order of fries and maybe a side salad. Sometimes I’ve made whole meals out of the “sides.” And sometimes, the sides are amazing! But if I’m stuck, I can eat fries and I’ll be thrilled. I will never say no to a plate of fries. And! And! If anyone tries to steal one of MY FRIES, I can give them the “Poor Starving Gluten-Free Pescetarian Guilt Eyes,” the ones that say “This is the only item on the menu that probably won’t give me bloody diarrhea, and you want to take it away from me???” and after that, ppl tend to not fuck with my fries.
So that’s it, mostly! That’s what I eat. I do eat! I love to eat!