Gluten-Free Guidebook’s Reader Report Contest

One of my favorite things about writing the Gluten-Free Guidebook is hearing from readers. I love it when you share your thoughts and opinions with me (as you did, most recently, on the issue of the celiac pill that is currently in medical trials), and when you take the time to write about a restaurant that serves great gluten-free meals. A few readers have contributed complete Reader Reports, in some cases about a trip they’ve taken and in others about their hometown. Either way, the effort and information is very much appreciated — by me, and by many other people.

I’m launching the first-ever Gluten-Free Guidebook Reader Report Contest because I’d like to hear from more of you. The rules are simple: write a Reader Report about gluten-free restaurants and shops in the place where you live, or a place you’ve visited. Each report that you write must be at least 300 words, and each one you write will get you entered into a random draw for a guidebook giveaway: the winner will receive a copy of my Frommer’s Toronto 2010 and Frommer’s Canada. There’s no limit to the number of Reader Reports you can write: if you send one, you’ll be entered in the drawing once, if you send five reports you’ll be entered five times.

For examples of great Reader Reports that have run in the past, take a look at these examples: Buenos Aires, Amman, Hawaii, and Las Vegas. There’s a range of styles, and there’s no one right way to do it. Remember, any information you share is going to be valuable to other gluten-intolerant people.

By entering this contest, you automatically give me the right to publish your Reader Report on the Gluten-Free Guidebook, and to edit it as necessary for clarity and length; however, I am under no obligation to publish it. Your entry must be your own original work and cannot infringe on anyone’s copyright. You hold the copyright to your own material and can publish it elsewhere, in print or online. Entrants need to send me their full names and their mailing addresses (the mailing address is only for the prize draw; the information will be kept strictly confidential). Please let me know if you would like only your first name to be published with your Reader Report; if you do not specify this, your first and last name will be used.

The deadline for entries is June 7, June 30, 2010. Entries must be e-mailed to glutenfreeguidebook [at] gmail [dot] com; please put “Reader Report Contest” in the subject. This contest is open to readers around the world, except where prohibited by law. I look forward to reading your Reader Reports!

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Speaking of contests, voting is open for the Spinetingler Awards until April 30th. My short story “Insatiable” is a finalist for a Best Short Story Award. Please visit the site, look at the contenders, and vote for your favorite story using this online ballot.

More About That Celiac Pill

One of the most popular — and controversial — columns I’ve ever written on this site was just a few weeks ago: “Would You Pop a Pill to Eat Gluten Again?” The responses from readers were passionate and divided. To get a sense of this, take a look at the comments under that post. There were also many people who wrote to me directly to share their feelings on the matter. Here’s what some of them had to say:

“Going gluten-free has opened my heart and mind to a healthier lifestyle both in food and in exercise. I would not take a pill or a vaccine just to eat gluten again. I am healthy and happy, why mess with that?!”

“I would like to have the option to take a pill OCCASIONALLY but probably not on a regular basis, as I am quite pleased with my new diet and the many gluten-free products available.”

“I would NOT go off my GF diet and use a pill. The only exception might be when traveling to locations that are not familiar with this kind of restriction. The other exception might be a wedding or special event where having a piece of cake would be part of the celebration.”

“Since we dine out almost every weekend, I order GF foods (mostly broiled) as much as possible, but I am not always 100% sure it is GF, so it would be nice to have a pill to take for just in case purposes; otherwise, eating GF during the rest of the week is something I would continue.”

There was a response on the comment thread that I found very poignant:

“I’m actually shocked that I am the only [one] that responded saying that I would definitely take a pill to enjoy a meal and not have to ask a million questions about what is in it and how it was prepared. I’m in my late 20’s and having celiac has really taken a toll on my social life. I attend meetings and events almost every night for work and am not able to eat anything. Food is the center of our social get-togethers and it really sucks to ‘be different.’ Even when I do go out to dinner, while everyone else is enjoying warm French bread, I have to sit there and watch. When I go out with family and friends we can only honour where I can eat and I hate putting that burden on everyone else. Yes the diet can be a healthier choice but I would trade in the diet for a ‘normal’ diet that can still be healthy.”

That column was prompted by a story I was interviewed for in Allergic Living. The piece “The Future of Celiac Disease: Celiac’s Next Act,” written by Lisa Fitterman, has just been published in the magazine’s Spring 2010 issue. Unfortunately the story isn’t currently available online (though it may eventually be archived on the Allergic Living website). It’s a terrific, well-researched piece, and I’d encourage you to read it. I was already familiar with the research into the celiac vaccine in Australia and the celiac pill in Baltimore, but I had no idea that researchers at Leiden University in the Netherlands were also working on a pill. It feels like it’s just a matter of time until one is on the market.

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If you’re interested in my crime fiction, I have a couple of new short stories that have just been published. “Fetish” appears in Beat to a Pulp, and can be read online for free. “The Black Widow Club” is in the newly launched Needle: A Magazine of Noir, which is in print only, but can be ordered online.

NYC’s Rosa Mexicano Goes Gluten-Free

I’ve mentioned Rosa Mexicano before: it’s one of my favorite restaurants in New York, and definitely a spot for a celebration. But on my latest visit, I wasn’t exactly celebrating. My husband took me there to cheer me up after I’d had some minor surgery for a possible skin cancer. When we had dinner, we were still waiting for the biopsy results.

I’ve never given much thought to melanoma, mostly because I am not a person who tans. Ever. I have pale Irish skin, and I wear sunscreen every day, even in winter. A few months ago, I noticed that I had a couple of new moles, and I went to a dermatologist to have them checked out. The doctor examined and measured them, and assured me that they weren’t a problem. Then she did a full-body mole check. She identified a couple of moles that were suspicious, and removed the larger of the two that day. It was biopsied and turned out to be fine. I only went back to have the second mole removed a month ago. Small as it was, it turned out to be filled with severely dysplastic cells, which the lab flagged as aggressive. The result was that I needed some minor, in-office surgery to remove the surrounding tissue over my left bicep. It wasn’t difficult or painful, but it required ten stitches to close.

My husband chose Rosa Mexicano for dinner because we’ve been there many times. He knew that there were a number of gluten-free items on the menu, even though they weren’t identified as such (forcing me to double-check on each visit that the dishes were still celiac-safe). On this most recent visit, I had a very pleasant surprise: Rosa Mexicano has introduced a separate gluten-free menu. Given how many options are on it, it’s a wonder that they didn’t do it sooner. (The gluten-free menus are available at all three of Rosa Mexicano’s Manhattan locations, though the one at the original First Avenue spot is a little different from the others.) I’m embarrassed to admit that, this time around, I stuck to my tried-and-true favorites, including the pomegranate margarita and the Budín de Pollo, a decadent tortilla pie filled with layers of chicken, peppers, and cheese.

The discovery made my evening. The next day, I found out that the biopsied tissue was given the all-clear. I’m still feeling very grateful about that. If you’ve never had your skin checked out by a dermatologist, please do.

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On March 31st, I was thrilled to learn that my crime story “Insatiable” is a finalist for a Spinetingler Award in the “Best Short Story” category. “Insatiable” originally ran in Beat to a Pulp in September 2009. Voting on the Spinetingler Awards is open to the public until April 30, 2010, and requires no registration. Links to all of the nominated stories are on the ballot. I hope that you’ll stop by, read the contenders, and vote.

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Speaking of crime, several writer friends decided to have a flash fiction challenge about how I really got that new scar over my bicep. I owe a huge thank you to everyone who took part: Eric Beetner, Chris F. Holm, A.J. Hayes, Naomi Johnson, Chris La Tray, Ellen Neuborne, Steve Weddle, and especially Dan O’Shea, who instigated the challenge in the first place (there was also one anonymous entry). I couldn’t have dreamed up a better get-well gift. Thank you all.