Monday, May 16, 2011

the curse of pine nut mouth

Okay.  Confession time: I am a bit of a hypochondriac. (Note: this may be the largest understatement ever made.) So its not terribly unusual for me to google symptoms as they happen and diagnose myself with the bubonic plague, lupus, brain tumors etc etc etc.  I also recently made a joke that if I had a television show it would be called I Always Think I'm Pregnant.

This in mind, I successfully diagnosed myself via googling.... with PINE NUT MOUTH. Ugh.

I had some absolutely fantastic pesto, made with pine nuts, basil, arugula, garlic and parmesan, a few days this week on a tomato-zucchini gratin. It was absolutely delicious.  Until I started getting a weird taste in my mouth that I could only describe as soapy and metallic that came back anytime I ate or drank anything, especially savory foods.  At first I thought my yogurt was bad.  Then I assumed the same about some chips I was snacking on.  And then I had a burger that looked absolutely fantastic and still tasted like metal. These symptoms are apparently common with pine nuts that are imported from china, russia and vietnam.  A few studies seem to attribute it to non-edible variations of pine nuts making it into the market.  Others assume its an additive, others still believe the offending nuts to be rancid. You can read more here, thanks to Grace Tan, a scientist who took up the task of figuring out this mysterious pine nut syndrome.

My extensive googling confirmed the diagnosis but didn't tell me much about how to make it better.  It seems like waiting it out is the consensus.  But here are a few tips that made my few days of metallic soapy taste a little more bearable.

Three things improved the bad taste:
1. 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in 10 oz of water, taken before meals
2. squeezing fresh lemon directly on my tongue / drinking water with several lemon wedges while finishing meals (as the taste is the worst after meals)
3. salty and spicy foods

Things to avoid:
1. sweet foods (the momentary relief leads to terrible bitter rebound - GROSS)
2. savory foods (especially cheese, which was heartbreaking)
3. starchy foods (potatoes, breads etc)

I did not come across literature on any problematic Spanish or Italian pine nuts.  So if you need to use them in the above fabulous pesto (btw, cashews and walnuts make excellent substitutes) try and make good choices.  Trader Joe's, Whole Foods and Costco are all continuing to sell these delightfully rancid treats, so make sure you are reading labels carefully about where the nuts (and nut mixes that contain pine nuts) are imported from. 

Not exactly a gluten free dilemma, but relevant to happy, incident free eating. Choose those nuts wisely, friends*.

*(that's what she said)

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Encourage the Girl Scouts to sell an allergen free cookie!

My wonderful friend Nikki saw this and sent it to me.  I couldn't resist passing it on. 

I would probably consider committing light treason for a gluten free Samoa...

overview of petition from

It is that time of year again for Girl Scout cookies.  It is also Celiac Awareness Month and Food Allergy Awareness Week May 8-14, 2011 and for those with a food allergy, many, if not all of the Girl Scout cookies are off limits.  Consumers have a choice not to buy the cookies.  However, members of the Girl Scouts are encouraged to sell the cookies to learn skills, obtain prizes and be part of an organization.  Despite this, the organization isn’t doing enough to support and incorporate its members that have food allergies.
Nationwide, for 2009, the most recent year studied by the Center for Disease Control, the estimate for children with food allergies was 5%.  For adults, the number is 4% in America according to the Food Allergen and Anaphylaxis Network.  In 2010, the Journal of the American Medical Association estimated the number could be as high as 10%.
Based on these statistics, then approximately 132,000 members of the approximately 3,300,000 Girls Scouts are selling cookies that they may not be able to eat.  Additionally, the Girls Scouts are leaving out up to 10% of the American marketplace who cannot buy their cookies.
The Girl Scouts license their cookies to two companies: ABC Bakers and Little Brownie Bakers.  Both companies have been contacted by myself and others inquiring about them producing an allergen free cookie and I have been advised that there isn’t enough of a market to support such a product.  ABC Bakers even states on their website that there isn’t enough of a demand for a cookie that is free from either sugar or gluten.  However, what these two bakers and the Girl Scouts have never tried is to market just one cookie that is free from the top eight food allergens.
The cookie manufacturers and Girl Scouts have indicated that when they see enough of a need, they will consider manufacturing such a cookie.  If you or a member of your family have a food allergy and you have not been able to buy Girl Scout cookies because of this, please sign this petition letting the Girl Scouts know that they have lost out on your business but you would buy a box of cookies from them if they made a delicious cookie that is free from the top eight food allergens.
Although no support is too much, it is requested that only those that would buy a delicious, allergen free cookie sign this petition so that the Girl Scouts and its bakers know that there is a market for this and it would be profitable.  Concern for those with allergies is not enough for a company to make a business decision.  The Girl Scouts and its bakers need to see that this will be a profitable venture for them in order for us to encourage them to take on this endeavor and offer their first ever allergen free cookie.

Thanks to Stacy Malinow for starting the petition!