Sunday, February 19, 2012

"Without question, the greatest invention in the history of mankind was beer. Oh, I grant you that the wheel was also a fine invention, but the wheel does not go nearly as well with pizza" -Dave Barry

I remember distinctly what one of sixteen-year-old-me's first reaction to my diagnosis with Celiac was. Allergic to pizza and beer? College is going to suck.

And it did suck, at first. Sitting in the dining hall with an entirely new group of people and explaining why you are eating a sad, plain grayish colored piece of grilled chicken that's been Saran-wrapped and sitting in a hot box for three hours instead of pasta and waffle fries like everyone else? Having the, "It's not an allergy, it's a chromosomal malfunction... (sigh) sure, kind of like an X-Man... I guess...Wheat monster? Gluten girl? Wow, yeah those are funny...I'll think about it...Uh, I have to go..." conversation with weirdos at the allergy station again and again? Your face melting into about four shades of red and utter mortification when, at your first party, a drunk upperclassman stands on a chair and announces to the entire room "NOBODY GIVE THIS GIRL A BEER. SHE WILL DIE!!!"? I probably could have done without those.

But eventually, I figured it out. A little too well, maybe. My roommates were always good about the separate pots and pans and toaster rule (to their credit, even when hammered), and eventually became gluten-free experts in their own right. We even managed to get priority housing one year thanks to my...disability. I started packing a lunch to take to the dining hall, avoiding the "allergy station" (and thus, uncomfortable comic-book-based conversations) all together. And, I developed a highly efficient system of dumping a  handle of tequila into one of those margarita party bags and sticking a straw in it for parties.

My sister (also gluten-free) is a freshman at University of Delaware this year, and I know she is stuck figuring it out too (if you are reading this Mom, I didn't tell her anything about the margaritas). Athough judging by her recent appearance wearing a toga in my facebook mini-feed, she seems to be adapting quite well.

Fortunately, for her, and future generations of college-bound students, it's getting better. Like, a lot better. A ton of schools now offer gluten free dining options (Check out this website for 14 Colleges That Cater to Gluten Free Students or, add your own on this posting).

In addition to that, the resources for gluten free pizza are becoming gloriously abundant. Some of my personal favorites include Jules Thin Crust Pizza with locations in Jenkintown, Doylestown, and Newtown PA, and Georgio's on Pine in Philadelphia. I was also super excited to hear news that my favorite person (you know who I'm going to say here, right? Peter McAndrews, owner of Paesano's, Monsu, and Modo Mio) is opening a brick oven pizzeria in Media in the fall. For a more complete list of pizza places in and around Philadelphia, the always awesome Gluten Free Philly blog has the best compilation of gluten free restaurants that I've ever seen, separated by cuisine (just click on Italian and Pizza).

And then there's the issue of beer. I was twenty-three when I had my first beer, a dark, lager-style Redbridge at the National Foundation For Celiac Awareness' Appetite For Awareness event (which occurs every September and is amazing, if you live in the Philadelphia area you should really go). My dad was so proud he looked like he was going to cry. And, as you all know from reading my past posts over and over again, I did enjoy a beer at Citizen's Bank Park at a Phillies game (and, more recently, at the Wells Fargo Center for a 76ers game), but I have never really been a big beer drinker.

But Dogfish Head Craft Brewery might have changed all that. The Delaware-based brewers have introduced Tweason'ale, a certified gluten-free beer that's sorghum-based, and light and delicious with notes of strawberry and honey. And man is it good. It's incredibly easy to drink, a beautiful blend of almost-effervescent sweet and tart, but with a distinct dark and (faux) malty complexity thanks to the buckwheat honey. I ordered a glass on tap at South Philly Tap Room last night and enjoyed every minute of it. Best of all, it doesn't taste like a gluten-free beer. The sorghum taste is all but non-existant, thanks to the subtle nuances and fruity flavors that have been so delicately crafted to create a glorious sympohny of 6.0 ABV.

So, for you gluten-free college students playing beer pong with craft ales and margarita buckets, I say, stay classy... From what I've smelled of day-old Natty Light on the floor of a frat house, you aren't missing out on anything.

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