About

Hi! My name is Melanie Jennings. Food has been the love of my life and the bane of my existence. I went from dream job of restaurant critic to a person who would try anything to clear my various health issues–like eating only raw food and (gasp) fasting. I was finally diagnosed with celiac disease (dermatitis herpetiformis) in 2004. I started this blog to regain my food mojo and to remind myself that I am not the only food freak out there. So leave me a comment because I would love to hear from you!

I live in Portland, Oregon and my other Web site is mjennings.com.

If you would like to know when this blog is updated, click the Follow button (under Get New Posts by Email in the upper right corner of this page).

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39 responses to “About

  1. Kelsey

    Hi!

    My name’s Kelsey and I am currently taking a Food History Class at BYU. One of the projects I’m working on entails researching a “typical Okie meal” and then determining what that says about the larger society, etc. I was reading your blog, and besides it being very entertaining, it seems that you have considerable background in the Okie meal area besides all your other food knowledge. I was wondering if you knew of any good sources, or personally had anything to add about the subject. I realize this is very out of the blue, and that maybe leaving a comment like this might go against blog etiquette, but it’s worth a shot. It’d be great if you could get back to me, if not that’s ok too. Thanks either way!

    -Kelsey

  2. mjennings26

    Hi, Kelsey,
    Thanks so much for reading my blog! It’s always great to hear from readers.

    When you say “Okie” do you mean people from Oklahoma, or do you mean people who migrated west during and after the Depression and Dust Bowl? I make this distinction because these are two different groups of people.

    So, if you’re talking about Okies in the west, I can definitely talk about that. I wrote my dissertation about this topic and I also come from a family of Okies.

    A typical non-breakfast Okie meal, to my mind, is pinto beans with ham hocks and cornbread. For breakfast, of course, biscuits and gravy. There are many other dishes to talk about, but I think either of those two meals provide plenty of material for exploring the Okie culture.

    If you look up “Okie” on Wikipedia, you’ll find several citations of Dust Bowl Okie writers (which I helped with). The writers I’d think would be most helpful and accessible would be Wilma Elizabeth McDaniel, Gerald Haslam, and Lois Phillips Hudson. You could look at some of their work to find things about food.

    You could also listen to some Okie music that talks about food. Merle Haggard’s “Rainbow Stew” comes to mind.

    I hope this gives you a good start. Good luck!

    Melanie

    P.S. If anyone else would like to Comment about Okie food, please do so from my Okie Food post. Thanks!

  3. harmonious1

    Hellooooo from a fellow food freak in Alamogordo New Mexico!!!
    I sympathize with your story, and have a similar one myself.
    Researching options for dining out in Albuquerque, as my son now lives there.
    Keep on bloggin on,
    warmest regards
    robin
    “Gluten free on a stick with cheese”

  4. mjennings26

    Hi, Robin!
    Thanks so much for reading my blog and especially for posting your comment. I hope you have a great meal in Albuquerque. As you already know, I love Annapurna’s.
    Best,
    Melanie

  5. Hello! I just stumbled by and wanted to express my deepest sympathies because I dont know what i’d do if i could eat everything in sight. but you seem to be pretty positive about it and hang in there! cool blog.

  6. mjennings26

    Thanks so much, Daily Elephant!

  7. Hi, I’m dealing with similar allergies in my daughter, age 2 1/2 yrs, and garlic is the single hardest allergy to avoid. Do you think? Is it life threatening to you too? That has been the hardest to grasp – garlic would make her stop breathing!? Give me milk allergy, not to mention all the others, over the garlic allergy any day and I DREAM of just having a peanut allergy to manage in her – how crazy is that? On one hand, I do not have these myself and no nothing of the actual allergy experience, but the fact that I’ve seen my daughter’s throat closing up is just about the worst thing I’ve ever experienced. On the positive side, all these allergies, plus garlic (as you know, nothing boxed or jarred) make grocery shopping a cinch. Thank you for letting me vent – I’ll check back often.

  8. mjennings26

    Greetings, Loudoun, VA! Thanks so much for stopping by and chatting.

    I totally agree about garlic. Mine, thankfully, is not life-threatening and I continue to “learn” how much is okay and how much is, well, very bad indeed. I am grateful that I can make mistakes and actually live through them. I have heard of others who have life-threatening reactions to garlic.

    Your post reminded me of a joke I had with a friend with multiple allergies. We were mocking some gluten-free person who was talking about “how hard it is” blah, blah, blah. We just rolled our eyes! If only we had just the gluten allergy, life would be a CAKEWALK!

    Thanks again for commenting! Take care and good luck.

  9. Hi Melanie,

    I’m a Portlander with celiac disease – and I write about it, among other topics about health and balance, in my blog 365daysuntillove.wordpress.com. I have worked in the wine industry for nearly a decade, and, also being a foodie, I have found many challenges in maintaining a healthy attitude about living with a restricted diet.

    My friend pointed me to your blog.

    I find it’s good to connect with other celiacs out there. My friend Jonathan, like you, not only has celiac, but a host of other food allergies. We have become a little support group for one another.

    Good luck with the balance and keep up the writing!

    Cheers,
    Leah

  10. mjennings26

    Thanks for stopping by, Leah! Happy New Year!

  11. Dear Melanie,
    I was turned on to your blog by our mutual friend Wendy PW. I did not know anything about your situation – wow, I feel for you so much, and also feel I can relate. I was recently diagnosed with pre-diabetes, it may possible be the real D but I won’t know more til I go to the endocrinologist in a few weeks. So I also feel I am going from omnivore to someone who must really be conscious, more than I wanted to be but here I am. I’ve also started a blog and would love if you would visit me over there.

    I’m at http://www.foodfoodbodybody.wordpress.com

  12. mjennings26

    Hi Susan! Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting.

    I hope it turns out not to be the big D. I have relatives with type 2 and it doesn’t seem like any kind of fun.

    I will definitely check out your new blog. Thanks for sending the link!

  13. Ming Wai

    Dear Melanie,

    Allergic to dairy and citrus plus recently diagnosed with 21 food intolerances, I constantly look for recipes to experiment with which is sometimes difficult when you live in France who loves using dairy in everything! I googled “black sesame ice cream lactose free” and your blog came up first. Not only was I happy to discover the recipe I’ve been dying to try with my dusty ice cream maker, but also to find other interesting recipes, savory and sweet. It’s great that you’re sharing your knowledge with others who are looking for recipes that fit their needs. Keep it up! My kids may be half French but they’re also American-Chinese too so I need balance out their food experiences.

    Thanks!
    Ming

  14. mjennings26

    Bonjour and ni hao, Ming! Thanks so much for the lovely note. Let me know if you try my black sesame ice cream recipe. I’m always anxious to hear feedback.

    Take care!
    Melanie

  15. When you put the DH in brackets do you mean you suffer from both? Sorry if that’s a silly question but I have been coeliac from birth and have only just being diagnosed with DH. Are you on medication for it? I have been prescribed Dapsone and would be interested to hear about your experience of the drug.
    Hope you don’t mind. Many thanks
    Daffy

  16. mjennings26

    Hi Daffy,
    No question is too silly. My understanding is that DH is celiac disease that presents in rash symptoms instead of stomach symptoms. I took dapsone for three weeks and had a terrible reaction to it. I didn’t know at the time that I am allergic to sulfa drugs. As a result, I ended up getting a pretty bad staph infection. The other sulfa-allergy symptoms I had from taking dapsone were a new rash (pin-prick rash), dizziness, and I believe some swelling (can’t so clearly remember now as it’s been a few years). In any case, the doc took me off dapsone and I just had to tough it out. I no longer have a DH rash.

    Having said all that, I do believe dapsone is miraculous. The first few days I took it, along with prednisone, I felt like a brand new person, the best I had felt in YEARS. The rash that I’d had for years cleared up dramatically in that first week on dapsone. So if you can tolerate it, I would definitely try it to see how you do on it.

    Good luck and thanks so much for stopping by and commenting!

    Melanie

  17. Tricia

    Great blog! I was recently diagnosed with several food intolerances/allergies (wheat, corn, rice, oats, eggs, almonds, coffee, and lettuce–of all things!) and I’m eliminating them for the next six months to then see which I can safely phase back in once a week (fingers crossed!) Thank you so much for posting your recipes! Baking was my hobby (my new, thoroughly-unwanted hobby is physical therapy–also for the next six months). Your blog gives me hope.

  18. triptup

    I have enjoyed the little I have read of your blog. Found my way here when i researched black sesame pudding. Google set your ice cream recipe as the second in line. I am chef/partner at a restaurant here in Dallas, TX. I find your way with words pleasing and would love to read some of your restaurant critiques. Let me know if any are archived on the web. I am sympathetic to your plight as we have many regular guests with similar symptoms. We accommodate and create the best we can, but some things are definitely missed 😦 Looking forward to new posts and possibly reading old critiques….

  19. mjennings26

    Hi Triptup,
    Thanks so much for the kind words. You can read some reviews I wrote for Willamette Week by going to their site (www.wweek.com) and entering my name into their Search box. Sadly, I had to stop reviewing after I got the celiac diagnosis. A year later, I started this blog because apparently I NEED to write about food a lot.

    So, it’s great to hear you are finding this blog useful. If you try any of the recipes, I’d love to hear feedback from a pro like yourself!

    My feedback for restaurant dessert menus, and I should probably write a post about this, is to make an effort to have one dairy-free, wheat-free, egg-free, nut-free dessert such as sorbet or fresh berries (with optional cream). These are easy for the kitchen and satisfying for the customer. When a restaurant offers this, it now makes a HUGE impression on me because it tells me they’re THINKING. Big points!

    Thanks again for reading and especially for commenting!
    Melanie

  20. nice to know your blog πŸ™‚ my family and I are into the food journey. we’re shifting from asian-middle eastern-indian food (meat/fish/vegs) to vegetarian (cook version) then to raw food journey but still we’re open to any learning about food coz it’s so much affecting out life physically and emotionally (especially for me and the kids for our food love affair which in my opinion not fair to my husband since he’s eating what we have and prepare together at home while me and the kids will once in a while buy or prepared our so called healthy snack “BUT ITS SNACK” that’s while he’s away for work even he’s allowing us to do so)

  21. Wonderful blog here! Thanks for the link. I’ll be adding you to my bloglist as well. Always great to share recipes, ideas, and inspiration. All the best!

  22. Always good to see another SCD blog!!

  23. mjennings26

    Thanks, Tracee! And YOURS is awesome!

  24. Lisa Angst

    PDX REPRESENT!!!

    Hello Melanie,

    I too am a a foodie, live in Portland and have the gamut of diet restrictions. I am on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet for the Ulcerative Colitis, a diagnosis that I was “gifted” with about eight years ago (the short and dirty of it is no grains, starches, sugars and sweeteners (except honey), and no milk, or processed foods – except for the strategic dining out experience I make most things from scratch…fortunately I still can have bacon which was one of my favorite cooking adventures as of recent, ala the guidance of Olympic Provision’s bacon -making class). I make the occasional cameo apprentice, working very part time at the Nuevo Latino restaurant, Oba (who BTW also has a gluten/dairy free menu and added healthy menu specially designed by a local nutritionist and trainer)…I also LOVE the chef and his staff, who support me in helping me modify recipes that are not compliant with my diet. Just getting started on your blog here, but looks great and am excited to know you are out there πŸ™‚

    • mjennings26

      Hi Lisa! Awesome! Not so much that you suffer from UC, but that you are a local foodie doing the SCD. What is your current health status if you don’t mind my asking? Have you been able to get off of or stay off of drugs for the UC? Is your current health and quality of life using the SCD good (or relatively good)? I’m sure you already know about the Yahoo Group BTVC, but if not, it’s a wealth of info and includes a map feature where you can show yourself as a PDX SCDer. Pretty groovy.

      Well, please do keep in touch! Let me know if you’re on Twitter. I’m @mjennings26. Oh, and I love all things pork!

  25. Lisa Angst

    Sorry for the delayed reply, Melanie – many plates spinning (but in a good way). To answer your questions, requires a little bit of a narrative. I had, “Ulcerative Proctitis” at the initial diagnosis point back in 2001 – to clarify, that is similar to Ulcerative Colitis (aka UC) but localized to a smaller portion of the lower colon, usually the tail end six inches or so…symptoms tend to be less severe and I certainly was not experiencing some of the debilitating, classic UC symptoms at that time. As time when on the symptoms gradually got worse…I had several periods also in these last eight years where I had no symptoms – they would just go away on their own – all pre-SCD. When I first got on SCD I was in bad shape – the GI told me that I had moderate to severe UC in my entire lower colon. Predinsone was prescribed to literally save my life…not one to be bedridden, two weeks later I was one of the nuts who participated in Red Bull’s Flugtag in 2008, jumping into that drain hole, the Willamette River, in front of 80k people…but I digress…the first six months sucked for a learning curve and I made a lot of mistakes and felt sorry for myself a lot of the time. Flugtag and the SCD diet learning curve I think were the final straws in my struggeling LTR relationship which ended three months after starting SCD…I was very much on my own…ironic that he was the one who turned me on to the SCD diet (funny how life works that way) I am very much a type “A” personality so I hired an SCD counselor to help me figure out food patterns in my food log. Getting of Prednisone produced it’s own challenges, because as I would start to taper, symptoms would come back, so I was in a holding pattern on a low dose of the stuff till July of 2009…the first year was for sure a practice in patience and weathering a storm. July 09-Feb 10 I would say I say at about 85% remission…at that time I was still taking one Asacol 400 mg tab 3x a day, but then stopped at then end of July 2010. Since Feb of this year I have been mostly symptom free – I have had a few , mini flares since then but I can trace each one to something related to stress or something that I had not yet discovered. For instance, I discovered that I can only eat up to a certain amount egg whites (two days in a row max) more than that I start to have some symptoms. Given that I have a history of having periods of remission pre-SCD, I am still looking to see three years of being symptom free before I would verbalize to anyone that SCD is the end all be all solution, but that is me and my skepticism…It’s been a long hard road and I am fearful of placing emotional investment into something that to me still has ANY form of risk of not “working”… in spite of the many valuable lessons and blessing I have learned having to go through all of this,”me still loves the control” and a sense of certainty :)…I will say that while there was a pattern of each flare getting worse and worse as time went on, I have four incidents now this year where they were very mild and three weeks or less, so I am very encouraged…pre SCD, symptoms were no less than four months to a year and a half. My doc over at OHSU also sits on the naturopathic board there, so I have the luxury of the ND(naturopathic)/MD(medical) viewpoint from her – she enforces that diet plays a HUGE role in our health. My GI is awesome, and while he does not come from the theory that diet plays a role in helping UC, he does think that I am on to something and supports my decisions enough to be there, should I fall backwards and need him to help me in a medical crisis. Nov blood chemistry from Nov 2010 cam back stellar (including nutritional aspect – so malabsorption is not a problem either these days)

    I did the BTVC forum early on, but do not any more – These days, I counsel some lost souls in their process both with encouragement and tips and tricks…for me, I am not sure if I would have made it myself without my counselor’s help. I do public speaking engagements on how to be successful eating out with diet restrictions, I have some other projects in the works that I believe will help put people in a position of success on the SCD lifestyle change, but it’s premature to discuss – will keep you posted none the less.

    As far as quality of life – I am doing very very well – I do Argentine tango, I fly fish, my latest culinary medium is dabbling in the charcuterie arts (mmmm bacon)…I ‘m hitting a solo trip to Iceland in January (last year was Paris for New years), I’m what some might call a serial dater (picky with high standards – have not met a good fit just yet), I run my own successful lead genreation business, I’m writing a book, I am day spa junky to balance things out…the list goes on and on..with this diet, I feel like I have got my second wind and an opportunity to embrace life…I may be still a little skeptical about what the rest of my life will look like with an UC diagnosis, but all I have now is the present and I assure you, I AM EMBRACING IT TO THE FULLEST – WEE HAW!!!

    (bow) stepping off my little soap box πŸ™‚

    • mjennings26

      Hi again Lisa, thank you SO much for this wonderful update and explanation on your experience with the SCD. I know others will find it as helpful as I do. I’d love to see one of your speaking engagements, so please keep me posted on those (do you have a website or something?) It sounds like you have really gotten your health back, to a large degree anyway, and that is amazing and fantastic, a real inspiration.

      Continued best wishes and luck on this crazy path, sister!!

  26. Lisa Angst

    I am glad you enjoyed the read :). Up until now I have beeni doing the public speaking engagements exclusivly by referral. This is one of the many plates that I am spinning in a new direction so the website is in development as we speak -I intend to have that up and ready by early February if not sooner – will for sure let you know when that is…I have a few other SCD projects up my sleeve and will keep you informed as they solidify.

    Cheers!
    Lisa

  27. Isabelle

    Love your blog Melanie. I so relate. Severe autoimmune health issues (rheumatoid arthritis, chronic fatigue, digestive issues) have led me to GAPS/SCD. I was doing better on it for a few months and then ‘fell from grace’ as I added some non-gluten grains for the last month and am now in a huge arthritis flare. I find the diet so hard in terms of being satisfied and I struggle to keep weight on (am 100 lbs at 5’5″). I’ve loved bread my whole life so going without it is a huge challenge for me. I also don’t do well with more than one egg a day (I get headaches, dizziness, nausea) and dairy flares my joints badly. Also have to keep my nut seeds intake to no more than a third of a cup per day or I don’t feel well. Makes this diet an even bigger challenge. So when I found your blog I felt like I’d met a kindred spirit. Thank for being here and for writing.
    And I wonder if Lisa has finished her website? I loved her post on her experience with SCD!

    Isabelle

    • mjennings26

      Thank you so much for the blog-love! Comments like these keep me going! We have a lot in common–more than I’d like. πŸ™‚ It is very difficult, I agree, but it’s helping so I have to stick with it. Have you read Gary Taubes’ book, Good Calories, Bad Calories? It helped me accept that all the stuff that bothers me–grains especially–just aren’t good anyway. It really helped me with the motivation part. Keep on keeping on!

  28. Lisa Angst

    Hi there it’s Lisa- I wanted to chime in for Isabelle – I am still working on the website but should be up in the next month. The book/memoir about my experience being on the SCD diet for the last three years, will be in ebook form here in November. I will drop a line when it is up and running πŸ™‚

    Lisa

  29. Isabelle

    Thanks Lisa. Looking forward to it. Best of luck with the work.

    Melanie – I have tried reading that book but found it very technical and a hard slog so have to admit I didn’t get thru much. Took Liberal Arts in university – Science courses were not my forte. ;o) I did find Dr. McBride’s GAPS book a god explanation of the gut and how autoimmune disease is related to it. I should reread it for inspiration. She is supposedly working on a book on GAPS and autoimmune disease which I’d really like to see.

    • mjennings26

      Agreed. It’s super dense! I’ve been reading his blog these days as well, which is…slightly more readable. πŸ™‚ I haven’t read McBride’s book yet, but I’m interested in it.

  30. JKorynasz

    I just stumbled onto your blog after googling coconut ice cream recipes (which look fabulous btw). Then I noticed you’re also doing SCD. My 7 yr old is on it and I’m always on the lookout for new recipes for him. So very glad I’ve found your blog and can’t wait to try out the recipes. Thanks!

    • mjennings26

      Awesome! Thanks so much for stopping by and letting me know. I hope your son has improved on the diet and I wish you both the best of luck with it. I mostly post here all my recipes and it’s a bit of a scrapbook of my life as well for family and friends. So nice to know you enjoy it. Let me know if you try any of the recipes. (Also, apologies for the delayed response, I’ve been out of town–and hoping to blog about that soon!)

  31. Stacy

    Hi Melanie,
    I have never left a reply on a blog before but I felt like I was reading about myself when I tripped upon your blog while googling about scd. My passion has always been food, even as a little girl. I have been known to cry when eating food that tastes so good; especially throughout my travels in Europe. My favorite pastime was going out to upscale restaurants and lingering over a 2 or 3 hour dinner. I received my culinary degree from Le Cordon Bleu in Pasadena, California in 2004, have worked in high end restaurants and was a private chef all before I started experiencing digestive problems in 2009. I got better going on the Body Ecology diet (an anti-candida diet) and woke up one morning in March of 2010 feeling better than I had ever felt in years. I slowly went back to eating certain foods that I had stayed away from–gluten and dairy mostly–because they didn’t seem to bother me anymore. I felt really good until the spring of 2011 and then started experiencing digestive problems again. I have been to numerous doctors as well, acupuncturists and naturopathic doctors and no one has been able to get to the root cause. I finally uncovered some of the truth myself and found out through laboratory testing that I do indeed have antibodies to gliadin and I am gluten intolerant (even though I tested negative for celiac two years ago). Also, I discovered through much research of my own that I have the symptoms of Sjogren’s–went to a Rheumatologist last week and he confirmed my diagnosis though we are still waiting for lab results. Searching for my health again has been an insane road like yours. I have gone through “is it all in my head and just stress?” as well (though that can destroy your body too), but now I know with the diagnosis of gluten intolerance and Sjogren’s that it is not all in my head. I have wanted to cry so many times because I have truly felt like “what’s left to eat?!” On top of that I have had “acid reflux” since June of 2011. I am turning to scd for a solution because I can truly believe in the science behind the diet (I am currently a Nutritional Science graduate student). I wanted to know from you if you are now able to eat eggs and dairy and other foods that once bothered you without the problems you once had. I healed my gut once back in 2010 and am hoping I can do it again with more permanent success on the scd now that I know what is wreaking havoc on my body.
    Thanks so much and hope you are well,
    Stacy

  32. mjennings26

    Greetings, soul sister!
    However, first, I must say I’m so sorry that we are soul sisters! I strongly dislike how many of these kinds of stories I’ve heard over the past several years. Sounds like we have had very similar stories indeed. It’s definitely not all in your head. Now you are a card-carrying member of the celiac tribe. Oy.

    I can tell you that the SCD has really helped me. This is my second time on it, and I hope, the last time since I want to maintain it forever. What I know for sure about my digestion at this point is that it absolutely *stops working* (and backs things up if you know what I mean) when I eat grains. I’ve done enough empirical research on myself since 2004 to have to proven this! Still, I’m not happy about it. Like you, I’ve been identified with food and cooking all my life and it’s quite a shift to be….sorry to use this word, but, imprisoned by it now. I’m hoping that in a few years, I’ll have completed the 9 Phases of Grief and just be super-grateful I’m totally healthy (I’m maybe halfway there now with the Phases).

    Answers to your questions: yes, I am able to eat eggs and SCD dairy now. I eat eggs most mornings, but I do remove the yolks because I find the super rich foods aggravate the heartburn issues. I’ve also found that limiting (and even cutting out altogether for a time) fruit and sugar really helps for that, too. I agree that you can heal your gut again!

    Have you read Elaine’s book? I highly recommend it. The first time I tried to read it, for some reason, it just didn’t click and I was like, “yeah, yeah, just give me the instructions to the diet!” This time (a few months ago), I really got my head into it and it helped me commit better to the SCD.

    I also recommend the SCD users list on Yahoo if you haven’t already signed up for it. TONS of amazing, helpful people on there who have regained their health through the use of this diet. You can ask questions, research in the archives, and get recipes.

    Speaking of cooking, I also highly recommend Kendall Conrad’s cookbook, Eat Well, Feel Well. It’s somewhat geared toward the SCD-foodie, which is perfectly awesome and a godsend!

    I am in much better health now. Not perfect, but way, way better than some of the rough patches of the past few years.

    Hope this was helpful. Let’s keep in touch! I wish you so much good luck and courage on this crazy journey!
    Melanie

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