Friday, September 9, 2011

Chris goes gluten-free.

Hello dudes and dudettes!  Although I promised to have the Top Secret Internuts Project ready to go there are a couple scheduling issues that still need to be ironed out.   You’d think the Dalai Lama would have nothing but free time!  It looks like it’ll be ready for sampling in the next week or two barring a catastrophe.  In the meantime, I recently polled my Facebook friends about what I should write about this week.  The overwhelming response (2 votes!) was that I should taste test some gluten-free, milk-free, soy-free, all natural Chili Macaroni.  The runner up was a story about a perilous drive down a mountainside in Virginia but that will have to wait for another day.  Let’s dive right in and get a mouthful of…

Allergaroo Chili Mac!

I think the first thing that needs to be addressed is the Allergaroo mascot.  It’s an alligator.  “Alligator” shares a bunch of letters with “allergies.”   This should have been a slam dunk, marketing team!  So, why is the name of the company “Allergaroo?”  How did a kangaroo get mixed up in this?  Did an alligator mate with a kangaroo to make some kind of high-jumping, iron-jawed monster from the dyspeptic bowels of a Lovecraftian fever dream?  No.  I’m pretty sure they just tacked “roo” on the end of the name.  Why couldn’t they name the company “Allergator” and get rid of the stupid kangaroo all together?  Or, more to the point, why couldn't they name themselves “If-you’re-eating-this-you-got-dealt-a-shitty-hand-in-life-gator?” 

Silly mascots aside, the folks at Allergaroo are doing some noble work for kids with food allergies.  The company’s mission statement reads: “I am happy to provide a line of ready-made dishes that I believe your kids will love and you will know is food allergy safe. Allergaroo products are formulated to be free of the 8 most common food allergens (wheat (gluten), milk, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, fish and shellfish).”  Lucky for me there won’t be any fish in this macaroni!  I’m not allergic…you just shouldn’t put fish in macaroni.  It’s gross.
I still won't mention "nuts."  I'm better than that.
It’s estimated that 12 million people in the United States suffer from food allergies.  Severe allergies result in upwards of 30,000 E.R. visits and 100-200 deaths each year in the U.S. alone.  Food allergies affect more people than I would have imagined but, looking at the “Big Eight” list of allergies, I know someone that falls into each category.  But there’s more!  Celebrities, on the rare occasions when they eat food, are also prone to food allergies.  Just like us normals!  Drew Barrymore is allergic to garlic and coffee which led to her nickname “Fresh Breath” Barrymore.  Billy Bob Thornton is allergic to wheat, shellfish and dairy leaving him nothing to eat but French-fried pertaters.  American songbird, Clay Aiken, has a long list of food allergies including mint, shellfish, tree nuts, mushrooms and chocolate.  You’ll be happy to learn that I just used “Clay Aiken” and “nuts” in the same sentence without taking the low road.  Today I put aside childish things and become a man.

Now we're talking...
Although nut allergies remain the most common, wheat (gluten) allergies can be the most daunting.  For people with Celiac disease, gluten coats the small intestine making it impossible to absorb necessary nutrients.  Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye and malts and it’s also a popular additive in food and cosmetics.  Gluten does not discriminate when it comes to religion.  It is present in matzah balls and communion wafers alike.  Sadly, almost all forms of alcohol are made with some form of gluten.  Luckily, some ingenious brewers have developed gluten-free beer using buckwheat and sorghum instead of the common grains.  Swearing off bread and beer is hard enough but gluten also sneaks into places you’d never expect to find it.  Gluten can pop up in nacho cheese, seasoned rice, baked beans, imitation crab, dry roasted nuts and seeds, lunch meat, hot dogs, soup, salad dressing, frosting and seasoned potato/corn chips.  Do you know how many foods have gluten in them?  The best kinds!!!  Just so I don’t bum out my gluten-free readers, this is what the rest of us are shoveling in our faces…

This is a big bowl of gluten.  Seriously.

Considering how prevalent gluten can be, it’s obvious why there is a market for Allergaroo.  No food can be completely trusted without scouring the list of ingredients and, even then, there’s a danger of contamination.  The appeal of a quick, safe, non-allergenic meal is clear…especially to harried parents.  I tip my hat to Allergaroo (mascot notwithstanding) for providing such a thoughtful product.  But, now we come to the matter at hand.  Can it possibly taste good?

My pouch of Allergaroo Chili Mac informs me that it contains no gluten, milk or soy.  The ingredient list includes tomato paste, rice pasta, rice flour, pinto beans, and various spices.  I guess rice is the replacement grain of choice.  The Chili Mac earns bonus points for convenience.  Preparation consists of opening the pouch, placing in the microwave for a minute and eating.  I dump my macaroni into a bowl and take a whiff.  The scent of tomato and onion are overpowering but not in a bad way.  It smells like every Chef Boyardee product that has ever been or will ever be.  The pinto beans look a little out of place but I suppose they are a meat substitute and not unheard of in veggie chili.  I balance a heaping helping of Chili Mac on my spoon and take a bite…


Now, there are two ways to rate this food.  As an easily prepared, allergy-safe stand-in for SpaghettiO’s this is an absolute success.  It’s ready to eat in seconds, it tastes pretty good and (if you’re allergic) it will not kill you.  That’s a win!  As a food, there are some problems.  The rice pasta is way too firm.  The texture of everything is just a little bit off and the flavor is exactly like you’d expect from a pre-cooked pasta dish.  But it doesn’t claim to be filet mignon.  Allergaroo Chili Mac tastes as good as any Chef Boyardee product that I’ve eaten and that is a great success.  This is a quick and easy snack with the added benefit of not killing people with food allergies.  Unlike this son of a bitch…

Does he have pasta sauce on his hands or the blood of children?  Pasta sauce is the answer!

Alrighty, Internuts!  That’s all for today but I’ll be back next week.  Until then, stay safe and don’t dip your hot dog in frosting if you have Celiac disease.  Or if you don’t have Celiac disease.  Either way.

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