Lunch last Friday was almost perfect. I wandered into Le Pichet a little after noon, and downed a New Yorker article and the better part of a glass of house red before a striking gentleman ambled in and took the barstool next to me. We flirted and talked, carefully eating our own little salads, ignoring the rest of the room. He fed me grilled sardines with onion jam, and I scooped salade verte onto his plate. Then we shared oeufs plats, two eggs snuggled into blankets of ham and gruyere and baked until the whites were just set. We both smiled.
He walked me to my car, where he kissed me goodbye. I drove away toward a doctor’s appointment, feeling light and happy, and so lucky to have married him. Then I looked at the floor in front of the passenger seat, and noticed my laptop, along with its nice case and all my work and recipe notes, was missing. The light feeling vanished.
I always lock my car. Sometimes I lock it twice, or even three times, just to be sure my obsessive-compulsive tendencies are still functioning. I pulled over to scour the seats, but a computer is a very difficult thing to lose in the crack between the seat and the center console. I checked the trunk. I called the restaurant. Nothing. Someone had stolen my computer.
There was an unusually clean spot on the passenger door. It was human-shaped, but other than that, there was no sign of a break in – no scratches around the window frame, no bent metal near the lock. While the lack of evidence was convenient from a financial standpoint – no one wants to replace a computer and fix a car door – it was completely humiliating. I must have left the car unlocked. Someone must have watched me leave the car unlocked.
I spent the remainder of the day alternately panicking and mentally flogging myself for my presumed mistake. Instead of going straight home to change all my passwords, file all the various required reports, and record what I could of the recipe notes I’d lost, I went to my doctor’s appointment, where every person in the office assured me the same thing had once happened to them, and they’d survived. Then our nanny called. Our son was running a fever. I picked him up, took him to his doctor, and waited in line for his medicine.
My husband came home. We fretted over a sick kid and cobbled some sort of dinner together. I wish I could remember what we ate. Later, we huddled around our Time Machine downstairs, trying to determine how much of my data was successfully backed up. So many recipes, I thought. So many emails. Getting a new computer is one thing – a process I loathe, because it requires spending so much money on something I understand so poorly – but recreating a work history is another thing entirely.
But I was fortunate. I’m somehow missing all my photos from the month of April – including all the shots we took of Graham’s first birthday – but as far as I can tell, everything else was backed up.
Then, as is always the case when something goes sort of awry but not really, really wrong, I felt a rush of luck. My car wasn’t stolen. I didn’t lose a person. And after all, I’d had a most incredible lunch date with my husband.
Wait. Lunch. At lunch, we’d shared part of a baguette. At lunch, I’d broken a six-week streak of eating gluten-free, as planned. And I didn’t feel one single bit different.
So . . . what? Do I not have celiac disease? I was simultaneously relieved and just plain angry. I mean, I’ve spent six weeks trying not to get caught gazing longingly at the donuts in the bakery case I work near at my local coffee shop, and I’d certainly like to have another one in this lifetime. On the other hand, I’d been harboring a little fantasy. It went like this: I’d eat gluten again, and fall terribly sick, and my joints would scream and shout more than ever. A small plane would soar across the sky, loop-de-looping a message across the bright blue until, clear as day, there was a puffy white paragraph for the entire city to read: JESS DOES NOT HAVE LUPUS. IT’S JUST CELIAC DISEASE. IF SHE STOPS EATING WHEAT, EVERYTHING WILL GO AWAY.
But no dice.
On the other hand, GLUTEN. On Saturday, I had a bagel for (first) breakfast, then we ate French toast for brunch, with friends. We rode to Roxy’s for afternoon Reubens. Afterward, I decided to bake.
Friday morning, I’d cleaned out my laptop tote a bit. At the top of a stack of papers headed for the recycling bin was one with “emmer chocolate chunk cookies” scrawled across the top, the ghost of a months-old craving. The only glutinous product left in the house – I’d known keeping any would be too tempting for me – was a little bag of Bluebird Grain Farms’ emmer flour, which I’d been too stubborn (or cheap) to give away. And we’d planned a trip to the mountains the next day. Cookies, indeed.
I fluffed butter and sugars, added eggs and vanilla, and fortified the batter with emmer flour and oats. At the last minute, I wavered. What about emmer bars, I thought? With huge chunks of chocolate? I love the way the cut sides of chocolate chunk bars offer a window into just how much meltiness hides in each bite. But cookies seemed so much easier to eat. I went back and forth: Bars. Cookies. Bars. Cookies.
In the end, I made both. I scooped about half the batter into a brownie pan, pressed it flat, and made bars. With the rest of the batter, I made cookies. I like the bars better. So does Zac. My husband likes the cookies better, because they’re a little crispy. So does Graham, apparently.
I guess there’s no way of knowing, without a biopsy, that I don’t have celiac disease for sure. But for now, it sure doesn’t seem likely. I’ve been eating gluten for almost 72 hours now, to no ill effect.
So that was all a lot of hubbub, now, wasn’t it? It reminds me of a joke my sister-in-law, a stand-up comic down in L.A., tells about going back “into” the closet, after years as a lesbian. (She’ll be performing in Bellevue next week, if you’re around.)
“What can I say, folks? Sorry about all the hubbub,” she says. “But I’ve really appreciated all the rainbow flags. Bandanas. WNBA tickets.” (Here’s the actual clip.)
So, yeah. I guess all I really need now is a little more chocolate.
Emmer & Oat Chocolate Chunk Bars (and Cookies) (PDF)
Here’s a chocolate-stuffed dessert that’s a two-fer in many ways: Barflies get chewy chocolate chunk bars, while cookie lovers get crisp wafers with a great oatmeal cookie chew. Sweets seekers get their fix, and nutrition nuts can point to whole grain emmer flour and a good dose of oat bran to justify the splurge. And for two treats made at the same time, bake the bars right away and freeze the rest of the dough in balls for cookies when you need them at the last minute. Or you can just make all of one type—whatever suits you.
Order emmer flour online at bluebirdgrainfarms.com.
TIME: 25 minutes active time
MAKES: 16 bars, plus 2 dozen 3” cookies
Vegetable oil spray (or butter for greasing the pan)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 1/2 cups emmer flour
1/2 cup oat bran
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup thick rolled oats
3/4 pound (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate, chopped
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat an 8” square brownie pan with the vegetable oil spray (or butter), and line with a square of waxed or parchment paper. Line two heavy baking sheets with parchment paper, and set those aside, too.
In the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and both sugars on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla. Scrape down the sides of the work bowl, and mix briefly.
Whisk the emmer flour, oat bran, baking soda, and salt together in a mixing bowl. With the mixer on low, add the dry ingredients, about a third at a time, and mix until the flour is incorporated. Add the oats and chocolate and mix until combined.
Transfer three packed cups of the dough to the 8” pan, spread flat with a spatula, and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the bars are lightly browned at the edges and the dough has little cracks in the center. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then use the paper to transfer the bars to a cutting board. Cut into 16 squares, and let cool another 10 to 15 minutes (to firm up) before moving.
Use the remaining batter to make another batch of bars, or make cookies: Shape knobs of dough into 1” balls and place 2” apart on prepared baking sheets. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until edges are lightly browned. Cool 5 minutes on pans, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.
Bars and cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to 5 days.