Ten Lessons Sans Carols: #7 Glögg Glug Gluten Free Good (With Frogs)

I’ve been gluten free for five years now and it’s greatly improved my health. I became alcohol free (AF) nearly three years ago and that also has improved my health…and saved my life. Alcohol’s a deadly chemical for me, far more deadly than gluten, so consuming any amount of it is akin to jumping out the window of a tall building into a mound of ravenous fire ants. If the fall doesn’t kill me, the ants will, and the dying process will be excruciating for me and my loved ones. By the way, alcohol totally aggravates dermatitis herpetiformis, the skin rash some of us with celiac are extra winners to have. It won’t bring on an outbreak, but if you have an outbreak, it will itch more and spread more and bleed and scar more. My poor legs and arms bear witness to this. Once I went alcohol free, the outbreaks were much less severe in intensity and in damage.

Two weeks before Christmas, Crate and Barrel put all their holiday food fare on sale with free shipping. At 30-50% off and delivered to me for free, I settled down for some serious online shopping. I immediately snapped up seven adorable boxes of chocolates shaped like mice to give as gifts. I’m glad I did because everyone who received a box squeaked with delight at both the cuteness and the yumminess, although my cousin’s son wanted to know if she had any more chocolate rats after scarfing half the box. No? Rats.

GloggA keyword search of gluten free products on the Crate and Barrel website brought up a few dozen products, which is heartwarming. I like seeing more gluten free offerings everywhere I go, especially at such an iconic retailer. It makes me feel more mainstream and less outlier.

While browsing at Crate and Barrel, I saw something called Grandpa Lundquist’s Scandinavian Glögg. The online product description said it was a spiced cider and citrus drink best served warm after coming indoors from playing in the snow. Made with apple cider, lemon juice, cinnamon, cloves and allspice, and labeled gluten free, it sounded like something fun to try, even though the odds are poor for a white Christmas down here in Heat Miser’s territory (It did snow Christmas night in 2010 so it’s not impossible, just improbable). I ordered two bottles for the price of one. When it arrived, I was surprised to see how much the bottle looked like a wine bottle; however, the beverage itself contained no alcohol and it did not suggest mixing it with alcohol. Whew!

We decided to serve it at Dad’s Christmas village party. We warmed it on the stove in my mother’s Christmas tea kettle so it wouldn’t spatter or spill as it heated. I had the perfect serving vessel for it: my yuletide frogpot.Frog Pot It takes a special beverage to compliment frogs wearing Santa hats and if there is such a beverage, it would be Grandpa Lundquist’s Scandinavian Glögg. And maybe this post should be renamed the Frogg Glogg Blogg.

The drink was a big hit, especially with the older teens who praised sweet-spiciness. They loved the frogpot, too, which I’ve had for about twenty years. Who wouldn’t love yuletide amphibians?

It really tastes just like a cup of Christmas cheer, as if someone liquefied a roaring fire in a log cabin and blended it with extracts of snowy fir trees and aprons after they’ve been doused with the makings of holiday cookies, apple pie, and ham. It’s impossible to take a sip and not smile; at least we couldn’t do it. It warmed our tummies and it warmed our hearts without dulling our brains or flattening our willpower.

Like most good things, a little went a long way. Being so sweet, it was best to consume no more than a demure cup at a time. That meant many people could enjoy it and no one like the old me would down an entire bottle him or herself.

Buoyed by the beverage’s popularity, we went back to order more that night but alas, it was sold out online. Following the website’s suggestion, we called the local Crate and Barrel store the next morning to see if they had some in stock. Yes! We bought four more bottles over the phone and then raced through the holiday traffic to pick them up at the store. As part of that transaction, the snazzily tailored sales associate with well-practiced pronunciation said, “It’s gloog, not glog, but regular Americans get it wrong all the time.” Even though he did stare a little down his nose at us, we thanked him and promised not to insult the Scandinavian population anymore with our spiritless garbled gab, American style.

Ah, spirits. For years I thought it wasn’t a proper holiday celebration without a case of wine. I thought I wasn’t grown up enough if I toasted with sparkling pear or apple cider instead of sauvignon blanc in my glass. That’s how it seemed on television and everyone knows television is a reflection of reality. Right?

Wrong. As any of the Real Housewives can tell you, celebrations are best served warmly, not toasted (especially if cameras are rolling). Spiciness is best when it comes from actual spices instead of from bad behavior. If alcohol fueled, the spiciness can be fun at first and then much too quickly it turns rancid and even dangerous, at least the way I did it. Today I test the limits of my palate, not the limits of others’ patience, and certainly not the limits of my internal organs. I’m happy being GF and AF and so is everyone around me.

No matter how you say it, sober, healthy living is good living and I’ll drink GF, AF glögg to that!