Over Labor Day Weekend, Seth and I drove up to the Finger Lakes to visit Josh, one of our Brandeis friends. We rented a cabin on Seneca Lake and spent the greater part of the weekend wine-tasting. As Josh’s commute to the Lake was far shorter than ours (we had a 5.5 hour drive in addition to the time when we drove around the wrong lake for an hour and a half), he volunteered to pick up food for the weekend. We sent him a shopping list so that I could be sure to have my Crohn’s friendly breakfast food (yogurt, Special K, eggs etc.). He also picked up some fruit—plums, bananas, and what I like to refer to as the “grapes that changed my life.”
When it comes to eating fruit, I am only somewhat limited. I eat honeydew, cantaloupe, mango and bananas with no problem. I can eat watermelon if it is completely de-seeded (including removing the white seeds) and I can eat pears, plums, peaches, apples and nectarines if I remove the skin. The only fruits I fully avoid are pineapple, oranges, passion fruit, kiwis, grapefruit, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries; the seeds and pulp tend to be a trigger for Crohn’s symptoms and can aggravate flares). Many people with IBD who follow a similar diet may also avoid strawberries and grapes for the same reasons. I, however, refuse to give up either fruit and resort to peeling them. That’s right; I peel strawberries and grapes. It’s an incredibly tedious process but the result is so gratifying. The first time Seth saw me eating a peeled strawberry, he had no idea what it was. He proceeded to call it a “bleeding cantaloupe.” It is a standing joke now. On a similar note, I was once at a party in which the hostess served blueberries, and one of my friends took it upon himself to peel one for me. There wasn’t much left of the fruit by the time he finished. This is not something I would recommend repeating.
Back to grapes: Peeling grapes is incredibly time consuming. To be honest, I rarely purchase grapes because of the time it takes to peel one (strawberries are bigger and easier). When Josh first pulled out the grapes, he asked me if I wanted one. I wanted to avoid the annoying task of peeling grapes, so I respectively declined. He responded by saying that wine grapes are not the normal “table” grapes that you buy in a supermarket. He explained that some people do not eat the skin of these grapes. If you squeeze the grape on either side of the hole from where it was removed from the vine, the guts (pun intended) of the grape fall right out. He then proceeded to show me how to eat the grape—he squeezed the grape into his mouth while the outside skin stayed intact in his hand. He then spit out the seeds because the seeds are not meant to be eaten. The thought of eating a grape that I DID NOT have to peel was incredibly exciting. I tried one and then another and another. I was hooked. The grapes were not only Crohn’s and Marnina-friendly because of the fact that there was NO SKIN being consumed, but they were also delicious! They are slightly tarter, smaller, and have more concentrated flavor than your average grocery store grapes (Concord, seedless Thompsons, etc). They are also sweeter because they are harvested with much higher sugar levels so the yeast will have ample sugar to turn into alcohol during fermentation.
Bridging off of my new discovery of wine grapes, one of my favorite parts of the weekend was visiting a winery that had “tasting vineyards” outside. We were told that we could go outside and taste the different kinds of grapes that are grown and used to make wine. Seth, Josh and I stood outside for a good fifteen minutes trying every kind of grape (Niagara (white), Riesling (white), Cabernet-Franc (red), Cabernet- Sauvignon (red) and a few others). I think we all agreed that our favorites were the red grapes. Here are some pictures:
Reisling grapes on the vine
From left: Marnina, Josh, Seth at a vineyard
Upon reflecting on my weekend in the Finger Lakes, the first word that comes to mind is grapes. I’m so grateful to Josh for unknowingly opening up my fruit options. I am however slightly bummed that the grapes are somewhat hard to come by in Maryland and DC as they are only available in grocery stores while they are in season in August.
Thank you to Josh for a wonderful weekend. I am off to search for Champagne grapes in Whole Foods before they disappear!