Breaking Bread

I’ve never been one to follow fad diets. I like food too much to limit my choices to cabbage, grapefruit and a toxic drink of lemon, maple syrup and cayenne pepper. I’m pretty sure that’s a mixture they use to waterproof asphalt.

So when I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease in 2016, the idea of taking my favorite foods off the table was . . . well . . . off the table.bake-bakery-baking-5765

My doctor insisted I’d feel better if I stopped eating gluten. I laughed and told him I’d never be one of those people who badger waiters about menu ingredients, scour Pinterest for gluten-free cookie recipes or bore friends to tears with a recap of my gluten-induced misery.

I was in denial for several weeks but after a trip to New York where I gorged on pizza, bagels and, basically, bushels of gluten, I ended up in a bread coma. I went off gluten cold turkey, which is pretty much the only thing I can eat now.

My husband has been super helpful as I’ve transitioned to a life of wheat-less sadness. He chokes down gluten-free pizza and cookies without acting like I’m poisoning him (usually), but when I suggested making gluten-free onion rings, he clenched his jaw so tight his ears started bleeding. I heard him sobbing later in the bathroom.

Changing my own diet is one thing. Changing my family’s traditional Thanksgiving favorites is another. Everything about this holiday is a freakin’ gluten fest. You have dinner rolls, gravy, pie crust, carrot cake, Ritz crackers with spray cheese, and stuffing (which I don’t mind skipping because it’s a disgusting garbage of a food).

I experimented with gluten-free pumpkin muffins that had the consistency of ground up snails. Even my dog wouldn’t eat them. Well, he ate them because he’s a Lab and he eats everything; but he whined the whole time.

Researching gluten-free Thanksgiving Day recipes, I found a plethora of tasteless fare. Brussels sprouts in mustard sauce, quinoa stuffing with zucchini and cranberries, and a wheat-free, egg-free, dairy-free, taste-free pumpkin pie headlined my options. I tried making the organic, gluten-free, high-protein breadsticks. Yeah, they’re basically jerky.

And what do you call gluten-free brownies? Mud.

Why is gluten only found in foods that are delicious, like waffles and cinnamon rolls? It would be so much easier to avoid gluten if it was just in cottage cheese, foie gras or earthworms.

At least I live in a time where gluten-free products are available. Ten years ago, people going gluten-free could choose between kale chips or toasted particle board. Granted, most gluten-free products still taste like you’re chewing on a handful of toothpicks, but with new flours available, like amaranth, chickpea and cricket . . . never mind. It’s still terrible.blur-close-up-environment-289417

I could have gone my whole life without knowing things like kelp noodles existed. Which brings me back to Thanksgiving.

I realize the irony of me whining about what to eat on Thanksgiving—a day dedicated to gratitude and abundance. So as I’m sitting at the table, nibbling on dry turkey breast and jerky breadsticks, I promise to be grateful for all the things I CAN eat, like cabbage and grapefruit, and even lemon, maple syrup and cayenne pepper. Just not mixed together.

Originally published in Iron County Todayhttp://ironcountytoday.com/columns/life-laughter/breaking-bread/

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Top 5 Things I’ve Learned by Going Gluten-free

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I never wanted to be one of THOSE people who had to tell everyone, from family members to strangers at Walmart, about their gluten intolerance. I didn’t want to be one of THOSE people who read all the food ingredients, interrogated waiters at restaurants until they cried, and then babbled on and on and on about their sensitivity to gluten.

I thought I would continue with my bread-eating, donut-binging, cookie-making life, with no thought to how gluten would one day affect me.

Until.

A few months ago, I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease that has pissed me off to no end. After years of doctor appointments and blood tests, I was told “You’re just old. Deal with it.” And I thought, “WTF? This is it? I’m going to feel shitty for the rest of my life?”

But finally, I was given a diagnosis and was told going gluten-free would make a huge difference in how I feel. Riiiight. . .

So, I upended my life adapting to this new gluten-free prison, turning down birthday cake and bagels, whilst munching on raw veggies. (Not necessarily a good trade.) But it isn’t too bad. I can still enjoy many of my favorite foods. Like water.glutenfreeHere are the Top 5 Things I’ve Learned By Going Gluten-Free.

  1. Gluten is in freakin’ everything. It’s not just in bread and baking products that contain wheat, oats or other grains. It’s in soy sauce (!), licorice (!!) and even beauty products (!!!) Why can’t gluten be in kale? Or Lima beans?
  2.  Lots of other things are gluten free, including:
    • Libraries
    • Pedicures
    • Grandchildren (usually)
    • Massages
    • Shoe shopping
    • Sunrises
    • The beach
    • Hiking
    • Yoga
    • Margaritas
    • Puppies
    • Sex (usually)
    • Binge-watching TV shows
  3.  There are lots of recipes using alternative flours. Granted, most of those recipes taste like shit. But there are a few that actually taste like chocolate chip cookies. Or brownies. Or waffles. My search continues to find a flour mixture (that doesn’t cost the equivalent of a Tesla) that will allow me to return to my baking habits.brownies
  4. I don’t need to tell everyone I meet I can’t eat gluten. Yes, I understand the hypocrisy of that statement as I post a blog that is read by at least four people. But I can politely refuse baked goods without going off about how gluten has basically ruined my immune system and I’ll probably die a horrible death that involves a dingy motel room and a loaf of sourdough bread.
  5. I feel so much better. After years of daily headaches, overwhelming exhaustion, brutal cramps, unexplained bloating and overall depression, I think this gluten-free thing might be a real solution. It might just catch on.

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