Life After Gluten
Behold my wedding cake. The confection – flourless chocolate – was our only option. But guests, even months later, waxed rhapsodic about its rich, creamy goodness . This cake is a bit of a metaphor for my husband’s allergies. His intolerance to wheat (gluten), soy, and dairy limits our options – and yet since marrying him, I eat much better (for taste and health) than ever before. A few weeks ago, a woman told me her daughter had gone into a depression after being diagnosed with celiac disease, convinced her life as she knew it was over (ah, the power of food!). I’m here to say, “All is well.” A few quick tips . . .
Get thee to celiac.com – a great source for food ideas, recipes, and medical information.
We LOVE the Gluten Free Mall. Most items are reasonably priced – and especially helpful for multiple allergy folks. For example, in stores, most chicken broth and bouillon cubes contain wheat and/or soy. We stocked up on these and make soup at least once a week (chicken and rice; butternut squash, potato leek).
Some gluten-free brownies/chocolate cake mixes are great, but I am not a fan of bread mixes or pre-made bread; they are usually dry and will just make you yearn for the “good ol’ days.” Instead of mourning bread, embrace the corn tortilla, rice noodles, rice crackers (better than Wheat Thins any day), and open faced smoked salmon-sandwiches on rice cakes.
However, if you want “breaded” items – such as chicken cutlets or breaded eggplant – try garbanzo bean flour . I actually like the flavor better these days. Oh, and for Thanksgiving try the pie-crust. I also like their microwave popcorn – the only soy-free brand I’ve found.
Speaking of soy . . . in some ways, this allergy is trickier than gluten. Soy is used as a “filler” in just about everything processed. Don’t believe me? Try finding a can of tuna fish without soy. Really. The place to go for soy-free is Whole Foods. Yeah, I know they are more expensive for a lot of items – but for some staples (like soy-free tuna fish) it’s no more pricey than your local supermarket. Also, the staff will look up the ingredients for any prepared food and will even help you shop or (give you shopping guide pamphlets) if you request — and I recommend it, especially if you are new to the allergy. Just call up your local store – they make a lot of money off we allergy-folk, so the costumer service is pretty posh.
Quick note: beware of the word “spices” on the ingredient list. My husband has had reactions to foods when that was the only unknown ingredient – I don’t know whether soy or gluten is the more likely culprit, though I’m guessing soy.
We just don’t do prepacked, processed food anymore – much to my tongue and body’s delight, not to mention the environment’s. We buy fresh fruits and veggies, meats, and eat a lot of rice and lentils. Red lentils, by the way, are a great substitute for mashed potatoes. They are moist without needing milk. I was addicted to pre-packaged for years because it was easy. What I forgot is that it is also pretty easy to cook, and that there were hundreds of easy, allergy-friendly recipes. We love the Moose-wood cookbook and find that French cookbooks (think Julia Child) are especially friendly.
But Can I Go Out to Eat?
More and more restaurants now provide gluten-free menus on demand, including Outback Steakhouse, P.F Changs, Legal Seafood, Carrabba’s Italian Grill, and Bonefish Grill. There is MUCH more awareness about celiac in the restaurant industry these days, and most kitchens will willing check/modify ingredients for you. If you live in Utah, get your list here. Also, the “low-carb options” on menus are often celiac-friendly. (When we ask restaurants to hold the bread, they just assume we are on Atkins.)
If you have a soy allergy, these menus aren’t as helpful. My husband and I tend to frequent American, French, or Italian Bistros when we go out. The bisto menu is very gluten-free friendly (and they usually cook with olive oil, which my hubby needs) – and we simply clue in our waiter. Also, sushi is a good choice — as long as you hold the soy sause and avoid California Rolls — fake crab has gluten.
Oh, and if you are lactose intolerant, Sharon’s coconut and chocolate sorbets are every bit as creamy as most ice creams.
I’d love to hear your suggestions if you are living with food allergies. And since this is a Mormon-themed blog, I do have a question — have you ever seen a ward provide rice wafers instead of bread for sacrament (for all or for one congregant)? This isn’t an issue for us yet (DH isn’t Mormon) but could be for our children . . .