Sunday, September 03, 2006

Foods to live for

Five foods to live for

Well, I haven't exactly been tagged, nor have I ever participated in a meme before (I admit, I had to actually look up the rules for the game) but I read the challenge in one of my favorite blogs Gluten Free Goddess and it resonated. I want to play too!

Its not as simple as listing a few of my favorite foods. You see, like Karina (the Gluten Free Goddess) my life has changed drastically, and that change centers around food. Some of the foods I think no one should live a lifetime without tasting, I will never eat again.

Sourdough bread, fresh from the bakery, eaten from the bag on Fishermans wharf. A sundae (oh, or banana split) on ghiradelli square enjoyed while watching the machinery run. French fries, hot and salty and thick, from an amusement park vendor. A watermelon smoothie from jamba juice. Homemade oatmeal.

I'll stop now, before I start feeling sorry for myself. Or nauseous. You see, with a variety of food restrictions...those things don't really appeal to me anymore. The real pleasures came in the form of spontaneity. Eating out on a whim, exciting the taste buds was part of an excursion or a lovely end to a lovely day.

Now, I bring rice cakes.

I've discovered the pleasures of simplicity.

A poached pear, not steeped in wines or sherries or exotic sauces. Simply steamed until its ready to collapse...but hasn't yet, served with a slice of good cheddar cheese...or if I'm feeling decadent, a small piece or two of Rapunzel chocolate can be divine.

A platter of Tinkyada rice pasta, drizzled with grapeseed oil and some curry seasoning and topped with a fried egg is a far cry from gourmet indulgence, but makes for delightful comfort food.

Ceres sipping nectar.

Panderos delites cookies. They are gluten free, a simple shortbread melt-in-your-mouth bottle-cap sized cookie, that disappears quicker than thin mints.

And chocolate. As it says on the wrapper of one of my favorite chcolate bars (Dagoba roseberry, its corn free and gluten free) "You can deprive the body, but the soul needs chocolate."

I suppose if I had to pick, these are the foods I'd hate to live without. The ones I look forward to enjoying. But the past few years have taught me that enjoyment comes from much more than the food itself. The real requirement is that the food doesn't bite back (as wheat does for those with celiacs), that it can be savored (not craved, like potato chips which never really satisfy), and that it is enjoyed in good company, in a pleasant setting. I can learn to live without my favorite foods. And if it means getting to truly live, I can even be happy about it.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

The hidden risks in your own kitchen

Once we’d confirmed that food was the main culprit in my health problems, the kitchen became a very important place. I could no longer eat out. It was too risky. There was no “Oh rats, I burned dinner. Lets order pizza.” A burnt dinner meant dinner was a little on the crunchy side. And maybe a little extra dessert.

We also learned the hard way how important it was to clean out the kitchen and start new.

At first, I thought it would be okay to slowly weed out the things I couldn’t use. I tried to foist oatmeal off on the kids, but kept getting “just a little” sick each time I made it. I made cookies for the bake sale, thinking it was fine as long as I didn’t taste any. And managed to drop them off at the bake sale before high tailing it home to be near my own bath room.

My husband made rice. He stirred it with a wooden spoon and served to me before seasoning his own. I spent the rest of the night hugging a heating pad.

What went wrong? The problem is simply a matter of *cross contamination*. When baking with flour, have you ever noticed those cute little white smudges that appear on nose and cheeks, or little flour hand prints where you wipe your hands? Well, a few flecks of flour never hurt anyone who can eat the end product. Even if the flecks end up on a clean glass, or in a water cup, or transferred back to your hands when you dry them off before grabbing an apple, they are harmless. But, if you have celiac disease…or are allergic to the wheat or the corn in the vitamins used to enrich the wheat, those flecks of flour are dangerous.

For the newly diagnosed, there are many dangers lurking in the kitchen. When baking, I used to often use the same measuring spoons in all of my dry ingredients. Flour and sugar get mixed in the bowl, why not use the same measuring cup? But when I went gluten free…my 5 lb bag of sugar attacked me. Last time I had made cookies, I’d measured out the flour, then dipped the cup into the sugar. Likewise…many spices contained traces of baking powder (which contains corn starch). All opened baking ingredients had to go.

Another potential hazard comes from seasoned non stick bakeware. The lovely flavor that cast iron skillets are prized for comes from the foods that have been previously cooked in them. And why can’t you scrub them with soap? Because if you do, the food prepared in them later will taste of soap. For the general public, it’s a matter of taste. For those with food allergies, it’s a health hazard.

Anything porous is dangerous. Ever look very closely at a wooden spoon? They have all sorts of lovely nooks and crannies. Perfect spots for grains of flour, particles of corn syrup, or a bit of baking powder to hide. And be released later into a big pot of soup or stew. Pre used wooden utensils must go.

A great guide to de-contaminating the kitchen (This was designed for people with celiacs, but works for other food allergies as well) is found here:

And a list of potential sources of cross contamination: (again, written with celiacs in mind, but a good basic guideline) :

And one more: