When I first realized that I was going to have to eat without wheat (my favorite meal: pasta), barley (a favorite soup), rye (my favorite toast) I was overwhelmed by the ‘No’ in my head. My mind became a filtration system as I immediately focused on what eating gluten free would deny me. It brought me right back to when I found out that I was allergic to dairy, I mean seriously every single meal I ate before that diagnosis involved dairy of one sort or another. I didn’t know how to start my day without cereal with milk or toast with butter or cheese, so maybe I was already thinking that gluten and dairy free foods go hand in hand. Was I being sentenced to living on rice crackers and almond butter? I lived through that phase when I was Microbiotic for 13 years, hummm, which was the only time I felt comfortable in my own body. OK I’m going to jump into gluten, dairy and sugar free with a full commitment to feeling good.
It’s very weird to think that your immune system is attacking your body from the inside out when you eat food that is considered normal, I felt like an alien on my own planet as I began to filter the foods that I could no longer depend on. “Stop IT!” “YOU KNOW BETTER!!” I coached myself. I snapped out of it and came to realize that these ‘familiar and convenient’ foods had little nutritional value and were a far cry from what I knew to be healthy. I came to understand that what I eat is ‘better’: better flavor, better health and probably better for everyone!
My full understanding of my allergy to milk (which Asians don’t use in liquid or cheese form, OK except for the condensed milk in Thai iced tea and coffee) brought me to see that we aren’t made to drink milk our entire life anymore than I think that we’re supposed to cross-species-nurse so I started to think about processed flour and how far a cry it is from a grain.
In my minds adjustment I came to look into ethnic cooking and ingredients, pre-gluten invasion, pre-Milk Board (until WWII animal milk was only available in the spring). I started with Asian, because macrobiotic cooking is country cooking Japanese style, I was comfortable with cooking that way and had some of the ingredients were already staples in my kitchen. Caught onto gluten free soy and fish sauce and I was off and running, and in a matter of days I realized just how much of my diet contained gluten. Integrating into family meals would be a challenge, I began with making my expensive gluten-free pasta separate, but I began making foods that everyone would appreciate that happened to be gluten, diary and sugar free.
Like cold sesame noodles, they’re a classic Chinese dish that are easy to make gluten, dairy and sugar free. Peanut butter as well as peanut and bean sprouts are always in my refrigerator, as are rice noodles from Thailand.
The first time the kids would taste it . “The spaghetti smells like peanut butter” said Picky Princess, age 3 who’s always in the kitchen if I’m in there. “Very good that you could smell that peanut butter because there is peanut butter in the noodles. You like peanut butter and you like noodles, so you’ll like this, try it!”
“But when I eat peanut butter and jelly, I really like the jelly; can I have jelly noodles?”
As I was thinking about a reasonable reply, I realized that her logic made total sense. Why not? What’s the difference? Peanut Butter Noodles.. yum, Jelly Noodles… yuck!
“Not a good idea” I told her, she went to her seat at the table. hummm no elaborate explanation necessary for a 3 year old, maybe the idea didn’t appeal to her as she thought about it either. I add a little glop of honey to the cold sesame noodles in place of the sugar, I’ve found that aside from being healthier, honey and agave are easier to cook with than refined sugars any way.
There are thin rules in culinary execution, (does sweet noodles fall into one?) and bending those rules has been the basis of all my original recipe successes. Most of my original recipe ideas have been met with ‘don’t do it’ by my assistants and friends that cook. They are then shocked and amazed at the delicious results, a fact that makes me gloat. Yes, I can imagine the combination of flavors before I commit, first with my nose and then with a little spoon.
Why isn’t Jelly and Pasta appealing to me? Classic Thai cuisine combines sweet sauces with noodles in Mee Krop, maybe it works because it includes adding bean sprouts and dried shrimp, adding a little heat with chili peppers, some salty in the fish sauce. Yes, a very successful and delicate balance of flavor profiles and textures. I have Jalapeno Jelly that I picked up at a farmer’s market that I haven’t been inspired to use yet. Maybe add that Jalapeno Jelly to gluten free corn pasta, which is not my favorite because of the texture, but maybe if I add a creamed avocado sauce and top it with the jalapeno Jelly. Maybe add some chicken or shrimp. I think I’ll just have to give that a go.