Friday, November 16, 2007

Learning to Eat

A friend has been staying with us with a wheat/dairy allergy. She says it makes her uncomfortable thinking that her eating habits inconvenience others. I found it a pleasant challenge to find yummy recipes that fit the margins. I scoured the internet and found a fabulous chocolate cake recipe which made her grin which in turn made me happy. So really the food "issue" made me more creative and made for a happy memory.
In talking with her about food and her allergies I realised it wouldn't hurt for us to try abstaining from wheat for two weeks and see if anyone here has an intolerance. I talked it over with my Dear and he agreed to give it a try.
That night we made a Mexican influenced stir-fry and asked ourselves what to have with it. What about couscous? Nope, all wheat. Okay, rice? Nah, not in the mood. Quinoa? Is that a kind of wheat? I don't think so... Quinoa it is.
The next day, off I went to the market to buy wheat-free things. Rice crackers, rice noodles, wheat-free pasta. I couldn't find rice tortillas in the store but I know a place that sells them cheap by the pound. And I bought a lot more vegetables and meat. Only when I got my wares home did I see that two of the pasta packages I had bought did in fact contain wheat. A clear case of take the time to read the ingredients carefully. Lesson learned.
That night we ate rice based fusili noodles with a meat sauce. My friend had warned me that rice noodles have a very narrow "ready" window. If you take them out too soon they are unpleasantly under cooked and a minute too long and they are sticky and mushy. I kept a close eye on them and rinsed them in cold water after draining. They did have a slightly gluey consistency that you don't find with wheat noodles but they were still tasty enough, and I think, properly cooked.
The next night it was spaghetti noodles with a rice and quinoa base. Those were yummier with a better consistency and less sensitive cooking instructions but the box only contained enough for one person or two if served as a side dish, and for the price, that is not worth it. I will, however, keep my eye open for other brands of noodles with quinoa and see if they are all expensive.
So tonight, I think we will have Chinese style chicken stir-fry. No faux-wheat issues to think about accept soya sauce, I realise. Must find an alternative for that.
On the whole I have been learning that a diet restriction as wide as "no wheat" can feel quite limiting but I am seeing it as a matter of perspective. If you think of the best yummiest foods as having wheat then you will feel deprived but if you think of the vast variety of delicious foods that do not have and often have never had wheat it doesn't seem like such a sacrifice. Also it is probably a lot easier for me knowing that I can go back to wheat if I choose, some cannot and thinking that you will NEVER eat a fresh baked loaf of pumpernickel ever again could and probably is quite saddening.
My delight comes from baking so I have been searching for recipes without wheat. Not an easy task. Many recipes started out as wheat flour based and have been adapted, these, I often find are like calling carob chocolate or tofu meat-only if you have never had the original can the substitute fool you. But I have been finding a few, a sadly small few, that never started with wheat and I am trying them out in turn to see how they hold up. The whole experience is a learning process but I am finding it an enjoyable one.