When I first started dating my husband, I received a cookbook for gluten free meals from my mother, who has always loved making food for other people. She had learned from me that he was, and is, intolerant of gluten. For him, this means that if he has more than one serving of something with wheat/gluten every week or so, he begins to show some of the symptoms of an allergic reaction. Thankfully for us, his reactions aren’t anaphylactic shock, but not everyone is so lucky.
I remember looking through this cookbook, grateful that I finally had a tangible resource, and could finally make something the two of us could eat together. I also remember noticing that most of the recipes attempted to recreate very wheat-based meals, just without wheat or gluten.
A few months later, he received some boxed mixes — cookies, pancakes, and brownies — from his relatives and the same theme was present. The adjustment for a wheat/gluten intolerance or allergy was to recreate familiar dishes with non-wheat ingredients.
For those with wheat allergies and celiac disease, this abundance of cookbooks, adjustments, and products is perhaps both the easiest and the hardest part of receiving the diagnosis. On the one hand, it is fairly common for supermarkets to carry “gluten free” options for all of the stereotypical American favorites: bread, sweets, and pasta. The labeling is improving in leaps and bounds, and the options are increasing at the same rate. Not every allergy has it this easy:soy and corn byproducts fill many foods, including most gluten free foods, so those with corn or soy allergies in addition to gluten have fewer options.
On the other hand, this trend of making common wheat-based foods gluten free makes the actual act of eating really hard. Often, people have gotten so used to the taste of wheat that they keep searching for a magical gluten free unicorn that tastes, feels, and functions like wheat. But it won’t. I have yet to find a gluten free cookie that tastes like it has wheat in it … because it doesn’t have wheat in it!
For those who don’t seek to replace gluten and wheat based food with gluten free, the other hard part comes in. The part that I would argue is worth it, even though it is challenging. This is the path I ultimately tried to take. Instead of making a gluten free (or in his case an extremely limited gluten) life out of ingredients masquerading as wheat, I sought new dishes and tried to focus on cooking with other ingredients as they would best function. I expanded my understanding of vegetables, their flavors, and how to best prepare them. I investigated new grains and their uses(rice and I became really good friends).
This isn’t to say I gave up baking; I didn’t. In fact, if you have been reading the Mary Lee blog for a while, you might have noticed my great appreciation for Trader Joe’s gluten free flour. It is also corn free, and is really easy to use! But when I baked, I didn’t expect a wheat taste or texture. I expected deliciously made treats, and got them, (shameless plug here for the cookies from our product line – they are DELICIOUS and you should try them! – but also learned how to work with the unique qualities of the things I was using. And this particular hard part of eating with a gluten intolerance or allergy has gotten easier over time. We are both more familiar with the the ingredients, making better and better food with them. And, our taste buds have gotten used to the different flavors, savoring the unique joys of grains, vegetables, and fruits that were sidelined until the allergy.
In the spirit of delicious desserts, I have included one below that Elizabeth first made for me, and I have enjoyed many times since. Even though it isn’t quite hot outside, the fact that it’s chilled makes it quite refreshing, and it feels exotic and luxurious, almost like a vacation in a glass. Enjoy!
- ½ cup ice
- 1 cup coconut milk
- 1 mango (skin and seed removed)
- ground cardamom
- Chill coconut milk in the refrigerator.
- While the milk chills, take off the mango skin, and remove the seed. Cut into smaller chunks for blending if needed.
- Blend the ice, coconut milk and mango until smooth, then pour into your favorite glass.
- Top with a sprinkle of ground cardamom and a mango slice.