As I’ve mentioned before, one of the things that I miss is McDonald’s French Fries. I mean, it’s the memory of the prefect McDonald’s French Fries, and those were few and far between. Still, I kind of miss them. Right after Christmas, the husband brought McDonald’s into the house. It’s not something that he does often, especially if I’m around. But it was Christmas day ,we had driven home from Portland, and we had no food in the house ready to make. So we needed to get take out.
I was lucky, because there was a pho place that I knew I could eat at that was open. The husband, who can eat anywhere he wants, was not. He’s not a fan of pho, which I don’t understand, but I don’t push the issue. He wound up driving around for 30 minutes looking for something easy that he could grab and bring home to eat. What he found was the golden arches. When he came home with the food he looked at me and apologized, but I didn’t really care, because my pho smelled a lot stronger than his fries (and had large pieces of ginger, yum!)
The truth, and you can’t tell him this, is that it doesn’t bother me as much as it did a year ago. I mean, a year ago, I hadn’t found all of the things that I could eat. I wasn’t as comfortable with my diet. I have some pretty good coping mechanism now. I’m still paranoid about everything. I watch people’s hands. I ask a million questions. I read and double check everything that I eat. But I’m better about the McDonald’s thing now.
My memory of McDonald’s isn’t as sharp as it used to be. It used to be a pining for Chicken McNuggets and Fries. I wish I could say that I found better foods to replace them, but really I just kind of forgot about it. Sure when you drive by a McDonald’s that smell is still there, but now it’s just kind of a thing. Kind of like the smell of yeasty bread rising when you go past Subway. It doesn’t really do anything for me anymore.
Olfactory memory is commonly implicit memory which can be created over time. For those that don’t know what that means, is it’s a conditioned memory, like a Pavlovian response. You get practice associating a sensation, and as you repeat it, your body begins to create neuro pathways, until you have an memory of the sensation burned into your brain. If you would like a really good explanation, watch this video. MatPat, over at Film Theory, does a really awesome explanation about implicit memory using diet coke and (of course) does it by discussing superhero movies. If you’re not interested in the whole superhero aspect of this, skip to minute 6, that’s where he starts the discussion on memory, but really the whole thing is pretty great.
So, how does this apply to me not craving McDonald’s from smelling it anymore? I haven’t eaten McDonald’s in 2 years, this means that the habituation of my neurological patterns for McDonald doesn’t have practice anymore. The smell/recall process isn’t as strong as it used to be. This means that the craving that the smell of McDonald’s used to trigger in me isn’t as strong as it used to be, and will eventually fade. This is why the smell of fresh baked bread doesn’t trigger the same sensation in Celiacs or Gluten-Sensitives as it does everyone else. And is the reason that we don’t even remember the taste of gluten bread anymore.
We’ve all said those words. We can’t remember the taste or the mouth feel. That’s because our brain associates bread with our new reality of bread. For adults, our memory adapts for bread to be these heavier, dense, moist loafs. When we think bread we this of Udi’s and not Wonderbread. For children that are diagnosed young, they might not even remember having a loaf of store bought sandwich bread, like Wonderbread. With all of the cures on the horizon, I wonder what it will be like for these gluten free kids to take a pill and have some of that full gluten, cloud light bread. Will the think, “there’s nothing to this, there’s no substance, no body” and automatically dislike it? Will they taste McDonald’s and think “This is nothing but salt!”
There’s some conditioning in our lives that make us like McDonald’s or Diet Coke or Wonderbread. It’s comfortable. And when you have to change your diet, that comfort is taken away. McDonald’s is good, sure, but it’s not great. We have good memories of Happy Meals and play areas, or high school dates, or late night post bar munchies. It’s the food of our youth, so we’re attached to it. But now that I’m 2 years from eating McDonald’s’, I don’t crave it when I smell it anymore. I remember some of the good times. I remember the treat it was when I scraped together enough money to go and eat out when I was broke and in college, but I don’t really care about eating it right now. And I’m okay with that.
Happy New Years everyone!
So, post Christmas was interesting. I got the stomach flu. I honestly never really thought I would ever be excited from the stomach flu, but only having the body aches and need to run to the bathroom for a limited time (and not having all of the rest of the glutened symptoms afterwards) is kind of amazing. I get excited knowing that the flu is a limited time illness, and it’s kind of sad.
Anyway, after the stomach bug I cut my thumb open. Literally, I was sick the Monday and Tuesday after Christmas and on Tuesday night I sliced my thumb open. Below is a recreation of the actual event.
But seriously, I cut about halfway through the tip of my thumb. Kind of makes typing hard. And then the in-laws descended on my house. We got away with eating without incident (in the home) but the one meal outside of our house that we had, I got glutened.
It was a really stupid one. We went to Maggiano’s Little Italy, which pride themselves on doing gluten free (and all allergies) really well. They had a chief come out and speak with me (nice touch) and assure us that there was a separate gluten free part of the kitchen with special gluten free pasta water. They make all of the pasta in house and make sure that there’s no cross contamination. And I get my plate of fresh-made pasta prepared gluten free (and it’s pretty good, still a little grainy but not half bad pasta). And there, in the middle of my plate, is a strand of not gluten free spaghetti. How do I know, because I had penne and when I mentioned that there was spaghetti on my plate, the waitress got this look on her face and said she’s get the chief. But the chief didn’t come back, the manager came back and comped my meal. And got me a new plate of pasta. And gave us $50 in gift cards because they were so embarrassed that is happened. I mean, I was down for the count for 3 days but there was 3 free meals out of it. Doesn’t make up for the intestinal damage, but I would be willing to try again in case this was just a fluke.
So, my stomach has been a little tender as of late. And I’ve been a bit emotional. And I totally hit the post holiday funk. And I can’t really type or crochet or video game until this last week (Pokemon Go doesn’t count because it only uses one hand.) So, I haven’t been writing or really doing much of anything. Until this last weekend.
I subscribe to the Gluten Free on a Shoestring newsletter. I really like their recipes and used several of them over Christmas. A couple of months ago I found one of her cookbooks in our local half priced book store (creatively called Half Prices Books) and bought it. Inside I found one of my favorite things, molasses break. It’s a quick version of the bread that you get at Outback Steak House, but gluten free. I’d been trying to 2 years to make something close, so I tried it. I modified the recipe a bit to make in my bread machine, and it was perfect. Literally perfect. Light and fluffy and moist. I made for Thanksgiving dinner and it was amazing. I also tried to make Monkey bread for the first time since the diagnosis, and it was also amazing.
This started us down the road of seeking out foods we haven’t had in a while. There was the cider pub in Seattle that had gluten free fish and chips and fried cheese (it was 100% gluten free restaurant). There was the fried rice after New Years (which almost, but didn’t, include part of my thumb). There was our trip to the local Asian market near our new house that included buying of mochi ice cream. And then this weekend we chased the dragon (so to speak.) I made Chinese barbecue pork and the husband made fried chicken.
I’ve tried making barbecue pork before and it was…okay. This time was a million times better. The fried chicken, that was from Gluten Free on a Shoestring. A KFC copy cat recipe was sent in the newsletter last week, and I just wanted it. We had been watching video of kids trying Christmas food was around the world, and in Japan KFC is traditional to have on Christmas Day. I starting having a craving for some fried chicken, and I was obliged last night.
Seriously, I don’t remember fried chicken being soo good. It was crispy and moist and yummy. I think I was 8 all over again eating chicken from a bucket. I just needed some of that overcooked, dry corn on a cob and a biscuit slathered in butter and honey from packets. Next time we make it, I’ll work on biscuits I think.
We all have these foods that we love, and honestly, not all of them come in easy to find gluten free varieties. Sure, my new molasses bread isn’t the same texture as the one at Outback Steak House. It’s a bit more dense and moist than that one is. Sure my barbecue pork doesn’t have that bright red skin that the ones in the grocery store have (that food coloring BTW.) And sure that fried chicken wasn’t as thickly coated as the KFC, but it was still pretty amazing. And yeah we can’t just go to the store and buy it, but this isn’t a lament of the loss of convenience, but celebrate the resourcefulness of our people.
Celiacs and Gluten Sensitives have been finding a way to get their favorite things for years. It’s been years of struggle to get to this point. We live in an age of regulation of labeling and blends of flours that can create whatever you want. Sure we can’t get the protein structures like gluten baked goods, but we can get close. And we are on the cusp of a cure. As we speak there’s clinical testing on possible cures. This is the best time to need to be gluten free. Sure there’s a lot of room for growth. Sure there can be better testing and education (I mean look at Italy) but we’re in a pretty good place.
So, just because you can’t have EXACTLY what you want, be glad with what you do have. Because everyday we’re just a little bit more comfortable. Everyday some inventive cook out there figures out another way to make something gluten free. And we know how to do things that most normal people never think about. We know the careful alchemy of mixing whole grains and starches to create just the right surface tension for fluffy bread. We know how to do things that people just didn’t need to do anymore, that people forgot because the industrialized food machine has been doing it for them. We are the people who can’t be lazy, can’t decide that there’s just no energy to make something and I’ll just go out. Where most people start on their cooking, with boxed and frozen foods, that’s where we get lazy. We are the Celitariat, doing all of these things because the gluten free life has chosen us. We have our hustle on just to put food on the table and not be sick afterwards. That is what the gluten free life really is.
So, as the title of this post says, you can’t always eat what you want…but if you try really hard you can get pretty close.
What did you think I was going to Rolling Stones here…?
No this isn’t a comment on the Presidential Election. I have my thoughts on that, but I’ll keep those to myself. It was my last few weeks, so I apologize for not blogging during that time. Halloween night, we found ourselves sitting in a hotel room with our cats not certain where we were going to be living for the next week. We had gotten a message from the people who were buying our house saying that they were going to need another couple of days before we could close the sale. We were supposed to be closing on the sale of our house the next day. So, that was fun. After a week of stress, we only moved into our new house one day late because we have an amazing Real Estate team. The next Monday we were finishing all of the moving.
If you’re familiar with Maslow Hierarchy of Needs, there’s some very basic things you need to feel fulfilled. I was missing things on the lower rungs of the pyramid. We had shelter, but not really a home. We weren’t getting sleepy or a place to belong. But the husband and I had each other and our cats and a U-Haul full of everything that we owned. We were really worried about everything disappearing from the U-Haul or what would happen if U-Haul told us they needed the truck back. We were worried that out house would fall through and I wouldn’t have a place to live. We were worried about work and having to take more time off so we could move. It was literally the worst.
It was an interesting week in the hotel. We went to an extended stay because there’s only so much Chipotle and Red Robin a person can eat, plus they would let us keep the cats with us. It had a fridge and a small kitchen, so we could cook. We had to pack a lot of our food in the U-Haul, but I made sure that we had enough to eat and cook. We also had to bring all of our frozen food and refrigerator foods with us in a couple of coolers and stick them in the room’s fridge, because there’s no way I’m buying fresh hoisin sauce. That’s stuff if expensive.
So, I was a Food Sherpa, out of necessity not out of choice. Still I over packed the dry good too, but not by much. I’m still trying to figure out the balance there. In in this instance, I needed to plan for as many meals as I could. I had quick lunches and dinners that we could make with 2 burners, a pot, and a frying pan. I also brought along our electric kettle, a handful of seasoning, and a few other kitchen odds and ends. It made a really not fun situation feel a little bit like home.
My first journey as a celiac was a trip to my sister’s house with a to visit our grandparents. It’s about a 4 hour drive (in traffic) from Seattle to her house south of Salem, OR. She had been chatting with me all week about what she might need to do, and how to prep for my stay. I brought along a bunch of food, because from her house we had a 2 hours to the grandparents and back. I wanted to make sure I had road snacks and lunch stuff.
I kind of over packed. Well I really over packed. I brought along bars and crackers and laughing cow cheese (which I just happened to have around the house), dried fruit, pop corn, more pop corn, and more pop corn (a girl has to be prepared.) Honestly, I ate crackers and cheese, a bar, and a lot of pop corn (have I mentioned before that I like popcorn?) I brought back almost as much food as I left with. Usually, when I do the road tripping, it’s a bad of chips and something to drink. There is always that thought of, if I really need something I can stop. I have gone to conventions with coolers full of food for 3-4 days of being away from home for 3 people. I brought about half of that for just me.
I will tell you this, when you go on a trip, have a meal plan. I know it’s one more thing to think about when you packing, but that meal plan will save you. Know what you’re going to have for breakfasts. Know what you’re going to need to pick up there (there’s no way I’m ever taking yogurt on a plane.) And keep it simple. If you can get away with one breakfast item for all of the days, do it. When you travel, space is important, even if your driving, so make sure you make the most of it. Honestly, I don’t think I’m ever going to choose to have a box of GF cookies over an extra pair of jeans.
Popcorn would be another story, but that can go in the carry on. You need something to munch on the plane.
Getting that that holiday season is coming up, and that is the time that everyone goes a visiting, think about this. What can’t get where I’m going? What do I need to get there? What meals are the most important to eat on my own? Make a list your meals and what you’re going to need to prep them. Then get just the basics. Think about it like Blue Apron but you do it yourself, and for travel. Once you have your meal plan, go with it. Just take it and run with it. That’s the best thing that you could do for yourself.
Thanksgiving in next week, that means baking. I suspect that I will have 2 double blog posts next week. One about baking bread in my new oven (it shows up on Monday I’m so excited) and one about those two cornerstones of holiday prep Food Network and Pinterest. Stayed tuned. Also, I’m actually going to be traveling next month for Christmas down to my native Portland (I know such a schlep), so I’ll make sure to describe holidays with my family to you in excruciating detail.
I have one more shout out. I just found out that my father’s older brother Larry, just was diagnosed with Celiac. He’s in his late 50’s and having to start out on our journey. I hope him all of the best while he starts down this wonderful adventure of being gluten free! Welcome to the Celiatariat, Larry! You’re in good company!
As I’ve mentioned before, my mother has a whole slew of allergies: citrus, eggs, nuts, peanuts, and soy are the big ones. When I was growing up, it wasn’t unusual for mom to have a lot of things left off an order or ask questions about what ingredients were. She has an emergency allergy kit in her purse, that is well stocked with Benadryl and hand creams and EpiPens. If she even got the tell tale itching in her mouth, out came the pills. Considering we never had to take her to the ED for any of these allergies, I think she did a pretty amazing job managing them.
So early on, in our discussions of my celiac, she asked me if I could take a Benadryl to combat the gluten in my system. Considering so many people don’t understand celiac but if you say “gluten allergy” they can comprehend what you’re saying, it makes a certain amount of sense. Except celiac isn’t an allergy. It is simply a reaction your body has to food. Except, when you have an allergy, that is also a reaction your body has to food. What exactly is the difference.
Lets start by looking at the definition of both words. According to Dictionary.com an allergy is:
What Is an Allergy?
It’s what happens when your immune system reacts to something that’s usually harmless. Those triggers, which doctors call “allergens,” can include pollen, mold, and animal dander, certain foods, or things that irritate your skin.
Allergies are very common. At least 1 in 5 Americans has one.
What is celiac disease?
Celiac disease is a problem some people have with foods that contain gluten. Gluten is a type of protein. It’s found in the grains wheat, barley, rye, and triticale (a wheat-rye cross).
When you have this disease and you eat food with gluten in it, the gluten triggers an immune response that is not normal. This damages the inside of your small intestine so that it can’t do a good job of absorbing nutrients from your food.
It’s important to get treatment, because celiac disease can:
So again, we see one similarity here, each of these trigger an immune response, but that’s about where the similarities end again. So if we only look at the most surface similarities both allergies and celiac are immune reactions that have something to do with food and poop. Sounds about right.
So here’s the differnce that neither of these have touched upon. Allergies are immediate and Celiac is a delayed hypersensitivity reaction. If you look at this resource at the Food and Allergy Resource Program the difference between an allergy and celiac is that an allergic reaction activated antibodies in response to the allergen while celiac activates phagocytes, antigen-specific cytotoxic T-lymphocytes, and the release of various cytokines in response to an antigen. That’s science speak for allergies and celiac trigger different immune reactions
So, why wouldn’t Benadryl work for Celiacs, well when the immune reaction happens for allergies it releases histamine into the suffer’s system. Benadryl is an antihistamine, which blocks the histamine reaction. When Celiac’s have a reaction, is causes entropy in the intestines and no histamine. So while my mom eating some eggs or nuts can chew a Benadryl and start to feel better, because of my delayed hyper sensitive reaction and the cell-mediated immunological reaction that same Benadryl won’t help. It might even hurt if there’s a wheat in those pills.
Science, we has it in spades on this blog, and a lot of really large words. If you want to read more of the science, go here and keep google open to help you through some of the pretty amazing scientific terms in the article. I was googling the wikipedia entries I found to explain terms.
So, my move begins in earnest this week. I might be able to post next week, but we need to be out of our house on 11/1 and still don’t know where we’re moving on that date. Here’s hoping that everything comes up roses, and I have a great new house next week. Of course, next Monday is Halloween! My favorite holiday of the year! And my wedding anniversary!
There is the traditional food groups, we all know them, in my house there’s a whole different set of food groups. Cajun, Italian, Mexican, Sushi, and Ice Cream. Really, what we eat can generally break into one of those groups. Cajun is number one on that list. Even though we’re both born and bread Northwestern Kids (I’m from Oregon and my husband was born in Alaska) we love Cajun food. Gumbo, Jambalaya, Etoufee, Po Boys…we love it all. We love Cajun food so much we had a Cajun food truck cater our wedding. It was literally the best money we spent on the whole day.
So, the thing that I started lamenting the most when I got my celiac diagnosis was gumbo. You can’t make gumbo without flour. The base of gumbo is a roux, a mixture of wheat flour and butter cooked to a dark chocolate brown. You can’t make gumbo without it, becuase that roux not only thickens but it add the rich deep falvor that kind of is gumbo. Well a quick google search later and my husband was looking at making gumbo with sweet rice flour. If you’ve ever tried to make a roux by just replacing it with one single flour, you know that it doesn’t work very well. You get grainy liquid and light flavors and none of the complexity that you expect from gumbo. So we set out on a journey, a journey for the perfect gluten free roux.
To understand how to make a gluten free roux, you need to understand how to make a roux period. Roux isn’t just mixing oil and flour together to make things thicken. What makes roux so special is the fact that you’re cooking the flour to create a depth of flavor. I mean, it’s French and it’s cooking so it’s totally more complicated than that. You cook the flour to take away some of that flour taste. If you’ve even made a slurry with just flour and water it’s not tasty. It tastes like playdough, but less salty. So you cook the flour to try and get that flavor out. The same thing happens that happens when you cook meat or sugar the make carmel, the maillard reaction, and it makes the flavor more complicated and the whole things just gets smoother. So when you make your bachemel sauce or a gravy, which is light and buttery, you use a light roux. When you make a etoufee or gumbo you use a super dark roux with deep complex flavors. Yup, all of that chemistry stuff from just cooking some flour. So in making a gluten free roux, you got to look at how to get all of that in one place. Nothing to be intimidated by there.
One of the images that always sticks in my head when I think about making roux is Alton Brown sitting in a kitchen with pots and pots around him of burned chocolate roux. I would have shared that image here, but it apparently doesn’t live on the internet and I would have to pay to get a screen shot of that scene. Still great episode, you should all watch it. And as I go through the rest of this post, this image will be really important.
So another google search, you’ll find that a lot in this post, we came to Emril Lagasse. If you don’t know, Emril’s two daughters are part of the Celitariat, one has celiac one has non-celiac gluten sensitivity. The man who is know to America as the Cajun cook has made gluten free gumbo, so he should KNOW the best way to get a good roux. We bought a cook book authored by his daughters that included some recipes from him. We tried their roux, which used Arrowhead Mills gluten free flour. We tracked some down (at our local Safeway in the gluten free ethnic food section) and tried what the experts said. Again, it was okay. Not the best not the worst. We tried it a couple of times, and it was still just okay. The thickening was there, but it lacked a depth of flavor. Arrowhead Mills is rice flour, sorghum, and tapioca starch. Knowing what we know now, it makes sense that the color and flavor just wasn’t there.
Now, I will say, if you’re going for a light roux, like a white roux, this is great. It works pretty well for my cream of chicken and while rice soup. It works pretty well to make cream of chicken soup to make our chicken and rice dishes. But if you’ve ever had gumbo (and a really good gumbo) it’s really complex, like a red wine. And we have had gumbo at Emril’s actual restaurants before. The roux was so dark and the flavor was so rich, we thought that there had to be red wine in. There wasn’t, it was all the roux. So to have a light roux in a gumbo recipe tied to him, that just doesn’t work.
After a couple of attempts, we realized it wasn’t us, it was totally the flour so we went back to the internet. Google told us that we should use Bob’s Red Mill AP, which made a roux that tastes like beans. We tried white rice flour, brown rice flour, and sorghum flour. We tried combinations of all of the above. That’s when my husband realized the thing that all gluten free cooks realize, the pre-mixed AP flours are just not as good as making your own. So this week, he threw caution to the wind and grabbed white rice flour, sweet rice flour, and ivory teff. He mixed all of those in equal parts into the pot and made the best batch of gumbo that we’ve had since going gluten free. It got dark and had all of the complex nutty flavors that we were missing. The teff, unlike the sorghum, really stood up to the cooking and got really yummy. It tasted almost as good as any of the glutened gumbos that I have ever had.
Now, a bit of a cooking lesson here. I know I said I wasn’t going to do this, but there’s some science here. So a normal roux is made with equal amount of oil and flour. The oil can change based on what kind of cooking that you’re doing (butter for french, lard for Middle European, bacon grease for cajiun). Wheat flour is really…thirsty. I mean really thirsty. It absorbs oil really well. If you’ve tried to make your own gluten free fried chicken, or anything breaded really, the gluten free flour doesn’t absorb the oil as well. So when you make your gluten free roux, whatever fat you use, you use less of it. If you’re making a gravy with gluten free flour, you add a little bit more to the drippings. It’s just one of the things that you have to adapt. My husband says it should be a third less oil, and when I’ve made roux would agree with that.
So there’s the cooking lessons. That’s as close was we’re going to ever get to doing a cooking blog. Sorry this took a couple of extra days, but there was a lot of get into this one. I almost broke it into a couple of posts because there is just so much information. Still, here’s your basic roux recipe for the best dark roux base we have found.
The perfect dark roux
1/3 cup white rice flour
1/3 cup sweet/glutenous rice flour (machiko)
1/3 cup ivory teff flour
2/3 of a cup of butter
Now go out there and enjoy some good old Cajun food. All of the work is worth it.