After I moved to Switzerland, digestive issues that had previously been annoying but manageable ramped up and made me quite miserable. So I tried eliminating a variety of foods in various combinations, at the most extreme point being unable to eat anything except vegetables (and not all of those either). This was depressing. Living in Switzerland and being unable to eat bread, cheese, chocolate, potatoes, or meat is no picnic, I assure you.
Following several scary gastric attacks I had my gallbladder removed, which relieved some symptoms but meant I had to take supplements to help with fat and protein digestion. The food sensitivities calmed down, though, and I have found that the main thing I still have to eliminate is gluten (along with coffee, chocolate, and cow milk). I don’t have celiac disease and if I get a trace amount I seem to be okay, but I definitely do better without gluten-containing foods on the whole.
This required adaptation of my cooking and eating habits. Pizza is my favorite food, now off-limits. I love whole-grain bread (I even wrote a book about it, for goodness’ sake!) but I’ve gotten used to going without. My addiction to rye crackers was harder to break and I’m not sure it’s better that I’ve replaced them with rice cakes, but I’ll deal with that in time. Pasta is a convenience food I can do without, given a little extra time and forethought. And it’s better for me not to eat cookies or cake anyway. So I’m doing all right overall, especially recalling those days when I couldn’t eat much except lettuce and carrots. Getting to eat an egg or feta cheese or some lentils feels like cause for celebration in comparison.
For me, inconvenience is the main drawback of not eating gluten. Glutinous foods like bread, noodles, and tortillas are wonderful for quick meals, forming a backdrop to or wrapping up other ingredients. They are also the bulk of what you can find to eat when you’re out of the house, at least around here. It’s all pizza, sandwiches, pasta and the like. Ingredient lists have to be scanned carefully, as gluten can sneak into seemingly innocuous items like salad dressings and falafel. I get most depressed when we’re out and about, I’m hungry and I can’t find anything I can eat. Back to the salads again.
I usually do not like gluten-free substitute pasta and breads. I bought some red-lentil pasta and it was so disgusting, none of us could finish it, even my normally voracious son and non-picky husband. I’d rather just cook and eat some red lentils! Likewise, I would rather eat rice or quinoa or millet than bread made of rice or quinoa or millet flour.
For our Christmas morning breakfast I always make sweet-potato cinnamon rolls from a recipe I found in Vegetarian Times; to avoid breaking the tradition this year I tried making a GF version for myself and the normal ones for the guys. It was not anywhere near the same. I decided I would rather just eat a sweet potato topped with cinnamon and sugar, so that’s what I’ll do next year. (The frosting I made with goat cheese and maple syrup was delicious, though).
I also always make pancakes on Sundays, so I needed to adapt that too. After trying a low-gluten spelt/buckwheat version to see if just a little gluten once a week would be okay (answer: no), and some unsatisfactory gluten-free experiments, I decided to make myself some savory root-vegetable cakes that can serve as a side dish for the others. With a fried egg and some fruit salad, I’m happy as could be with my Sunday breakfast.
I’m including my recipe in case anyone else would be interested. If I come up with any other tasty GF options, I might share them here.
Do you have a favorite gluten-free recipe? Have you ever had to change your eating habits, and how did it go?
Gluten-free Root-vegetable Griddle Cakes
- Two cups finely grated mixed root vegetables (my favorite combo includes sweet potatoes, purple potatoes, parsnips, and jerusalem artichokes)
- 1 small finely chopped shallot
- Two tablespoons chickpea flour
- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Dried or fresh herbs of choice, optional (I use herb salt or a salad herb mix)
- 1 egg
Mix all together. Form 2-3 tablespoons into small patties and saute in a hot pan with olive oil. Cook on both sides until brown. Serve immediately. Makes 10-12 small patties.