Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Some observations on going Gluten Free

We make jokes about how the birds at A Butler's Manor eat very well. Not only does Chris keep seed around for them, but they (and the blasted squirrels) get the remnants of our morning's baked goods.

Yesterday, we had a guest who had celiac disease -- highly allergic to wheat -- requiring a gluten free diet. It was a french toast day, but I've found a very good gluten-free cinnamon bun from which I make a yummy french toast, and that's what I was serving her. I also had on hand a gluten-free blueberry muffin, not one I'd made from scratch, but that I'd bought at Whole Foods. She was too full to eat the muffin, so it joined the scraps of regular blueberry muffins to feed the birds.

They didn't touch it.  

Huh.

I wonder what this tells us? Is it like the experiment where you can leave out a tablespoon of  margarine for a month and no ant will touch it?

We live in a world in which food allergies seem to be proliferating, and keeping abreast of them all is challenging. Fortunately or unfortunately, each spawns more products in the supermarket to meet these needs. But do they? I have been experimenting with gluten-free breads available at places like Whole Foods and Wild By Nature for about six years, and I've yet to find one that anyone really likes. I also remember the "fat free" craze back in the 80's when people went overboard thinking they could eat all the fat free cookies and goodies they found in the store because hey, if it was fat free, they'd lose weight, right? Nope. The compensation for lack of fat was MORE SUGAR. And people gained weight and became less healthy.

Last fall, I too elected to forego wheat. I am not celiac, nor even, I don't think, particularly gluten intolerant. What I am is wheat ADDICTED. I love, love, love bread...cookies...cakes...all my baked goods...and I needed to break that addiction. So I quit, cold turkey. It's much like quitting any addiction, like smoking. It's tough at first. And then you don't miss it so much. I can now pass a Panera Bread without salivating. The harder part is when you're craving something that you used to have on top of the item, like butter or frosting or honey or jam. (I once spread peanut butter on a McDonald's hash brown patty. It was...interesting.)

I personally try to limit my forays into the gluten free substitute products, primarily because the replacement flours (tapioca, rice, potato starch) tend to have a very high glycemic rate. But since I have a dog in the fight, so to speak, I am even more conscious of taste when it comes to recreating typically wheat-based goodies. I've found a good gluten-free flour and gluten free oats that allowed me to make the much-loved chocolate chip oatmeal cookies we serve here ar A Butler's Manor. They are crunchier than their wheat flour-based counterparts, but they are yummy. They pass the taste test.

What didn't pass the taste test was a recipe I tested this morning for brown sugar oatmeal pancakes. More work to be done there! I've had success with a couple of types of muffins (it helps when there are lots of tasty ingredients in them, like bananas and walnuts or carrots and raisins). I practice when I can get a little time free. I'm far from brilliant at cooking gluten-free, but I'm working on it.

For those of you who are living a gluten-free life: Found a product you really like? Let me know, and I'll see if I can find it here in the Hamptons!

And finally, for a good laugh on the trials of adapting a gluten free diet to the rest of the world, check out this video someone sent me from YouTube...

Quote of the Day:  A fruit is a vegetable with looks and money. Plus, if you let fruit rot, it turns into wine, something Brussels sprouts never do. --P.J. O'Rourke