It got me thinking about real food and why that’s good for us. I’m guessing I’m like you: I want to feel my best, be my strongest. And I don’t want to spend a lot of time fiddling in the kitchen. For our bodies, the best fuel is real food and it’s the easiest to prepare.
Having no Spanish beyond por favor and gracias, I carefully made flashcards before my trip to Cuba to cover situations I knew I would encounter — “No wheat. No barley. No rye.” “Where is the bathroom?” “How much does it cost?” and so forth. Thank you, Google Translate. I used the cards frequently, fumbling with my pronunciation based on decades-old Spanish lessons with a lot of poorly remembered French tossed into the mix. Usually it worked okay. I stumbled and mumbled; my Cuban hosts scratched their heads, smiled and nodded.
The educational trip for my daughter ended up being eye-opening for me. What did I learn? That celiac disease is a family affair. At just ten years old, my daughter is already celiac-smart. She’s developed an awareness and sensitivity to special-diet issues without my consciously instilling that. And glutening doesn’t just affect me, the person with celiac disease; my daughter felt it, too.
I only encountered severe food allergies in the classroom within the past few years. Several members of my family have celiac disease, so I approached my first case with confidence. I quickly learned, however, that the food allergies in my classroom are a completely different animal. Ingestion of a food allergen–even a trace amount—can be life threatening. Some children experience a reaction just by contact alone.
Sometimes you just have to shake your head. I often join about 7,500 others on the moms-only Facebook page, Food Allergy Moms. A frequent discussion topic is what people say to mothers about their kids’ food allergies. Despite all the progress in allergy and celiac awareness, the ignorance can still be mind-blowing, especially in restaurants.
Today’s gluten-free world looks very different from the one I lived in when I was diagnosed with celiac disease in 1976 and when this magazine was launched in 1998. Today, gluten-free is the hottest trend in food, reaching more than $2 billion in annual sales. Grocery shelves are lined with pasta. Frozen and fresh loaves of bread are plentiful. Pizza comes in every imaginable configuration. Safe, convenient mealtime choices are in abundance. You’d think everyone eats gluten-free!
When I was growing up, I never thought about food allergies. Food was shared freely, lunch items were swapped at school and potlucks were a regular event. In my neighborhood, kids ate dinner wherever they happened to be in the evening. We could walk into friends’ homes and help ourselves—without thinking—to whatever was in their refrigerator.
Do gluten-free pastry recipes seem filled with hidden pitfalls? The heart of baking isn’t hard to master— I baked soggy baklava once, then lackluster macarons with no feet, muffins with no domes. I bemoaned the outcomes, none of them a disaster. I baked something every week, mustered through sticky dough, crumbly cakes, runny cookies, unbouncy bread, lessons all, but still, no disaster. …
Food poet Annelies Zijderveld is a cooking teacher and author of Steeped: Recipes Infused with Tea (Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2015).
I wonder what answer you anticipate—that this will be the big reveal of my diet of air, of spun gold, of broiled unicorn. Cooking must be so hard for you. Perhaps you picture one big bowl of bland slurry. Perhaps my plate, in your mind, is a forlorn jigsaw puzzle: a hole where the biscuit should be.