My heart sank as my doctor suggested that the digestive issues I had been experiencing for a better part of a year and completely ignored appeared to be caused by a gluten intolerance. For someone as passionate about food as I am, especially for any food involving flour, it was not easy to take. I thought about a life without sandwiches, pizza, pasta, bread. It was terrifying. Well, six months later, I am still living my gluten-free lifestyle, and frankly, it is not that bad. Here are a few observations about my transition from a gluten filled world to a world devoid of the evil gluten.
1. Eating pasta is not an issue. Most supermarkets stock gluten-free pasta, and those that use a corn and rice flour blend are probably the closest to traditional pasta. There are other variants made with brown rice flour and quinoa which are not as good, and certain producers are better than others (Dove Farms is pretty solid), but overall it has been an easy transition. I still eat pasta once a week, though it’s no longer handmade.
2. My multiple attempts at making gluten-free pizza dough has yielded mixed results. The problem with gluten-free dough is, well, the lack of gluten. That stretchy, airy structure of dough is tough to emulate without gluten. In fact, dough made with gluten-free bread flour has a consistency closer to pie crust than pizza dough (flaky, crumbly, but not squishy). I’ve found it has to be rolled very thin and is more cracker-like. The pizza has been satisfying, and much better than a normal Pizza Hut pizza, but inferior to my old, homemade pies.
3. Lunch on the go is totally, and utterly frustrating. Next time you are out on a Saturday, running some errands or doing some shopping, try grabbing a bite to eat on the go that does not involve bread of any sort. It is basically impossible. I have had to make do with salads and soups, but walking down the street while using a fork or spoon and holding a bottle of water is a little challenging. It means no Pret sandwiches, no Chipotle burritos, no Five Guys burgers, and no more amazing lamb kofte. No quick grab and go. At least salads are healthy.
4. Cider is my new best friend. Since beer contains barley, which contains the dreaded gluten, it is off limits. Considering I love beer, that was not easy. Luckily, the UK embraces cider, which is blissfully gluten free, so every pub has one on draft and I am not the only one drinking it . It is not my favorite beverage, but I have found some dry or off-dry versions, like Westons, that are actually pretty tasty. They are not too carbonated either, which makes drinking two or six pretty easy. It’s basically fruit juice with alcohol. (One small exception to my no-beer rule was in Dublin, where I had one Guinness. Because in Dublin, that’s what you do.)
5. My pants are looser. I have managed to lose weight over the last six months, which I directly correlate to my gluten-free diet. Considering I started work at Neal’s Yard Dairy around the same time as my new diet, and my job requires me to literally eat cheese all day, the fact that I have lost weight while drastically increasing my cheese intake is impressive. I do not have a low-fat, low calorie lifestyle. I also drink a lot of cider. See previous observation.
6. Sweets are easy to digest. The gluten-free flour works well for baking, so I have made some delicious chocolate chip cookies and Julie made an outrageous pumpkin bread last week that was delicious. You would never know that it was gluten free. It is a little more challenging when out at a restaurant, but of course, there’s ice cream. Always gluten free. Thank god.