A good purge

Tomato/Chickpea Curry

That weekend of break-up sex? It was mostly fabulous. (I’ll tell you more about it later, here.) The upshot is this: I got the second round of celiac disease tests back, and they were normal. Which is great, except for the fact that the first gliadin antibody test was still screamingly positive. The doctor suggested I try a gluten-free diet for a couple months, to see if I’m one of those (and apparently there are many of us) who don’t test normally.

So that’s it. That’s what I’m doing. My hope is that on Hogwash, you really won’t notice all that much. Not eating gluten means eating a lot of other things, you see—things I’ve always loved, like fresh produce and great meats and cool new grains. I don’t think it’ll be that hard. Right? Right?

But packing up all the gluten in the house—that was hard. I decimated our pantry, rejecting anything made with wheat, rye, or barley. While my neighbor’s and nanny’s baking drawers grew, I celebrated what might possibly be the first time in history that the contents of my kitchen will fit comfortably within its boundaries. The more I stacked on the counter to give away, though, the more I started to panic: No wheat flour. No bucatini. No saltines!

Newly organized cupboard

So I did what I do best in times of change: I organized. I put all the alternative grains into one bin, all the rices into another. I gathered gluten-free pastas (thank goodness for that assignment) in one place, and stacked gluten-free flours together on the same shelf. It all seemed more promising that way. More controlled.

(For the record, if I were a superhero, I think I’d be the one in charge of reconstructing hopelessly disorganized spaces. I’d swoop in, shooting thunderbolts made of paperclips, and tie offenders up with rubber bands. I’d have secret headquarters inside Storables. I haven’t started marketing myself yet because I just haven’t found the right tagline. Or name, for that matter. The leading candidate, Super Stapler, is too Office Space and just not feminine enough. Please let me know if you’re in the business of building superhero brands.)

Anyway. In my purge, I found two giant bags of unsweetened medium-flake coconut. I have no idea why I bought that specific size, or why I bought two bags, but there they were. I couldn’t stop the normal gears from turning. Coconut cake, I thought. But wait, I . . . can’t. I’m sure I’ll be able to make a gluten-free coconut cake someday. I’m positive it’s not difficult, and that it could taste really, really good. But right now? I feel like a moron. Like none of the organs I normally use to cook and eat food will ever function the same way again. Like I have to somehow learn everything from scratch: Coconut. What is coconut? (This might be the closest I ever come to knowing what it’s like to change one’s sexual orientation.)

I scrapped the cake idea. Macaroons, I thought. Macaroons are a scoop-and-dump operation, and even in their most Americanized form, they’re almost never bad. And they’re often gluten-free. The recipe on the back of the package beckoned. I stirred, and scooped, added a bit more coconut, and some tangerine zest, and dumped, imagining them dipped in chocolate. They puddled on the baking pans, flat and sticky and unappealing.

Was I being mocked? Did I just flunk macaroons? I think I did.

I backed up and started again. Think simple, Jess. I thought of my mom, who’s getting a knee replacement tomorrow. She’ll have to learn how to walk all over again, with more or less the same body—it’ll just be rearranged a bit, that’s all. I’m lucky this little habit shake-up doesn’t require three days in the hospital, right? I have (almost) all the same ingredients, on the grand scale of food. I just have to learn new ways to put them together.

I finished my little pep talk. Then I launched into an Indian-inspired meal, pouring an easy tomato and chickpea curry over quinoa, simmering spinach in coconut milk and ginger, coating chicken in a spicy yogurt mixture. (I do eat more than chickpeas. I swear.)

Then something else happened: I fell miserably, violently ill. I never even tasted my food. My husband took the baby so I could writhe in peace for the first terrible 12 hours, then I spent the next 3 days in various stages of one very bad mood, hardly eating, perfecting my best amoeba impersonation. I couldn’t touch the Indian food. In fact, I still can’t, which is why there’s no recipe here today. (But if you’re looking for a quick no-fail diet, have I got the flu for you!)

Battling sickness without saltines was a new challenge, for sure. I’ve worked up to eating Rice Chex (with milk now), quesadillas on corn tortillas, and rice cakes with peanut butter. (Hello, high school.) Meat and vegetables are still in the no-fly zone. But, on the plus side, my first few days of eating gluten-free have been relatively easy, because I really didn’t have to eat at all.

So there you have it: My new sort-of plan. I hope to be gluten-free through the end of April, and reassess then.

Thanks, by the way, for all your support. You guys have been awesome.


Filed under commentary, gluten-free, lupus

10 responses to “A good purge

  1. Glad to here you are feeling better flu-wise.

    I so understand your culinary panic. My husband eats gluten-free 90% of the time because he just feels better. When he first made this decision, I did nothing other than freak out. Well, what will we eat? I am happy to report that we have all done just fine. I get very inspired at Elana’s Pantry (http://www.elanaspantry.com/). It often reminds me of all the things that Mark can eat.

    PS: For dinner tonight, a friend and I thoroughly enjoyed your gluten-laden summer vegetable strata to celebrate a very warm day here in Maine. It is one of my most favorite recipes.

  2. Lulu

    If there were anyone up to the challenge it’s you.
    Possibly more pleasant than having people knead your knee for the next six weeks. After you get done, we may all want to switch to eating gluten free!

  3. Hey you, out there! Give my friend Jess a break!


    When you’re feeling better, which I hope is soon, try this David Lebovitz recipe for macaroons, which are the best I’ve ever made. It calls for a mere 1/4 c. flour, and I see no reason why a GF substitution (one of those all-purpose GF baking mixes?) wouldn’t work for that small amount. They’re mostly coconut.


  4. Mel

    I am really glad to hear your celiac test was negative! And I’m glad you are starting to feel better after the flu, that sounded horrible. Good luck with the just-in-case 2 months. I will ask my gluten-free friend Kristin for tips.

  5. that blue painter’s tape is great for labeling tubs, because it sticks to everything but also comes off, but you need a light colored marker (those silver metallic ones are nice but dry up quick, and oft smear).

    like Oscar Wilde said (appropriate for today), everything in moderation, including moderation. (okay, he didn’t say that, but he said a lot that sounds like it. i think his was, I can stand up to everything except temptation.) so, gluten-free is a good goal, but low-gluten should be better than nothing, yeah?


  6. I don’t care ‘tall about there being no recipe, I just like reading the account, as filtered through Jess with ruminations and photos and ideas. Maybe you will have Fun with Cornmeal in which case I want to hear all about it.. One of John’s pro cycling teams that he follows was eating low or no gluten for.. less inflammation, was it? and polenta was king at their dinner table..yes please dabble therein

  7. Aww I’m so sorry you got the flu…especially when you were just feeling up to trying baking again. I’m sure your next attempt will be awesome and that you’ll be flying through recipes in no time again

  8. Jess, you are a superhero. And a gung-ho, optimistic one, to boot. May your equilibrium return soon; your spirit is obviously still all spunk and vinegar, thank goodness!

  9. Pingback: The macaroon I was craving «

  10. I might be on the same path as you very, very soon. I once as a child tested allergic to wheat, but the allergist told my parents it was mild and to ignore the results unless they saw symptoms. Fast forward 14 years later and I am diagnosed with RA. Another 5 years and I have my second baby, who 6 weeks ago developed a raging case of excema that we have linked to ingestion of pasta, bread, pizza (otherwise known as: things made from wheat). We’ve cut gluten out of his diet and he is doing much better. I think I am going to try doing the same for myself in the next month or two. But oh how I shall miss making and eating fresh baguettes.

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