To Eat or Not to Eat Gluten
"The true baguette is thin, between about 24 to 28 inches long, slightly flattened, weighs nine to ten ounces, and has five or seven oblique slashes along the top surface, made just before baking, to allow the dough to expand before the crust has set. The crust itself is toasty, tight, and crackling, and the insides...are creamy- nearly golden- never bone white......It's most elusive qualities are the strong simple sweetness of the crumb, though absolutely no sugar can be added, and a nearly paradoxical quartet of textures- around the air bubles, the crumb is dense, moist, stretchy, and extremely tender, all at the same time, with no hint of rubberiness, no dry tough sheets or filaments of gluten."
-Jeffrey Steingarten 'It Must've Been Something I Ate' pg 116
As you can tell, I have been reading Jeffrey Steingartens most recent book (2003) 'It Must've Been Something I Ate.' I am attracted to him and his writing style because it is ALL about his experience. Traveling overseas to see if all salt truly does taste the same. Cooking stews for his dog SkyKing - a chapter that cemented his place in my heart. And traveling the country, and world, to experience good food. Through it all he does an amazing job of describing the foods he eats with just enough detail to implore you to travel to France for things like real camembert, but not enough detail to where you feel like you already have. This is where we get to my problem. As I read about his experience judging baguettes in France -the gooey bubbles, the perfectly flakey crunch of the crust- I could not help but think that I had to have that experience as well. Almost like a severe injustice would be done to me if I do not experienced a real French baguette at some point in my life
I can't eat gluten.
Let me clarify what I mean by "I can't eat gluten." When I eat gluten I get sick for 2-7 days after -that is assuming that I do a detox of some sort that wont further exaggerate the problem. This isn't minor discomfort, or something a Tums could handle. This is genuine sickness that encompasses my inner body, outer body and even emotional health. For example, if I were to eat ONE piece of bread, within 30 minutes my body will decide to get rid of everything else it had ingested up to that point. After that, it starts to store/not digest every single thing I eat from that point on -meaning I have zero appetite- leading to 'regularity' issues that not even Jamie Lee Curtis' Activia commercials can resolve. I gain anywhere from 5-10 pounds over this time- blimping me up to a size only stretch pants can accomodate. My face starts to break out in blemishes and rashes. My upper arms start to develop a mild form of eczema and my attitude goes from relatively chill to short tempered and irritable. All-in-all not a great experience. It is also worth noting that cross contamination is a problem. I had some corn tortilla chips that were made on sight, at the restaurant, in the frier that just HAPPENS to be the same one that fries breaded fish and flour tortillas. I got sick within 60 minutes and was so noticeably bloated that my boyfriend told me I looked like I had gained weight since the day before.
Is any culinary experience worth getting sick? Is there any food out there that is so amazing and unique to eat that I would never regret eating it while dealing with being sick for up to 7 days?
Lets go over a few options.
Option #1: Yes!
One of the obvious answers is yes. There may just be certain foods out there that will never taste the same without gluten. These foods may be so amazing and simplistically perfect that not experiencing them would be like never having authentic an authentic ragu -just the bottled stuff-, or camembert . You may just have to try it, at least once, so you know.
Option #2: No!
With so many amazing bakeries, pasta makers, and progressive chefs out there this option is becoming more and more endorsed. Ten years ago gluten free cupcakes tasted dry, and dense paling in comparison to their moist and fluffy counterparts. Furthermore, finding these options was a battle within itself. Going out and asking 'what is gluten free on the menu' once got you a very confused look- like you asked which vegetables were harvested on the moon- and limiting your options to a salad with no dressing. Now, even places like Per Se are very farmiliar with this and have even gone so far as to bake gluten free breads in house, and put together entire tasting menus, just for those who are gluten free. It's truly awesome but still begs the question: are any foods out there - with gluten in them - so unique and amazing that our progressive culinary world still has not captured them yet and never will.
I would love to finish this blog with an answer, but I don't have one. Some days I feel like 'YES! If I were in France I would eat a baguette and not regret a moment of it" or "I'm in New Orleans. How can I leave without an authentic beignet?" It is usually after days of watching my menu options dwindle down to 'a side of broccoli', or hanging around watching people eat pizza while I have to eat salad that I really start to ponder this option. Other days I experience a meal(s) so amazing -that is completely gluten free- that I feel no need to compromise and experience sickness for my food. Seeing so much progress and openness I wonder do I just need to be patient?
I'd really like to know what you think. Not just for those who are gluten free but anyone (lactose intolerant, food allergies, etc) that experience discomfort or sickness through certain foods. Is anything worth it?