Tuesday, 20 October 2009

help please - the next day of the rest of my life

My usually cast iron stomach is no more, and I have been mourning my loss.

At present, my diverse investigation into foods of the world has been interrupted, and my own body is doing the interrupting.  I have scarcely recovered from the news that I have to exclude all things nightshade from my diet.  This has now been augmented by my body's sudden aversion to meat, fat, dairy products, sugar and (almost worse) alcohol.  To be honest I am not sure that the alcohol bit is entirely necessary so I will do some tests - for the sake of science, mind you - to challenge this theory next week.  In the meantime though, all of the above means that I have suddenly become a vegetarian, no fat, gluten free teetotaller.

I'm not sure yet what I make of this change, it is really too early to say.  On the plus side,  I feel a lot better than I have done for months and I am looking forward to fitting into clothes that haven't seen daylight for a while!  On the negative side, at first glance, almost everything that I enjoy for both nutritional and purely pleasurable purposes, is now denied me.

The effects of this are immediate.  At work I am struggling to be able to taste the recipes that it is my job to design so I am having to learn to work in a whole new way.  I have to be very careful how I taste products, and spitting a sample (so beloved of supermarket buyers everywhere) does not permit you to experience the the flavours & textures of a products in the same way as swallowing.  At home, the enjoyment that I used to get from baking and creating sweet treats is no more, and in its' place is a new challenge I face (at least) 3 times a day - what on earth am I going to eat?

I am concious that this makes me appear incredibly boring and almost painful to other people, especially chefs and food bloggers. It is very difficult to imagine that such a restricted diet can be interesting - or, even more importantly, delicious.  I know that I have tended towards to deafness when I met someone with 'too many' allergies, simply because it is dificult to understand the pleasure of eating when so much is forbidden.  My immediate response was to feign deafness to myself and pursue a monotomous diet of rice noodles.  It is probably a good thing that my body decided that wasn't an option for me.  So I find myself with a real challenge.  I am used to eating good food: fresh, locally sourced, tasty, flavoursome.  Bounty and balance abound in my kitchen; sugar tempers acidity; a touch of oil or cream to balance a sauce and create a delicious rounded mouthful of food.  It is going to be harder to create the same feelings of pleasure and satisfaction but it is a challenge I have to embrace if I want to enjoy my food.

On the weekend I will be going to visit my sister-in-law for a week.  A week in the south of France is extremely pleasurable under normal circumstances so I feel a bit peevish for being wary of our upcoming visit.  French chefs are not reknown for their welcome to even gluten-free customers, but I think this will make me positively unpopular, if not un-servable.  I do still have to eat, somehow.  Simple fish dishes, fresh local oysters, vegetables and salads are still on my menu, I can take crackers instead of bread, fresh fruit for dessert - maybe I won't be too unpopular. Home cooked meals will be a breeze in comparison, though I have to find something to replace the cheese and charcuterie with tomatoes which comprise our usual picnic choices. 

Next week notwithstanding, I welcome my new diet with open arms.  I thank my lucky stars that this has happened to me in Autumn.  Squashes, beetroot, fresh ginger root and seaweeds feature in my diet daily & thankfully I can enjoy them all.  I am delighted to have introduced umeboshi vinegar to my kitchen and already wonder how I ever lived without it.  Seeds and gentle spices which were previous overlooked unless for curry powders, now feature in my daily diet and tofu in many guises is making regular appearances on my plate.I'm not sure how long I'll be able to keep up my childish enthusiasm for the new and unknown but I do remember feeling just as excited the first time I ate Chinese foods; my taste for that cuisine has not faltered yet, so I have high hopes for my new diet too!

If you have any recipes or tips for creating a more exciting diet, please comment below - I am going to need all the help I can get!

I'm dreaming of eating... don't even ask!


  1. Hi Kate,

    I'm sorry to hear you've had to change your diet so considerably. I was already impressed with the things you created by being gluten free, and have no doubt that you'll be able to come up with tasty meals with these new restrictions.

    For a lot of people, in cooking and in design, having too many ingredients and tools at your disposal can cloud the vision. When you've not got much to work with you tend to be the most creative.

    I have a friend who is allergic to dairy products, and also eggs, citrus, wheat and nuts. He's one of the best cooks I know, because he has to be, and enjoys being very creative.

    On FFFY we're about to review The Healthy Vegan DVD which features a load of vegan recipes, as well as other tips. I've watched half the DVD already and am impressed with the creations. I love meat and dairy and I'm tempted to cook these recipes!

    Off the top of my head, I would say a safe bet would be Japanese, Thai, Indonesian and Chinese recipes. They tend to be healthy, but very delicious and fresh tasting. They're also becoming a top favourite of mine to cook.

    Japanese noodle soup (and I'm making this up now!) Serves 1, with more for later

    2cm piece of ginger, grated (don't peel it first)
    2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
    1 small onion, finely chopped
    Coconut oil, or another type of oil (sesame or groundnut?)
    2-3 spring onions, washed and diagonally chopped
    a leaf of cabbage/wombok, cut into strips
    1 pt veg stock
    1 tbsp of sherry (if you can have it)
    1 tbsp of soy sauce
    Some tofu cubes (as many as you like)
    small handful of fresh corinader, chopped
    1 serving of cooked/straight to wok noodles

    Add a little coconut oil/oil to a wok on a medium heat and gently fry the ginger, garlic and onion for 2-3 minutes.

    Add the spring onions and cabbage and fry for another 2-3 minutes before adding your stock.

    Bring to the boil, then turn down to a simmer. Add the sherry, soy sauce, tofu cubes and corriander.

    Heat up your noodles. Drain them. Place them in the bottom of your bowl and ladel the soup on top.

    - You could experiment by adding a little thickener of some kind. Can you have cornflour? If not, try arrowroot. Maybe try using a tin of coconut milk to make it a little more Thai? -

    Anyway. Good luck. I am always creating new Asian dishes and have a few in memory that aren't on FFFY yet. Keep us up to date!

  2. Goodness, this sounds really tough on you. But embracing it as a new food adventure is a good way of dealing with it. Have you tried tempeh? It is soooooo much nicer than tofu and meant to be much better for you too. Fried in olive oil (is this allowed?) it is simply delicious and the best healthy substitute for bacon that I have found. Home made is much nicer than any bought variety I've come across, but it is rather a faff.

  3. Thanks Choclette, that is a great idea. The only tempeh i have discoveed locally has wheat in it but I will hunt around for a glutenfree version (I am sure this should be easy to find) and try it.