The hardest part about loving someone with celiac disease, (or gluten intolerance, or any serious food allergy) is that the world is your enemy. Any time that you leave the house, or try a new food, you depart from your safe space. Knowing that the person you love is constantly at risk for contamination makes family events hazardous and new restaurants perilous and unknown foods anathema.
GF was recently contaminated at a bachelor party, because (even though he brought his own food) he cooked using someone else’s pots and pans. Despite washing them, these kitchen tools still had gluten residue, and made him sick.
We have only known about GF’s celiac disease for a year, and it is a constant learning experience. Each time he gets glutened, it is a setback, but it also provides us with a valuable way to prevent future problems. If we can trace the chain of events back to find out what the source of contamination was, we are able to troubleshoot these problems in the future.
Fellow celiacs, take note: We have just assembled a “travel kit” of kitchen implements that we will take with us into unknown kitchens in the future (that sounds very Star Trek, “unknown kitchens of the future”). The kit includes: a pot and pan, a set of cooking tools (spatula, spoon, and slotted spoon) and a plastic cutting board. The kit is also stocked with a pack of sponges, in case we do need to use someone else’s kitchen supplies, so we can wash without using their gluteny sponge.
HOT TIP: Sponges are a hotbed of gluten grossness. Ditto cutting boards. If you are cooking in someone else’s kitchen, either bring your own cutting board, or cut on a plate of theirs that you have thoroughly washed (ask them nicely first and don’t cut on Grandma’s wedding china). We also avoid using anyone else’s colander, even if it has been thoroughly washed, because the sole function of the colander in most kitchens is to drain pasta and it’s just not worth the risk.
You know what another unexpected source of gluten contamination was?
Despite being extremely careful about brushing my teeth after eating anything containing gluten, I managed to badly contaminate GF at least once (that we know of). Girlfriend of the year award right here, guys. As a result, I don’t eat any gluten. It’s just not worth it to me. When we lived apart, and I knew I wouldn’t be seeing (or kissing) GF for at least 24 hours, I would eat gluten if it was around. But now that we live together, that scenario is pretty unlikely.
Choosing to forego gluten also makes cross-contamination in our own kitchen a total non-issue. Knowing that we don’t have to worry about GF getting glutened at home, in addition to alleviating a lot of our stress, also makes it a million times easier to trace the source when he does get glutened (as we were able to do this time).
Since giving up gluten, I have personally felt a lot better. While it is probably not necessary for people without celiac or gluten intolerance to eschew gluten entirely, it is certainly helpful for those of us with loved ones who must forego. I also find that I am significantly less fatigued when I avoid gluten.
I also love the challenge of cooking for us both. Between his dietary restrictions (in addition to having celiac, he is somewhat lactose intolerant—a common side effect of celiac—and he also has a tree nut allergy) and my own food choices (I’ve been a vegetarian for twelve years) preparing our own food is a challenge that I love to tackle. I’ve always been passionate about cooking and eating food, and I’ve discovered that I also love to learn about the nutritional aspects of food as well.
We avoid processed foods (though neither one of us can say no to an Udi’s Gluten Free Bagel), and we prepare most basic ingredients, like stock, from scratch. Not only does home preparation help prevent cross contamination, it also is the source of immense personal satisfaction. I’m the obnoxious friend on Facebook and Instagram who has more pictures of homemade food than anything else (including kitties). I know, I’m an asshole, and believe me, I cringe myself to sleep every night after taking photos of fresh juices or sprouted lentils in mason jars. But I LOVE this stuff. If there exists a gluten free and vegetarian culinary school, PLEASE TELL ME.
Neither one of us spends exorbitantly, but food is the one thing we will shell out for, when it means quality. For us, that usually means organic and GMO free. We buy the kind of high quality olive oil that you just want to guzzle right out of the bottle.
Our diet is nearly vegan, but when we do buy eggs, butter, or cheese, we consider it worth the little extra to buy organic, high quality, local products that are as humane as possible. We don’t really buy honey (because we prefer agave). In a perfect world, someday we will have chickens and our own apiary. A few weeks ago, I came this close to bringing a baby chick back to the apartment after I was seduced at the farmer’s market by a fluffy bare-necked chicken and her little fuzzball babies.
Not the chicken in question, but still ADORABLE
Getting way off topic here, but the point is, we value food. In one of my favorite movies, Ratatouille, Remy explains “If you are what you eat, then I only want to be the good stuff.”* We also believe that food is a huge part of how you feel, both positively and negatively. Good food makes you feel good, bad food makes you feel bad. I’m referring to “good” and “bad” both as barometers of taste and as indicators of how healthy something is or isn’t for you.
Becoming more aware of this GIGO principle (Garbage In, Garbage Out) has made a huge difference for me, personally. I still occasionally break down and eat a bag of unhealthy shit (like the Spicy Sweet Chili Doritos, which must have heroin in them, because they are so bad but so goooood) but my body does not react well to them. When I ate bad food all the time, I thought constant digestive discomfort was normal. Now I know better. Doritos in my digestive system are immediately like “Yeah, bitch I’m back! It’s payback time!”
Food can heal you just as much as it can hurt you. One of the recipes that I have newly discovered and adapted is for a restorative garlic soup. You can read up on the nutritional benefits of garlic here and here, and we will tell you from experience that it is one of the best “food medicines” in the world. Wait, hang on, that reminded me that I have to jump up on a soapbox for a minute and just tell you real quickly that FOOD IS NOT AN ACCEPTABLE SUBSTITUTE FOR NECESSARY MEDICATIONS. DON’T BE A JACKASS, GARLIC IS NOT GOING TO HELP YOU IF YOU HAVE GANGRENE. IF YOU’RE ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE WHO REPOSTS THAT BULLSHIT ON FACEBOOK ABOUT HOW “THE FDA DOESN’T WANT YOU TO KNOW THAT THIS SUPERFRUIT CURES CANCER 40 TIME FASTER THAN CHEMOTHERAPY,” THEN YOU ARE A MORON AND THERE IS NO HELPING YOU. YOU PEOPLE ARE JUST AS BAD AS THE CONSPIRACY NUTS AND SCIENTOLOGISTS WHO WON’T LET THEIR KIDS GET VACCINES OR EPILEPSY MEDICATION. Sorry, that was way harsh, Tai, but what I mean, with an open and loving heart, is please be smart. There is no better substitute for science than MORE SCIENCE. And by “science,” I mean researched and peer reviewed data from credible sources, not some shit you read on a website (INCLUDING THIS ONE). Okay, glad we got that out of the way. Moving on.
Food can help you feel better. One of the (many) sucky things about getting glutened is that most of what you do to feel better is just wait it out. There is no shortcut, no pill that will hasten recovery. There is only time. Some foods will help your body along. Garlic contains a compound called “allicin,” which is a potent antioxidant. Allicin is what makes the garlic smell funny. It’s a mild antibacterial and antifungal as well. Garlic also boosts our bodies’ natural production of hydrogen sulfide. All these things can speed recovery, as well as helping prevent future illness. Garlic is also delicious. True story.
This garlic soup is an excellent sick time soup. I can speak from personal experience that it settles the sickest of bellies and soothes sore throats. It’s also great for times when you don’t want to eat anything because it smells and tastes so goddamn good. It’s fast and easy to make, though if you make broth from scratch, it will take a bit longer. If you make your broth ahead of time, or use store bought (I won’t judge), it will move things along swiftly. Toss back a couple bowls of this and you will feel like Popeye after he makes that can of spinach his bitch.
Caveat emptor, though: This will obviously make you smell like garlic. If you’re like us and you don’t give a crap, then you’re fine (you’re awesome, actually), but if you plan to be face to face with anyone within a day of eating this soup, maybe dial back the amount of garlic you use. We use a full clove in each batch of soup, which is a lot for most people. However, we tend to eat a lot of garlic on the regular anyway. GF will thinly slice a couple cloves of raw garlic and put them on an Udi’s GF Bagel with some olive oil and just go to town, because he’s a badass. Neither one of us smells like garlic. I have a theory (unsubstantiated by actual science, just FYI) that the more garlic you eat, the better you metabolize it. Just a theory. Or maybe I eat so much garlic that I can’t even smell the stank on either one of us anymore. If I ever reek like garlic, tell me (NICELY!) so that I can know for sure. It probably won’t stop me from eating it. Especially in this soup.
3 tbsp of olive oil
1 large onion
1 head of garlic
2 tbsp of tamari or Bragg’s Liquid Aminos
2 tbsp of any acidic liquid (vinegar, wine, or lemon juice) Celiacs: check to make sure that your vinegar is gluten free—a lot of them are not!
4 cups of broth (a recipe for home-made vegetable broth will be posted soon)
1/2 cup of soy milk
Salt & pepper to taste (the salt from the tamari or Bragg’s will be plenty, so don’t overdo it)
Finely chop the onion and throw it in a saucepan with the oil over a medium flame. Chop the garlic until it’s practically a paste (you want it incorporated into the soup, not floating in chunks).
Add garlic to the pan, sprinkle with tamari or Braggs and let the onions and garlic cook until slightly browned. A little bit of delicious brown crispiness may form on the bottom of the pan; splash in the vinegar/wine/whatever and then gently scrape the pan to loosen the brown stuff. Don’t let that burn though; it’ll fuck up your pan and your food.
After scraping the pan, add the broth, stir, and let the whole thing come to a boil. After it boils for a minute or two, turn the heat to low and stir in the soy milk, salt/pepper, whatever you want.
When the milk is warmed, the soup is ready.
Eat well, feel better, smell funny, and tune in soon for more recipes!
*If you don’t like Ratatouille, I’m just going to come right out and say that there is something seriously wrong with you.