Saturday, July 18, 2015

Getting down and dirty about gluten

I live in Italy. The land of the 3 Ps.
I am gluten intolerant.

With temperatures soaring in the near 40°C/+100°F, you can imagine eating anything that requires an oven or stove for its preparation is out of the question. I just can't handle it.
And yet yesterday I had such an Italian experience. I craved for pasta. 
So I got my pan and my pot and my fresh shrimps and my own zucchini from my vegetable patch and whipped up a mean over-sized plate of pasta. Delicious.
While I was enjoying my aforementioned delicious lunch, I started thinking about food. Yeah, don't laugh. the irony...

I have been eating gluten free for about 6 years now, and through ups and downs I have to say that it is not a trend I follow, or a psychological construction deep inside my head, nor is it a way of losing weight. 
I just genuinely feel better when I am having endless amounts of gluten free stuff, sugar laced as it may be rather than a single piece of organic whole wheat bread. It's rather sad you see, because I actually love carbs. I grew up eating every possible dessert came through my grandma's chef little head.

I have a check list I put together when I first discovered my undesired and quite debilitating sensitivity. I need to constantly be aware of it when I'm cheating on my gluten free diet with real donuts and he occasional carbonara pasta.
So if I check all of the symptoms, I know I'm spiralling down into my gluten nightmare from some years back and I'll get back on the gluten free bandwagon.
These are:
- fogginess. When I first read this word I was baffled. What the f does that mean? Fogginess? Should I see misty water all around my head? My stomach maybe? Well, fogginess is when you have constant albeit minor headaches, your eyes hurt, you can't concentrate and you find yourself irritated by the silliest of things. That's my fogginess.

- aches and pains. I get these in my elbows, knees, neck and fingers. I know. It sounds weird coming from a 25 year old. I know I might be imagining it (as a doctor once famously said to me at the end of a 200$ diagnostic session). But I feel pain. And it goes away if I eat gluten free. Period.

- bloating. Constant bloating ensues, I feel like a little ballon and can't function properly for days on end, not to mention fit into my skinny jeans. This takes me to my next symptom.

- weight gain. I've heard over and over again, especially from all the allergies specialists I've seen how celiac disease makes you loose weight, not put it on. Ok. Message received. Now if somebody could go back to the drawing board and study gluten intolerance a little bit better and give me and millions of other people like me a more accurate answer that doesn't involve our imagination, it would be much appreciated.

- skin issues. Gluten free - great skin. Gluten full - skin erupts into a gazilion zits, pimples, cysts, black heads, little monsters,  a little bit of Oscar the Grouch from Sesame Street...well, you get the point.

So, gluten free works for me. 
But I still have a problem. 
Gluten free stuff is synonymous to second hand taste most of the time. I'm sorry to say it but it's true. 
The stuff tastes awful most of the time, or earthy in the bad way, or too sugary, or it doesn't taste at all as what it's supposed to taste like.
Like, hello muffins that taste like my 4th grade mud experiment with cocoa inside.

So after endless experiments, I've discovered some products that actually taste good. That make you want some more. That don't make me feel weird and my buds neglected.
The list is long but these are just a few that I could think of off the top of my head. Will surely add on it.
Here they are in no particular order:
- Schar Cereal or Vital Bread.
Absolutely delicious both untoasted and toasted. 

- Nestle Gluten Free Cornflakes. They taste delicious, don't have as much sugar as normal cornflakes and cost ten times less the fancy gluten free cornflakes I used to get from the fancy gluten free store. (ugh)

 - I adore (to be read "would marry this little box if it had two legs and could make love to me, not just my taste buds") this mix. I use it all the time to make all sort of wacky cakes but I notoriously used to make my Easter Cake aka My Rainbow Surprise. Check it out if you want to be blown away by my baking talents.

It tastes great, I even regularly fool my guests who don't get it's gluten-free until I start chomping away on a piece.

- This cake mix is an excellent substitute to the above one, it costs a bit less, comes with a little recipe book and you can find it in any supermarket (at least here in Italy). I even make muffins and salty cheese cakes and such and it has performed nicely. The taste is delicious, a bit more dusty than the Schar one, but definitely worth a try.

- Number 1 chocolate cookies in the world. Gluten free of course.
I must say that they really give you a bang for your buck. They cost a little over 2 € here in Italy and they are the most delicious, the closest and definitely the most affordable little gluten free cookies out there. Lazzaroni knows their proverbial s**t.
I hate biscuits that promise to be delicious and end up tasting like chalk. These don't. So that's why they're sitting on my desk right not looking proudly at me.

- Garofalo pasta is undeniably the best. It fools my lovely, adorable, loveable, fully Italian Mystery into thinking it's Barilla and that's enough for me.

I plan to add on this list. I'll keep you posted.
If you have any suggestions please leave a comment.

Kiss and Peace
Miss Sinister

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