As a self-proclaimed “Foodie”, you can bet that I have watched more than my share of cooking shows, read countless cookbooks and blogs, and have generally soaked up everything that I find interesting about food for a VERY long time. It wasn’t as if I discovered that I did better without wheat and gluten, and then suddenly decided to start cooking… it is something that I (and my husband) have been enthralled with forever, it seems. Along the way we have seen some true talents showcased in the cooking world, along with some that we just scratch our heads and wonder about. I want to give cheers to Graham Kerr here, who is definitely the former!
He was originally known as The Galloping Gourmet, an energetic television chef and author who is full of fun and frolic, using loads of heavy cream, butter, wine, and other decadent ingredients with full abandon and incredibly delicious results. Later in his career, his beloved wife, Treena, experienced severe health issues, and as a response to her nutrition needs, Kerr changed his tune and his theme, moving away from indulgence, to “Minimax”. Minimizing risk and maximizing color, aroma, texture and taste.
While the current eating style my family has adopted embraces certain fats and cheeses (of which Kerr would likely NOT approve), and instead minimizes the carbohydrates and sugars, Graham’s philosophy of Minimax is with me in the kitchen every single day. I am always seeking to get the most of my ingredients by using fresh herbs, spices, citrus, flavorful cheeses, nuts, radiant vegetables, fresh cuts of meat or seafood, along with flavor-enhancing cooking techniques. He is one of my true Foodie Heroes, and I have endless amounts of admiration for him for taking a health challenge, and translating that challenge into more wonderful, life-giving meals, instead of feeling that the changes were negative limitations.
As a long-time designer and artist, I have always found that working within guidelines or limitations imposed by a specific client or a defined project, actually can be a positive thing that helps to focus the mind and creativity in such a way that the endless possibilities and distracting thoughts do not interfere as much with achieving the end goal. (Have I mentioned that I am quite ADD, and am easily distracted by… “oooohhhh shinyyyy?”) When you take away the things that are not right for the project (or in this case, dish or lifestyle), you are left with freedom and mindfulness to capture the outcome you desire and need. I feel that cooking gluten free (or for any other food intolerance, allergy, health or weight loss goal) is much the same as designing within the parameters of a client’s needs… YOU and your health just happen to be your client!
I urge you to become familiar with the guidelines of your particular nutrition needs, and to embrace those limitations as a way to move freely inside those parameters. Yes, the results of the food are fantastic, but they are nothing compared to the results that manifest in your life! Did I enjoy the Seared Sea Scallops and sauteed greens on Mother’s Day? You bet I did! But not as much as I have enjoyed being free from recurring and debilitating headaches and body pains. It feels miraculous to me still. I literally could cry with relief at any given moment. I have even more joy in preparing foods now than I did before because I know, I mean really KNOW that I am feeding my body with what it needs to be healthy.
And on to a Rant….
I have had well-meaning friends ask me if I couldn’t just “cheat” once in awhile and have a killer pizza or something else when eating out (I know I bore them with my safe salads!) I laugh and say no, because the only person I would be cheating is ME! I am not eating this way to lose weight, although that is certainly welcome, I am eating this way because I finally heard the language of my body, and it has told me in no uncertain terms that some foods make me sick. Having pizza today is not worth waking up tomorrow with a migraine and feeling like I have arthritis throughout my body.
The irony to me is that most people I know also experience a myriad of health issues, aches and pains, along with excess bulk around the midsection, and it doesn’t even occur to them that there is a strong likelihood that it is being caused by their food. (It seems that we, as a culture, treat disease symptoms as a lack of the right pharmaceutical in our medicine cabinet instead of as an imbalance of our internal systems.) It’s not our fault, we have all been educated repeatedly to eat whole grains (even though they spike blood sugar and create an insulin reaction, in addition to being a very inflammatory food.) We live in a society where fast food is abundant and speed is touted over simplicity or healthfulness. Another problem is that food intolerance is not nearly as obvious as food allergy. Allergies cause a severe and usually immediate immune response, but intolerance is much sneakier and builds up over time, affecting many systems, causing inflammation and auto-immune disorders among other things.
When faced with a friend (me) saying “Hey, why don’t you go without wheat and gluten for a week and see how you feel? Just try it?” The reactions are rarely enthusiastic, smiles.
“You mean I couldn’t drink a beer or have pizza with my buddies? Well, that is un-American!”
“How do you eat sandwiches without bread? I survive on sandwiches!”
“Grains can’t be that bad, we’ve eaten them for thousands of years!”
“Well, that way of eating works for you, I am sure it’s something else wrong with me.”
“I’ve had cereal for breakfast every day of my life, it can’t be the problem.”
“The government tells us that this is the best way to eat, they couldn’t tell us that if it wasn’t true.”
Really? How do you know? I often suggest that one has nothing to lose by trying, but you see, that’s not quite true! I realize that what one loses is somewhat intangible and yet powerful. First there is the disruption of habit and the major introduction of change in an area of our lives that we “think” is settled and working fine. Then there is a heritage and connection to our roots that most people strongly associate with certain foods and habits. We were raised on breads, pastas and cereals, after all. For what I am saying to be true, it means that what their mom and dad, favorite teachers and doctors were saying was NOT true. I know it wasn’t intentional misinformation, but I urge people to use critical thinking and question these accepted norms!
I do have strong opinions when it comes to a governing body telling its population what foods to eat and how much, when it is clear that those same governing bodies are not being advised by scientists and doctors on the cutting edge of nutrition, but rather by corporations which have a vested interest in selling their goods (as much as possible, please!) to the consuming public.Those same groups seek to limit access to homeopathic remedies, vitamins and supplements, as well as clamp down on those who are seeking lesser-processed dairy and meats, saying that their safety can’t be assured. Come on! Let me decide what is safe for my family, while you go ahead and serve GMO’s at your own table! We the people deserve a say in this!
I don’t claim to have all the answers (or even most of them); I am not a doctor or a dietician. But because of that, I am free to explore without kowtowing to pharmaceutical companies or grain lobbyists. I can tinker with my diet and see what happens if I take out this, or add that, and so can you. I am not telling you or anyone one else to do one certain thing (though I personally think wheat is bad for many people), because if one thing is clear, nutrition and health is NOT a one-size-fits-all solution. What I am urging each of us to do is to explore the bountiful world of food-based nutrition and work at finding out what is right for you. It is definitely a journey rather than a concrete destination, and what works for me now, may very well change in the future.
You deserve to make up your own mind, after all it does still belong to you!