Po-Boy Views: Not Today Seitan OR Waltzing Wheat-Free

10:22 October 05, 2018
By: Phil LaMancusa

Back in the mid-1800s, Madams Begue and Tujague cooked for New Orleanians of every stature and circumstance. They specialized in five-course meals that you could have one of two ways: take it or leave it. That’s mainly because, back in the day, we were Roman Catholic Glutarians (semi-religious people who ate whatever was presented to them). We had no dietary restrictions and would eat virtually anything that was edible. No vegans, paleos, vegetarians, ketos, pescatarians, non-pork and/or -beef, gluten-intolerant, or food allergy-sensitive persons survived; back then, it was “eat anything edible or die.”

As usual, I got to thinking. Since none of the above dietary concerns would be a hardship to me, I thought of trying out the only one of those diets that I would have a challenge with maintaining: gluten-free. I decided to give up gluten in my diet for two weeks and see what would happen to me. I’m not gluten-intolerant—quite the opposite; I have a gluten addiction. So, this experiment is the only diet discipline that would cause me any discomfort (unless I went on a chocolate-free diet—then I would probably throw myself into a well).

Gluten addiction? Yeppers. I read a book called Wheat Belly by William Davis, MD, that explained how it’s the way that we have genetically manipulated the grain that gives us the reaction, from a person’s bodily revulsion of gluten to an actual dependence on it, and I pondered that I may exhibit all the signs of addiction to gluten products (and possibly to yeast as well). On a daily basis, I want bread, pasta, cereal, cake; I prefer beer to wine, cookies to ice cream, malted milk to ice cream sodas. I adore thickened soups and sauces and lick my lips at a fragrant roux in gumbo. I crave couscous, flour tortillas, crackers, barley, brewer’s yeast, donuts, beignets, stuffing of all kinds, breaded and fried anything, and pastries in general. I judge a sandwich by the bread, a pie by its crust, a hot dog by its bun.

Naturally, for this exercise, I took the most immature tack: I substituted non-gluten “alternative” products that imitate gluten products instead of just religiously not eating gluten, but … I had to start somewhere. I also eased myself into this thing by eliminating wheat first, just until I got the hang of it, and then eliminated the world of foods that still have gluten in them. Of course, I dragged Debbie into this experiment; misery can and will accept all the company it can get. Non-gluten bread, pasta, and pastries (waffles) are a no-brainer, and whatever I can’t purchase outright I can make. Mostly make, because if you think that vegans have a hard time eating out or buying prepared foods, being gluten-intolerant with a fistful of dollars to spend will get you precious little on the open market. And when you do find gluten-free products, either they are so mundane that they’ll drive you to distraction, or they taste like caca; plus, they are more expensive than their glutinous counterparts. 

Eating as a gluten-free vegetarian or vegan? Quit your day job because it will take your entire waking hours not to starve to death, hunched over, muttering to yourself on the side of the road while munching dandelion weeds and thistles.

Some say that there are a lot of non-gluten foods already out there, and basically, it’s only a matter of eating what you normally eat and just eliminating the gluten stuff (e.g. meatballs and spaghetti: use a different binder for the meatballs and sub non-gluten spaghetti, which tastes nothing like pasta). You could opt for a Mexican diet of rice, beans, corn tortillas, carne asada; Asian dishes that use rice and rice noodles; or, avail yourself to the myriad of products that now proclaim their non-gluten status: Cheerios, potato chips, canned vegetables, wine, salmon, or broccoli. I even just bought a liquid dish soap that proclaims itself  “Non-Gluten” (go figure).

Basically, I can eat non-gluten all I want; however, if I carry my gluten heart to the dinner table, I will never be satisfied, let alone satiated, with what I’m eating. It’s a whole new mindset. It is healthier, and it’s also healthier if you watch your cholesterol, saturated fats, and sodium intake and get plenty of exercise, cook at home, and drink distilled hooch, but who (aside from the “drinking hooch” part) does that? Eating out takes being ready to give the waiter the third degree and to wind up with boiled vegetables and a baked potato; other people will not share their dinners with you, and they want none of what you’re having. You will continuously be explaining your “affliction.”

Many food companies are currently getting on board now that they’ve realized that gluten intolerance is not a fad and that market shares are to be had by getting out ahead of the pack. As it stands now, at a ball game, your once frank (hot dog) and stein (beer) is now replaced with your only being able to have, with certainty, the yellow mustard on the back of your hand, as paper napkins may contain traces of gluten. Even some toilet tissues are suspect (I kid you not).

For sure there are a number of GF cookery books, but sadly, most focus on desserts. What we need are books that tell us how to put GF meals together, some pretty pictures, and 101 ways to make quinoa and millet not taste like birdseed.

At the close of two weeks, I can tell you: I can’t do it! I’m addicted to gluten, and I LIKE IT! Gluten-intolerants, I salute you; yours is a hard (buckwheat) row to hoe. Good luck. 

Sign Up!