Friday, October 31, 2014

Grateful shout-out to friends accommodating unfamiliar diets

You know who you are. Friends and family who have for nearly 30 years graciously cooked and baked gluten-free for me. Each time you did it, I hope I said THANK YOU in capital letters. Today I am saying THANK YOU!!! in bold capital letters with three exclamation points. Why?

Because today I baked paleo desserts for a friend whose family follows a paleo diet for health reasons. Paleo concepts are foreign to me. Eliminating four gluten-containing grains, no problem—I just substitute other grains. But paleo-diet followers use NO grains.

So I experienced what you probably did when you entered the whole new world of gluten-free food for my sake. Except three decades ago, celiac discussions and gluten-free options weren’t as popular as they and paleo ideas are today; and the Internet didn’t make finding special-diet recipes so easy. So you had it much harder than I did today. Nonetheless, I might have identified with your time and emotional investment.

Step 1: Research. What is gluten? What is gluten in? What’s a paleo diet? What’s paleo-okay, and what isn’t?
Step 2: Find safe recipes.
Step 3: Worry about causing health problems for gluten-free/paleo person. Check with person about recipe ingredients.
Step 4: Buy special ingredients, if necessary.
Step 5: Put all ingredients on freshly cleaned kitchen counter. Feel anxiety about dish’s unfamiliar taste and texture. Will people like it? Feel additional anxiety remembering my own early gluten-free flops.
Step 6: Whip it up, pop it in the oven, and pray. Jump for joy when it looks fairly “normal” coming out of oven.
Step 7: New worry: What if the non-special-diet people eating it won’t like it? Bake “regular” pumpkin bread. For extra insurance, send husband to store to buy a second nonpaleo dessert.

After paleo carrot cupcakes and cinnamon apple cake came out of the oven, I wanted to make frosting for them, so I began Steps 1 and 2 above to find paleo frosting options. But I had too many questions and yuck-factor feelings. Two cups of palm shortening? You’ve got to be kidding. (I couldn’t get lard out of my mind.) After several hours of vacillating—to frost or not to frost?—I chickened out altogether. I brought my plain offerings to the meeting, where I learned palm shortening is not as yucky as lard seemed to me and got hints as to how the paleo-eating family typically makes frosting.

We live and learn. I now look forward to trying other paleo recipes once in a while. But the first time sure was nerve-racking. Did I mention my increased gratefulness to those of you who have accommodated my dietary needs?

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