Saturday, August 2, 2014

Can I be a [gluten-free] foodie?

Can I be a [gluten-free] foodie?
the crossroads where diet meets desire

If you do a quick Google search of the term "foodie," you will immediately be greeted by these definitions:
  • (n.) a person with a particular interest in food; a gourmet (
  • (n.) a douchebag who likes food (
  • (n.) a gourmet, or a person who has an ardent or refined interest in food and alcoholic beverages (

At first glance, the idea seems fairly straightforward: foodies like food. Therefore, being a foodie shouldn't involve much more than an appetite and a desire to try something new. As you explore the concept, however, things start to get a little more complicated. The Wikipedia entry on foodies, for example, goes on to say, "Typical foodie interests and activities include the food industry, wineries and wine tasting, breweries and beer sampling, food science, following restaurant openings and closings and occasionally reopenings, food distribution, food fads, health and nutrition, cooking classes, culinary tourism, and restaurant management." Wowza. That is quite the list of interestes, and some of it seems a bit exclusionary--at least, for me. 

I mean, can you be a foodie if you say no to every wine list, reject every plate of fromage (that's cheese for you non-foodie types), and shudder at the thought of biting into a flaky French pastry, colon-damaging gluten oozing from every pore? I'm Mormon and therefore a teetotaler, lactose intolerant to the point that too much milk chocolate gets me gassy, and a celiac. When you eliminate alcohol, dairy, and gluten, what is there left for a gourmet to enjoy?

Plenty, I tell you:

  • Scouring the internet (Okay--Pinterest) for delicious, yet approachable, recipes that meet my dietary requirements
  • Inventing new non-alcoholic beverages, like Obsessions (Sprite, non-dairy ice cream & orange juice) & taste-testing every variety of non-alcoholic sparkling cider
  • Sharing the joy of a newly-discovered, celiac-friendly restaurant with my family and friends (especially those who are also gluten-free)
  • Discovering new gluten-free products--baking mixes, flour blends, pastas, whole-grain cereals, sausages, granola bars, GoPicnic lunches--You name it, I've gotten excited about finding a gluten-free version of it!
  • Tweaking recipes and simple meals to add my own flair and an extra dash of flavor
  • Enjoying the many foods I actually can eat (and it is more than you might think)
    • Hummus 
    • Fresh fruits and vegetables in all their varieties (I could list my favorites all day)
    • Smoothies 
    • Indian food 
    • Homemade coconut ice cream 
    • Dark chocolate 
    • Steak
    • Rice
    • Potatoes
    • All-fruit popsicles
    • Coconut
    • Herbs & spices
    • Garlic
    • Quinoa & other gluten-free grains
    • Eggs
    • And many more!
  • And, and what else?
Okay, so maybe my list looks a little measly compared to what you might find on the pages of Food & Wine, and I may not be able to enjoy every dish that calls to me from the latest cookbook or food blog. But I enjoy eating. I enjoy trying new things. Food and I, we're good friends. Isn't that enough to make me a foodie?

Well, I want to say yes, but the truth is--probably not. Food allergies and an aversion to alcohol don't have to be obstacles on the road to foodie heaven. In fact, G-Free Foodie is dedicated to that very concept (well, at least the gluten-free side of things). They have recipes, a restaurant guide, a shop, and most interestingly--a program called G-Free Foodie Box Club that delivers "a curated collection of the most delectable artisan foods" straight to your door (for a fee, of course). So, yes, being gluten-free AND a foodie is POSSIBLE; however, MY enjoyment of eating and trying new things is not quite enough to classify me (personally) as a foodie--at least, not yet.

While I love food, I don't exactly love cooking. Sometimes it's the idea of shopping for unfamiliar ingredients that leaves a sour taste in my mouth. Other times it's a lack of confidence in my cooking skills or culinary knowledge that makes me wilt before a challenging recipe. And if I'm being totally honest, I have some form of culinary ADD. Frankly speaking, if a recipe has more than about eight ingredients in it, I'm probably going to skip it, especially if those ingredients include things like xanthan or guar gum (vegetables, fruits, and spices, on the other hand, are another story). Combine these weaknesses with the secret ingredient of my mother's natural prowess in the kitchen (she is most definitely a foodie), and you wind up with a "kitchen intimidation" reduction that allows me to pin dozens of beautiful recipes while only sampling a handful in real life.

More often than not, however, it is simply a matter of time that keeps me out of the kitchen--as in, cooking requires time, and I don't have it, or cooking requires time, and I don't want to give it. Typically, I only think about preparing food when I'm hungry and, therefore, impatient. As in, ten minutes is a sizable amount of time to wait before the meal is on the table. Anything more than that would be unbearable. Peruse my "To-Dones" Pinterest board and you'll find that most of the recipes I have tried are simple, contain few ingredients, and are perfect for beginners. Sure, there may be an exception or two, but certainly not enough to hide a clear bias towards the more streamlined recipes of life.

Now, does any of that sound like a foodie?

Yeah, I thought you would agree with me. I'm not there yet, but I'm learning. Blogging encourages me to experiment (otherwise I have no new content), and successful experiments have built my confidence (at least a little). As I collect more and more would-be recipe options on Pinterest, my natural urge to scratch items off my to-do list starts to itch, and through experimentation, I've learned that I might have inherited a little more of my mother's food instincts than I first imagined. I used to think she was crazy for improvising measurements as she goes; now I frequently find myself doing the very same thing. The more I get out of my own way, the more I believe in my ability to improve--and that goes for more than just making food.

This blog is about offering resources, recipes, and reassurance, so let me reassure you: You can do this. If you want to be a gluten-free foodie, do it. Seek out "delectable artisan [gluten-free] foods," meet like-minded people, try those recipes that please your palate, meet your dietary needs, and challenge your kitchen's status quo. However, if you're like me, and sometimes put "get'r done" over "gourmet," know that's okay, too. Food allergies may limit our diet, but they don't have to reduce our enjoyment of food.

So, what do you say: Are YOU a gluten-free foodie?


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