November 4th, 2012

Don’t Let Your Special Diet Get You Down

You can laugh about certain things, or you can cry. I choose to laugh. But that’s easy for me to say.

My wife and two of my three sons have celiac disease. Their bodies are not equipped with the enzyme that breaks down gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, rye and oats. If they go off the diet, they get diarrhea, bloating, and stomach cramps that leave them writhing on the floor. Not such a laughing matter.

Add to that the fact that I decided to go meat-free eleven years ago. Why? I read a book that convinced me it would be a healthier choice.

So now you know why my oldest son claims to be the only one in our house eating “normal” food.

My wife and the other two boys have to avoid things like bread, pasta, cake and cookies. No bagels for them, imagine! As if that weren’t bad enough, tiny amounts of wheat flour or flour-containing ingredients can be found in many sauces, salad dressings, soups, drinks and even ice creams. We always study the ingredients carefully. We interrogate waiters and waitresses and make them bring out the industrial sized product package, so we can check.

We don’t sit around the house crying about our complicated culinary situation. Instead, we’ve all become closet Jamie Olivers because of it. We’ve gotten more creative in the kitchen.

My wife makes gluten free bread once or twice a week, using gluten free flour and gluten free yeast. Even my son who eats “normal” food clamors for a piece when that comes out of the oven, steaming hot. Or her special jelly cookies (pictured).

I like to make lasagna, and since we are all big lasagna eaters I always make one gluten free and one with normal wheat-containing noodles. Bet you can’t tell which is which …






Delicious dishes all of us can eat, and like to eat, are easy to prepare and always tasty. We would serve meat alongside some of these, for the meat eaters. Others make good stand-alone meals. Here’s an unofficial top ten list:

• Risotto with saffron or with peas, beans and carrots
• Baked au gratin potatoes or garlic mashed potatoes
• Pizza made with gluten free crust
• Greek salad with feta cheese, potatoes, black olives
• Stuffed peppers (rice and tomato sauce mixture)
• Rice salad with cubed cheese, artichoke hearts, tomatoes and onions
• Potato salad (several different recipes)
• Gluten free pasta such as gnocchi with pesto sauce
• Raclette (boiled potatoes with melted cheese and pickles)
• Grilled vegetables (eggplant, zucchini, onions, squash)

So cooking for special diets doesn’t drive us crazy. It’s everyday life for us. Pity the poor people who invite us over for dinner, though. We usually end up spending half an hour on the phone reassuring them that, although we may seem like space aliens, we are in fact harmless.

Do you have a special diet too? How does it affect your cooking routine? Do you find it challenging informing people about it when you’re invited to eat with them?