All who have read my previous dietary accounts know that I have a wheat intolerance and experience an allergic reaction to gluten in foods, which, for those not in the know, means that food items like bread, biscuits, cake, crackers, crisps (chips), noodles, pizza, pasta and anything else that’s nice and at the top of the literal food chain, that is remotely tasty ... I …can’t … have!
And it’s not will-power that stops me but my low pain threshold, pure and simple. The bloating and cramps (not to mention the flatulence), even for a food-a-holic like me, just isn’t worth it, and believe me it would take a lot of pain for me to turn my nose up at a slice of fresh crusty bread or baguette, or a slice of cake, or my beloved pizza.
Until now, that is!
I have been experimenting since the pure nuisance of being gluten/wheat intolerant has just about got on my very last nerves now, and since it appears all of a sudden but hardly regrettably that my condition is no longer as severe as it once was, I am going to try to digest items that haven’t been past my lips for at least four years in the hope that my system can again tolerate what a lot of folk take for granted.
It all started at Christmas (about three months ago), a time when those of the weak-willed variety (which unfortunately includes me and it doesn’t even have to be Christmas) will succumb to Christmas/holiday fare with abandon and live to regret it later. And that’s only the over-eating element. Sling into the mix, sampling foods that you know you shouldn’t have, that make you ill, and you’ve effectively, figuratively, and literally, bitten off more than you can chew.
Well that’s what I did when I tried a little experiment with a tiny corner of a slice of hard dough bread (No, I didn’t literally bite off more than I could chew (pardon the pun), I meant figuratively). Hard dough bread (or hard-oh as we call it) is West Indian bread at its finest, brought out for special occasions (Christmas, birthdays, weddings and any day with a ‘Y’ in it). This item was, out of necessity, missing off my favourite-food-list for this past four years and it’s been agony.
This delicious bread is eaten with fried fish. It’s eaten with fried chicken. It can be eaten as an accompaniment to soup, or toasted with marmalade, and it makes terrific sandwiches of the ‘door-step’ variety. But it has a gluten content much like any other bread and I am heartily sick of forking out an arm and a leg for a gluten-free loaf of bread which tastes like solid dust.
My own homemade variety, by trial and error, no matter how meticulously I followed the recipe after many hours researching different recipes online, favoured footballs and/or lethal weapons so dense were they, much like blunt instruments because once the gluten is taken out, it’s really not bread anymore at all as we know it. But that’s just my opinion. You can test the theory if you wish. I’d say if you don’t have to…then don’t bother!
Anyway, back to my little experiment. So I took a tiny corner of this bread at Christmas and waited for the bloating/pain to strike. But there was none. It never happened. I was well prepared, given the additional days added to my Christmas holiday, to spend them writhing in agony as payment in full for my own gluttony and foolishness with the eventual inevitable time spent in loo passing razor blades. Not to put too fine a point on it, but it can take up to THREE days for nature to ‘take its course’ once an item with gluten has to force it’s unnatural way through my digestive system before everything is back to normal. And that’s no exaggeration.
But nothing untoward happened. A half hour later I tried a full slice with still no distending repercussions. And I hoped against hope that this was a good sign!
To my sheer delight, still pain-free, a day later I was scouring the West Indian shops (Boxing day no less) for hard dough bread and ever since then I have been taking liberties with my stomach.
I won’t go as far as to say that all bread items are now harmless to my system, because, as I type this for instance, the skirt I put on this morning feels like it has shrunk two sizes simply because I had a ham and mozzarella toasted sandwich at 12 noon, and still at 3:45pm I am bitterly regretting it. I'll feel and look about five months pregnant till the end of the week now because of that.
But on the whole and in the main, hard dough bread is relatively harmless which in itself is rather surprising because it’s quite a heavy sort of bread. And it’s sweet. But it was never sweeter than spread with marmalade for my breakfast, with a chicken mayonnaise filling for my lunch, or dipped in mutton curry sauce at dinnertime.
After the aforementioned four years abstinence on all things wheat-like, I’m now going to be playing the elimination game. So I’ll try out things that I know I couldn’t have before and give them the thumbs up if I suffer no ill-effects.
To be quite honest I’m now getting almost obsessive about bread. I used to like Subway when it first came out. A six-inch sub (I can’t manage 12 inches) with turkey, ham and cheese with as much salad as you can safely pack in, with mayonnaise and a sweet onion relish is just delish. Right about now they’re advertising a Sub, a drink and a packet of crisps for £3 and I am champing at the bit (a gluten-free bit, ha ha) to take advantage of this bargain. And it’s the same four years since I’ve had one of them.
There are other items I haven’t partaken in, in a long time. The sight and smell of a super supreme pizza gets the gastric juices going - extra cheese and a stuffed crust. Yum! But before, when contemplating giving into temptation over something like a pizza which is basically and blatantly wheat, wheat and more wheat (the same as pasta and its ilk) I’d think of the pain and constipation and it just didn’t seem worth it. But I do still remember what a proper Italian pizza tastes like and I want to go back there again. Mama Mia!
The restrictions on my grocery lists over the years have been so constraining and limiting and had it not been for my low pain threshold I’d have filled my boots. For someone with a (virtual) PhD in gluttony, you have to know what it’s like having to be so disciplined, and really feel my pain.
Of course this whole new discovery isn’t doing much for my continuing dieting efforts. In fact, it’s blown the whole thing out of the water. Everyone the whole world over seems to agree that bread isn’t good for you, and if you’ve had to sample some of what has passed for bread in my quest for the perfect gluten-free loaf, you might even agree that it’s better to let it go, the diet that is. But I want to hold onto the dream of eventually attaining a svelte figure. And if I don’t keep a sharp (or shall we say a sharper) eye on the scales, with my newly discovered (or should I call it my newly recovered) love of the loaf, if it doesn’t trouble my stomach, all I know is, I’m going to start to get really fat.
But enough already about what we should be eating and what we shouldn’t. It’s in the papers every single day that yet another food product has been found to be dangerous for human consumption, to the point where I’m surprised we’re not living on blister packs or sachets of food substitutes. The scientists could easily do this. Just create something that we either squeeze from a tube or inject straight into a vein or through a tube that goes up our noses. Or a food pill we take with water (assuming it’s still safe to drink water). Fill it with all the nutrients we need and hey presto we never need to go shopping ever again and we can get rid of shopping trolleys, fridge freezers, cookers, and food cupboards. In fact they’d have to close down all the supermarkets.
You might have thought when you read of the serious heart disease or cancers or whatever other horrible ailment you can develop or catch from eating/drinking this and that, that it's a wonder we don’t break out in a cold sweat and develop palpitations when we sit down to any given meal.
So in an alternative, say, futuristic, world where to consume any food is against the law, die-hards like me will be taking the risk, of surreptitiously hanging around street corners with my shopping bag, trying to avoid the CCTV cameras as I buy my stash from a dealer on the black market. I can see it now; there’ll be a variety but at inflated prices. A slice of farmhouse crusty would set me back a tenner but if I want a baguette or a croissant, the damage would be more like a twenty. And as for doughnuts…well, you’d need to take out a mortgage for that kind of ‘high-end’ contraband.
People will go prison for breaking into other people’s houses to raid their bread bin. And can you imagine smugglers getting caught with how-many kilos of wheat flour, and there would be dawn-raids on people’s homes by armed police because some snitch has reported the smell of freshly baked bread coming from a neighbouring house. It’s all ridiculous, isn’t it? It’s a good job this is just my imagination in overdrive.
Still, all this comes down to the fact that, of course as you know I love my food, and in particular I love bread and always have, but I’ve been denied the pleasure for too long, so I think I’ll put dieting on the back burner (I’m not exactly heartbroken about that particular prospect) and just INDULGE! Give us this day our daily bread, yes indeedy…with jam on it.
And if it all goes pear-shaped, then that’s the way the cookie crumbles and I’ll name the next chapter: Glutton for Punishment!