This summer, finally accepting that my stomach had betrayed me and did not appreciate gluten anymore, I had to make the switch to a gluten-free diet. After experiencing the ups and downs of gluten-free alternatives for three months, here is a list of things you need to know about a gluten-free life before trying it.
- Gluten is in EVERYTHING. Be prepared to check labels constantly, and find it even in foods that you never considered wheat-y. Soy sauce? Oven chips? You need to be vigilant pretty much 24/7.
- If you’re a vegetarian, be prepared to have your food options dramatically decrease. Unless you’re a genius in the kitchen and have the money to afford GF alternatives all the time, your meals are going to get considerably more boring. I’m talking potatoes for every meal. Also, some vegetarian sausages may contain gluten. Why, Linda McCartney?
- You will have to deal with the pain of not being able to eat all your favourite foods. For someone whose ideal breakfast is essentially just an infinite amount of croissants, things got very difficult, very quickly. Gluten-free croissants, although not unappetising, don’t compare in any way to the real thing (and are also extortionately priced).
- At some point, your willpower will abandon you, and you’ll decide that your stomach is fine and can handle a whole pizza. Or that battered piece of fish. Or that bread bun. But, inevitably, it can’t, and you’ll spend the entire evening suffering in pain after submitting to temptation.
- GF bread is weird. A lot of the time it doesn’t look like bread or taste like bread, and making a sandwich with it can result in the feeling that you’re chewing through two pieces of cardboard. Genius Gluten-Free bread is probably the best on offer, although you might have to look past the faint purple tint of the white loaf.
However, it’s not all bad! If you feel like you are gluten-intolerant, cutting it from your diet does make a difference, however difficult it may be (and it will be difficult). You learn to look for the gluten-free options, and most places do provide some or will accommodate you if you ask. You can get creative baking with GF flour, and there’s a wealth of recipes online to make alternatives to your favourites that can almost compare to the real thing, meaning you don’t need to completely give up those fudge brownies.
Featured in [smiths] Issue 78.