Friday, May 13, 2011

Glutinous maximus

At my most recent book-signing, during the question-and-answer section of the evening, someone asked me "If you don't eat gluten, what's left to eat?"

I do appreciate her candor, because I wondered the same thing at first. On the other hand, it left me wondering, how much wheat is this woman eating that if you cut out wheat there's nothing left? Talk about a gluten-ous maximus!

Of course it says more about our culture's food habits than any one individual. There is so much wheat in the American diet, it's hard to imagine living without good old regular bread. Sure, man can't live on bread alone, but how does man live without bread at all?

Things have come a long, long way since the first time I went gluten free in 1994. Then, if you wanted some straight up carbs, it was rice cakes, rice cakes, and more rice cakes. Now, I'm pleased to inform you, there are all kind of options in both the grocery store and even in some restaurants. Amy's makes a frozen rice crust pizza that is at many grocery stores. Bob's Red Mill makes a dough mix you can use to cook up your own fresh pizza at home, as well as a bread mix that is really fantastic; Udi's makes delicious GF bagels and bread; I've even seen gluten-free bread crumbs in the grocery store; Uno's Chicago grill serves GF pizza on their menu; PF Chang's has a tasty gluten-free Chinese menu; there are numerous GF bakeries popping up around the country. (find GF restaurants here: )

I also just learned about a gluten-free expo in October in Dallas, for those feeling adventurous:

And here is a very popular gluten-free blog I just found:

That being said, remember that a lot of the healthiest food you can eat is already naturally gluten-free, so don't forget to include in your meals some brown rice, beans, nuts (assuming you don't have nut allergies), fruits and vegetables, even fish in your GF diet. Oh, and rice cakes. :D

One more point that came up at the book signing: no, I do not believe the entire country needs to be gluten-free. In Europe, where there is far more awareness of gluten sensitivity, about 20% of the population is diagnosed with Celiac disease or gluten intolerance. Here, it is only 1%. So, we probably have about 19% of the population running around undiagnosed, thinking their problems are genetic or random, not realizing they are caused by consuming gluten. So, I do think that anyone with chronic health conditions might want to try being strictly gluten-free for a month and keep a symptom log. If it makes a difference, then consider staying gluten-free.

For those of us already committed to being GF, there's really no need to feel sorry for ourselves because we can't have gluten. There's a substitute for nearly every gluten-laden food out there. On top of that, if we've identified the one ingredient that we can eliminate, and thereby drastically improve our health, we are fortunate. Now get off your glutenous maximus and find yourself some tasty GF food! :)

Carla Ulbrich, The Singing Patient,
is the author of "How Can You *Not* Laugh at a Time Like This?"
Get Carla's Book at