Wednesday, October 11, 2017

How My Upset Stomach Made Me a Better Chef

In 2014, I went to a dietitian to solve a decade’s worth of tummy problems. The elimination diet she gave me was tough, like a week of beef and pinto beans followed by the distant promise of once again eating mozzarella cheese tough. I spent quite a few evenings in tears with no quick or easy way to feed myself. I was still cooking for my family, ordinary, delicious meals that I could only see and smell.

This was what I could eat for the first week except it turned out
I couldn't actually tolerate wheat, watermelon, pineapple or
strawberries. So for week two, instead of adding stuff, I went
again with an even shorter list.

Though it took longer than anticipated for my system to calm down, the diet eventually worked. For a few years, I avoided corn, wheat, and soy. I had to take it easy on fruit. My symptoms disappeared entirely and I adapted to cooking the soy laden foods I craved from scratch.

Lately, I’ve eased up on the restrictions. Corn and wheat no longer bother me. I avoid soy whenever possible, but if I eat it there’s a minimal reaction. I’ve found some pre-packaged food that meet my new standards. I’m back to having an occasional Arby’s roast beef which makes it nice not to have to cook every meal.

The special diet achieved its goal and even came through on the promise of a return to “normal” eating.

Last week, I made potato pancakes for dinner. I was struck by the feeling that it really wasn’t a big deal. Potato pancakes stand out in my mind as a side dish I long for but don’t often make because they’re a lot of effort. There’s grating potatoes and frying.

I use a basic recipe to make latkes like the ones in this picture. Source:
“These aren’t a big deal to make anymore,” I told my family as I placed the golden brown latkes on the table.

“Well, you cook from scratch way more now than you ever used to,” my husband observed.

That must be what it is. I make a rice flour batter for fried chicken that’s better than any restaurant. I’ve perfected Alfredo sauce. I even make homemade tortillas and bake wheat free snack bars. I’m a better chef for having conquered the weekly challenges posed by a limited ingredient list.

Many people have told me they wish there was something they could do for their own stomach problems. I tell them there is. It’s hard. And it’s totally worth it.