time for a change — going gluten-free

cookies with x

When I moved from Blogger to WordPress in 2010, it was a symbolic moment in my blogging — I’d written five hundred posts. My last post on the old blog was about an amazing party thrown for Gluten-Free Girl’s new cookbook. I’ll always remember that event because it was my first time meeting Shauna (and Danny and Lucy) in person, and I met a few more really amazing people that night for the first time. Then I migrated my whole blog over to WordPress and soon decided that a lot of my old posts sucked. I  deleted a ton of content, maybe a hundred posts in all? I really don’t even know how many it was, but of course I began writing posts here on the new blog and counting back up to five hundred again. So this is it — big post #500, for the second time. And fitting for such an occasion, I’m breaking some news… I’ve gone gluten-free.

I know, it’s a little weird. All I write about are cookies and brownies. I was clearly addicted to pasta. If there is a new doughnut shop or noodle joint in town, I’ve tried it. So what happened? I got to thinking about a few nagging health issues, mostly digestive ones. (Plus, maybe hanging around with Shauna rubbed off on me a bit.) I finally thought, what if gluten is to blame? I didn’t get a blood test or talk with my doctor first, but about a month ago I stopped having gluten completely. I went cold turkey. Within 24 hours I felt good, but I thought it could be a fluke. Within 3 days I could hardly believe how much better I felt. I don’t want to go into details, but things just feel right. Really right. And in the past few weeks, I’ve been noticing some other positive changes I never expected. Well, I guess it’s a process of discovery. No more gluten for me. I have a few questions though:

1. Is it normal to feel a little like an idiot for ignoring symptoms for so long?

2. Why does anyone bother making gluten-free bagels, because they’re kind of gross?

3. Jovial clearly makes the best gluten-free pasta, so why does only one store in my area sell it, and why does that store only carry the spaghetti?

4. Gluten-free pasta is so expensive and it’s mostly sold in small 8-ounce or 12-ounce packages. How do you get over the notion that companies making gluten-free foods are totally screwing us over because they know we have no choice but to buy their products?

5. Will I get over this nagging feeling that if my body can’t take wheat, the same is probably true for everybody else in the world and they just can’t admit it?

6. What’s up with mall food (or fast food in general)? Okay, so I don’t eat in malls very often, but I literally couldn’t find one gluten-free thing to eat a mall food court if my life depended on it. If it’s not a sandwich, burger, pizza, wrap, cookie, pretzel, or cinnamon bun, then it’s fried food coated in something bready.

7. How much fun is it going through your favorite cookbooks with an all-new eye, searching for the gluten-free recipes? Seriously, I’m cooking more than ever and loving it.

8. I’m trying not to be obsessed with the things I can’t eat anymore, but I’d be really excited someone made yummy gluten-free pretzels. Wait, that wasn’t a question. Okay, is there any such thing as yummy gluten-free pretzels?

9. Soy sauce… sigh. Do any of you carry gluten-free soy sauce with you, like in your bag. I was thinking about maybe a flask or something?

10. Why don’t I crave sandwiches at all? Seriously, I used to think I could never go gluten-free because I love sandwiches way too much, and it’s totally not the case.

11. Why do I not feel so hungry? Okay wait, Shauna tried to explain it to me, but I feel like it’s partly psychological. I used to be a little obsessed with food. I was hungry all the time. Now I’m gluten-free, and I skipped lunch a couple times recently. The other day I forgot to eat dinner. For me, that’s just freaky.

12. What do I tell my KitchenAid mixer? Yes, I’m sure I’ll eventually get into gluten-free baking, but for now my mixer isn’t getting any use. I just moved her from the kitchen counter (prime retail space) to the bottom shelf (the boonies).

13. Do you eventually feel so good being gluten-free that you think, eh, I feel fine now and I can start having bread again? I’m not there yet because I’m still in the honeymoon period, but I’m curious if that happens. Okay, scratch that. Between the time I wrote this and posted it, I started thinking that was a dumb question because I like feeling this good, and I don’t want to mess with it.

14. Last time I was in Seattle, it seemed like there were gluten-free signs everywhere I went. Now I’m realizing how lame New York City is by comparison. Two questions — why is Seattle so awesome, and should I just move there already?

15. What’s up with how expensive granola is and how some brands that have no wheat listed in the ingredients aren’t promoting themselves as gluten-free? I kind of get it, but I kind of don’t. Some oats are gluten-free and some are not? I used to eat cereal every day for breakfast, so I’ve got to figure out the granola thing because I need something yummy like that to get me going in the morning.

16. Most packaged gluten-free cookies are a little gross. No question.

17. Can a whole bunch of my coolest foodie friends go gluten-free too so we can do some awesome food crawls together? Please!

18. From a gluten-free perspective, how awesome is Vietnamese food? Indian food is looking good too.

19. Is it true that some people who are lactose intolerant who then eliminate gluten from their diets can eventually go back to eating dairy, because I’ve been unable to have more than a taste of ice cream or cheese for the past few years without feeling pretty sick. And forget about milk, milk shakes, hot cocoa, etc. — those kill me. I used to love cheese and ice cream, so I’d be totally cool having them back in my life.

20. How often do you have to explain to people that rice and potatoes don’t have gluten in them?

64 thoughts on “time for a change — going gluten-free

  1. Wonderful to hear how much better you feel now! I’d be down for a GF food crawl, but you’ll have to forgive me if I forget what is and isn’t GF. Your post inspires me to go back to primarily raw food again. When I ate raw I felt amazing, full of energy, and my tastebuds were heightened. I appreciated the sweetness of a carrot, the way I savor a fluffy cream puff.

  2. Congratulations on this big step! That is awesome that you’ve noticed an improvement already. I loved this post and I’d probably be asking a lot of the same questions if I were in your shoes. Cookies, soy-sauce, granola, these things are important!

    All the best for the culinary adventures ahead…

  3. Justin – so glad you’re feeling better. I’ve thought about it myself.. or maybe just trying going gf for a week and seeing how it affects me. Hope you continue to feel better. Also, love that refer to your mixer as a “she”. Mine’s called “Animal” in honor of the Muppet.

  4. I generally feel better if I minimize my starch intake including gluten free things like rice and potatoes. The problem with all those gluten laden things like cookies, cakes and bread is that they are eye candy and although you don’t really have to eat them, you want to eat them. Then you eat one too many and then you get sick. Sometimes it’s just easier if you don’t eat any, because once you’ve had one really good chocolate chip cookie, it’s hard not to eat another…and another…and another!
    I hope you continue to feel good and make the right choices for your body!

  5. are you gluten-free or wheat-free?
    gluten-free means avoiding rye, barley (barley malt, beer, etc) wheat (spelt, farro, all variations of wheat and wheat hybrids) and oats, except for gluten-free oats, and even then some people can’t stand it.

    i think the best gluten-free pretzels are glutino. not cheap, though. once you find stuff you like, ordering in bulk from amazon is the only defense! but to be fair, having tried to bake and sell gfree stuff myself, there is no such thing as “glutenfree flour” that really works, so mfgrs cant buy in superhuge quantities the way wheat-flour users can. it’s just always more expensive. not to mention, labor intensive. so i make my own crackers and stuff for the most part, even tho im not selling at the moment.

    ps: i was hospitalized for a wk when diagnosed (totally malnutrioned, almost no blood pressure by that point!) and 3 wks after i got home and changed my diet, my strength came back daily. naked food is the answer. vegetables and meat (or in my case, eggs and cheese) but im going veganish lately and would never cheat given where i was when i was hospitalized, so this should be an interesting experiment! speaking of naked, see my review of naked pizza near union square. good stuff! pala on allen st is still my fave, tho. welcome, justin!!

      1. when babycakes used spelt in their cookbook which i believe on the first edition’s cover did not say (mostly) gluten-free, there was an uproar, so even in a wonderful bakery like that, you have to ask. i like tu-lu bc theyre all glutenfree w some vegan, whereas babycakes is mostly gfree and all vegan. speaking of downtown gluten-free stuff, have you tried the pizza at pala? i love it, and they’re near babycakes, too. here are my posts on tulu, babycakes, and pala:

        1. right, i know Tulu well (and Babycakes of course). i’m friends with Tully, the founder of Tulu, though i haven’t told her yet that i’m gluten-free now. thanks for the tip about pala though!

  6. I was definitely influenced by the gluten-free weekend we had at BSP… but to go completely gf, well, I don’t think I can do it. I only eat pasta once a week and we don’t usually have bread around the house… and, as you noted, gluten-free bagels are terrible (I tried them once and I had nightmares for weeks). I can’t live without bagels.

    So glad to hear that it’s made such a difference in your life, Justin! Can’t wait to see all the wonderful gf creations you come up with!

  7. Wow, working up to your second #500, very impressed. Still taking the slow road, still on blogger, but getting close to the first 100 🙂 WordPress, soon.

    Glad you are feeling so much better. I am so lucky:stomach of steel. Can eat almost anything, which has its own problems. But I do feel better eating less wheat, even in increments.

    I found out the hard way that oats are iffy for some celiacs (in a “gluten-free” oat waffle recipe I wrote for the Boston Globe, never again will I touch the subject–caused a minor firestorm.) Actually, those are the only waffles I can really eat without feeling crummy. They have no wheat. Cross contamination with wheat (in fields and in processing facilities) is a problem with gluten-free products, and I guess oats are a problem for some but not all celiacs; but if you can tolerate them, make some granola (and post a recipe!) That handles the cereal prob. Enjoy your new found healthy self, Justin. That’s great news.

    1. well, celiacs are a pretty intense bunch. i just don’t understand the oat thing yet, like if it’s just cross contamination issues, or if it’s something else. gotta read up.

      1. Generally speaking, it’s about the risk of cross contamination during production, but there are a small (very small) percentage of people who do suffer from Avenin. Bob’s Redmill Oats are certified gluten-free and totally delicious.

        Congrats on going gluten-free! It’s been amazing to watch how Steve’s body continues to heal itself after going off the gluten. If you can believe it, his eye sight has improved by 50% which seems totally freaky to me, but is apparently quite common.

  8. wow. thanks for sharing and really happy that you’re feeling better, justin. i’ve been really curious about the positive impact that going GF has had on a few folks i know, all of whom are really thoughtful and passionate about food (and eating!). my 2-yr-old has been having strange medical issues. we’ve been through so much in last few months (including having to put him under general anesthesia to get a scan to rule out a bone tumor) and nothing has come out conclusive. his diet has been in the back of my mind—is there something he’s eating that’s causing his seemingly random issues? they tested him for celiac and it came out negative, but i’m not convinced that he wouldn’t benefit from adjustments in his diet, maybe even going GF (perhaps he has an intolerance as opposed to a full blown allergy). anyway, all this to say that you’ve deepened my intrigue! so glad, again, that you’re feeling healthy!

    1. sorry to hear about your 2-year-old, but i’m always glad when i hear people are considering diet. seems like doctors ignored it for way too long. even now, the easy answer is to give us another pill for everything, and that’s not my style. anyway, thanks for the support.

    1. wow, i had no idea Snyders made gluten-free stuff. i haven’t seen it anywhere! before i went GF, i was a bit of a Snyders addict, so I’ll have to see. the brands i have tried so far are not very good.

  9. That’s really funny. I have been on a cleanse for the past 4 weeks. Today is the last day!
    No gluten, caffeine, sugar, or dairy.
    I’ve doubled my grocery bill each week, and I spent twice – sometimes 3x – as long cooking in the kitchen (I don’t like to cook)! But, it was a great experience.

    And you’re right, I don’t crave the cupcakes, bread, etc. like I used to either.

    I’m also lactose intolerant. So this cleanse was really good or me. Although prior to starting, I was able to have yogurt, cheese, skim milk, and ice cream in moderation.

    Last weekend, I went out to brunch and had muesli soaked in yogurt, and I was ok. (This was the only time I had dairy in the 4 weeks). So maybe there is some truth to eating gluten-free and then easing back into dairy?

    When I read blogs and articles about gluten-free diets, many people eat a lot of brown rice pasta, brown rice bread, etc. I’ve recently switched over to brown rice pasta and rice noodles (asian brands). Have you tried those?

    1. right, i’m spending a lot of money on ingredients right now, more than i think is fair, but i had to make this change. i actually had some cheese over the weekend, which surprised me, but i felt fine. so i think i answered my own question — by not having wheat, i think my body is functioning better, and maybe i was never lactose intolerant to begin with. anyway, yes, i’ve been having brown rice pasta and rice noodles, especially at my local vietnamese restaurant which i’m lucky to have because it’s cheap and good.

      1. do you ever make lasagne? if so, tinkyada is the best i’ve found. others are too mushy. i wish there were a less expensive 100% buckwheat soba noodle around. all i’ve found is $8 pkgs which aren’t that big! (most buckwheat soba are actually part wheat flour)

        1. I agree. Tinkyada is a great brand.
          Speaking of soba, I just had some soba noodles tonight, and my digestion is a bit uncomfortable. So I think the gluten in the buckwheat is definitely not good for a gluten-free diet.

          1. actually, there is NO gluten in buckwheat. it’s not a form of wheat, despite its name. what is needed is buckwheat soba noodles that are not MIXED with wheat. they’re rarely made of just buckwheat, despite the name on the labels (or menus). seeing the ingredient list on the package is the only way to tell.

  10. I did a cleanse recently where I stopped eating gluten and dairy for a week. I was amazed at how much better I left. I consume way less now but I can’t seem to make the switch to gluten and/or dairy free.

  11. I just tried Jovial pasta on a whim (I believe it was the quinoa spaghetti). You’re absolutely right, it is VERY expensive, but since this was an experiment, I just went with it.
    Loved the texture and taste.
    After we were finished with dinner, I did notice I didn’t feel so full, so bloated, so sleepy.
    (I got a little scared.)

    Congrats on this big change.
    Thank goodness Homesick Texan’s chocolate chewies are glutenfree, right?

    1. i was scared to admit for the longest time i might have to stop eating wheat. now that i’ve made the move, it doesn’t seem scary anymore. i choose to feel better. but yes, i’m very happy the pecan chewies can still be in my life.

  12. Wow, that’s a huge decision! Will you go ahead and find out for sure if you’re not supposed to be having gluten anyways? My Mom is gluten-free- has only been so for the last year or so. It’s a tough thing to come to terms with when you’re 74 years old. She has needed a lot of guidance from me, which means I’ve learned to become quite knowledgeable about things she can eat and things to avoid. Eating out is the absolute worst. I make it a point to include that “gluten-free/adaptable” category on my site since I’ve come to realize how many people out there can’t have it. So now you see why I wanted to include it in my cookbook too! Good luck to you- glad you’re feeling better and that it seems to be going well!

    1. apparently i can’t get tested for Celiac now, because i’m totally off gluten. but it’s clear to me this is working. i even tried some desserts with farro and spelt to see if maybe it was just a wheat allergy, but those made me ill too. i feel so much better now, in so many ways, i know it’s the right thing for me. so thanks for the support, and yes, thanks for adding that information to the book!

  13. Seattleites are awesome! Everything is gluten free here because we are all hippies or super active and there’s no time to feel bad. (or it may be because it’s trendy…) 🙂 Good luck with your gluten free adventure. You’ll feel great!!!

  14. I’m glad that you figured out what makes you feel good. If it’s GF, then it’s just a matter of changing your habitual diet. You do look MARVELOUS lately.

  15. This is hilarious in many ways, but really I am just glad you are feeling better. ps to answer one of your questions, look for tamari- it’s wheat free soy sauce and is available at any natural foods store.

    1. thanks, but according to everything i’ve ever read, regular tamari is not gluten-free — i’ve noticed that’s a popular misconception, even among working chefs. however, specifically gluten-free tamari is sold, and i’ve bought it for home use. and gluten-free regular soy sauce is sold too, so i now have both at home. it’s really just when dining out that i have to worry.

  16. Heh, you’re not alone! Thanks for addressing all the stuff I’ve been wondering, with such a great sense of humor.
    I’m in the same boat, and have found that once you’re off the gluten, your innards settle down and are less inflammed. Which means dairy is easier to digest, even if you’re lactose intollerant. I figured out I needed to break up with wheat while writing a book on crackers, and after a major freakout, I finally decided to dedicate a chapter to gf crackers. It can be done, provided you’re not living in a mall, travelling, or in denial.One weird thing I just discovered, though, is that I can eat wheat in Italy and I’m fine. Perhaps it’s the GMO’s or type of wheat we have here? Isn’t that odd?

    1. i’m no expert, but i’ve heard the same thing from other people who have gone to Italy. did you see the Huffington Post article recently about why wheat in America is so bad now? reading that, i think what you’re saying makes a lot of sense, assuming the wheat there is different. it makes me curious (though maybe not curious enough to test it out) to try some imported pastas, the super expensive ones from Italy. hmmm.

  17. I’m so glad you are feeling great and going strong with going gluten free. I know that without health issues, I would not be able to give up my favorite foods, but we as a family have been making some effort to curb the gluten in our diet. While it isnt eliminated, I think we all know how important it is to eat less of it. Besides, my KitchenAid would get lonely, too. I would say put her up for adoption, but I imagine she will be handy in creating lots of gluten free goodies 🙂

    1. thank you. ha, put my kitchenaid up for adoption?! that’s hysterical, but i will definitely come back to her some day. i love baking too much to give it up forever. i just have to get used to baking gluten-free.

  18. Can I ask a really dumb question? How do you bake GF cookies? I keep trying to do short bread or sugar cookies with rice flour, but I can’t get them to hold their cookie cutter shape. Do I just need to suck it up and go Gluten (I’m cutting out the wheat because of a mild allergy) or do you know of some magical trick to get them to stick together?

      1. gluten-free baking usually does not depend on replacing wheat flour with one other flour. it is almost always helpful to mix flours so that their respective attributes, when combined, approximate the characteristics of wheat flour. which is why so many pre-made cup-for-cup mixes exist in the marketplace (the work is done for you). the newest and a well-reviewed one is thomas keller’s cup4cup at williams sonoma. i actually like fiddling around with different flours (working on developing a challah recipe now and trying not to get too fat doing it!) until i get just what i want for each recipe, but if you have neither the time nor inclination, get thee to a mix!

        1. Thanks for the info! All honesty, this is a recipe for my dogs who have mild wheat allergies and drive me nuts scratching themselves. I’ll probably study a package for an idea of how to mix it. Thanks for all of the information!

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