The Challenge of Gluten-Free Comfort Food
Mary grew up in the small country town of Buffalo, TX, her dad had a small ranch and she was surrounded by good southern style comfort food her whole life. At least until she found out that she was allergic to both gluten and corn. That put a damper on the comfort food. Gluten and corn are everywhere and are hidden under a variety of names in processed food an many times in surprising places. The Celiac Disease Foundation has a great list of foods and ingredients to watch out for. Mary’s corn sensitivity has actually been more difficult to deal with than the gluten. Corn is in most processed foods and in many of the foods at restaurants. We have adopted a mainly paleo or whole foods diet because honestly when you take out the gluten and the corn from the menu you’re left with mainly meats and vegetables.
I grew up in South Texas with Mexican cultural influences and a German, English, & Irish family history, which have all contributed to my love for a variety of cuisines. In elementary school (3rd or 4th grade), I found the cookbook section at the library and started exploring the recipes from around the World. I still remember one of the first recipes I tried, Irish Potato Soup and Irish Soda Bread. I have been cooking for my family since early childhood, I learned to make PB&J for myself and my little brother as a 4 year old. While I’m not a professional chef, I do know my way around the kitchen and enjoy a challenge.
Five years into our marriage, Mary gave me what I thought was the biggest culinary challenge ever, eliminate wheat (gluten) so no flour, no pasta, no bread, it was terrible. There were very few gluten free options at the grocery store and little information online. It was pretty much a case of figure it out or do without. So, for a while I was lazy and we ate a lot of Mexican food which depends on corn rather than wheat. Corn chips and corn tortillas and corn bread became staples in our house. Then Mary upped the challenge, she was still getting sick even after eliminating wheat (gluten). The corn had to go too, a moment of silence for my favorite cornbread recipe….. OK, this was harder, but it made me get out of the rut and start experimenting. BTW, here’s a list of corn ingredients to look out for.
One of the challenges was recreating comfort foods. If it doesn’t “taste like momma made it” then it’s not really a comfort, it’s a substitute. It’s like wanting your favorite cheesecake and finding a Jello cheesecake pudding… It kind of reminds you of what you want but it doesn’t satisfy your desire. So, I’ve worked for several years to create recipes that get as close as possible to Mary’s comfort foods and introduced her to a few of my favorites that have also been modified to be Gluten-Free and Corn-Free.
Do you have a favorite comfort food? Let us know!