Hello! I’ve missed you!!! The weeks have both flown by and dragged interminably. Today’s post is about discussions of gluten-free food in the media and the real issues. But first a quick pregnancy update! I am swelling at an alarming rate and feel fit to pop! It’s all happening! I must admit I have been struggling at times this month, my type 1 diabetes went completely BESERK (I love that word), which is part of the pregnancy for me at this stage. My back has been a psycho bitch from hell and I am trying to reject its influence. There has been a lot of grimacing, drinking of roobois chai tea, eating (of too many biscuits…), getting to the (copious and lengthy) hospital appointments, and watching of ITV detective dramas from the 80’s and 90’s (I ♥ P.D James!!!), and WSOP 2016 (go Kassouf, 9 high like a boss! ha!), and the Great British Bake Off, religiously, and Dynasty, from the beginning… and… generally coping, treasuring the moments to treasure and recovering in time for the next assault on my sanity, from which I rise like a phoenix (fat grouse?) from the ashes! It is a time full of wonder, fear, hope, grit, letting go and pushing forwards. A time of growth. And the main and most precious thing is that the baby is perfectly healthy and well. I will love and nourish her entire being whatever she has to cope with in this life that goes without saying, but
As for me I am taking it day by day. My main focus is controlling my diabetes and keeping positive, bonding with the baby and driving forwards towards getting everything ready for when She comes. The house. Me, in every dimension. Us. Wow.
But the focus of today’s post is talking about gluten-free food. I heard a Radio 4 section of a program on ‘gluten-free’ that really ‘got my goat’ (what happen’s when your goat gets got? They can be quite bad tempered, maybe they head butt you… maybe they rant… cue rant). Often the discussion of such topics in mainstream journalism frustrates me. Other issues can be discussed in an interesting and insightful way, but get onto something like a food ‘trend’ and it’s just SO frustrating. Narratives of issues are more often than not expressed by individuals who are, dare I say it, blinkered. (And I think we are all a bit blinkered in some way when it comes to food, it’s so personal.) Rarely are any issues discussed in any way properly in any depth, representing reality, truth, diversity of opinion and experience. All too often there is the sound-bite, the loudest voice, the assertion of (what is represented as) common-sense. This has it’s place, within an exploration of reality. But there is no exploration, just a self-important voice. And that is irresponsible.
I know the media machine needs current themes. Such as gluten-free. The trend. Why are people doing it? Is it always healthy? And it should be asked. Only these are not the questions truly asked are they. A judgement is stamped, a pseudo-feisty but really opportunistic and self-serving stance is taken. It’s okay to be coeliac and avoid gluten (oh thanks, that’s really kind of you, I’ll breathe a sigh of relief then…) but otherwise it is a fad, a silliness, a bunch of silly, wishy-washy – ‘unlike ‘us’ we’re no nonsense here’ – people (i.e. women) with presumably more money than sense, falling for a commercial fad (though do they really care about it being commercial? No that’s not it at all. It is just the satisfaction of pointing the finger that they seem to enjoy and get success from).
but it is not just coeliacs that are intolerant to gluten.
Many people are intolerant to gluten to different degrees and severity of symptoms. Gluten is inflammatory and so those with inflammatory health issues like arthritis and fybromyalgia can greatly benefit from including cutting out gluten in an anti-inflammatory diet. Also you can be a latent coeliac, and be intolerant to gluten and not expressing symptoms properly or at all for many years, until it is too late and much damage is done to your digestive system, along with other complications, as was most likely the case for me. This is a really important issue that none talks about, it is so common and devastating to health, causing the triggering of multiple other autoimmune conditions and related health issues. (Check out my page on whether to go gluten-free or not. It’s just a small discussion and I try to hit home the real issues and relevant points. I’d love to hear your comments and start a discussion, it’s important.)
Such facts are over-looked, it does not serve the narrative, the drama, the chosen stance, the limited time-frame. What a missed opportunity to really grapple with a subject. In this particular ‘discussion’, there was no mention of refined gluten vs. whole grains. Of choosing ancient grains such as spelt, rye or kamut over the more inflammatory modern wheat, especially white flour. Of why refined gluten is an irritant and highly inflammatory for many (and lacking in nutritional value for all, on how it is high on the glycemic index, bad for type 2 diabetics and those who are overweight or struggling with their weight, for those with digestive issues), why there is such an increase in various gluten intolerance, connected at its worst to autoimmune disease, which are on the rise also in their many forms. These are the real issues, and they are so incredibly important for us to discuss, and for the issues to be clear of opportunistic prejudice which just pollutes the discussion and our perspective, for a discussion to be had which is open for everyone to learn from and so enabling us all to make clearer decisions on our food choices. It wasn’t so long ago that even coeliac disease was frowned upon and disparaged. When one felt thought of as a phony (oh how people like to make each other feel like a phony, especially over health conditions that they cannot (be bothered to develop the capacity to) understand. This is something I still live with). And so it was made socially awkward to ask for things to be gluten-free, let alone kick up a fuss about the kitchen arrangements and cross-contamination there. Why do we so want to suppress each other and look down on each others choices and realities?
why is difference so hard to embrace with an open mind?
So often this is the case. A good, honest, dare I say caring debate or conversation could be had, real issues raised, real things learned and real voices heard. But so often this is not the agenda, neither collectively or individually. It is frustrating. It is self-serving. It is ignorant. It is a reason to tune out. And if we are talking about women’s issues such is the theme of Woman’s Hour (which I am not trashing as I do mostly love it), then this issue is very relevant. So often women’s choices are disparaged as being illogical, women as easily influenced and irrational. This is an old narrative and a very real one, one that can be perpetuated by both men and women.
As for the great gluten-free debate.
let’s talk about it, hear each other’s voices and share experience.
Let’s not try to make people who are intolerant of gluten, or who don’t like to eat refined and modified foods, feel crap, to be marginalised and judged. That’s childish, limited and pointless. Question your true agenda, and that which you are mindlessly hawking which is so often what we all do in this life. We have to be constantly on guard as to why we are reacting a certain way and how we are affecting others.
If we kept things simple in this life and came at everything with an open heart and mind, we could all learn and grow together and this world would be a better place, right? And health is so important, striving for health is noble, as is striving for education on an issue. Not everyone needs to avoid gluten, but everyone would be better off eating whole foods over refined foods, and learning to listen to their bodies individual needs, which often change. And avoiding gluten-free foods is not part of a dysfunctional relationship to food. It’s not about starving yourself of carbohydrates. Nor is it about expensive and processed alternatives to gluten containing foods that we find in the free-from sections of supermarkets. Gluten-free food is not only for those avoiding gluten for health reasons, it’s good food for everyone. Gluten-free is a label, albeit a useful one for many, including myself. Here’s to food. People who aren’t intolerant to gluten enjoy gluten-free food, around the world, it’s food. Eat what’s good and healthy and makes you feel well. Today’s recipe for sweet potato chana daal with a millet and gram pancake is also grain-free nightshade-free and soya-free (shoot me), which benefits many people’s health and is as delicious as food containing those ingredients. Let’s make it healthy and delicious and share it with love.
good wholesome hearty food for autumn and winter to make us feel good and keep us nourished and happy.
And on cue, hearty is today’s culinary theme. Perfect for autumn as the weather cools and dampens and you need something to fill you up and give you a hug. A delicious, hearty meal, enjoyable to cook, tasting great and full of filling protein, sustaining nutrients, goodness, vibrancy and comfort. Good food for the family, food to make a large pan of and to eat the next day too. Which I have to say is my favourite. Oh and it’s gluten free!
- 1 1/2 cups chickpeas
- 1/2 cup peas
- 1/2 cup red lentils
- 2 medium sweet potatoes/ 400g cooked sweet potato (I used baked)
- 150g fresh spinach, thereabouts, if using tinned more in weight
- 1 medium sized onion
- 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 2 tsp ground coriander
- Curry leaves, about 20
- 2 tsp salt, or to taste
- 1/2 tsp black salt, optional but v good
- 3 tsp ground peppercorns, black or mixed
- 3 tbsp lime juice, more to refresh
- Fresh coriander leaf to garnish
- 3/4 cup gram flour
- 1/2 cup millet flour/ flakes
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp bicarb
- 3/4 cup water
- 1/2 tbsp coconut oil per pancake
Seive the gram flour and mix your dry ingredients, add the water bit by bit, mixing until smooth and leave your mixture to sit, on the side or in the fridge, until your cury is cooked. You could also add spices to your pancake, such as cumin seed (brown in oil first), or fresh coriander leaf, or have it plain.
To cook, heat a frying pan till hot, add your oil, about half a tbsp per pancake, and pour in or spoon on your mixture and spread out. Heat for a minute or so each side, turning with a large metal spatula, and be careful not to burn. Gram flour dries out easily, so do be aware of the thickness of your pancake. I make mine quite chunky, but you can loosen the mix slightly and spread thinner.
Serve straight away, or keep wrapped in tinfoil or a cloth to prevent them from hardening and drying out to much. If you feel they have then sprinkle on a little water and pop into a hot oven for a minute or so to soften and heat
I use either soaked and freshly cooked chickpeas or canned, which ever happens though I prefer to cook at home as they are fresher, tastier and cheaper.
I prefer to bake my sweet potato for the extra sweetness and rich flavour. You can steam or simmer them if you have less time, but for preference in this recipe I say to bake until soft, leave to cool and then peel.
Chop and saute your onion in a hot pan with the oil and salt. Leave on a low heat with the lid on for fifteen minutes or more, stirring occasionally until golden and sweet. Add all your spices (leave the coriander leaf), and stir them for a few minutes as they brown and release their aroma, being careful not to burn - if they are catching add a dash of water. Add the sweet potato, scooping the flesh from the skins, and mash into the mixture. .
Soon add the lentils and water, the chickpeas and the washed spinach. Stir in and leave on a low heat. Stirring to make sure that the lentils do not stick, the thicker your pan the better.
As it cooks add your peas and some lime juice, and as it is nearing ready add the rest of the lime juice (remembering it does mellow) and adjust the seasoning to your taste. To adjust, if you find it not sweet enough don't be afraid to add sweetness, if too hot add sweetness or a little coconut milk or yoghurt. Add more heat or salt. Balance the flavour to your liking. Refresh and enliven with lime juice (if you don't have lime you can use lemon too). Add the chopped coriander leaf (cilantro) at the end near to serving, or serve in a dish as a garnish. It's also delicious with a dollop of yoghurt or my coconut raita and coriander, spinach and mint dip!
SONG OF THE WEEK Reef ‘Come Back Brighter’
p.s. I felt the baby kick last night (we’re talking karate kid here, which was so funny because Dan was playing Street Fighter. He was delighted!)!!!! I have a live thing wriggling inside me I’m going to have to select Halloween viewing very carefully!!!!!