What the frig is gluten?

What the frig is gluten?
To be honest, I don’t really care. However I shall tell you what the word ‘gluten’ is synonymous with: deliciousness.
Honestly, I’ve figured it out.
Garlic bread. Gluten. Pie. Gluten. Pizza. Gluten. Cake. Gluten. Hot chips on a white bread roll. Ok, now I’m salivating.
I see some of you waving your arms to attract my attention. Wait! You say, in total sincerity. What about the ever-increasing range of GLUTEN FREE options? Oh shut it, hipsters. I know it’s all well and good to be fashionable in eating gluten-free products, but have you ever tried eating them out of necessity?

I know I sound like a candidate for The Biggest Loser with the above list of culinary delights. It’s not as if I eat them regularly, but I’ve come to realise that you only ever really appreciate something when you can no longer enjoy it… “Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone” I hum to myself without wanting to.
I’m trying to cast my mind back to a time when I thought, I don’t know, that wheat was GOOD for you? Mmm… Pasta! Bring. It. On!

When I was growing up, we had bread available at the table and my favourite thing to do was make a sandwich with part of my dinner. Note the word ‘part’. The rest of my dinner I also thoroughly enjoyed sans bread. But the sandwich was where it was at. Meat, potato bake, salad.. Who was I to discriminate? Of course topped off with lashings of sauce. The term “puppy fat” comes to mind. I should like to obliterate that euphemism and replace it instead with “This teen eats too much… And we’re not talking about salad!”

Wheat was a staple in our household. Any why wouldn’t it be? What with that nifty food pyramid and all? What a farce. I remember fondly looking at the pasta, rice and various grains in the largest section as I shovelled another Jatz biscuit into my face. I should have known. That old adage, “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is”. Damn straight. The same goes for food. Healthy stuff just never reeeaally cuts it. I mean, let’s be honest. As much as I love my keeen-wah and my roast veges, there is a certain momentary satiation that comes from the pleasure-seeking part of our brains (I probably should verify this on Google) when we eat delicious foods that aren’t, well, nutritious. That is until our body attempts to process this foreign object we have labelled as ‘food’. Cue irritable bowel syndrome and the like.
Not to belittle sufferers of the condition, but I think we have a tendency to consume things that probably shouldn’t be consumed in the first place. Then we wonder why our bodies do the old “get to the bathroom NOW. This is not a warning” trick.

Of course, the term “gluten-free” can also be synonymous with “laden with sugar”. It doesn’t necessarily make it a healthy option. But sometimes I like to kid myself. Like the other day when I spied a gluten-free caramel tart at a bakery. Out of the way, customers! That tart is mine!
I forked out the $4.50 and hid the package from my inquisitive little friend, the 10 month old.
I quickly piled us into the car and opened up the paper bag while waiting for the car to warm up. Most of the caramel had stuck to the paper, which infuriated me. Upon closer inspection, it appeared to just be a thin layer of a caramel-sauce like substance. The base of the ‘tart’ is where the majority of my disappointment lay. A thick, wet cardboardy sponge. I’m not a pastry chef, but really? It’s not even that hard to make a decent gluten-free pastry these days. Just grind up some gluten-free biscuits if you must! If I had asked for taste-free, I would have gone gluten AND sugar free. I shook my head and quickly downed the rest.

It’s becoming increasingly obvious to me that gluten is making a slow creep from the ‘sensitive’ end of my spectrum to the ‘intolerant’. Ok, I can’t really complain. Tonight I polished off a delicious little pastry number, all glutened up, and am yet to experience any noticeable repercussions. Ahh.. But therein lies the beauty, and the malice, of this noxious substance.
A slice of cake here, a piece of garlic bread there… Then, when you least expect it, whammo! Incessant itchiness throughout the entire night.

Now that I’m aware of the potential effects on my body: itchiness, sluggishness, brain fog etc, I make a half-hearted effort to avoid gluten. But it seeks me out. Like a small child to its mother. I can’t seem to escape*
Every week I go to playgroup and EVERY week someone brings a deliciously wheaty homemade goodie. It would of course be rude of me to refuse, I tell myself as I stand next to the food table and cram another piece of cake into my cake-hole. They don’t call it a cake-hole for nothing. It’s not so much a mouth as a bottomless pit.
The thought of the nicabate ad with the man celebrating his willpower with a tiny band of musical people springs to my mind. “Not today willpower, I shan’t be needing you”, I say as I forcefully brush the image out of my mind.
As the day progresses, my body starts grinding to a halt and a fog envelops my brain. I rub at my nose constantly. Bloody gluten! Or it could have been the dairy. I’m not too sure. I’m never sure, because sometimes it hits me and sometimes it doesn’t. Part of gluten’s charm is that I never know which side of its personality I will see. The comforter or the attacker.

Tomorrow. Tomorrow I will take seriously my gluten-free quest. If not for my health then to quell the confusion among my friends and family. Is she gluten-free or not? My poor husband. I’m like someone with dissociative identity disorder when it comes to food. “Why? Why did you get me this? You know I can’t eat it!”, I say as I dot my finger onto the tin casing of a custard tart to get the last of the pastry crumbs.

Tomorrow, gluten. Like a teenage friend who’s a bad influence, I need to rid myself of you, but I can’t seem to work out how.

*not to imply that mothers try to escape their small children. Unless of course you’re in the pantry sneaking food. That’s a perfectly acceptable behaviour.

Photo by Erik-Jan Leusink on Unsplash


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