So yes, this IS a “loaf” of polenta. And it was EASY to make. In fact, I made the polenta and as it cooled, I cooked some pork chops, asparagus and sliced up some fruit. Then I even whipped up some gravy with the pork bits in the pan (and sweet rice flour/butter/chicken stock – easy). I sliced the polenta loaf and plated it with the pork chops and gravy on top. Dinner. Done. Sweet. (If you want the “recipe” for how I made this Polenta Loaf – and it’s variations, please click here.)
I’m glad I made polenta again. For a long time after going gluten free, I tried EVERYTHING *just because* it was gluten free. And you know what? I discovered some very awesome food! And, I ate/ordered/attempted to digest – and spent WAY too much money – on some very horrendous food.
When I think about it, I always go back to the FIRST box of ordered gluten-free food/bread that I ordered. O. M. G. Never again. Really. After I was diagnosed, I ordered some “rolls” to bring with us on our honeymoon to Italy. I had no idea if it would be easy or difficult to navigate gluten-free life in Italy back then (PS – it’s fairly easy!). I barely knew what I was doing at home. When we had begun to plan our trip, we planned to just get up in the morning and take the subway as far out as we could (each day in a new direction) and then stop at a local open-air, fresh market. We bought meat, cheese, and fruit for our backpacks. And then we started walking back in to the center of Rome and our hotel. I really thought I would be hungry – and have a hankering for chips or bread.
We lugged what seems like a veritable elephant-weight of gluten free “buns”. The first morning, I opened one up and brought it down to our “continental” breakfast at the hotel.
I should have just left it as a door stop in the hotel room.
It was disgusting. No amount of heating, toasting, microwaving, steaming, etc that the kitchen offered made a difference. On the second day, the kitchen brought me some gluten free corn-based crackers they had picked up at the local “farmacia”. Done.
Those dry, tasteless corn crackers (shaped like a graham cracker) rocked my eggs, jams, and prosciutto breakfast plate. And probably only because the other option was so disgusting.
So now, I’m older. And that is SUPPOSED to mean that I am wiser. Although I question the application of this logical statement to myself, it seems that experience has taught me a few things.
Gluten Free Store Bought Breads: while developing shelf-life, they also may just outlast nuclear fallout. My first loaf of GF bread had an expiry date FIVE YEARS from the date of purchase. *This* is questionable for my health, IMHO. And then the other side of the coin for me was: Hey! This might be great in that “emergency food box” I’m supposed to have (but don’t, even though we always talk about it). Not all store-bought bread fits this category, but the stuff that I find in the freezer section? Not good. At least, I don’t like it. It’s crumbly, dry and not so flavorful. And I don’t think I’m alone in that assessment. So I guess I’ll just keep making my own. At least I know what all of the ingredients are and it stays together nicely.
Prepackaged lunches: in particular I’m thinking of a can of noodle soup that was gluten free. Even heating it up in the microwave at school (my only option) did not save it. And when my next class entered the room (the microwave is in my classroom), there was a mini-rebellion due to the unpleasant aroma. Can’t say I blame them. I didn’t even eat the soup. Not okay. I – once again – in search convenience overlooked the fact that not only is homemade soup cheaper and BETTER for you that the sodium-saturated can version, but that I had fallen back into a bad pattern. Not planning my meals – lunches included – meant grabbing anything on the way out the door at 7AM. Time to change that habit. I’m working on it. Really. I am.
If you are ever at my house sometime after Christmas, i will gladly share. I am JUST NOW using up the last pack of rice crackers I bought in NOVEMBER. Truly, these bad boys don’t go stale… but dang. I would rather snack on fresh fruit, crunchy nuts or some celery/peanut butter – or … well – spoonfuls of NUTELLA (yeah, baby!) than eat my weight in rice crackers. Never again. (Well… unless I’m hosting a party of 50+ people. Rice crackers are just NOT the “in demand” crunch for us.)
Once upon a time, I accepted a sample box of items to taste test for my blog. I was so excited. It arrived and we spent time figuring out which goody to try first. And you know what? We didn’t like any of them. They were too salty or lack flavor or…. whatever. They just weren’t for us. And, I rarely post reviews. Truly I only do it when I really love something. (Psssst: NUTELLA….. I’m willing!) Now I know that when a sample offer comes, I am picky. I truly only accept it if it is something I can NOT do on my own. And the salti-fied, tasteless? Need not apply.
Just because we eat gluten free doesn’t mean we don’t have taste buds.
Is it just me or are the absolute to-die-for gluten free prepared foods also the ones with the most limited market range? There used to be a product called Dragon Toast – offered out of Portland. It was great – and simple. But once they got recognized, they got overwhelmed. It crashed. They just couldn’t produce the quantity people wanted to buy. And maybe that’s the trick. The companies that are able to meet the huge, growing demand for gluten free foods are simply not always able to maintain the standard. Or at least, that is my experience.
Maybe when the market gets more saturated, those companies will have to step it up and the quality will become more stable?
Have you seen it? The “Gluten Free” or “Naturally Gluten Free” label on things that are head-slappingly obvious? (Like the potato in my produce department (and/or the email from the potato council, not kidding either). Next time, I will take a picture.) Here’s the kicker for me: when the newly labeled gluten free food item suddenly costs more than before it was labeled as such.
Dear Marketers: Don’t play on the “fear” factor. These are real health issues for us. The GF label should be meaningful and helpful. Do us a favor, support the GF Labeling laws. Add your comments to the mix. But don’t treat us poorly. We are a serious cash-cow for your business when you treat us as intelligent consumers and not mindless purchasers. TYVM
And as for my motto: Just because it is gluten free doesn’t me I have to eat it?
That doesn’t mean I’m not willing to try – or come back to things to try them again.
Like that polenta. An item I forced myself to eat even though I didn’t like just because it was easy and naturally gluten free. But now? I’m growing up, I guess. My taste buds have changed and I like it! (Well, at least when prepared like this.)
But it does mean i feel SO MUCH LESS pressure when shopping nowadays. It used to be that when you found a GF item – you would buy in bulk because who knew when you would be back again or find it again. And now, I am fortunate enough to live near a GF market and to be able to find GF items in common markets about town. My reality is so different from 12 years ago. Thank goodness.
Tomorrow we set off on our first adventure (read 4 day mini-vacation) since 2003 (or 2005…. but that was for my brother’s funeral). I recently posted my anxiety on Facebook. And then I googled the Las Vegas airport (layover/lunch). Several websites popped up telling me the three restaurants in the airport that serve actually GF food (not just ‘salads”). Really? I’m done worrying. I’m still packing my snack pack with nuts, cheese and fruit. But years ago, I think I packed sandwiches etc for the long flight back to Chicago and Minnesota.
So – a shout out to all of us: Let’s hear it for banding together and making GLUTEN FREE work. We are a hugely diverse community. There are many voices among us. Not one speaks for you but your own. So speak up, people. Let’s get a GF Labeling Law passed and move forward.