I am a Cook not a Rocket Scientist

  1. I am a cook.  Not a Chef, not a professional by any means, but a simple been cooking since I was a little girl, cook for home and family, supper on the table every day, at home cook.  There is nothing wrong with that.  In fact, I was very proud of the praise my family and friends often gave me on my homemade rolls, on the pound cake recipe which won me 2 blue ribbons at the local fairs, at the cinnamon buns which stopped people in their tracks when they had one, the eggplant parmesan that would bring my father and mother in law (God rest their soles) in a matter of minutes to our door when it was announced it was for dinner.  I was proud of these achievements, and rightfully so.  I worked hard to make these items “just right”.  They identified me.  They were what I was all about in a way.  I am a cook.

    At the age of 45, this last November, I was diagnosed with Gluten Intolerance.  I had suffered for over 6 years with almost constant severe diarrhea, migraines that would occur 4 out of 7 days some weeks, stomach upset and bloat, mouth sores so bad at times that I had trouble talking or eating (which I had chalked up to a mint allergy for years), joint pain (that I assumed was just the fun of getting old), and several other various symptoms.   I was tested for Celiac disease, but before the results were back, I opted to start the gluten free diet to “see” how I felt.  By the time the results of the test were back, I had been on the diet for about 2 weeks and had seen an almost complete reversal of all my symptoms.  Little did I know at that time, that my battle with this new lifestyle change was about to begin. 

    Since I am a cook, I was confident that with just a little research and practice, I would be able to create all the same consistent level of baked goods I always had.  Little did I know, I was starting down a disappointing, frustrating, and discouraging battle for even a decent piece of toast or bologna sandwich!   

    Why is this important to you as professional chef or commercial cook or as an at home cook?  It is important because I am not alone with this battle.  According to one source I found, 1 in 133 people have Celiac Disease or gluten intolerance (over 2 million people), 500,000 thousand new celiac patients will be diagnosed by 2012.  The chances that at some point you will have a friend, family member (celiac runs in families) or paying customer who is on a gluten free diet is huge.  “So what”, you say, “If someone comes into my restaurant or cafeteria or home and says they are on a gluten free diet I just won’t give them a roll”.  I used to think that way.  I never gave it much thought till I was forced to.  Going gluten free is far more involved than cutting bread from your diet.  It means cutting gluten, which is wheat (wheat starch, wheat bran, wheat germ, cracked wheat,
    • Broth
    • Candy
    • Coating mixes
    • Croutons
    • Imitation bacon
    • Imitation seafood
    • Marinades
    • Processed meats
    • Sauces and gravies
    • Seasoning
    • Soy sauce
    • Thickeners
    • Vegetarian meat substitutes
    If you routinely use any or all of the above items in your cooking are you sure they are gluten free?  Would you be willing to risk making a customer or guest in your home ill because of your uncertainty? 

    What’s worse for me, as a cook, is that since I went on this diet I am totally unable to make a decent loaf of bread.  The gluten free diet forces the use of many and I do mean many types of alternative flours such as potato starch flour, tapioca flour, soy flour, white rice flour, brown rice flour to name a few, and the use of things like xanthan gum or guar gum.  In addition to the unique flours and additives most of the GF (gluten free) recipes use lots of eggs and copious amounts of yeast and butter.  Calorically speaking these recipes are very high and high in carbohydrates as well.  These ingredients are a nightmare to work with.  And on more than one occasion I have been reduced to tears at the failure of a recipe.  I have found my new favorite saying is “well it’s edible”.  I don’t want edible!!! I want GOOD!  Is that to much to ask for? 

    I would suggest that if you own or work in a business where dishes are prepared for paying customers that you start now to develop a good gluten free menu.  That, my friends, does not mean offering a hamburger without a bun as one Maine restaurant has done.  To their credit, however, at least they tried to provide a tasty menu for its GF patrons.  Most, with only 2 or 3 exceptions, have no provisions for gluten free diet.  Developing a tasty GF menu is hard and learning the quirks of the GF recipes is a nightmare. 

    I am still a cook, but now I have to begin again, from scratch you might say.  I will begin to dissect some of the recipes,and try to figure out why why the combinations of flours work or don’t work and hopefully, eventually, figure out how to make bread again.

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  1. justpj
    Thanks for the tip. :)
  2. lowcarbhomechef
    As my husband is diabetic, we began living a low carb lifestyle a year ago. Because I love to cook, I felt like you do, too - I wanted GOOD FOOD. I began frequenting low carb forums and found many really good recipes - and many of them are also gluten free by design. In fact, I have probably a dozen low-carb cookbooks and three were written by executive chefs. The others are by very talented home cooks - and one by a medical doctor. I would recommend that you visit low carb forums to begin your search for gluten-free recipes.
  3. justpj
    Chef Harold 52....move to Maine to open your new bakery...there are VERY few resources here in this area. I have been making great progress since this article was written but the GF support groups only meet 2 or 3 times a year around here. Where there is a will there is a way and honey I got the will!! LOL thanks for comments and support :)
  4. chef harold 52
    We had a Gluten Free bakery when the economy tanked. We were starting to get thru to the local Gluten free groups .Check your area Groups. They will help you with sources for flours and recipes.
    Now considering opening a Gluten Free Bakery this fall.
  5. cinnamongirl
    I work in the catering industry and we often get requests for a gluten free menu. These requests are growing larger each year.
    We regularly do make our broths gluten free and make sauces specially for the requested gluten free menu. We also have recipes for gluten free cakes. As for the breads, we use a few companies in our area that specialize in gluten free baked items (it's where we get our gluten free flour from).
    As I mentioned before, these requests are becoming more common.
  6. justpj
    $20 for 3 pounds?? thomas Keller can keep that....I will keep looking! To pricey for our pocketbook. Thanks for the thought though ChefWyllie.
    And to Neptune...if you mean my photo its homemade hotdog relish ...if you mean for the article...nicko did that
  7. neptune
    Interesting photo.
    Good luck on your new quest!
  8. chefwylie
  9. chefjpauley
    You can eat some of the things you listed above such as broth as long as you make them yourself gluten free
  10. justpj
    thanks BroPaul...while I have not looked at this book yet I have it on my list of books to buy on Amazon.com. I have purchased however a wonderful book by Nicole Hunn called Gluten-Free on a Shoestring. http://glutenfreeonashoestring.com/
    This book so far is wonderful. It is not only helping me to eat well but giving me clues as to why things work or dont work. I reccomend this as a great GF book for sure and she has another one due out this fall as well.