Posted in Recipes

“Just Like Real Pancakes!!” Pancakes

This morning I was expecting to fail. I have been baking and cooking since I was in grade school and there was one thing I distinctly learned: For fluffy baked goods using baking soda, baking powder, or yeast was a requirement. Without it you get nothing but a flat mess and a huge disappointment. To say the least, the discovery that I’m deathly allergic to baking soda after eating it my whole life has been far from the easiest food restriction to adapt to.

Just Like Real Pancakes, Pancakes- 1

Now that isn’t to say I’ve never had an issue with baking soda, but in fact I’ve had a mostly hate relationship with it since I could identify the taste of it in baked goods. Especially in pancakes. It took me a few years after I was married to finally find a pancake recipe that didn’t taste horrid or give me a massive stomach ache due to a heavy amount of baking soda used to make it fluffy. By contrast, I loved baking powder because it did the same thing, tasted MUCH better, and would not upset my stomach. And then there was the fact that we ate a lot of baking powder biscuits with diced up wafer lunch meat (always the super cheap and salty Carl Buddig brand), peas, and white sauce for dinner when my mom was going to college.

So lo and behold, I could not have been more shocked when half way through my 38th year when my intolerance to anything corn or corn derived finally caused me to test out homemade baking powder in gluten-free tortillas. I thought that I could learn to tolerate the severe stomach upset it always caused me because I had no idea how to cook without it. It only used a small amount so I didn’t think it would be that bad.

It was that bad, and worse.

Just Like Real Pancakes, Pancakes- 2

When I had to remove wheat and oats from our kitchen, I thought I’d never be able to have proper pancakes ever again. My mother-in-law had always made Danish Pancakes (essentially crepes eaten with different toppings) as my husband was growing up and those weren’t hard at all to convert. But this paper thin, ghostly resemblance was not and could never pretend to be a good old-fashioned pancake. Growing up in a farming community still heavily rooted in it’s pioneer heritage, I’ve always have had a love of pancakes.

Flapjacks. Griddle cakes. Hotcakes. Flatbread. Turtle blankets*. Whatever you call them they are wonderful enough to have their own holiday, and even Wikipedia entry.

I just knew it was just a good old down home cooking. Have a stack of them topped with butter and maple syrup, along side scrambled eggs and greasy meat or meat replacement and that’s a fine way to start the morning before heading out to take care of the livestock or hacking down some trees in the woods like Paul Bunyan.

Crepes/Danish pancakes are good but look more like something that would be used to drape on a cake to make it look like lacy fabric. Not really anything to go out of your way to eat. I guess they don’t do too badly as a banana wrap with creamy peanut butter and maple syrup. At least you don’t need to eat a dozen of them that way before you are full.

And waffles never even had a chance to compare in my book. I’m boggled by Belgian waffles despite that my husband adores them. They are just a very confused, yet structurally sound, strawberry shortcake. At least if it is topped in uber sugary strawberries and whipped cream. Waffles should be for cones. Seriously, I have only ever seen them as a fat edible dish to dump dessert on and somehow make it acceptable to eat for breakfast. The only difference between a raised doughnut and a waffle is that the waffle looks stomped on.

Just Like Real Pancakes, Pancakes- 3

Move over partner. This town ain’t big enough for the likes of you. Sheriff Pancake is going to ride you and all of your flippery out on the next train. This here be a one plate town, and there’s no fork for you.

Hmm? Exaggeration you say? No, as a kid I just didn’t like being told not to play with my food, so I just made up stories in my head when I ate. Nothing weird about it. ;D

So the notion that I could never have actual pancakes again was emotionally devastating. One year for my birthday all I wanted for breakfast was pancakes cooked in a cast iron skillet in a thin lake of oil (it gives the pancakes a crispy ring around the edge that I loved as a kid), sunny side up eggs, and some vegan bacon. I can live without cold cereal. Someone else can eat my cinnamon rolls. And even blueberry muffins can be left on the table. Just don’t take away my pancakes.

After a night of not sleeping well, getting frustrated over trying to figure out what food to test next only to find out I’m feeling sick yet again, I was mentally and emotionally exhausted. It was nearing breakfast time and all I wanted was pancakes. Without baking soda or baking powder it would just be a rubbery round slab, but not really a pillowy pancake. The kind of pancake that a maple tree would hope it’s sap would be savored with.

Just Like Real Pancakes, Pancakes- 4

The only point of reference I had that gave me any clue on how to make salvageable pancakes was the experience I’ve had over the years of making my grandmother’s chiffon cake. But even that has baking powder. So simply by association I thought the whipped egg whites would only work because of the baking soda.

But I was mad at having to keep on telling myself that I was going to have to learn to like Danish pancakes as the ‘best’ replacement for real pancakes. (Don’t get me wrong, I really do like danish pancakes a lot. They are just two completely different things. They are as similar as lasagna and pizza. Both have cheese, tomato sauce, veggies, protein, olives, and a traditionally wheat component in it with the crust or noodles, but one is not the replacement for the other even if both are tasty.)

On this particular morning, the rationalization that I’d have to ‘make do’ was just not good enough. I felt like a cranky little kid who just wanted some darn pancakes. Being OCD it is hard to hit a point where I just don’t care if I screw up and completely fail. After having so many foods that I love taken away probably forever the last seven months, I got so mad I was about ready to start yelling at the top of my lungs as I marched into the kitchen.

Gosh darn tarnation! I was going to have something that resembled a pancake if I had to beat those egg whites within an inch of their life! I was not going to be hogtied by something so trivial. Not when the fate of pancakes was on the line!

The result was something I never expected. I was floored.

Just Like Real Pancakes, Pancakes- 5

As the first trio of cakes cooked in the skillet, and didn’t instantly deflate, I kept waiting for when they would eventually fall. I’ve baked plenty of cakes from scratch so I knew that it takes very little for it to happen sometimes. Sure they looked poofy now but once they were flipped all hope would be lost.

With a sigh the first pancake was flipped.

To say the least I was delighted to see that it looked just like these pancakes should! The moments passed and my pillowy cake didn’t deflate like some old tire. I was astounded. Especially with the whipped egg whites that they were about twice as poofy as the same recipe with baking powder and not whipping the egg whites. Still, I was waiting for the moment of the inevitable failure.

Would they even be cooked all the way through? Or would they still be gummy for some unknown reason? I have just experienced so much heartache and disappointment with foods these last few months that I continue to expect everything to be a fail unless it is eaten out of the produce department.

For many years I have had the habit of eating the first pancake either by taking a big bite out of it right away with noting added to it or ripping it in half to see what the insides look like. My hopeful little cake was so hot that I could barely hold onto it, Like a hungry animal I promptly ripped it in two, angling it so it partially ripped off the cooked surface, revealing the interior bubble structure like cut honeycomb.

It was a relief to see the guts of my pancake look just like they should. At last I took my first bite.

And it was perfect.

Just Like Real Pancakes, Pancakes- 6

Well, perfect enough to make me blissfully smile. All the important parts were just right, mainly the texture and the ‘bready’ feel. Just for me personally I think next time I will reduce the sugar to 2 tsp. because I don’t like my pancakes being sweet. I want to use the same recipe for breakfast pancakes with syrup and apple sauce as I do for dinner pancakes with veggies and peppered white sauce.

I guess I could have called these “Bare Bones Pancakes” but I didn’t. These would be dazzling if you wanted to increase the sugar and add vanilla or even some lemon zest. They should hold up just perfectly fine if you want to swap the sugar for any other powdered sugar replacement, but if you use liquid sweetener you may take the extra liquid amount out of the water measurement. Or replace the water with non-dairy milk. Or increase the liquids by 1-2 TBS. to thin the batter if you want them thinner. Another whipped egg white might add even more loft, but I’m not sure how far that boundary can be pushed without further testing.

This is the brilliance of pancakes. They are so versatile. We have often used them in the past as hamburger buns or just slices of bread. They also freeze perfectly. We have been known to eat them with pudding on top. Not sure if I can do that anymore but it was yummy!

Just make sure you don’t get too excited over these gems from the griddle that you stop paying attention and nearly burn them. Luckily the 2nd pan batch I rescued just in time. 😀

*For the record I’ve never heard anyone call them turtle blankets. But I could totally see one snuggling up under one. Gotta be prepared for when they need a midnight snack!

“Just Like Real Pancakes!!” Pancakes

Just Like Real Pancakes, Pancakes- 4

Gluten free, wheat free, dairy free, vegetarian pancakes without leavening agents. I bet those agents would be called Smith. Nothing but bad news. These pancakes however are nothing but fluffy and tasty bread-like morsels waiting to be topped with your heart’s delight.

Ingredients:
53 g. Brown Rice AP Flour
50 g. super fine Almond Flour (Bob’s Red Mill)
1/2 tsp. Psyllium Husk Powder (Now Foods)
1/4 tsp. Salt
1 TBS. Sugar
1/2 c. Water
2 large Eggs, separated
1 TBS. Sunflower Oil (Spectrum Organics)

Directions:
1. Whisk together all dry ingredients in a bowl.

2. In a separate bowl, whisk together water, egg yolks, and cooking oil.

3. Add liquid mixture to the dry ingredients, and whisk until well blended.

4. Whip egg whites until stiff peaks form but do not overbeat. Gently fold (do NOT mix!) batter INTO egg whites 1/3 of the total batter at a time.

5. Let stand for about 10 minutes as skillet/griddle preheats.

6. Preheat ungreased, non-stick skillet to medium heat.

7. Gently scoop batter from bowl with a 1/3 c. measure, pouring onto the hot pan. You’ll need to shake the measuring cup a little to get more batter out, but don’t worry if some still stays in. Just shake it for 2-3 seconds and measure out the next pancake. (A rubber scraper/spatula will be needed to scrape out the rest of the batter from the measuring cup and the bowl.)

8. Pancakes are ready to be turned over when the edges are no longer glossy. To check the second side for doneness, you just have to lift an edge of the pancake up with a spatula and take a peek.

9. Serve with toppings and other meal additions as you desire. Share if you have to.

Notes:

Separating Eggs Whites:

I use a three bowl method- One small bowl to drop the separated the egg white into, one to dump the yolk into (and other wet ingredients), and one used to whip the egg whites. This OCD approach has saved me from wasting a ton of eggs (8 to 10+) when making my grandmother’s chiffon cake. Separate the eggs one by one, and once you check that there is no yolk in with the whites, transfer it into the whipping bowl. If even the littlest bit of the yolk contaminates the whites before it is whipped, the eggs will not whip. So if you get the unruly egg that is bound to ruin your cooking efforts, just fry up that egg, was the bowl twice in hot water, dry it, and separate the next egg.

Whipping Eggs Whites:

All equipment used in whipping egg whites must be completely grease free. This includes the bowl the egg whites are separated into, the whisk, the bowl used for whipping, rubber scraper/spatula, even your hands. Do not use plastic bowls at all. Even when washed they still hold onto grease. Use only metal, ceramic, or glass. Basically anything that can be ‘squeaky clean.’

This is very easy to do if you have a dishwasher, however I’d still highly recommend washing your hands really well in hot water with plenty of soap, especially since part of the recipe contains oil. Make sure you do not touch the clean surfaces that will come in contact with the egg white with your hands.

If you don’t have a dishwasher, just make sure to wash all of your bowls and utensils with plenty of dish soap and hot water, dry them with clean paper towels, and then wash them again. This may really seem like overkill but it works.

Need some help knowing if the egg whites are stiff enough? Here is some picture illustrations. And another about folding in egg whites. And if that isn’t sufficient, there is a YouTube video perfectly illustrating the various stages of whipped egg whites, even a way to fix over whipped whites! So cool! I had always heard that once egg whites were over beaten that they were ruined.

Vegan Option:

I would really like to test this soon to see if the egg whites can be replaced with whipped aquafaba (garbanzo/chickpea water) because I have played with it before and it whips up wonderfully. Plus there is the double bonus that I tried to over whip it and it just wasn’t possible! And removing the cholesterol from anything is just a win in my book.

The only thing I’m unsure about is how the recipe would be affected by leaving the yolks out because it would change the water content, binding properties, protein content, and fat amount. I’m sure that is all replaceable but I just haven’t looked into it yet. I have use flax meal in pancakes before instead of eggs so that may be most of the solution. I would avoid using starch eggs because there are just more nutritious vegan options available.

How would avocado compare to replacing an egg yolk? would the oil need to be reduced too? Sounds like it could be worthy of investigation.

Nut Free:

I have heard that sunflower seed flour can be used as a 1:1 replacement for almond flour. If it is finely ground I think this recipe should hold up to the experimentation. Plus no baking soda means no chemical reaction making green bits in the pancakes! 😀

Nutritional Information:

One serving is a single, plain pancake.

Just Like Real Pancakes

 

And since it’s pictured, here is the nutritional info on the two pancakes with 1 TBS. Adams chunky Peanut Butter and 1 TBS. Pure Maple syrup:

Just Like Real Pancakes wit PB & Syrup

 

**The PDA% is based on my diet, weight, height, & current allotted calorie consumption. However, the calories and all of the other nutrients (measured in g., mg., etc.) are accurate to the recipe, so just ignore the PDA column.

This Nutritional data only applies to the brands I use and is only as accurate as the manufacturer’s labels provide the information. It currently is not a requirement in the USA to always list potassium amounts for foods, despite it being a nutrient that is essential to monitor along with sodium consumption. I’ve been trying to track my potassium levels for many years now and it is rare for potassium to be listed in nutritional information, even on foods that are a good source for it.

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Posted in Recipes

Flour Power

Everyone and their dog who does gluten free baking has their own flour mixes. If a dog is talented enough to bake, I would like to meet that canine. I bet he has a time keeping hair out of his food.

Well, I really wish that this food blog was different. I really wish that I could just follow someone else’s flour mixes and be okay with them. But for many reasons I can’t. The most obvious is simply because the ingredients.

The first factor is if I can eat it or not. How I desperately would love to use oat flour again but even the Bob’s Red Mill ‘Gluten Free’ makes me ill. There is one other brand of oats I hope to try at some point down the line but I’m not hopeful that it will turn out well for me. We bought a bag of gluten free buckwheat groats (again, Bob’s Red Mill) with high hopes that we could have a higher nutrition flour as well as making homemade soba noodles. Yet it was another fail. I only munched on five groats to see what it tastes like, and a few hour later I was feeling rather ill. I can test it again to double check that it wasn’t due to something else but since I never recall eating buckwheat before I’m not sure. I’m frustrated over this one because the buckwheat was pretty tasty. Sorghum flour is also an exceedingly common gluten free flour, yet both my mom and older sister cannot tolerate it in the least. I really do not know if it affects me or not but I stay away from it so I can make things that can be shared with my family. The only exception to this is Pamela’s Artisan Flour Blend that I keep on hand to use for roux, gravy, white sauce, or vegan cheese sauce. This is the only commercial blend I buy. I know I should create my own replacement for it in case it eventually turns into something I can’t eat but right now there are more crucial recipes for me to figure out.

What I currently keep stalked in our large freezer is Tapioca StarchBrown Rice Flour (cannot tolerate this brand any longer), Super-Fine Almond FlourFlax Seed Meal (all of them Bob’s Red Mill), Coconut Flour & Teff Flour (both Anthony’s), Psyllium Husk Powder (NOW Foods), whole Flax Seed & Chia Seed (grocery store bulk.) This is what we use the most right now.

We also have White Rice Flour, Potato Starch, Soy Flour (all of them Bob’s Red Mill.) The rice flour I just replace with brown rice flour for the marginal nutritional improvement, the potato starch is the highest carb starch out of the options so I avoid it at all costs, and the soy flour is a total fail. It is so disgusting & bitter that it’s inedible.

I was working on compiling a Flour Protein Comparison List to analyze all sorts of flours to see if it was possible to ‘build a better flour’ mix based on the most important nutrients I’m trying to juggle right now. The common factor in the list entries is the weight, making it easy to get an accurate comparison. For my husband and I, the carbs vs. fiber is the biggest since he’s diabetic and my grandfather and great aunt had diabetes, and my dad is/was pre-diabetic. Sure you can get gluten free baked goods that have the look and texture of their traditional wheat counterparts, but what’s the point if it totally bombs nutritionally? When I could still eat wheat, whole wheat flour and oat flour where what I used the most because it was the nutritionally best option I knew of that still allowed us to have familiar foods.

I want a mix that was nutritionally better than whole wheat flour in every way possible, included binders that did the best job in replacing the gluten of wheat flour, while functioning pretty closely to wheat flour in recipes. Is that a pretty tall order? Yes, yes it is. But that has never stopped me before.

The only limitation I really see is is the foods I can eat. There are some really amazing looking gluten free recipes for baked goods that look identical to the wheat versions. But when they contain gelatin, milk powder, and ingredients that can only be produced in a lab, all that information and work the recipe creator has done is all but useless to me. Plus I want BASIC ingredients. Using as few of them as needed to make it work correctly. Each and every ingredient that needs to be tracked down and purchased runs up the overall cost.

Growing up we had very little, and often it came from the food bank. I feel like some horrid spoiled brat buying things like almond flour. It still feels like rich people food to me and I fight with that guilt everyday. “There are children starving in Africa!” so why do I have to buy these exotic ingredients? At least twice a day I have to stop and talk myself through this and say “Okay, if this is too much why not go back to wheat flour? It would simplify your life again and you can stop all this craziness.” And I seriously consider it. The only thing that stops me is the simple reminder of the all-consuming pain it leaves me in for days. Eating like this is not about privilege, it’s about survival. I have to eat if I want to live into my 90s like my grandfather.

If the big corporate food companies actually made food that was safe for me to eat I’d buy it! I don’t like having to spend most of my time and energy thinking, researching, and trying to figure out food. This blog is out of necessity, not because it is my favorite hobby in the entire world. I just need to eat and feel a bit more normal like everyone else.

I have been doing my best these last few months trying to scour the internet on any available option in gluten-free flours and binders out there. I bought a bag of Glucomannan Konjac Powder that has been sitting on the shelf waiting to test and see if it is safe for me. To say the least, I’m intrigued with what possibilities it may offer. But I can’t give my hopes up until it passes my body’s intolerance testing. Before I had to invoke a full on gluten ban in our house, we ate vegan meat replacements many times a week that contained no small amount of vital wheat gluten. In a recipe post some years ago I read someone asking the author if there was a replacement for gluten and the automatic answer was always no. It just wasn’t feasible. A pipe dream or just flat out crazy. Vital wheat gluten was ‘irreplaceable.’ Just like we were told that vegan whipped egg whites replacement was impossible. But now we have many recipes using aquafaba (garbanzo/chickpea bean water) to make things like vegan meringue cookies. It just makes me wonder, what really are the possibilities? Cooking is a science and one of the things I love about it. The kitchen is everyone’s mad scientist lab.

But also when I talk about flour, baked goods is only half of the equation. I’m really curious to see what can be done with Quinoa FlourMillet FlourRed/Brown Lentil Flour, or even Green Split Pea Flour. Could Sunflour Seed Flour be used to coat tofu with some herbs before it is baked to make a tasty crust? Sweet Rice Flour/Mochiko is used in dango and mochi. Just a few weeks ago I started hearing about Bean Flours like Garbanzo or Pinto but what about Black Beans or Blackeyed Peas? I made some really tasty gravy some time back with the cooking water from black beans. Still cannot fathom why I didn’t write it down. Cooked Azuki Beans and White/Great Northern Beans are sweetened and used in Japanese anko (bean paste) and used in sweets. Even Navy, Great Northern, Pink or Pinto Beans are used in baked beans, so why not other sweetened foods? I’m also tempted to see what Mung Bean Flour would taste like. Even if it is a total fail it would be fun to try. Kidney Bean Flour could be done as well but it would have to be cooked and dehydrated before adding it to a recipe so it doesn’t make everyone really sick.

I know that there are more starches/binders out there that should be safe for me like Arrowroot Powder, Cassava Flour and Guar Gum and most likely more, but I think I have enough to try and sort out right now. I have Agar Agar and Carrageenan in the cupboard too intending to use them for vegan cheeses that I have been procrastinating in making even though they are yummy.

Whew.

With all of that out of the way, here are the recipes you were looking for! (Sorry, gluten free flours is a complex subject.)

A few brief notes about using these flours:

*Measure flours by weight! The cup measurement given in recipe and on nutritional data is just to give a visual estimate, and making it easier to use these mixes on your own custom recipes. Using cup measurements is completely inaccurate for recipes and will guarantee that they fail or have widely differing results.

*I am American and have lived my entire life in the US, and no these measurements will not be converted into ounces. I use grams because it is MUCH more accurate. I have a digital Kitchen Aid scale that easily measures in grams but displays in kilograms which is helpful but still a pain in the rear. This kitchen scale looks like what I want to replace what I have because having it automatically reading in grams is far less confusing for my dyslexic self than trying to convert it from kilograms. I know it’s just moving a decimal point but it adds an unnecessary step. (*Not a sponsored link or anything, just thought it would be helpful.)

*Learning to weigh flours makes it loads easier to get consistent results as well as it is just easier than cup measurements. I worked in a bagel shop where we made everything from scratch. All the ingredients were weighed and it severely cut back on the margin of error. Plus you don’t have to spend time finding all the right size measuring cups.

I expect that the variety of flour mixes here will expand over time but since I’m relatively new to gluten free flours and baking, the selection is a bit limited until my overall variety of recipes increases within the bigger picture of my diet.

AP Almond Four

PIC COMING SOON
(if you are in need of seeing a slightly yellow pile of flour…)

This so far is my favorite mix and generally what I grab when just any flour will do. It is intended to be a less starch/carb filled all-purpose type flour mix that can be used in a wide range of recipes.

Ingredients:
132 g. (1 c.) Brown Rice Flour     (Bob’s Red Mill)
136 g. (1 c.) Tapioca Flour     (Bob’s Red Mill)
273 g (2 c.) Almond Flour, super fine*     (Bob’s Red Mill)
4 tsp. (11 g.) Psyllium Husk Powder     (Now Foods)

Directions:
1. Weigh ingredients into mixing bowl, gently whisking until thoroughly combined.

2. Store in an air tight container in the freezer to maintain freshness.

Notes:

*I have read that sunflower seed flour can be used as a 1:1 replacement for almond flour. I have not tested it but if you have a nut allergy it could be worth it to test a small batch. I would like to test this with sunflower seed flour at some point but have no solid plans right now of when that would be.

I think almond flour I great, but if your recipe seems more oily than it seems like it should, the almond flour could be to blame. For every 30 g. AP Almond Flour subtract up to 1.5 tsp. Oil or fat from from recipe you are attempting to adapt. This is based on comparing the fat content of the almonds against the fat content of liquid oil. By removing the added oil in the recipe, it is trying to balance the flour and fats to be more in proportion to all-purpose white (wheat) flour since wheat does not have all the additional fat that nuts have.

Since this mix has nut flour in it, I think about it being used following “gluten free bread rules” meaning that it needs additional water and to be blended in a stand mixer for a more batter type dough. Trying to use this to make a kneadable dough, it will be very, very dense.

Nutritional Information:

AP Almond Flour

 

The above calculation is (obviously) based on almond flour. I do not currently know what it would be if the almonds were swapped with soaked/dehydrated sunflower seed flour.

Brown Rice AP Four

PIC COMING SOON
(if you wish see a white pile of flour…)

I’ll be the first to admit that this is not the most remarkable flour blend out there, but it does have its place. This was designed to be used as a simple and direct wheat AP flour replacement when a ‘dry’ flour is needed. Specifically for GF white flour tortillas. I don’t use it much but I find it useful to keep handy.

Ingredients:
132 g. (1 c.) Brown Rice Flour     (Bob’s Red Mill)
136 g. (1 c.) Tapioca Flour     (Bob’s Red Mill)
2 tsp. (5 g.) Psyllium Husk Powder     (Now Foods)

Directions:
1. Weigh ingredients into mixing bowl, gently whisking until thoroughly combined.

2. Store in an air tight container in the freezer to maintain freshness.

Notes:

This was the first flour mix I made at home that felt like it was worth trying to use. It is what makes GF flour tortillas near identical to their wheat counterparts. The tortillas do come out a bit dry, but I blame my lack of experience in making tortillas either from not enough liquid, rolling too thin, cooking them too long, or all of the above. I had the same problems when I was using wheat flour.

One of the reasons I don’t use this flour a lot is because the high starch content causes my knees to painfully swell as if I had eaten a large amount of sugar or a sweet potato. Strangely enough I eat red potatoes everyday and they never seem to bother my knees and rely on them for my potassium. As an occasional treat and when I’m desperately missing tortillas, this flour is not hard to work into a balanced meal plan with no painful side affects.

Nutritional Information:

Brown Rice AP Flour

 

**The PDA% is based on my diet, weight, height, & current allotted calorie consumption. However, the calories and all of the other nutrients (measured in g., mg., etc.) are accurate to the recipe, so just ignore the PDA column.

This Nutritional data only applies to the brands I use and is only as accurate as the manufacturer’s labels provide the information. It currently is not a requirement in the USA to always list potassium amounts for foods, despite it being a nutrient that is essential to monitor along with sodium consumption. I’ve been trying to track my potassium levels for many years now and it is rare for potassium to be listed in nutritional information, even on foods that are a good source for it.

Posted in Banned Foods, Diary Entries

White Powder Of Death

I have a few true allergies: Pineapple, honey, and sunlight all give me hives. (I swear my body just hates yellow. LOL!) I have a dust allergy developed as a kid that makes me sleepy. And I don’t mean just a little tired. I mean the doctor discovered it after I almost slept an entire month away one summer. That is the only allergy that has improved over time. (My track record with any other allergy/intolerance is that it only gets worse with exposure.) Whenever I’m in contact to a lot of dust I get very, very sleepy. I’ve joked over the years that the sandman just really likes me. But none of this came even close to being life-threatening. My husband has a childhood allergy to peppers and onions that he has mostly been able to recover from, but it has taken him quite some time to get his body to adapt. Frankly I don’t know how he managed it especially when even just peppers cooking used to make his throat swell.

I you have never had an anaphylaxis attack it is really hard to understand what it is actually like. I had been with my husband for decades and even I didn’t get it. And I surely couldn’t appreciate how hard it was for him to find a way to mitigate his allergy.

Frankly the first time it happened to me I didn’t even know what was going on. Roughly a half hour after eating homemade tortillas with baking soda, the acidic baking soda taste had crept out of my stomach and up my throat, making my tongue feel strange and prickly/tingly. Then my lips started to tingle a little bit as I noticed that my tongue felt fuzzy & puffy. After that I realized that it felt like all of the oxygen was slowly being sucked out of the room and I couldn’t quite take a full breath. I was an idiot and should have been heading to the ER. But I had never had any reactions even remotely like this before and truly didn’t know what was gong on until it was getting pretty severe. I had to put my hands behind my head with my elbows up to force my lungs open more just to get close to enough breath. My husband was asleep at the time and I had initially been worried to wake him up because I knew he needed to sleep since he worked the next day. I was still scared to pieces. I was also concerned that somehow I was overreacting(?!?) for no reason and kept telling myself that if it got any worse I’d wake up my husband to take me to the ER. In retrospect we should have bolted out the door fifteen minutes previously. I was unbelievably stupidly lucky that it began to resolve itself right after that when my breathing slowly began to improve.

It wasn’t until the next morning that the reality of it sank in. Part of why I was so confused about what was going on was because at the time my throat didn’t feel any different, it was the upper half of my lungs and the airways in my nose that felt restricted. My throat felt fine. Or so I thought. The next day my throat was sore and feeling like it was stretched out.

I cannot even tell you how baffling this whole thing was. I was mostly in denial that a food I’ve eaten my whole life I was suddenly and deathly allergic to. It made no sense whatsoever. Trying to research ‘baking soda allergy’ online was near useless. I only found one site that mentioned it was a possibility (and also listed the symptoms I had) but it was so rare that it was really nothing to worry about. REALLY?? I know that’s true for almost everyone, but I’m that random freak who has to take it very seriously. Even my nurse friend up in Canada could only find one other reference to it.

For most people, baking soda is a ‘wonder’ ingredient or cleaning aid, touted as a miracle all over the internet. Please excuse me if I don’t join in the celebration.

So having the analytical mind that I do, and have used the process of elimination to pinpoint my honey & sunlight allergies in addition to figuring out all of the crazy stuff that has been making me sick these last few months, I had to do more tests to make sure it was really baking soda at the root of the problem.

You can be completely sure my husband was entirely aware of it this time and I kept him constantly updated on how I felt.

I carefully ate some homemade GF baking powder biscuits to see if I’d still react since there is a small amount of baking soda in baking powder. And right on queue my tongue and lips felt a bit funny/tingly/numb but not enough of a reaction to change my breathing at all.

In some of the research on baking soda I found that almost all baking soda was chemically produced, while there was two brands that were still naturally mined. One of which was Bob’s Red Mill brand. I’ve known for years that my body doesn’t react all that well to various lab-produced frankenfoods (they just make me feel yucky but nothing I’ve ever been able to pinpoint) so I thought that there was a chance that the natural form could be safe. My thinking was the connection between commercially produced citric acid (corn-based) and natural citric acid from fruit. When I first realized that any prepackaged food with added citric acid made me sick, I feared that I’d eventually not be able to eat anything with citric acid from any source. I assumed it could be an allergy would develop over time like my pineapple allergy did.

Knowing that essentially all baking uses baking soda/powder for anything fluffy and isn’t a hard rock, I wasn’t willing to give up just yet. So the testing process was repeated with the Bob’s Red Mill Baking Soda. I cannot explain how terrified I was. Seriously, I almost cried before eating a tortilla and I had been panicking all day. But my husband had the day off and I assured him that I would not have tested it without him being there and fully awake. This time I was completely prepared to go to the ER and we would have left the moment it even remotely seemed necessary.

It seemed like some stupid nightmare as a kid, being terrified of eating a tortilla that had the potential to kill me. But I got my answer.

Within three minutes of eating 1.5 tortillas (containing less than 1/32 teaspoon baking soda) I was getting a distinct reaction. So what does this really mean?

Tama's Not Sewing

 

These are standard Dritz long pearlized sewing pins. The head of one of these pins is probably a smidge larger than 1/32 teaspoon. So if I eat two pin head worth of baking soda, without access to treatment, it very easily could be enough to kill me.

I am really not the type of person who enjoys being melodramatic. But this is still hard for me to wrap my mind around. Even now parts of my mind are still in a state of shock over all of this. There isn’t any logic to this allergy, making it easier to understand. And since baking soda/bicarb/bicarbonate of soda is so exceedingly common worldwide and safe for practically everyone else, I do not have resources to fall back on of lists of products that use this like even exist for uncommon corn allergies.

So I have no one else to talk to and discuss if there is even a brand of corn-free baking soda free toothpaste that won’t prevent me from breathing. How do I find a deodorant to use? I can’t use the gel kinds because they always give me severe rashes. And it looks like washing soda needs to be added to my banned list. But does that mean we will have to switch to liquid laundry soap to eliminate the worry that dry laundry soap would trigger a reaction just from the powder getting in the air close to me? Is carbonation in soda/pop produced with baking soda? Never? Sometimes? Frequently? What other food or cleaning products might contain baking soda? Does it have any ‘hidden’ names like corn? At least the brand of cat litter we use doesn’t have baking soda. I also try and eat in a way that I don’t need antacids. But there is baking soda in fire extinguishers?!?! At least I don’t have to worry about self-rising flour since I can’t eat wheat anyway.

My husband got stung by a wasp the other day and I had an instant panic attack and guilt trip all in one that nearly made me flip out. I couldn’t remember if he was allergic to them (if so, it isn’t significant according to him) but at the time I only knew that baking soda and water are most commonly used for putting on the bites. He practically never complains about pain, but his ear was hurting bad enough that he was yelling and nearly in tears. I was madly searching the net on my phone to find an alternative to baking soda while panicking so badly that I nearly started crying myself. At the time I was thinking that he may be allergic and if I didn’t find a solution fast enough that his life could be in danger because we got rid of all of the baking soda in the house. The easiest alternative we found was a cotton ball soaked in apple cider vinegar. (Yes, it seemed to work.) In some ways it felt like this whole thing was so stupid because if it wasn’t for the baking soda allergy this would have been a calm non-issue even though my husband would have still been in pain for a while.

All because of something I would have never fathomed I could ever be allergic to, especially not even to this degree.

Most days I’m still lamenting that this, even more so than my wheat/gluten intolerance, has felt like the death knoll to my love of baking. Emotionally I feel like London after the end of WWII. I’m afraid to ask what more foods can be taken away from me because then the universe or the Fates would do just that.

If nothing else, this whole ordeal has really proven something to me that I have observed for a long time. That Americans, and especially humanity as a whole learn to adapt and continue to move forward. I just didn’t know I’d have to learn that lesson so well in my everyday life. Here and there I’ve found small sparks of hope on how baking can work without baking soda, but in this modern age it is just so counter-intuitive to the ‘baking laws of the universe.’ It really is hard trying to think about it any other way.

I’ve never been the type to give up easily. I thought I’d never be able to bake again ‘properly’ once eating wheat was out of the question. But I’ve adapted. and it’s always amazing when I find something very close to the wheat counterpart. My baking may not have the range it used to but that’s no reason to give up entirely.

Baking is an expression of love to me, one I can share with others. It simply makes me happy. And that most of all is something I will not give up on.

Posted in Uncategorized

Banned Foods

To the best of my knowledge, this is my current list of banned foods. I was hoping to have some actual recipes posted here by now, but after looking at this list, perhaps you can understand why I’m struggling to even know what to eat.

This list is not inclusive to anyone with similar allergies as mine since I’m vegetarian. I needed an easily accessible and updatable list for my family. I can hardly navigate what I’m supposed to eat, I can’t assume they would have any better idea. Many of these items fall under multiple categories for me so they are just listed under what I can recall is the biggest problem.

[Baking Soda]

-Symptoms-

Throat, tongue, sinuses, lips, and upper lungs sting, hurt, taste metallic & swell making it difficult to breathe nearly cutting off my ability to breathe within 30 minutes of consuming 1/16 teaspoon requiring emergency care. Stomach pain as if severe indigestion.

-Sources-

Baking soda, Baking powder, baking soda toothpaste, any raised baked goods even if they are gluten free, GF boxed mixes, GF self-rising flour blends, any quick breads, many flat breads especially white flour type GF tortillas, pancakes, waffles, muffins, cakes/cupcakes, cookies, GF pretzels, some GF bagels, club soda, soda water,

These are not food sources, but since I’m so highly allergic I’m listing other sources of baking soda so my family would be aware. As it stands right now, my best guess is that I have to ingest it before it triggers an allergic reaction, but I do worry about if it is floating through the air (if a box was spilled), or more likely a laundry detergent containing baking soda.

*Update- July 19, 2017* Some kinds of fire extinguishers contain baking soda. Need to do more research to find out specifics. It is noted on Brightnest after I decided to do a quick search of the origins of baking soda and cross referenced with Wikipedia. I’ll be contacting major household fire extinguisher manufacturers soon to see what info they can provide for me.

*Update* Washing Soda will have to be added to this list as well. Stumbled across it when trying to research fruit-based citric acid powder, and Corn Allergy Girl mentioned it in her Corn Free Homemade Dishwasher Detergent.

From LiveStrong: Sodium bicarbonate is a common ingredient in medications used to treat heartburn, acid indigestion or a sour stomach. Products such as toothpaste and denture cleaners, bath beads and salts, baby and deodorant powders include sodium bicarbonate, mainly because of its odor neutralizing properties. Cleaning products use the large granule, industrial grade version of sodium bicarbonate. Carpet deodorizers, dry bleach and detergent based cleaners take advantage of the odor neutralizing, mild abrasive and grease cutting properties of sodium bicarbonate.

There is also a very extensive list from the Household Products Database (supplied by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)

[Pineapple]

-Symptoms-

Hives starting on back of hands or scalp & spreading from there depending on amount consumed or from skin contact.

-Sources-

Any kind or form of pineapple, but also in these foods: Fruit Cocktail, Fruitcake fruit mixes, Candied Fruit (‘Nucular Fruit’ shouldn’t even be considered safe to eat let alone be called food), chutney and similar fruit sauces, orange juice or any orange flavored product (pineapple is added to ‘enhance’ the flavor. Also from experience it is processed on the same equipment causing cross-contamination for me), Sweet & sour sauce, BBQ Sauce (meat, fish, honey, pineapple… I’ve seen it all), trail mix containing pineapple, most foods labeled ‘tropical’ or ‘Hawaiian’, tropical bubble bath/soaps/lotions,

[Honey]

-Symptoms-

Hives starting on back of hands or scalp & spreading from there depending on amount consumed or from skin contact.

-Sources-

Trail mix containing honey roasted nuts, honey roasted peanut butter, any nuts that have been honey roasted, Mead (totally banned since it’s honey alcohol), Imitation Honey (can be just cheap honey, or it will be filled with corn derivatives), Jelly beans/Jelly Bellies (polished on beeswax trays), graham crackers (gluten & honey),

[Dairy]

-Symptoms-

Severe intestinal pain, excessive gas, diarrhea lasting many hours.

-Sources-

All dairy including casein, non-Dairy Creamer (casein?!?), lactic acid, lactose, whey, caramel, caramel extract, yogurt, cottage cheese (*cries*), cream cheese, ice cream (even lactose free), sherbet, Parmesan, Sour Cream, Pesto (if containing cheese and/or anchovies, or even cheap olive oil), almost all Chocolate (contains gluten and/or dairy), Acidophilus Milk, Ammonium Caseinate, Butter, Butter Fat, Butter Oil, Butter Solids, Buttermilk, Buttermilk Powder, Butterscotch, Calcium Caseinate, Casein, Caseinate (in general), Cheese (All animal-based and some soy-based, also check for yeast), Condensed Milk, Cream, Curds, Premade Custard, Delactosed Whey, Demineralized Whey, Dry Milk Powder, Dry Milk Solids, Evaporated Milk, Ghee, Goat Cheese, Goat Milk, Half & Half, Hydrolyzed Casein, Hydrolyzed Milk Protein, Iron Caseinate, Lactalbumin, Lactoferrin, Lactoglobulin, Lactose, Lactulose, Low-Fat Milk, Magnesium Caseinate, Malted Milk, Dairy-based Milk, Milk Derivative, Milk Fat, Milk Powder, Milk Protein, Milk Solids, Margarine, Natural Butter Flavor, Nonfat Milk, Nougat, Paneer, Potassium Caseinate, Premade Pudding or Pudding Mixes, Recaldent, Rennet Casein, Sheep Milk, Sheep Milk Cheese, Skim Milk, Sodium Caseinate, Sour Cream, Sour Milk Solids, Sweetened Condensed Milk, Sweet Whey, Whey Powder, Whey Protein Concentrate, Whey Protein Hydrolysate, Whipped Cream, Whipped Topping, Whole Milk, Zinc Caseinate

[Wheat/Gluten]

-Symptoms-

Unbearable stomach pain (feels like a car crashed into it and hasn’t been removed) lasting 6-8 hours, severe enough that I have to curl up in a ball and try not to move. Stuffy sinuses, nausea lasting up to 3 days, ear infections lasting 4-7 days.

-Sources-

Wheat, Vital Wheat Gluten, Wheat berries, Wheat Starch, Barley, Barley Malt, Malt Extract, Malt Syrup, Malt Flavoring, Malt Vinegar, Semolina, Durum, Durum Wheat, Emmer, Spelt, Farina, Farro, Graham, Graham flour, Kamut Khorasan Wheat, Einkorn Wheat, Rye, Triticale, Soba (when NOT 100% buckwheat**), Couscous, Gyoza/Egg Roll Wrappers, Oats, Steel-Cut Oats*, Old Fashioned Oats*, Quick Oats*, Oat Flour*, GF Oats*, Panko (Japanese Bread Crumbs), flour tortillas, prepackaged mixes like Taco Seasoning or Brown Gravy, etc., Rice Dream (processed with barley), roux, boxed Japanese Curry Roux, Brown Rice Syrup (some part of the process isn’t GF, can’t remember), nearly all cereals because of malt extract (barley) & similar gluten based additives or corn ingredients, granola (oats*), traditional pastas, seitan (100% vital wheat gluten and basis for at least 90% or more of vegan meats, and the rest probably have corn or corn based oils), breaded/battered tofu (wheat breadcrumbs or flour), Imitation Bacon (wheat), grain alcohol (also some kinds of alcohol could be aged in wooden barrels that have been sealed with wheat flour),

*I react to cross-contamination issues with any of the brands I’ve tried.

**Despite the name, buckwheat is NOT wheat. I am still trying to locate a brand that doesn’t have cross-contamination issues.

[Corn]

-Symptoms-

Unbearable stomach pain (feels like a car crashed into it and hasn’t been removed) lasting 6-8 hours, severe enough that I have to curl up in a ball and try not to move. Stuffy sinuses, nausea lasting up to 3 days, ear infections lasting 4-7 days.

-Sources-

Fresh and/or frozen (obviously), vegetable mixes containing corn, corn tortillas, corn chips, corn starch/flour, masa flour, masa/tamales, polenta, white vinegar, commercial apple cider vinegar, ketchup (vinegar), mustard(vinegar), pickles, most oils (most contain corn even cheap brands of olive oil), any commercial ‘sugar free’ sweeteners (all have corn derivatives, the exception being pure stevia extracts or possibly xylitol specifically from birch but I haven’t tried that yet), caramel color, tap water and many bottled waters except Crystal Geyser (corn in either the added chlorine or fluoride), vegan cheeses,

{The following list adapted from 

http://www.cornallergens.com/list/corn-allergen-list.php}

*May not contain corn.

Acetic acid, Alpha tocopherol, Artificial flavorings, Artificial sweeteners, Ascorbates, Ascorbic acid (Vitamin C), Aspartame (Artificial sweetener), Astaxanthin, Baking powder, Blended sugar (sugaridextrose), Brown sugar* (generally OK if no caramel color), Calcium citrate, Calcium fumarate, Calcium gluconate, Calcium lactate, Calcium magnesium acetate (CMA), Calcium stearate, Calcium stearoyl lactylate, Caramel and caramel color, Carbonmethylcellulose sodium, Cellulose microcrystalline, methyl Cellulose, powdered Cellulose, Cetearyl glucoside, Choline chloride, Citrus cloud emulsion (CCS), Coco glycerides (cocoglycerides), Confectioners sugar, Corn alcohol, corn gluten, Corn extract, Corn oil, corn oil margarine, Corn starch, Corn sweetener, corn sugar, Corn syrup, corn syrup solids, Corn, popcorn, cornmeal, Cornstarch/cornflour, Crosscarmellose sodium, Crystalline dextrose, Crystalline fructose, Cyclodextrin, DATUM (a dough conditioner), Decyl glucoside, Decyl polyglucose, Dextrin, Dextrose (also found in IV solutions), Dextrose anything (such as monohydrate or anhydrous), d-Gluconic acid, Distilled white vinegar, Drying agent, Erythorbic acid, Erythritol, Ethanol, Ethocel 20, Ethylcellulose, Ethylene, Ethyl acetate, Ethyl alcohol, Ethyl lactate, Ethyl maltol, Fibersol-2, Flavorings*, Food starch, Fructose*, Fruit juice concentrate* (commercial citric acid), Fumaric acid, Gluconate, Gluconic acid, Glucono delta-lactone, Gluconolactone, Glucosamine, Glucose*, Glucose syrup* (also found in IV solutions), Glutamate, Glycerides, Glycerin*, Glycerol, Golden syrup, Grits, High fructose corn syrup, Hominy, Hydrolyzed corn, Hydrolyzed corn protein, Hydrolyzed vegetable protein, Hydroxypropyl methylcellulose, Hydroxypropyl methylcellulose pthalate (HPMCP), Inositol, Invert syrup or sugar, Iodized salt, Lactate, Lactic acid*, Lauryl glucoside, Lecithin, Linoleic acid, Lysine, Magnesium citrate, Magnesium fumarate, Magnesium stearate, Maize, Malic acid, Malonic acid, Malt syrup from corn, Malt, malt extract, Maltitol, Maltodextrin, Maltol, Maltose, Mannitol, Masa, Methyl gluceth, Methyl glucose, Methyl glucoside, Methylcellulose, Microcrystaline cellulose, Modified cellulose gum, Modified corn starch, Modified food starch, Molasses* (corn syrup may be present; know your product), Mono- and di- glycerides, Monosodium glutamate/MSG, Natural flavorings*, Polenta, Polydextrose, Polylactic acid (PLA a.k.a. corn plastic, listed under Resin Identification Code #7 along with ‘other’ plastics), Polysorbates* (e.g. Polysorbate 80), Polyvinyl acetate, Potassium citrate, Potassium fumarate, Potassium gluconate, Powdered sugar, Pregelatinized starch, Propionic acid, Propylene glycol*, Propylene glycol monostearate*, Saccharin, Salt (iodized salt), Simethicone, Sodium carboxymethylcellulose, Sodium citrate, Sodium erythorbate, Sodium fumarate, Sodium lactate, Sodium starch glycolate, Sodium stearoyl fumarate, Sorbate, Sorbic acid, Sorbitan*, Sorbitol, Splenda (Artificial sweetener), Starch (any kind that’s not specified), Stearic acid, Stearoyls, Sucralose (Artificial sweetener), Sucrose, Sugar* (not identified as cane or beet may have cornstarch added), Threonine, Tocopherol (vitamin E), Treacle (aka golden syrup), Triethyl citrate, Unmodified starch, Vanilla as natural flavoring, pure Vanilla extract, Vanillin, Vegetable* (anything that’s not explicitly specified), distilled white Vinegar, Vinyl acetate, Vitamins* (tons of corn additives/carriers), Xanthan gum, Xylitol (not exclusively from birch), Zea mays, Zein

[Yeast]

-Symptoms-

Same as Corn since corn is heavily used in yeast production.

-Sources-

Brewer’s yeast, Baker’s Yeast, Red Star Nutritional Yeast (all nutritional yeast (except Braggs since it is wheat, gluten, & corn free), Yeast extract, Fred Meyer Fire Roasted tomatoes (yeast extract?!?! I’m sure this is probably common no matter how it frustrates me), Kombucha (fermented yeast tea), Marmite, Better Than Bullion, Edward & Sons bullion cubes,

[Commercial Citric Acid]

-Symptoms-

Same as Corn since corn syrup is part of the culturing process. This is different than natural citric acid derived from fruit, I have no problem with that.

-Sources-

Pasta sauces, most canned tomatoes, almost any soda, juice, nearly all processed foods, seasoning mixes (like Lawry’s, Old Bay, or even Mrs. Dash), lemon pepper, almost any citrus flavored anything, some flavors of bagged tea (especially peach flavored), any energy drinks, canned artichoke hearts,

[Oil]

-Symptoms-

Same as corn since most standard oils have some form of corn added.

-Sources-

Corn (obviously), vegetable, canola, sesame oil (unless in exceedingly small amounts b/c my system does not handle it well, not sure why), potato chips (dairy and/or meat additives in most, but even plain has ‘vegetable oil’), Sunflower Oil,

[Koji]

-Symptoms-

Same as Corn since corn syrup is part of the culturing process. It could just be koji produced in the US since corn syrup is cheap.

-Sources-

Soy sauce, tamari, Braggs Liquid Aminos, rice vinegar, Sake (rice wine), tempeh, miso, other various traditional Japanese fermented foods, prepackaged baked tofu (contains soy sauce),

[Alcohol]

-Symptoms-

I’d assume the same as the source food but haven’t started testing it since I rarely drink.

-Sources-

Almost all because of wheat/gluten, corn, honey are all used heavily. Potato based vodka might be okay but have not tested it. (Good thing I’ve never been big on drinking…) Extracts in alcohol may be problematic.

[Meat & Animal Products]

-Symptoms-

Severe intestinal pain, excessive gas, diarrhea. Any sort of meat I just don’t seem to digest well but beef is the worst after pork (feels like it shreds my intestines.) When I used to eat hamburger it used to sit in my stomach for a very long time and felt like I ate pea gravel. It would make me feel horrible. (This is why I’m an ovo-vegetarian, eggs are the only animal product I still eat.)

-Sources-

Meat: If it poops, or made from something that did, I won’t eat it. This also includes fish & seafood. (I’m not the type of person to hound companies for this info, but if it’s listed on the label I’d opt for something else.) Bacon flavor, gelatin, Jello, bone broth, meat extracts & broths (pops up in the weirdest premade foods), Isinglass (from fish), lard, suet, tallow, Oleic acid (oleinic acid), L-cysteine (from feathers or human hair. :X ), animal based omega-3 fatty acids (from fish, Tropicana’s Hearth Healthy orange juice’s contain tilapia, sardine and anchovy in the ingredients), refried beans (containing lard), non-vegetarian rennet (normally this only applies to cheese but it’s listed just in case), fish sauce, Bonito (dried flaked fish), Dashi (bonito broth), Olive tapenade (anchovies), Kimchi (fish sauce & shrimp paste?), worcestershire sauce (any), nuts with added gelatin (?!? to help salt/seasonings stick? gross…), candies with gelatin,

[Misc. Foods I Can’t Tolerate]

These are foods that I have discovered that my body no longer tolerates but I’m unsure what the base trigger could be. It may be something as simple as the kind of salt they use, how the water is filtered, trace amounts of vinegar or the wrong oils… Things that fall outside my ability to research and I severely doubt the companies would even tell me if I asked.

-Symptoms-

Generally the same common symptoms for corn. My sensitivity has stepped up once again and I seem to quickly react to even minute traces, so I’m finding that foods that used to be safe even two or three months ago are no longer safe. This seems to apply to commercially prepared foods, and not fresh/raw foods.

-Sources-

Black Olives, prepared Olives (in oil, vinegar, citric acid, or uses salt), Capers, brown rice flour (Bob’s Red mill, most likely because of cross contamination issues),

[Hated Foods]

-Symptoms-

None whatsoever. I just really hate these foods and refuse to eat them on the grounds that they are disgusting.

-Sources-

Lima beans, Watermelon, Honeydew melon, Canned peas, cilantro/coriander, jalapenos,

Posted in Diary Entries

To Eat or Not To Eat…

Eating is supposed to be simple, right? You just take some food, stick it in your face, chew, then swallow. Your body takes care of the rest. Life goes on and this process repeats multiple times a day.

It is disregarded as foolish if someone says they are addicted to food, or it is said in a very flippant way by some skinny girl, “I’m addicted to these brownies! I ate two whole pieces before I could stop!” *insert cackling laughter here*

And every fat girl ever just wants to punch her squarely in the face.

Food addictions are ignored because food is a base function of being human. Food is so common, how could it be addictive? ‘Oh, you are just over exaggerating.’ I really do not believe that is true. It would be like telling an alcoholic that they aren’t an alcoholic since alcohol is everywhere. It’s not really that bad. You can just stop whenever you want. You just need to want it bad enough. Or have more willpower. Or more self control.

This pushes the blame on the person as if it is a controllable emotional response, not a malfunction of the chemical composition of the brain. As if telling someone who is OCD that they are just being excessive and they should tone it down. Food addictions, OCD, and battling alcoholism has that controllable emotional factor, yes but that’s like blaming a passenger for driving badly. When severe, these conditions are out of control. It is not simply mind over matter since the chaos is being controlled by the mind that chemically not working right. The individual is a hostage to their addiction.

I’ve spent the day sitting here trying to convince myself to eat something. My mind has been crying and whining like a little kid, only wanting and thinking about everything I can no longer have. Cheetos, oatmeal, chocolate oranges, pizza, most of the vegan or vegetarian meat replacements, yogurt, Japanese boxed curry, for goodness sake I don’t even know what salad dressings I can even eat anymore. And even if it says gluten-free, is it still actually safe? What was also processed on the same equipment? And all my mind wanted to think about was how to replace all the bread. Obsessively scrambling through my thoughts, telling me all I wanted to eat was bread, bread, and more bread. GF of course. As if that really makes it better in this case. My mind gets fixated on one thing and obsesses about it, often for days until I eat that food. I cannot simply brush it off or hope it will go away. Too much of the time it doesn’t even matter when I last ate, if I’m hungry or too stuffed, my mind continues to rant and obsess on that singular point.

I have exhausted my willpower time and time again trying to battle those obsessive thought patterns. It makes me feel like a drug addict looking for the next fix. It seems unaffected by common sense. And yet it has ruined much of my life. Everyday is such a struggle as I haul around the dead weight of an adult my same age and build if I was at my ideal weight. Too many people who see me, all they presume about me is that I’m stupid, mentally slow, and that I must sit around all day just eating nothing but full sugar, full fat junk food. One day one of the checkers at our grocery store was trying to convince me that french fries from McDonalds were healthier than homemade oven fries made from red potatoes. Seriously? Who’s the idiot now?

For years I have battled to get my weight down. And the fight is really unbelievable, in the sense that it’s unbelievably hard and unbelievably slow. Before I went to college for a year I had managed to lose 80 pounds (my highest known weight was 378) and amazingly got under 300 pounds. Then college and the stress ruined everything. I never expected to go to college. Formal schooling was never my thing. So even now I see it as a huge accomplishment, especially since I was on the Dean’s list two semesters out of three that I attended. In high school my average grades were C’s and D’s. I nearly didn’t graduate high school. I stretched myself as thin as I could and then some in college to prove to myself that I was smart enough to go to belong there. And I did it. But as Mom says, college isn’t for everyone. The effort took it’s toll and I had the second worst emotional breakdown in my life. All I can remember is I cried for 3 months straight. Hubby was beyond worried. When I started to recover I saw some of my text books sitting on one of my shelves and had no recollection at all what they were even from.

I couldn’t believe it a couple of months later when I found one of the letters from the Dean and re-read it. I had to double check that it really was my name on there. I was stunned that something hugely important as that had been wiped from my memories. (It is now framed and hanging on the wall.) I had even gone to one of the meetings to be a part of the Honor Society. That was a dream I wanted in high school but being an undiagnosed dyslexic, horrid at math, a slow reader, terrible at memorization, and any tests would give me panic attacks that would nearly erase everything I knew, a dream was all it was. Some of us are just not designed for how the American school system is organized. After I was married I discovered that I’m a voracious learner as long as I can learn what I’m interested in and in my own ways.

But there I stood. Looking back at the months of my life just being in a meltdown that all I can remember is the pain, tears, and playing Tetris when I wasn’t sleeping. So much happiness and pain so closely bound together in my college memories that thinking of them over four years later still hurts to some degree. And the worst damage of all caused by the stress was the 50+ pound weight gain.

I want to say that I don’t know how it happened, but I know how I lost the 80 pounds so I know precisely how it happened. It just feels like if I don’t control my eating with an iron OCD grip that I just gain weight as easily as I blink. And then the guilt sets in. And then the blame starts in that voice that never has anything positive to say and seems to live to just shred me to pieces. Voices from the past of random boys telling me that the world would be a better place if I just shot myself. Little did they know that more than once in my life if I didn’t have such a strong sense of self preservation I would have committed suicide. Strangers giving me horrified looks as if they are looking at nothing but a mindless monster that materialized in the grocery store.

They truly do not see the person inside who got to this point by being a bulimic who could never force themselves to throw up. What do I even call myself? Everyone just simply sees me as fat. Nothing more. What I wouldn’t have given as a teenager to just be able to purge everything, just to be skinny. My oldest sister was most definitely anorexic when she was in high school, she was barely more than skin and bones for a while. I was in middle school and even I thought she looked like she was going to snap like a twig. Over the years I’ve done research on bulimia and the way I react on the behavioral end of it is identical. I just was deathly afraid of throwing up. I can recall countless times of binging until I literally could not fit anything more in my stomach. I wanted so badly to throw it all up but I just couldn’t force myself to do it. I’m really surprised that I never burst my stomach. I’d be in excruciating pain for hours, but somehow at the time it felt better than the emotional pain. This began when I was in late grade school and continued for many years after I was married. Occasionally I still battle with it but thankfully it doesn’t get anywhere near that extreme anymore.

But with every binge cycle there comes the starvation. And with me that is done mostly with food restriction. My mind systematically strikes off foods from the list that I can eat, giving a reason for each and every one. This part of my eating disorders can be the most sadistic. Perfectly healthy and reasonable foods removed along with the less stellar ones, all being labeled toxic in one fashion or another. When my mind finds cause for it, I can be ever so clever. Convincing myself that there are 5 foods in the whole world that are deemed ‘safe’ to eat, and I can have them without guilt. So my husband and family see me eating. So they don’t question. So they don’t worry. So they don’t know that I’m not eating when they aren’t looking. They cannot see that nutritionally I’m starving and I’m sick. Because I can smile and give all the right answers when I’m questioned.

My husband remembers when I had my breakdown at the end of my vegan dietary restrictions. I wasn’t getting enough protein regularly since in my mind tofu was too fatty. Who knows what else essential I wasn’t getting. I couldn’t hide the neurotic panic that had been driving me for over a year at that point, but even what he saw wasn’t even the tip of the iceberg. He says he remembers the stress. What he couldn’t see was every time I had to eat that I’d be mentally shuffling through all the lists I had made in my mind, trying to find the one that listed something I could eat. By that point I had convinced myself that even eating a single grape would make me gain 75+ pounds. Water was so toxic that I may as well have been drinking sewage. Air was hardly better. Even when I did manage to eat, it was the grossest feeling in the world. I had to force it all down, and it barely managed to stay there.

None of this I wanted to remember. For years I’ve told myself that it wasn’t that bad and ignored all the details except it ended badly. I was standing in our kitchen shaking because I was so hungry, the look on Hubby’s face was nothing but panic, and I couldn’t stop crying. My stubborn will finally broke when I asked him to make me some scrambled eggs. I’m sure some would argue (and easily) that there must have been vegan options at the time (I’m sure there were) but the eggs were the only thing I could think of a the time that would keep me from collapsing.

The other side of the equation was my OCD taking over and trying to learn how to be a ‘perfect’ vegan. Through the glory of the internet I was constantly swamped with the message that just being vegan wasn’t enough. You had to be some uber vegan, you know the kind who has never eaten meat once in their lives, let alone smelled it, who would boycott anything not vegan associated, and would call every company about every ingredient of anything they ever ate before it could cross their holy lips… and if you couldn’t do that, you weren’t a ‘true’ vegan. Because trying is never enough when you are vegan. I just wanted to eat so I didn’t get sick, I wasn’t looking for a religion.

Research triggered by fear, the facts distorted by panic, uncertainty fed doubt and distrust. This is what really broke me. The worry that I could never research foods well enough to make sure the entire process fit my dietary requirements. Even if I had researched it and had the facts written down, how could I really truly trust that the companies knew how small of a margin of error I had to go by?

All too familiar that feeling is. One I had hoped I would not have to deal with again. I’ve spent the last three years trying to teach myself how to eat within moderation in a healthier way without having to enter in every last crumb of food that I’d eat into the diet and nutrition program that I used to lose the 80 pounds. In it’s own way using the program is better, until I refuse to eat until all my food for the day has been calculated. On bad days I’d skip two meals and be so frustrated by dinner that it was almost a free-for-all as long as I didn’t exceed my calories. Yet another trigger for my OCD food restrictions lists.

Now my body is making it very clear that those lists demand to be revised. Heralding back the OCD food nazi, now carrying the Gluten-Free and Dairy Free banners.

I’m scared. I’m really, really scared. This is the very thing I’ve been trying to teach myself not to do the last few years and managed to lose 35 pounds without having to diet and just being sensible. The day before Thanksgiving the old food habits returned. I told myself that I was just checking to make sure I wasn’t using foods that Mom or Sis couldn’t have. And before I knew it the full blown panic had set in. And hard. I was racing around the kitchen checking every label of the seasoning mixes, condiments, random things in the fridge… and then decided to look up what foods were banned for those who do not eat gluten. Then I went into a frenzy. The only good thing that came out of that panic was finding out that there was malt extract in the cereal I had been eating for a week, and finally explained why I felt sick and my face was stuffy.

How I wish it was just a single day and then I could get back to my rational mind. But then I got sick again. Whispers from a devious little voice started in my mind.

“At least if you are feeling sick you don’t have to think about food.”

“You know this is a good thing. It wouldn’t really hurt anything if you just didn’t feel like eating for a day or two. People do that all the time when they have the flu.”

“You don’t really want to eat the poisonous food that will make you sick do you?”

“Just avoid the kitchen. You don’t really need to eat anything. You’re fat enough as it is.”

Then today this started in: “Don’t eat. You’re fine. Nobody will know if you don’t tell them. Besides, anything you eat will just make you curled up in a ball again. Sure a growling stomach is annoying but a lot less so than being nauseous. Be an adult. Nobody can force you to eat against your will. Not like any other adult never skipped a meal or two.”

If the thinking behind all of this wasn’t so frightening, it would be hilarious in a Looney Tunes gremlin sort of way. And the fact that I have been awake for about 18 hours with only eating two small GF biscuits, 1 TBS. peanut butter, some diet 7-Up (only thing that reduces the nausea,) ¾ can garbanzos, 6 crimini mushrooms, ¾-1 c. of cooked rice, ½ c. almond milk, and about ¼ c. raisins. Nobody in their right mind could tell me that’s sufficient for a day’s worth of food. But it felt like it was all I was able to ‘allow’ myself.

This cycle is starting again and I don’t know how to stop it. Admitting all of this, especially where my family will see it has been far from easy. Almost none of them have heard any of this from me before. But I don’t know of any other way to ask for help.

I’m drowning and I can’t keep my head above water.

~SK

Posted in Diary Entries

Rain, Rain, Go Away…

I thought by now that I’d be able to start posting a recipe here and there, but instead I’m sitting here crying. Out of frustration. Out of anger. Out of heartbreak.

The last five days have resulted in me being curled up in bed, feeling sick and queasy to the point where I could hardly talk without wanting to barf. In the beginning I thought I had caught my niece’s cold (little bugger still needs to learn to cover her mouth properly.) By the third day I started to suspect that my body had fended off her germs since I only had cold symptoms the first day, and I sounded like a frog when I woke up. I was no longer coughing, my throat wasn’t really sore, I didn’t feel bad outside the ‘norm’ for me.

And that’s when my worrying began. The third day in, I was in denial. I was still trying to convince myself that it was just a cold and only a cold. By the fourth day that nagging voice that kept telling me that these patterns and timing were way too familiar and consistent finally started to win out. Before Thanksgiving I had tried my best to double check that everything I was using was gluten-free. I thought I was safe. By the way I was feeling it was obvious something had snuck in, even with me hardly able to eat due to the nausea.

I had made a test batch of biscuits the day before with GF flours (white/brown rice, tapioca flour & psyllium husk powder) and was able to eat some leftover mashed potatoes from red potatoes. I’ve never seemed to have any reaction to rice and I’ve eaten it since I was young. The only problem I have with starch that I know of is having to do with the carbs and eating too much makes my joints ache. I’ve just recently started using the psyllium husk powder but never noticed it reacting badly with my body. I’ve eaten red potatoes for years since waxy potatoes have less starch and don’t bother my joints plus if my research is correct, they have a higher percentage of potassium for the calories than bananas do. I can eat potatoes all day long and be fine, but I’m in danger of frequent bathroom visits if I eat more than two bananas in a day. (I suspect it is because of the fat content they have.)

And yet my levels of nausea, severity of my ear infection, and ever so mild stuffy nose was progressing and regressing at the same frequency as my mashed potato consumption. With one exception, when my husband made me some vegan macaroni & cheese. It uses nutritional yeast. And it was also added to the mashed potatoes.

But I had checked everything. It was a safe food. Wasn’t it?

After doing a quick Google search for Celiac & Nutritional Yeast I found my answer: Red Star Nutritional Yeast is processed on the same equipment as wheat. I couldn’t help it. I cried. Not only is it what I call ‘Vegan cheese powder’ it’s also the source of B12 for vegetarians and vegans, a very vital nutrient. I felt like someone had punched me in the stomach. Luckily in the same page other commenters said that Bob’s Red Mill and Braggs also had nutritional yeast (NOT the same as brewer’s yeast or bread yeast, not even remotely the same.) So back to Google I went and looked up Braggs first since I was sure I had seen it at our grocery store. At the very bottom of the FAQ it stated that the nutritional yeast is made on dedicated equipment. So that gives me some hope. I’ll just keep my fingers crossed that it tastes similar since it’s something that can really vary.

The real reason this information shocked me, with the physical evidence to back it up, was in a flash I saw the possible scope of what I might be dealing with. Essentially the fact that even cross-contamination is enough to obviously bother me. I really didn’t think I was that sensitive. I’ve been eating wheat my whole life. I learned how to properly make seitan and like it just like every vegetarian and vegan worth their salt in the kitchen. I learned to bake bread from Mom. I was the only person in the family that could make Grandma Ohmie’s chiffon cake. For years cake decorating was my hobby. I’d spend hours pouring through the Wilton yearbooks and was uber lucky to get the last of the Wilton encyclopedia locally after they went out of print. Two of my favorite cookbooks used to be a Pillsbury Breads Bake-Off cookbook and a reprint of a Betty Crocker Cooky Book. I even have Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World. It’s an awesome book if you can eat what is in it.

I feel like the Fates are sitting in a corner cackling at me, pointing gnarled fingers, and having the grandest time watching how I adapt to an ever restricting life. How much is finally going to be enough? Am I going to wind up in a pitch black room connected to some supplemental drip in my old age?

I’m already introverted and antisocial as it is due to multiple social phobias. My sun allergy effectively turned me into a recluse. And now one of the few universal topics I felt like I could talk to people about is getting more isolated. Meat? Yeah, I haven’t eaten chunks of animals since before my niece was born. Dairy? Sure if I want GI issues that would feel better if someone just sliced open my gut. Fatty foods? Nope. I find them disgusting and leave my mouth feeling like an oil slick. Gross. And another source of GI issues. Salty? Again, sorry but no. I battle enough with keeping my potassium in balance without defeating myself with excessive sodium. (Even so I’m far from perfect. We still eat canned beans especially when I’m feeling too sick to cook them.) Sugary foods? Oh. Right. Yeah, I almost never eat sugar since Hubby is diabetic and I don’t do well eating it anyway. I’m also currently trying to figure out how to make normal food low carb and meatless without it all just tasting like overcooked eggs. Eggs. Oh EGGS! Yes, I eat them. But to be perfectly honest they gross me out much of the time. I really have a love-hate relationship with eggs. Sometimes they remind me way too much of flesh, well, technically because they still are. Often can’t even stomach them. Did you know I ate a vegan diet for two years? No, I didn’t eat vegans you bastard. It is possible to be vegan and overweight. It’s about calorie consumption and battling eating disorders. I used to love oreos occasionally. Just because it’s vegan doesn’t mean it’s healthy. I can’t eat them anymore because they have gluten. Discovered I can’t eat that either. What do I eat? I don’t know. I’m still trying to find out myself. I like tofu a lot! No, it isn’t the stuff between your toes. The more you laugh, the bigger of an asshole you sound like.

So much of the time it feels like this is the conversation that goes through my head. Unfortunately it’s based on many conversations I actually have had.

I was thinking this morning about the only time in my life that I can remember that my body felt ‘vibrant.’ I was part of the time I ate a vegan diet to the best of my ability, and then decided to try and go with eating as little wheat, grains, or rice as possible. This cut out the dairy, wheat, much of the fat I had been eating, I was drinking plenty of water and eating tons of veggies and some fruits. I’d go into more detail but I can’t really remember. But the overall feeing of complete wellness stuck in my mind along with having more energy than I had in a long time.

I only failed because I was not adequately prepared for how drastic of a change, in not only what foods I would eat, but how to even think about food, meal planning, or how to even survive going to the grocery store. It was at this time when I truly discovered what wheat/gluten had been doing to me. For the first time I could BREATHE. I never knew what it was like to breathe through my nose with my mouth closed without suffocating. I realized that I hadn’t had an ear infection in two weeks and was amazed that my ears were healed and not hurting. But I was building a house of cards that eventually collapsed.

Let me make this clear. I really truly believe it is possible to thrive long term on a vegan diet if it is well planned out, nutritionally balanced, and sustainable with the knowledge on how to keep supporting the structure. My problem was that I didn’t plan, I didn’t know what I was really needing to focus on, and I was not tracking my nutritional needs. Multiple times I have found out that even when I have the best intentions to eat properly and in a healthy way, the screwed up parts of my mind where my eating disorders are manage to invade and distort my perception. One of the biggest factors for me is I actually struggle a lot to get enough protein. Sometimes because I eat too much grains/rice and it doesn’t leave room for things like vegetables. I get paranoid of nuts. And fruits. And anything that I haven’t quadruple checked with the company to make really sure it is really actually vegan. Avocados? Can’t have those because they are too high fat. Eggplant? Not nutritious enough. Apples? Too many pesticides. Lettuce? What if I didn’t look over every leaf to make sure any possible bug part got washed off. Wash it again. And again. And again. Now it’s all broken up. What if there is something in the drinking water that could saturate into the broken cell walls and somehow make it no longer vegan?

I had an absolute meltdown. Literally. This is a glimpse of what it’s like when the OCD part of my eating disorders take over. It gets to the point where NOTHING is safe to eat.

And this is why having more restrictive eating has me so upset and scared. It’s not too much about the food, but my relationship with it. And it scares me having to dedicate more of my life to focus on food. From past experience, the more I focus on food the more obsessed I become with it. That only seems to lead me into a downward spiral that got me nearly to 400 pounds. I am beyond terrified to lose my stabilized weight at about 315 pounds. Far from healthy but every single day I’m terrified to start gaining weight and it wll never stop.

Emotionally I feel like I’m walking into a minefield. Nowhere is safe. I have the hardest time convincing myself of that when anything I’ve eaten this last week has left me feeling very sick because of the small traces of wheat I have been unintentionally consuming. It will take another 3-4 days to have the symptoms clear out of my system. And that’s AFTER I identified what the cause may be.

I hope to be in better spirits soon.

~SK

Posted in Diary Entries

Rewriting the Rules

Yesterday was Thanksgiving in the USA. I spent the day with my family, having loads of fun, with the additional surprise of seeing my teenage nephew unexpectedly home after thinking he would still be out of the state for school. Our family usually has happy get togethers, but even today I keep thinking about it and smiling. Okay, more like grinning like a fool. For the way I’ve been feeling the last month or so, I was expecting to be stressed out and having to pretend I was happy.

For a moment, let me rewind over a decade ago. Mom was in India and it was the first time I would get to host Thanksgiving since I got married. A huge milestone. With an unexpected result. I had helped Mom with cooking Thanksgiving Dinner for many years growing up, being a part of every aspect of the process. I knew what to expect. The chaos began as I stood there looking at the thawed turkey and I could no longer ignore the mutilated reality sitting in front of me. My husband loves turkey. As a pet. (I love him, but he is an odd one.) My mind could not stop the stampede of very vivid comparison images from flashing through my mind. Too keep it simple, I was horrified and had to keep my stomach from ejecting my breakfast. At that moment, I knew I had no choice but to rewrite the rules I had been taught to live by.

It was scary. I felt helpless. I felt wholly ignorant. But I just couldn’t ignore the fact that I was living my life in a way that went against what was in my heart.

I still don’t know how I got through that Thanksgiving, still smiling, still laughing, as my mind was screaming at me. A crisis of conscience really felt like an understatement. But things had already started to change before that. I hadn’t entirely noticed, and the things I had seen shifting I was still in denial about.

Part of the conversation with my family last night reminded me of a few details that I had forgotten over the years. Pork was the first meat I had to give up. It was voluntarily but you can be sure it wasn’t willingly. You know how Ponyo screams for ham? Yeah, that used to be me in SO many ways. But the problem was how it affected me after it passed my stomach. Cramps that put most other cramps to shame as if I had eaten razorblades followed by suffocating gas (I sounded like a whoopee cushion), and what Mom always called ‘The Green Apple Quickstep.’ (And no, I don’t mean the band from Seattle. Ewww.) The mild stomach ache from my system struggling to break down the meat was hardly a footnote compared to these other symptoms. I just shake my head now when I think about when I was growing up, my body was nothing but a chaotic mess of pain and discomfort. And I had no idea why.

So by the time the ‘fateful’ Thanksgiving was nearing, I was still battling some of these similar problems but on a lesser degree. I had learned that my body can’t handle fatty meats. That explains part of the reaction written above. So that had mostly gotten under control and I could live my life in a lot less pain. Sometimes I wish the food saga ended there. With understanding what foods upset my intestines so much and how to avoid them, the stomach aches became a lot more pronounced simply because a larger pain wasn’t overshadowing that issue any longer. I would still eat lower fat beef, tuna fish, occasionally fishsticks, and poultry. The next item my body decided to boycott was the beef. After talking to Mom later on, she mentioned that even as a kid I would sometimes mention that it felt like ‘I had rocks in my stomach’ after eating hamburger. I’m thinkin that my body just doesn’t have enough stomach acid to digest meat well, making it feel like I might as well have eaten a handful of pea gravel for how it would feel afterwards. Often for 4-6 hours after we ate, along with the near continual low-grade stomach ache and general indigestion.

I just got tired of feeling ill in one way or another. I had already given up the ham, so was it really that hard to stop eating beef too? At least I could still have poultry! And tunafish sandwiches! Sure I’d miss bologna (my favorite lunch meat growing up) but I had already gotten to the point where it was phased out too simply because of the fat. Poultry at least didn’t give me the stomach aches like the pork and beef would. My life could maintain a happy medium without really having to change anything.

And yet I wasn’t really being honest with myself. I grew up in a farm and ranching community. The biggest thing my hometown is known for is the cows and the rodeo every year… and the big massive university in the middle of town. Central Washington University to be exact. Even if the children of the farmers I grew up with thought of me as one of the ‘University kids,’ I never did. I was born in the same town as them. I had just as much of Ellensburg in me as they did. And yet I was still treated as an outsider. I grew up thinking I’d be a farmer’s wife. All I wanted was to live out on a farm in the country with a flock of sheep like my grandparents. I still dream of having a postage stamp orchard sometimes too. I was a country girl and no one could tell me otherwise.

But somehow the Fates had something else in store for my life. I’m 38 and still wishing I knew clearly what that was. My mind still thinks about the world from the same view of the little country girl I used to be. Cows are what you eat. Milk is what you drink. Chickens are for laying eggs and eating. And then like some privileged citified person, my body was beginning to demand that the rules be rewritten. There was no plan ‘B’ since living my life in unimaginable pain was just not an option. How do you even live without eating meat? Seriously, I was really confused. But seeing that dead, headless, and gutted turkey sitting on the counter in front of my horrified sight, the proverbial door closed behind me. I couldn’t deny anymore that this is not what compassion looked like.

The next two months were hard. I was at constant war with myself. I felt like I had to force myself to eat things that I just wanted to throw up. It has been branded into my bones that food is not to be wasted. Mom did her best for us growing up, but being a single mom with four children and attending university, we had far from the posh life. You either ate what you were given or you went without. So somehow I was left with the majority of the remaining Thanksgiving turkey that year, and spent through December trying to convince myself to eat it. Frozen or not, every day I was trying to force myself to find some way so it wouldn’t get waisted. My husband was not a vegetarian but he surely wasn’t going to eat it, just like I never ate mutton to the best of my knowledge. I love sheep. They are just so cute, adorable, and fluffy! They had been my favorite animal longer than my memories go back. My first stuffed animal when I was a few days old was a lamb.

Come January I had reached my limit. I’ve had some long-standing eating disorders and sometimes it makes a really bad cocktail when mixed with my OCD. I had reached the point where it felt like only 5 foods were ‘safe’ to eat, despite knowing that it was far from being nutritionally balanced. On New Year’s Day or Jan. 2nd is when I finally decided to become a vegetarian, because that HAD to be healthier than what my mind was trying to do otherwise. My mother-in-law became a vegetarian long before my husband was born, so I had at least someone I could possibly ask for help.

Sometime later I remembered that when I was 12-13 I had blurted out to my family, “What if I decided I didn’t want to eat meat?” Mom and my three older siblings looked at me as if I had sprouted another head. I think that was around the first point in my life when it started to dawn on me that it could be the food that was making my body be all out of whack.

If that was the only drastic dietary change I had to make, I seriously doubt I’d be writing all of this. In high school I developed an allergy to fresh pineapple, and had my first brush with hives. For a few years I could still eat canned pineapple, but even that worsened my allergy. The last time I consumed pineapple it was hidden in orange juice that Mom served with my birthday dinner one year. She had checked the label carefully and I had at least once when she showed it to me. It looked fine. The week after, my entire body except my left leg from my knee to my foot was covered in hives. My hives literally had hives. There was one so large on my arm that it was about the size of a standard potato chip with another hive on top of it the size of a quarter. Misery does not even describe it. If it was just orange juice, how could it have triggered my pineapple allergy? We did some research and discovered that pineapple and orange juice are often processed on the same equipment. Many orange drinks have added pineapple to ‘enhance’ the taste.

By concerned family and friends, they reassured me that I’d grow out of it despite being in my 20s at that point. On the contrary, I seem to be growing INTO my various allergies. My grandfather had multiple food allergies and even became allergic to my grandmother’s hair. My allergies that trigger hives, it seems to be the more I’m exposed to the allergen, the worse the allergic reaction is. The next surprise allergy turned out to be honey. Honey? Really?? My father-in-law used to be thoroughly amused by the fact that honey gives me hives. It’s difficult for me to find the humor in that when I know all too well the agony of having to suffer through hives. In the US at least there has been a huge surge of praise of honey being a ‘healthy’ sugar, and it now pops up in an amazing array of products as it is often used to replace high fructose corn syrup. For me that means seeing a major allergen to me pop up in some of the freakiest places. Foods that I could eat otherwise except for that singular ingredient. That happens with pineapple too but on a less frequent rate.

Sure allergies can be annoying at this level, but nothing to change your life over, right? Just avoid the triggers and you’ll be okay. It’s not that bad. It’s not that inconvenient. Just get on with your life. Be happy. Do things you enjoy. Garden. Grow stuff. I may not be able to have farm animals in the city I live now, but I can still grow and eat my own food. That’s what vegetarians do. Well, maybe not all of them but it’s an ideal.

Ideal. A nice name for a stereotype. ALL vegetarians should grow their own food, just like all meat eaters are also hunters. Stereotypes fit everyone. (That’s sarchasm in case you didn’t catch it.) What I wouldn’t give to be the carefree little girl running around barefoot out in the grass, giggling because my heart was so full to be outdoors that I couldn’t contain it. If the Fates are somehow trying to teach me a lesson, I’m surely not understanding what it is. I miss gardening. It breaks my heart every time I stop and think about that I can’t do it anymore. Because of allergies. I can’t spend a warm afternoon on the beach anymore. Or even dream about riding horses, wandering around my mother-in-law’s farm. Picnics? Thing of the past. Riding bikes around town? Nope, not anymore. Laying out in the yard reading on a lazy summer afternoon? Sorry, nope. Swimming in the river? I can’t even spend any length of time beside a body of water let alone in it. So what do all of these things have in common? Sunlight.

Much to my horror and denial for a few years, I am indeed allergic to sunlight. It also gives me hives. And in the 5+ years I’ve been dealing with it, my theory that my adult onset allergies simply worsen with exposure have been further been proven to me with this allergy. A few Springs ago I went out in our yard for less than five minutes when I was looking for one of our indoor cats who had snuck out. Within half an hour hives were popping up on my arms. About the same time the following year I couldn’t figure out why my neck was getting itchy until I realised I was sitting in a sunny window. We are slowly having to switch the lights over inside our house to LED bulbs. All the other light bulbs we have used slowly start to cause a reaction after a few days if I spend too much time under my worklights. I have to pay attention to what time of day it is and avoid the room inside that the sunlight is streaming through. This last spring I finally caved in and covered the two large livingroom windows in dark canvas after my husband was also diagnosed with a sun allergy. I simply do not understand how this happens.

I thought that would be the last life changing allergy or food issue I’d have to deal with. Being vegetarian was enough, wasn’t it? I think the Fates laughed. You know, because my life is just so carefree. What else do I have to do with my time?

Then sometime in late September it began. Slowly at first, but by mid October there was emerging a consistent pattern that I was trying my best to either ignore or reduce the foods that was causing it. I’ve had constant ear infections my whole life. To the point where it affected my hearing comprehension as a child, and now as an adult if someone doesn’t enunciate enough it just sounds like loud mumbling no matter the volume. I’ve tried my best to deal with the infections and resolve them as quickly as I can, but they would always return. If I was lucky I’d have a two week break of my ears not hurting. But something in September changed. By early November I was in a panic. I was so tired with feeling constantly sick but I didn’t know if I could change. For a reason I can’t quite figure out, the ear infections were additionally coming with a high level of nausea, bad enough to make it so I couldn’t eat for about two days. After that happening about 3 times in a two week period, change was no longer an option. I’ve dealt with severe lower back pain since my early teens and generally don’t think of it too much anymore because I’ve learned to tolerate the pain. But a queasy stomach? It is the worst feeling to me. I literally can’t do anything but curl up in a ball in bed.

So what was causing all of this? Wheat and dairy. Long ago I discovered that both of them caused my sinuses and nose to react, living almost my whole life with minimal breathing capacity though my nose. I hated running in P.E. with the whole ‘breathe through your mouth and exhale through your nose’ thing because when I tried I’d get really light headed because I couldn’t get the air through my nose fast enough. I’d end up feeling like I was gasping and holding my breath half the time when I was trying to run as fast as I am able. Being overweight just made things worse. I had cut back on most dairy since the higher fat products affect me the same way as meat did. Mom thought that maybe it was the lactose that my system couldn’t handle, but the last time I ate dairy it was lactose free, and it gave me worse gas than a week of eating beans for dinner could.

In my family we have always joked that we are addicted to bread. Mom still is amused over the story of my brother when he was a toddler, sitting in his high chair making a ruckus until he got a slice of homemade bread he could smell cooking. By removing wheat and dairy from my diet, I was having to eliminate everything that made up the culture of food I grew up with, my basis of understanding how to even eat. For the majority of vegetarians and vegans, wheat based products is the major ingredient used as a meat replacement. Seitan? Pure wheat. Commercially made veggie patties, lunch meat, hot dogs, sausage… all have wheat and sometimes dairy in them.

I wanted to cry. I had really avoided trying to remove those two foods that I’ve known for a long time that they bother me, but I was able to ignore it since it didn’t really affect my everyday life. But now, against my will, the rules are being rewritten once more.

Mom and one of my sisters have been gluten-free for some time now. Sis is also dairy-free, most of the time except holidays it seems. This Thanksgiving Mom was really happy to have our first GF holiday, and it made me really happy that it felt like the first time in the 11+ years I’ve been vegetarian that I didn’t have to sit there and question everything I was eating, or only eat the things I brought.

So that is really the point of this blog. Part diary, part recipe experiments, maybe part product review, as I scramble to relearn what I can even eat. I do not claim to be a guru of any sort, just an individual stumbling the minefield that is the grocery store and my kitchen. I’m a decent enough cook but my food photography is less than stellar. I’m trying to do better at that but to be perfectly honest, cooking is not my favorite activity. I’m having to learn again to make it my hobby since that’s the only way I know how to deal with this.

I hope this might be helpful for others that have similarly restrictive dietary needs, but I needed a place to vent and post the recipes I’m working on to easily share with Mom & Sis. I hope to find the place where I can be healthy and not struggling to discover what to eat that won’t make me sick. I really don’t like being this picky about food. It’s exhausting especially for someone who has had severe and damaging eating disorders hidden within what everyone assumed was just some stupid and lazy fat girl.

~SK