Friday, October 07, 2005

The Staff of Life

Wheat has always been a very important part of my life. The delicious smell of my mother's homemade, honey-wheat bread is one of my earliest and most comforting childhood memories, and to this day whenever I smell bread baking I feel warm, cozy and safe. Growing up, I found favor with my brothers by making quadruple batches of cookies for them and their numerous, perpetually ravenous friends. I munched on baguettes at tube stops in London, baked brownies after particularly fruitless days of street contacting in Montreal, and chewed on bagels as I fought my way through crowded downtown Manhattan. Chocolate cake could always make me feel better.

And then one inevitable day, a culinary tragedy occurred: I was diagnosed with a wheat allergy.

Wheat allergies, I learned to my dismay, can develop spontaneously in anyone, at anytime. (Something to look forward to, dear readers!) Thrust into the lone and dreary gluten-free world, I bid a tearful farewell to my close friend Wheat, and began a long, bleak journey to find new gastronomical meaning. As time passed I met some new friends: Spelt and Soy. Our relationship seemed promising at first as we began spending time together. But then I broke up with them, 'cause they were gross.

As my journey progressed, I encountered another unforseen difficulty in the form of trying to order at restaurants. Allow me to illustrate:

Me: (Pointing at item on menu) Does this have wheat in it?
(Looking confused) Uh, no, no, it doesn't have wheat in it.
(Knowing it's too good to be true) Okay . . . does it have flour in it?
(Looking at me like I have two heads) Well, yeah, it has flour in it!

And sadly, my friends, that flour is rarely soy or spelt derived.

After experiencing this scenario 562 times (approx.), I've come to the conclusion that when I say this:
"Does this have wheat in it?"

Waiters hear this:
"Does this have actual wheat stalks sticking out of it?"

Not that I blame them - I was amazed to find out all the sneaky places where wheat lurks, just waiting to entice me into eating it, and then making my life miserable for doing so. Soup, yogurt, tacos, ice cream, Rice-a-Roni (oh no, not you too, the San Francisco Treat!). Wheat is clever, people. Very clever.

Steve is unfailingly supportive of my wheat-free state, and often insists on eating my inferior rice-based products with me. On occasion, he's even been known to bend the truth for my benefit:

Steve: (Biting into a soy flour cookie) "These are really good!"
(Shaking my head in sorrow) "No they aren't, honey. They're gross."
(Staying upbeat) "Well, they do have a weird aftertaste, but if you just keep eating them one right after the other, you hardly even notice it!"

Is it any wonder I love the boy?

I once had a woman tell me that, because of my wheat allergy, I wasn't obeying the Word of Wisdom. She said I should have more faith. She was serious. I wanted to throw a rice cracker at her head. Instead, I asked: "When was the last time you ate meat in the summer?"

Okay, so I didn't ask her that, but I wanted to. Instead I just smiled as I thought of what my doctor told me several years ago on that life-changing day: Anyone can develop a wheat allergy.


AzĂșcar said...

Stop it, you're scaring me.

Layt said...

I, for one, welcome our new glutinous overlords.

Emmie said...


joyfish said...

Your boy sounds very good. I'm glad he's supporting you in your wheat-free existence.

lisa v. clark said...

Are you trying to spook us all?!

Emmie said...

'Tis the season, Lisa.
That gives me an idea - I could be a wheat stalk for Halloween! Except no one would think it was scary but me.

becky baird said...

WHAAAAAAT??? I thought I've heard it all, but the word of wisdom arguement has got me reeling. Good call with the summer meat consumption, beat those idiots at their own game!

And here's a huge hollaback for spelt being wicked gross.

AzĂșcar said...

I've gotten over my fear and am now in the curious stage.

I want to know what symptoms you experienced that led you to go to a doctor in the first place. Was it really gross? 'Cause I totally want to know.

Did the doctor put you through any kind of bizarre anti-8th amendment type tests? Tell me the gruesome details, I can take it.

Emmie said...

Hmmm. Are you sure you want specifics? :) General summary: When I moved to NYC, I started feeling really yucky. Stomach issues, headaches, allergy-like symptoms - just generally achy and rundown ALL THE TIME. At first I thought I was allergic to NY, but finally got frustrated enough to go to a doctor. She said it sounded like food allergies (smart doc!), and to go off wheat and dairy for two weeks (2 of the most common). About a week in, I started feeling SO much better. After 2 weeks, went back on dairy, no problem. Went back on wheat a week later, immediately felt awful. She did some kind of skin test, too - can't remember the specifics, but I trust it was within her (and my) constitutional rights. Once in a while I eat a little wheat to see if it's gone away yet. (She said it might some day . . .) So far, it's still a big no-no, though I'm a little less sensitive to it. There may be hope
yet . . .