Thursday, July 02, 2009

Gluten-Free Equals Variety (of Flours)

We have been showing our house to prospective buyers recently, and quite often when we reach the basement portion of the house-tour, the stacks of Gluten-Free Dessert Recipe books on the large commercial-duty shelving gets attention. This leads to a quick discussion along the lines of "what gluten-free is" and so on.

One major misconception that people have about gluten-free / Celiac disease diets is that it is just "flour" (i.e., white wheat flour) that must be avoided. So, I quickly enumerate the wheat, barley, and rye, as well as any derivation thereof. Then comes a discussion along the lines of "what can you eat then?" and so on.

Yesterday, a couple of nice ladies that were really interested in the house for the kitchen (fellow cooking aficionados it seems!) commented something to the effect that I must be limited to just baking with rice flour due to the Celiac Disease, at which point I started listing a whole host of additional gluten-free grains/flours and the like that we bake with (both in our cookbook recipes, and in our day-to-day cooking and baking). After browsing through our Gluten-Free Desserts cookbook, I think they got the idea, and quickly noticed that we (gluten-free types) have all sorts of variety and can bake and consume everything from cookies to cakes to cheesecakes and pies, and so on.

After presenting a "gluten-free grains quick list" to a various people over the past couple weeks, it struck me how much more VARIETY we Celiac and gluten-free diet types have when it comes to our daily flours and grains as compared to the "normal" (i.e., wheat-eating) population. The typical American diet is rather narrowly focused around processed white flour (wheat-based), and some occasional whole-wheat flour, and some corn starch perhaps.

But, here is what we Celiac Disease and gluten-free consumers have at our disposal and use regularly (or, can use regularly if we choose) for our flours of choice:
  • Rice
  • Corn
  • Potato
  • Teff
  • Sorghum
  • Amaranth
  • Quinoa
  • Buckwheat
  • Millet
  • Chia Seed
  • Various bean-flours
  • Squash flours (e.g., pumpkin)
  • Cinnamon, Cocoa, and other spices (that I use in large quantities like flour when desired)
  • and many more...
In addition, it seems that we are more likely (as a group of bakers / dieters) to know about other alternatives like Agave Nectar for sweetener, and whey-protein for binders, and so on.

So, whenever I encounter the theme of "living without" (with regards to living without gluten), I can not help thinking that perhaps it is the rest of the population that is living without -- without the variety of grains, flours, and ingredients that one may otherwise never encounter or experience unless essentially "forced" (by Celiac Disease, gluten-intolerance, autism, what have you...) to try all these great alternatives to "normal" flour.

Happy variety-filled baking everyone! (and, Happy Fourth-of-July too!)