*I’m fully aware that this is not a food blog, but I can tentatively claim that this is actually a botany blog post, because it is about grass.
Wheat is a grass. So are rice, barley, corn, oats, rye and millet. The world is pretty dependent on it. There is actually a book by John Christopher called ‘The Death of Grass‘. (TDOG is, by the way, the second best Post-Apocalypse book set in the UK after ‘The End of the Word Running Club‘ by the lovely Adrian J. Walker, which has nothing to do with grass and lots to do with asteroids – think ‘The Road’ meets ‘The Full Monty’, but you should read both of them because they are awesome sauce.) The premise of TDOG is that the apocalypse is caused by rice crops getting a virus, which then spreads to all other grass species on the earth. There is no bread, rice, oats, etc, at first, but then there is no meat, as there is nothing for livestock to eat. Ergo apocalpyse ensues (I usually refer to this book as the Poshocalypse because if you can imagine an end of the world movie starring Hugh Grant and Ben Fogle, you are coming very close to TDOG.)
Anyway, I digress. I don’t eat wheat, barley or rye (or anything with those ingredients in) because those particular grasses contain gluten. If you want to know how gluten promotes inflammation, alters your blood sugar and stimulates your appetite, check out this video on youtube or read Wheat Belly. If you want to know about how gluten is massively destructive to your immune system watch this video by Joe Rignola. (If you or anyone you know has Lupus, sarcoidosis, fibromyalgia, rosacea, IBS, Crohns disease, arthritis, MS, diabetes, psoraiasis or ANY other condition related to your immune system, you NEED to watch Joe Rignola’s video.) In the 6 months since going gluten free, my rosacea and IBS have completely disappeared. Because I have sarcoidosis, anything that I can do to calm down my crazily dysfunctional immune system is important.
The point of this post is not to tell you why gluten is bad. As someone who’s recently spent their first 6 months gluten free, I want to tell you that it’s both easier and harder than you think, and I think I can help you, with a few simple links and lists:
Getting started: Stop eating bread, rolls, pizza, pasta and cereal right now. Then start reading labels. Almost all labels list all allergens in bold, so you can really quickly see if there are any allergens (gluten, soya, milk, nuts) by just looking for bold words. You can avoid most gluten by not eating anything that comes from a box. Stick to fresh fish, meat, fruit and vegetables, rice, etc. Make your own sauces, cook fresh, and you’re half way there.
Things with gluten in you didn’t think had gluten in: Branston Pickle, anything malted (like malt vinegar), pre-marinated BBQ meats, burgers, sausages, soy sauce (and any chinese food with soy sauce in – buy TAMARI instead), some pestos, some soups, lots of packaged meat (like sliced chicken or chicken chunks). Just about every cereal – there are some nice gluten free versions but I usually stick to home made granola on yogurt or a smoothie of banana, coconut milk and oats (get gluten free oats as they can be contaminated with gluten, although technically oat is a gluten-free grain) for breakfast.
How to get around this: Make your own damn burgers. It’s not hard. Ground meat, finely chopped onion, salt, pepper. Squish it together. Awesome. You can buy Black Farmer gluten free sausages in Morrisons and they’re delicious. Or bacon. Everyone loves bacon. Even vegetarians.
Things you think have gluten in but don’t: Beer, Whiskey, Vodka. Gluten does not (allegedly) survive the distillery process, so unless you are properly allergic to gluten you should be fine, no need to buy expensive gluten free beer, or to avoid grain-based liquor. But if you want to be absolutely sure, stick to wine, tequila and rum (Mojito or Margarita, anyone??)
Gluten free breads: Okay, in a pinch, you can try these and they’re actually pretty good tasting (Newburn are the best) and you can get bread, rolls or wraps. They can be a touch on the dry side, and I find them a bit hard to swallow as they are a bit, well, gloopy. In the end I have given up on gluten free breads, and have gotten used to eating meats, vegetables, fruits, etc.
Cookies and cakes: By FAR the best gluten free cookies are Tesco Finest. My hubby eats these readily and can’t even tell the difference. Also, try this amazing one-bowl gluten-free chocolate brownie recipe by Nigella Lawson. But don’t blame me if you make them every weekend and put on a stone in a month. (They really are THAT good!)
Crackers, etc: Nairns (lovely, lovely people!) make gluten free oatcakes and gluten free crackers which are both awesome! So my lunches usually consist of one of these with cheese, ham, apples, etc – like a ploughman’s. Get them at Tesco or Sainsbury’s.
Free From Sections in Supermarkets:
Sainsbury’s are pretty good – they carry quite a few different brands, but can vary from store to store.
Morrisons mostly only carry their own brand Free From items, so the selection is poor – but they do those lovely sausages, which are in the normal sausage section.
Tesco – also really good, but it’s worth going to the big Tesco Superstores as they have better selections (if you’re local, the one in Dudley is worth a trip to stock up).
Don’t forget you can eat all of these…
Rice, oats (porridge, make your own meusli!), potatoes, sweet potatoes, chips, mash, corn, cornbread, prawn crackers, doritos, crisps (check the flavourings list though!) gram flour (pakora, etc), falafel (make your own at home as store mixes have wheat flour in), hummus, quinoa, cheese, rice noodles (Try these with bolognese – works surprisingly well), soba noodles (these are made from buckwheat, but you have to get the posh ones from waitrose to avoid a wheat flour mix) – loads of asian noodles.
Fast Food / Eating Out: You basically can forget about KFC. The only thing you can eat there is coke. McDonalds you’d have to go for grilled chicken salad, and no fries, as they are cooked in the same oil as the breaded stuff. And no hashbrowns (flour!). Restaraunts are pretty good usually, and lots of menus say which choices are gluten free. Safest bets are fish with vegetables or rice, grilled chicken, jacket potatoes, that kind of thing. Simple is best. Watch out for soups and gravies as they are often thickened with flour. Pizza Hut do the best gluten free pizza (dominos do one but it tastes like cardboard), but it’s pricey – instead I keep a jar of sun dried tomato paste and some gluten free pizza bases in at all times, which saves me loads. If you’re stuck at lunch for something gluten free – keep a few of these Itsu or Kabuto pot rice noodles in your desk drawer! They are AMAZING!
Anyway, hope this helps you avoid eating grasses, and also prepare you for the apocalypse. x