Saturday, February 15, 2014

Gluten-Free and Lactose-Free Foods

For health reasons, I have been experimenting with a lactose-free, gluten-free diet for the last 2+ weeks. It can be difficult, as any gluten-intolerant person or vegan will attest to, and grocery shopping all of a sudden takes about twice as long as we learn about new products and read ingredients lists. As eating and tasting are two of my primary joys in life, and sampling new things and collecting data points are my modi operandi, I thought a blog post was in order.

First, the products I will not be buying again, even if my new diet becomes a permanent thing:

You can't see it in the picture, but the Lärabar is "gluten free, dairy free, soy free, non-GMO, vegan, kosher". In its defense, it suffers from the same chalky and crumbly downsides that I find in glutenous Balance bars. The So Delicious coconut milk yogurt was not the worst thing I've eaten recently (*cough* hot dog buns *cough*), but I enjoy other lactose-free options better. The Schär hot dog buns were among the farthest things from edible I've ever tried to consume. Gluten, as it turns out, is crucial in the food we know as "bread", thus, no bread product can effectively be replicated sans one of its key ingredients. But that's not the main reason these rolls were so terrible. If the thing your fake bread product is missing is elasticity, and the bread product you are trying to approximate is one whose success hinges upon having a workable hinge, the least you can do is make a decent slice into the center of your roll. These buns suffered from having a huge indent on the underside, and then they were sliced so as to have a thin bottom. When I tried to place my all natural gluten-free casein-free hot dog into the roll, the lengthwise half of the bottom of the bun snapped right off. I tried flipping the bun over and perching my dog atop the remaining, hingeless, 3/4th of the roll, but the dryness and flavorlessness of the non-elastic bun made it both impossible and undesirable to eat. I abandoned pieces of it with each bite before eventually giving up and eating the ketchup-covered hot dog with my bare hands. Priced at over $1 per roll, these mistakes will not be funded by me again.

These next products proved edible, but still felt like compromises:

Matt claims to really like the Bob's Red Mill pancakes and the Earth Balance "butter". I found the pancakes a bit gritty, and the consistency was exceptionally thick. Perhaps I should have added more rice milk, or perhaps a soy or hemp milk would be better. The crispy rice bars are okay for a quick snack, but not that flavorful. With the aforementioned failure of the Lärabar, I'm still on the lookout for a tastier granola-style bar. As for the sausage, next time I won't get the maple flavor because it tastes too sweet.

The following are products I have legitimately enjoyed:

The gopicnic lunch meal with plantain chips and black bean dip tasted really good, even if I sort of regretted that small amount of beans for the rest of the day. For breakfast, I've replaced my usual Greek yogurt with a lactose-free yogurt and a hard-boiled egg. While I prefer homemade cookies, Pamela's Dark Chocolate Chocolate Chunk Cookies are among the best packaged cookies I've ever had, and Matt, a packaged cookie connoisseur, has eaten at least half of them. The Nut-Thins in both Pecan and Almond variety taste good, are crispy, and make me feel like I'm actually snacking on something with substance. Finally, King Arthur's gluten free muffin mix produced such tasty muffins that we had no problem eating all 12 giant muffins (I added cranberries, too) in under a week. A grateful thanks to these manufacturers for making even restricted dieting delicious!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Taming the Mustang

The snow falls regularly, maintaining the brilliant white wintery landscape. Fresh layers compact on the roads and sidewalks until they are flung in uneven heaps at the edges of both. Each new dusting hides previous sins of neglect by disguising uncleared ice and unshoveled walkways.

I was not made for this. I can go 0 to 60mph in under 7 seconds in dry conditions, but on these roads I'm lucky if I can get 50 feet within 7 seconds after the light turns green. In the summer my engine purrs like a kitten, but in temperatures below freezing it sounds more like a grumble. This pony was born to run free, not vault obstacles and traverse hazards like a whipped steeplechase horse! And I'm not a draft horse pulling your wagon around town. I'm a rear-wheel-drive, sunshine-loving, Mustang convertible! Tie your hair back, drop my top, and peel out around the corners while the sun warms your skin and the open breeze makes you feel like you're flying.

But not today. A convertible in Michigan in February is like a palm tree shivering on the tundra, or a colorful toucan in Siberia—the correct answer to “Which of these things just doesn't belong?” I'm stuck at the bottom of a hill, my doors are too wide to open next to a snowbank, and my low chassis won't glide through unplowed snow.

Someday the spring will come, someday we'll meet again. And the wild 'Stang will run free again. Someday when my dreams come true.