Okay, friends and followers, I find that some of you need a bit of education. A good friend was bringing me lunch today, and she called to confirm. She was bringing split pea soup, one of my favorites and something I would never make for myself. So when she called, I told her I was really looking forward to it and asked her to just be sure there was no dairy anywhere in it. I felt safe about that—how could there be dairy in split pea soup?
Dairy? She asked. “I thought it was gluten you couldn’t eat.” It’s a common misconception, too common. The gluten-free diet has become almost a fashion trend in recent years. For a while it seemed to me every third person I met was on a gluten-free diet. For a while, a good friend lived in my garage apartment who was gluten- and dairy-free. Cooking for her was a challenge but I often did it because I enjoyed the fellowship. I remained a skeptic, and it does amuse me that today she has let go of those dietary restrictions and seems no worse for it.
But in the meantime I developed food intolerances and have gone from skeptic to firm believer. So here it is: gluten is a protein found in wheat and related products. There are of course many theories about why more people today are gluten-sensitive but one that makes sense to me is that wheat etc. today has been super-bred to make the wheat stronger and more durable…and hence more people are sensitive. I on the other hand can eat wheat with freedom-problem there is I’m not a bread eater.
Lactose on the other hand is a product of dairy, though I can’t explain the complicated chain of chemistry. But it affects people who are intolerant in a variety of ways—in my case, about six hours later it causes galloping diarrhea. You can imagine I’m anxious to avoid it. And I’m still learning: last night a waiter cautioned me against fried chicken because they dip it in buttermilk. The dairy-free taco soup a friend brought? It had Hidden Valley ranch dressing—dehydrated dairy products. You never know where you’ll find dairy lurking, and it’s a continuing education project.
Meantime, I grieve for blue cheese, cottage cheese, Manchego, all the things I loved. Do you suppose I o.d. on them, as I did thirty years ago on shrimp? Or is it simply, as my doctor says, an aging thing—as we grow older, our gut grows less tolerant. There it is again—that aging thing!