I have already talked a lot about the food here in Spain, and will likely continue to tell you about our culinary excursions, but I wanted to touch on part of the dining experience that’s less about specific foods and more about my ability to eat whatever I want…namely, wheaty business (aka glutenous foods).
Almost two years ago now, my naturopath slipped in a suggestion that I try a gluten-free diet to address some health issues I was having. What?! Me? Join this trend of giving up wheaty business?? Gawd, no! And haven’t you read the articles? It’s a hoax. That can’t possibly help. It’s not gluten, anyway, it’s FODMAPS (whatever those are). Suffice it to say, I protested. A lot. To her, to RF, to friends, to myself. Yet, the whole time I was protesting, in the back of my mind I was thinking back to a time when I gave up wheat, caffeine, and sugar and I felt amazing. Hmm. Could there be something to this? Nah. There must be something else I can try. (Nothing else worked.)
Eventually, just to prove her wrong, I finally agreed to 3 months. It was torture. Less in the things I couldn’t eat, and more in the deal I sometimes had to make about not eating them. I loathed being “that person”; but, once I decided to go for it, I knew that I had to be all in. So, I was.
It just so happened that my birthday fell almost exactly three months after I started this experiment. From the very beginning, my mantra was, “I just have to make it to July, and then I can have cake.” Boy, did I have cake! RF was the best husband ever and ordered my favorite -strawberry white chocolate from Simply Desserts. We picked up a whole cake to have with friends at my birthday dinner. We shared a midnight piece later that night. I had a slice for breakfast the next morning. After three months without proper wheaty business, I was in heaven! Until I wasn’t.
My naturopath had warned me that symptoms are often even worse after fasting, but that they can sometimes improve when an allergen is reintroduced. I got the “worse” option. It wasn’t immediate; it was more like the Tootsie Roll owl experience. One (fine), two-who-whooo (fine), THREE!!! Not so fine. Not so fine at all. My belly rumbled, my head pounded, my heart fluttered. It was bad. Bad enough for me to realize that, whether it was wheat or gluten or FODMAPS or something else, wheaty business is not for me.
As an introvert who generally prefers to fly under the radar in most situations, I still find it loathsome to be “that person”- except, “that person” sure feels a lot better than she used to, in so many ways. So, I can’t exactly knock it. Amongst many other symptoms, I used to have annoying little headaches all the time, and giant headaches some of the time. Now, I rarely have a headache ever. That alone is worth it. But, I can’t lie and tell you that I wasn’t excited when I spoke with a fellow gluten-free girl who experienced an improvement in many of the same symptoms when she nixed the wheaty business, but discovered that she didn’t have any problems eating wheaty foods in France. Wait, what?!
When you hit the internet, there are many similar reports. I should note that all of my comments here are related to gluten-insensitivity and not celiac disease. I have not been diagnosed with celiac disease and would never suggest that anyone who has should try eating gluten anywhere in the world. But, for myself, I couldn’t resist seeing what happened. After the “cake incident of 2013”, I am very careful. There have been a few times when I’ve mistakenly eaten something that I shouldn’t have, and I’m always miserable. So, it was a crapshoot, but one that I was willing to risk.
If you follow me on Instagram, you might have noticed that, since arriving in Spain, I’ve eaten sandwiches, empanadas, fish & chips, a burger, a bagel, and churros. I’m surprised that not a single friend has questioned this wild abandon. Perhaps my paranoia about being “that person” is unfounded after all. More importantly, none of these indulgences has caused me a single ounce of discomfort. But why?!
Again, the internet has a lot of theories – everything from the specific type of grains and the ways they’re processed to GMO’s and various chemicals that are banned in Europe but not the US. My gut (pun 100% intended) tells me that plastics and pesticides are to blame. I’m halfway joking because “plastics and pesticides” are my go-to source of blame for all the ills of the world, but I really do believe that American farming practices have become consumed by capitalism and we’ve lost sight of any sense of compassion and care when feeding our nation. In the end, it’s “those people” suffer, so why care?
It’s a strange and concerning phenomenon – to me, anyway. But, at the risk of getting way too political, I’ll leave it at that. My goal here was simply to give three cheers for being able to indulge in glutenous foods. Every single meal we’ve had, wheaty or not, has been a tastebud delight. So, if I spend a lot of time talking about food during this trip, that’s why. For the next two months, I plan to enjoy every minute of every morsel of every meal without giving it a single thought!