In my last post, I talked about the first phase of gluten-free eating: The Replacement Phase. Now, the story continues with the Phase Two: The “There Gotta Be More” Stage—Okay, I think I have this gluten-free eating thing down, sort of. But is there another way to eat?
A few years after going gluten-free, my body was screaming at me again and this time it was all about the dairy. I was starting to settle into the gluten-free lifestyle but was still a bit shaky, relying on processed gluten-free foods more than I wanted to and not being able to create the delicious meals I pictured in my head. Now dairy? WTF? This CANNOT be happening.
Well, I could have chosen to stay in denial and continued to feel like crap, but I chose not to. I knew eliminating dairy would cause a tsunami level disruption in my life but I had to suck it up and side with my body’s needs. In retrospect, having to go dairy-free was what I needed to push me and my cooking journey forward.
Now faced with needing to make nearly everything I ate, I was lost, confused, and overwhelmed. Well, I can still eat salad, I thought. But then quickly realized I loved creamy dressings and those were all dairy-based. I can still eat pizza, wait, no, no, not pizza!!! What is pizza without cheese? Oh, it was getting worse. Well, pasta, I can eat gluten-free pasta. Yes, that was true but I really liked Alfredo more than Marinara. Oh, crap, this is going to suck.
My culinary skills at this stage were very lacking in light of the prospect of making my own dressings, finding a way to enjoy pizza without cheese, and learning to accept not being able to ever enjoy butter, heavy cream, cream cheese, sour cream, or sherbet, ever again. Ugh!!
Even if my body did not urge me to go dairy-free, I would have still been at a crossroads at this stage in my gluten-free journey. The process gluten-free foods were really not that good and left me craving the textures and flavors of the glutenful foods I left behind. My diet was not varied in ingredients, I just felt like there was more I needed, wanted, and desired in my daily eating.
The combination of wanting more options and having to eliminate dairy set me on the path of teaching myself how to cook. Not just make dinner, or breakfast that was edible and acceptable, but to REALLY cook and create delicious dishes my family and friends would love. And most importantly, create food that was so good I would stop longing for what was, before gluten-free arrived on the scene.
At the time, YouTube cooking videos were not really a thing. There were a few gluten-free cooking blogs though, but they were mainly recipes and not very instructional. But there was the Food Network, Top Chef, and eventually The Cooking Channel, MasterChef, and so many more. I decided that I would visually devour as many cooking shows as I could, taking notes, learning new ingredients, and studying the techniques. I must say, I became a bit obsessed with learning to cook.
As I tried new recipes, learned new techniques, and began trying ingredients that were new to me, I slowly began to become a better cook. Was everything delicious and wonderful, no. I failed a lot but learned from my failures and never stopped cooking. I was on a mission and nothing was going to stop me. I refused to eat “less than” anymore and certainly did not want to spend the rest of my life eating the way I was.
In Phase Two of gluten-free eating, you will begin to think “there’s gotta be more” and seek out new recipes, cooking techniques, and ingredients, as I did. You may even start doing this without even knowing consciously, or you may have a plan as I did. There is no right or wrong way. What is for sure is as you start expanding you food options and cooking knowledge, you will find more peace in your life. By having additional and better tasting answers to the daily “what am I going to eat” question, you will eliminate some stress and have more time and energy to put in other areas of your life.
After staying in Phase Two for a couple of years, my food life was very much improved but I still was not making as much from scratch as I wanted to be. I just was not confident enough, but I knew it was just a matter of time before I was. And that is where Phase Three began and I will share that story in my next blog.
discover. cook. enjoy.