Wheat-free and fancy

So, as I mentioned in passing, before, I went on this weird restrictive diet to try to clear up some issues I was having with my skin. (And by “issues” I of course mean “leprosy-like eruptions.” Gosh, I hope you weren’t eating anything when you read that.) For two entire weeks I eliminated a host of foods I love dearly, and I went heavy on the fruits, veggies, nuts (though not peanuts, because I already suspect I’ve developed a sensitivity to those, on account of my being a delicate flower and everything), and lean meats.

My skin cleared up. It was a thing of beauty.

At that point I concluded that perhaps I’d just been all out of whack with sugar and my glycemic index, and that probably my troubles were now over. I would just slowwwwwwwly add back in the suspect foods one at a time to confirm. I’d start with wheat, because it was the thing I missed the most, and also the thing least likely to be the culprit.

AHAHAHAHAHAHA. I am cute when I’m stupid.

I had a couple of pancakes one morning while my folks were here, because I’d done a new homemade recipe and everyone was raving about them and it had been two weeks and WHEAT IS MY FRIEND. So. Two pancakes. Later that day I also had half a slice of bread.

The next day my face was broken out and I woke up with a terrible stomach ache. Huh.

Not to be deterred, and convinced that this was SURELY a coincidence, that day I had pasta for dinner.

My stomach started to hurt shortly after dinner, and the next day my face was a mess.


Okay, so, I added back in the OTHER missing foods (dairy, legumes, and a moderate amount of sugar), and my skin is fine. I have continued avoiding wheat and my skin is fine.

I’m not a doctor, but I’m pretty sure that the wheat turned on me, man. Asshole wheat.

My solution to being wheat-free is to… not eat anything vaguely wheat-ish. Like, I just skip pasta and crackers and bread and all of those things typically made with wheat. I didn’t run out to buy replacements, or anything, because all of the alternative products are expensive and probably taste weird, so why bother? Besides, it’s much more fun to be a martyr.

But life is full of curveballs, yes? And perhaps you remember last year when Chickadee had a host of skin issues and was diagnosed peanut allergic? About a week ago she started with the creeping crud, again, and in a matter of days her knees, elbows, and back were covered in a scabby, bumpy rash… even though she hasn’t eaten anything containing peanuts in a year.

So I just had a tiny glimmer of a thought, you know, and decided to take her off wheat while we wait to get in to see the allergist. And wouldn’t you know it—she’s already healing up nicely.

Now is probably not the time to mention that I have a freezer half full of beef and half full of various meat-substitute burgers for my vegetarian child, all of which are bound up with WHEEEEEEAT. Ahem.

And because it’s no fun to be an itchy kid and because I didn’t feel like I could just tell her to avoid all of the stuff I’m avoiding, we went to the health food store and spent an insane amount of money on a tiny bag of wheat-esque foods like bread and crackers and cookies and cereals all free of wheat.

[Aside: Otto asked if perhaps this sudden sensitivity to wheat could’ve been spurred on by my obsessive baking of the last few months, and the prevalence of wheat in our diets as a result, and I didn’t hit him or ANYTHING. But he is correct; most allergies operate on a threshold principle, and the body is tolerant until a certain threshold is passed, and then it’s like a switch flips and whatever the offending allergen is becomes problematic in any amount. Yes. I successfully poisoned myself and my daughter. Apparently the boys in this house are made of stronger stuff than us.]

The guilt and grumpiness over our newly-restricted diets may have been a small factor in deciding to do a fancy girls’ day out with Chickadee, yesterday, while her brother was away. We went shopping and we went and got smoothies, and when she decided that mine was better than hers, I swapped with her. Once they were both half-gone we mixed the remains and split that, resulting in a delicious concoction and many jokes about how we should’ve just mixed them at the outset, except that one of us would’ve had to pour half a smoothie into our cupped palms while both cups were still full.

We finished out the day with pedicures, and that was a real treat all around because it was only my third one ever and it was Chickie’s first. No day would be complete without me stuffing a (at least, in this case, freshly-painted!) foot into my mouth, so at one point when Chickadee was starting to get a little snotty about something, I commented that I could “just leave you here, and you can do nails for a living.” At that, all three limited-English-speaking employees there swiveled their heads in my direction, and I realized that it sounded like I was insulting their profession, so I hastily continued (probably entirely too loudly), “And I don’t think any of the women here had to start working full-time when they were only 11, so maybe you should wait a few years,” and then they looked away and resumed talking in a language I don’t speak, probably saying, “Stupid obnoxious woman, who wants to stab her with the cuticle scissors?” Whoops.

My toes are now a bright and cheery “Buy-Buy Tokyo,” while Chickadee opted for “Berry Good Dancers” and a rhinestoned flower on each big toe. I cautioned her afterward that this was a VERY SPECIAL TREAT and not something we’ll be doing very often, and she said she knew and gave me a big hug and thanked me and said it had been a really fun day.

It really WAS an awesome day. I know I’m supposed to dislike this cusp-of-hormones age, but so far I am enjoying 11 very much. Chickadee is sweet and sassy and grown up one minute and still little the next. She makes me laugh until I gasp for breath, and then cocks her head to the side and says, “You snorted. You are so gross!” And then five minutes later she is reaching for my hand to skip beside me as we walk along.

She is totally worth a $5 loaf of not-bread. But if she turns up allergic to anything else, I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to produce a pony.


  1. Joshilyn

    Dude — no wheat and no meat — what is the child going to eat?

    I AM A POET!

  2. Annette

    The allergies would have manifested themselves at some point for sure. So, relieve yourself of that guilt. You just saved Chickie from going thru the seek and find you just put yourself through later in her own life :)!

    Also, have you considered allergy shots? It is a commitment but they do help! I wouldn’t go the quack you went to last year!!!

  3. Annette

    Also, I am strongly considering the paleo diet to discern where and why I am getting multi joint pain. I guess with your discovery it may be worth the suffering of denial to determine if there are any allergies like you have…

  4. Foodie

    Curious if you’ve tried your beloved steel-cut oats? e.g. do you think it’s wheat or is it gluten or whatever other agricultural phenomenon our neolithic forebears had not yet developed?? Glad you’ve narrowed it down (and that a little sugar is ok! yippee!) and the girls’ day out sounds like mucho fun.

  5. Angela

    I was diagnosed with celiac last year and man some of the gluten free products are nasty and not worth eating. And then. You find those that are amazing. Life altering. Joy back in your life. And you shout with you. Kinickinik brand bagels and waffles with change your life. They smell like waffle cones. They taste like heaven. And PJ’s organics makes a wicked chicken enchilada dinner that brings back a piece of heaven. Blue Diamond nut crackers are fantastic. Glutino brand products are also pretty fabulous.

  6. Lia

    The non-meat probably has soy in it as well. Soy can mimic estrogen which will mess with your hormones. My allergies are strongly related to my hormones, and it might be the case with you and Chickie (since the boys seem to be ok). You may be able to have wheat again if you dial down the soy…

    But pea butter tastes almost like peanut butter and the cookies are almost as good too! (Just so you know what I’m talking about: http://www.peabutter.ca/)

  7. hollygee

    Oh sweeties.
    If you need non-gluten contaminated steel cut oats, import from Canada at Only Oats. I haven’t found many crackers or bread that is worth the money. Ginger Lemon Girl has a blog and runs a Yahoo GF recipe exchange group. Tinkyada pasta (and Trader Joe’s version of it) is brown rice pasta and not so horrible.

    I’ve got lots more. Remember that cornbread can be made with all cornmeal and is GOOD.

  8. Gaylin

    I hit the grain threshold 15 years ago – all grains, including rice. Darn good thing I can cook my own food.

    Corn pasta is pretty good, the rotini holds up best but set your timer, overcook and you have gross mush.

    There is a Canadian recipe book you may be able to get: The Everyday Grain Free Gourmet. Pretty good recipes but the information at the beginning of the book is worth the price.

    If you want a really good cornbread recipe, check the novel out of the library by LouJane Temple, The Cornbread Killer. Her recipe for cornbread is good, although I do replace the buttermilk with 1.5 c yogurt, .5 c water.

    Best of luck, I know (really I do) how difficult this can be but you are pretty and can conquer this.

  9. julie

    Sorry to hear it, but glad it’s figured out.

    Check out crockpot365.blogspot.com for loads and loads of gluton-free stuff. So yummy. Even has home-made “bread”.

  10. Jennifer @ Here I Stand

    Hi, Mir,

    De-lurking to add…I was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2001 and did a lot of research. You may want to check out dermitits herpetiformis, especially considering Chickadee’s symptoms.


    And perhaps get both of you tested for celiac disease? Going gluten-free is a bit more restrictive than going wheat-free. (But not by much, unfortunately.)

    The gluten-free diet is difficult at first, but once you figure out what you can eat, it becomes second nature at home. Eating out gets a bit more complicated, but it’s doable. I was so relieved that my symptoms disappeared that any self-pity over what I can’t eat is minor and momentary. Good luck!

  11. Lucinda

    Once you find wheat free products you like, buy them from Amazon if available. It is MUCH cheaper than the health food stores. Our house is gluten-free so I feel your pain.

    And Jennifer is right. It’s hard at first but gets much easier over time.

  12. RuthWells

    Oh dear. So sorry to hear about the wheat nonsense. Courage!

  13. TC

    You know that the lovely Stephanie at A Year of Crockpotting is gluten-free, right? Great source of info…


  14. Little Bird

    I’m just dreading the day when I’m told that I’m lactose intolerant. I will curl up and die. Though, I don’t think I could do without wheat either. Look into the allergy shots, my aunt tried them, and they take A LOT of time to work, but she’s been able to re-introduce certain foods back into her diet. If in minute amounts. She did come up with some creative recipes for wheat and dairy free foods though. Just FYI someone who follows a lot of celiac blogs also follows my blog (I post lots of recipes), though I’m not really sure why, my recipes tend to be all over the map, diet wise.

  15. mamabird

    Not that you need more suggestions but Gluten Free Pantry makes a sweet-ass chocolate cake mix. I make it the lactose free version and my hubby and I love it. Honestly you wouldn’t tell the difference. AND I’ve bought it for around $4. Taking out wheat sucks but gets easier. Also, in terms of cereals, I found Rice Chex and Corn Chex in the regular grocery aisle (and the regular grocery price) which are Gluten Free.

  16. Ruby

    Are you familiar with http://crockpot365.blogspot.com? She did a year of crockpot recipes and they are gluten free. She even made yogurt in a crockpot! I’ve made it several times and it really is good!

  17. dad

    Alternatives to pouring half of a smoothie into your cupped hands so that you can mix two flavors:

    1. Ask the smoothie dealer for an empty cup.

    2. (My preference) Get 4 large diameter straws and each of you put one straw in each smoothie.

    Great fun. Slurp away!

  18. Lylah


    Call or ping if you need to…

  19. Michele Bardsley

    We tried gluten-free for a while and believe me, I feel your pain. I don’t do dairy anymore because like you, I eliminated it from my diet and my stomachaches and IBS symptoms went away. So, I live in cheese-less life. There is only one decent pseudo cheese product and it’s from Follow Your Heart. Anyhoodles, I remember how fun (except not) it was to try out the gluten-free bread products. I never found a decent bread and I never got up the energy or nerve to try baking my own. Also, Namaste makes the best gluten-free everything I’ve ever tasted. Even though we’re back to gluten products, I will still pay the fortune to get the Namaste brownie mix. It’s awesomeness.

  20. Heather S

    Trader Joe’s has cheap-ish gluten-free products. Just something to keep in mind when you make your next sojourn to the big city. :)

  21. Flea

    Craigs List – sell those fancy no-meat burgers! And can’t you just switch to barley and oats and what not? Isn’t that easy? Can’t you just make your own bread at home? What? You already do that?

    Sorry. It’s the wine cooler talking.

    The pedicure sounds like a great time. :)

  22. Half Assed Kitchen

    Hmm. Are you sure the two of you don’t have celiac?

    It runs in families and my daughter was just diagnosed (on top of the fact that my son is deathly allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, eggs and dairy). So we’ll be eating a lot of rice around here. And maybe some carrots.

  23. jenn

    I just recommended to Ms. Half-assed Kitchen a fabulous gluten free cookie that I found at my local/regional health food grocery store the other day. Called Liz Lovely’s and they are maybe sold at Whole Foods down in ATL, or perhaps a smaller health food joint. If you see these lurking anywhere, scoop them up and share some with her. They are unbelievable. If you have a spare $50 lying around, you could also order a case from http://lizlovely.com/webstore/index.php?gr=CASE
    Seriously. Really fantastic cookies and I have tried every gluten free cookie I’ve ever seen… these are the only ones that even someone who’s not gluten free would want to eat.

  24. tj

    Bring on the pony mama :D

  25. Heidi

    I think I just snorted too! I can’t imagine cutting out wheat entirely, but I would happily cut out wheat to keep the sugar in, but I am pretty sure it doesn’t work like that. But I am enjoying the healthier side of shopping and cooking.

  26. margie

    is it wheat or yeast?

  27. Tracy

    I applaud your determination in finding the culprit. Hopefully it’s just wheat and not sugar, too!

  28. Aimee

    You know, I always suspected that wheat was a fickle bitch.

  29. Katie in MA

    Wow, that is awful! But at least it’s fixable. Maybe the wheat in the kinda-burgers won’t bother you guys as much? Worth a try anyway.

  30. Catootes

    The dreaded wheat and gluten strikes again!
    We’ve been a wheat & gluten free household for almost 4 years. It sucked for a time but there are so many new and yummy items on the market now and I just alter fave recipes to make them GF.
    A couple of excellent brands we keep in the house:
    Schars, crackers, cookies, pasta’s.
    Pamela’s – many great baking mixes
    Conte’s – wonderful froaen ravioli, stuffed shells etc
    Ceasar’s – Frozen lasagna

    I still can’t find a decent bread but we’re working on it.
    Rye and barley are also culprits in the gluten intolerance world, so beware.

  31. Asianmommy

    So sorry to hear about this wheat allergy issue. Why are food allergies so common now?

  32. The Other Leanne

    Wheat and yeast are the twin devils, and Hefeweizen is the worst combination of the two (don’t ask me how I know this, let’s just say the party wasn’t as much fun as I thought it would be). Jennifer@Here I Stand is right about the dermatitis as a symptom. Unchecked celiac disease can also result in severe anemia. Next time either of you goes to the doc, ask for a celiac panel but load up on the glutens before the test so you get a truer result.

  33. The Mother

    There are hosts of cookbooks available for dealing with wheat free diets. You don’t have to buy the prepackaged stuff. Your baking skills will come in handy, after all.

    It sounds as though you have found a wonderful solution to your problem, and incidentally saved your daughter from trying to figure it all out on her own. Good job!

  34. bec 39

    So, just curious, how do you figure out if it is wheat, or gluten, or yeast (or perhaps in Chickie’s case could it be none of those, and the rash clearing was a coincidence; I only mention because my son has had a couple of weird rashes that cleared up on their own)? And, what is the deal, it seems gluten is responsible for physical *and* emotional/mental issues in kids, and now it’s making you break out? It seems so common all of a sudden, and my kids are young enough I imagine it could happen to them one day too.

  35. aadrw

    You may consider taking your son off wheat as well and see how he does. Our 2yo has some sensory stuff and going gluten-free has really helped. Frankly, it’s easier to have the whole house gluten-free than to be making two sets of meals.

  36. Ali B.

    I love this post. I love how you turn a not-so-fun thing, i.e. the challenge that is wheat-free living into something warm and wonderful.

    Merrie’s favorite crackers are the nut-and-rice ones from Blue Diamond.

    Also: quinoa! It’s not a grain, it’s a seed. It’s relatively inexpensive if you buy it in bulk, it makes a decent pasta, and it can satisfy even the most intense carb cravings.

  37. Aubri

    Ahhh Mir, I do nails for a living, and I am not offended! But then again, I speak very fluent English (first language and all) and so maybe it’s only offensive if you don’t speak much English.

  38. The Mother

    This one got a write up in our local paper yesterday: Easy Gluten Free Baking by Elizabeth Barbone. The chocolate chip cookie recipe they printed sounds yummy!

  39. Love Coach Rinatta

    Mir, if you have to stick with wheat-free, Trader Jose has rice bread and rice tortillas – cheaper than health food store and yummier, too.

    Also, I work with an EFT – emotional freedom technique – person who supposedly clears up allergies (I was working with her on other stuff) Let me know if you would like her contact info – she works over the phone and is amazing.

  40. searchingwithin

    I had a friend diagnosed last week as being allergic to gluten ie wheat, rye, etc., sounds like this may be your problem. It can also cause problems with your colon, which can repair itself, if you quite eating those things. Google it, and you will find great ways to substitute.

    Best Wishes

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