Since so many of our foods are wheat-based here in Australia and the West, it can be difficult to cook for someone who doesn’t eat gluten. And the most difficult of all your gluten-free guests will be a person with an extreme case of coeliac disease.
Many people avoid gluten because they have decided to test and see if they are gluten intolerant on their own, or because they feel like it will help them to lose weight. I’m certainly not criticising these reasons since I think that, usually, the only person entitled to judge someone’s choices is that person themself (exceptions: a court of law, parents if the person in question is under 14 or there abouts, me). Also, the growing number of people who eat in ways traditionally associated with medical conditions in turn make products suitable for those people who do have something like coeliac disease, which is certainly a good thing.
The big difference between cooking for someone who has chosen to eat gluten-free and someone who has coeliac disease is that a tiny bit of contamination with gluten, say a crumb fell off a loaf of bread onto the plate you put your food on, is not going to make them sick the way it could for someone who does have the disease in a severe form. And that is the biggest challenge when you’re cooking gluten-free. It’s easy enough to find gluten-fee recipes, and there are some really nice ones, but making your kitchen spotless before you start cooking and keeping all of your ingredients quarantined can be a real drag.
All of that said, cooking something tasty for someone who’s usually quite restricted can be amazingly rewarding. For me, there are two main reasons that I love cooking gluten-free food:
1) It forces you to be creative. I love making up a new recipe, or adapting an old one, and some of the tastiest ones I’ve managed to make have been when I couldn’t use my usual staples that include wheat or barley or oats or rye (like these meatballs).
2) It makes people happy. Imagine how much you would miss yummy pastry and pasta and crusty loaves of bread if you couldn’t eat them any more. Now imagine how it would feel to have someone give you a lovely tart or pie or bowl of cabonara that they’d managed to make that you could eat. OR, imagine going to a party and for once you could have a great time, not worrying about what you can and can’t eat, because you know your host has made everything safe for you.
So here’s the deal on cooking gluten-free. Be cautious, but don’t be scared. There are loads of people out there who’ve put a lot of time and effort into making gluten-free recipes that are easy and tasty – just for you! Plus, it’ll make your gluten avoiding friends very very grateful.