Lessons in Being Allergen-Free

So we’ve been at this dairy-free, nut-free, wheat-free, egg-free thing for a couple of weeks now, and I’ve learned some lessons I’d like to share—in part, because they may help someone else, in part because I kind of think some of this is hilarious.

First up:  SunButter.  What is SunButter, you ask?  It’s fake peanut butter, made from roasted sunflower seeds. Because it’s fake peanut butter, it’s shelved—you guessed it—with the peanut butter.  Not with the butter.  It only took me three trips to the grocery store to figure that out.

When I grabbed a jar from the shelf, I instinctively read the ingredients list (because that’s what I do now) and then proceeded to have a not-so-silent pity party for myself.  Could anything really function as a peanut butter replacement? Doesn’t it seem silly to even try?

Turns out, SunButter is surprisingly good.  I prepared myself for it to not taste like peanut butter; I only wanted it to taste good in its own right.  It’s good enough that I’m planning to make some SunButter cookies this week, and I may even keep a jar around once I’m off the nut-free diet.  It just doesn’t sit in my stomach the way peanut butter can.  Like when I eat too much of it.  Which I don’t intend to change.

The bummer about SunButter is that I don’t have real bread or crackers to eat it on.  Instead, I have what I’ve dubbed “birdseed crackers,” because they are essentially steam-rolled piles of birdseed.  Wheat-free, gluten-free crackers?  Isn’t that an oxymoron?  Indeed.  But with enough SunButter, who cares?

Though there are foods I sometimes miss, there are some that simply shouldn’t be tampered with.  Ice cream, for example.  Rice ice cream, my friends, is as horrendous as it sounds.  Who looked at rice and said, “Hey, I can make ice cream out of that”?  Sorry, friend, but you can’t, and you didn’t.

Rice is an obvious alternative to bread or couscous with dinner, but I realize in these three weeks, we’ve only had it in its natural form when we ordered in Asian food.  That’s probably because now we have rice milk and rice flour on hand.

Seriously.  Did you know they even made those things?  Again, I did not.

I’ve had dreams recently in which everything around our little allergen-free family is made of rice, and we are all tired and sad because we’re missing out on key nutrients.  It makes me cranky to wake up from this kind of thing in the morning.  It also makes me cranky to make “pancakes” when two of the main ingredients are byproducts of rice.  At least breakfast sausage and homemade berry sauce aren’t off limits!

Really, there is still a lot I can eat; I just need to be prepared. For me, that translates into copious amounts of baking.  I made some pretty good banana bread and some solid granola (that was supposed to be bars, but crumbled into cereal).  My oatmeal chocolate chip cookies were okay, but crumbly as well (thank you, rice flour!).  Plus, at the end of the day, vegetable shortening is simply not an adequate substitute for butter in cookies.  Nothing is, and that’s okay.

I’ve accepted there are just some things I can’t have.  Hopefully this is only a stage for us, and not our entire future.  I guess it’s good to know that the world doesn’t end if I don’t eat cheese for three weeks.  Who knew?

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4 Comments to “Lessons in Being Allergen-Free”

  1. I know it’s a typo but I want you to keep the last line exactly as it is. I certainly don’t eat if you don’t eat cheese for 3 weeks — and everyone else I talk to doesn’t either!!! :]

    Good luck with all of this! Good thing you are so creative, in the kitchen and out!

  2. Hello,
    What a treat to discover your lovely blog. Since I blog for SunButter, I’m always looking for new recipes, which is how I found your post. Glad SunButter fits your eating plans.
    If you’re so inclined, we do have an online recipe box full of SunButter ideas. It’s here: http://bit.ly/9Pm79a (Although I shamelessly admit my fav “recipe” is SB by the spoonful.) Looking forward to following your blog!

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