Coeliac disease. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

So it’s official – you’re a coeliac.  A card carrying, villiously challenged, chronically inflamed misery guts.  It’s a huge shock.  But at the same time it’s so stupidly obvious, you wonder just how you missed it all along.

Most people you meet won’t know that Coeliac disease is actually an autoimmune condition, and that at present, it’s the only form of true gluten intolerance that we can prove exists – affecting 1 in 60 females and 1 in 80 males.

But you probably knew that.  And after all the poking, prodding and invading you’ve recently endured, you deserve to hear something positive.  So here’s what I’ve got:

The Good News

Firstly, know that Ryan is batting for you.

ryan gosling sucker punch gluten

He’s going to sucker punch gluten in the neck for you.  And look dreamy while doing it.

The other good news is that now you have the diagnosis, you also have the right to some good old fashioned sanctimonious revelling.  Because it turns out you weren’t a slothful, listless hypochondriac after all.  You were EFFING WELL ANAEMIC all these years (or at least chronically iron deficient), and have the approximate vitamin D level of a mushroom.

Now is the appropriate time to phone your family and shout at them ‘I’VE BEEN FUNCTIONING AT 20% CAPACITY FOR THE LAST FIVE YEARS YOU JUDGEMENTAL, CAKE-EATING JERKS’.  After you’ve got that off your chest, you may also like to add that coeliac disease runs in families, and that any one of them could be next.

< insert evil laugh >

And what about your reputation as a walking, talking, high level environmental polluter?  It wasn’t your freaking fault!  Your insides are a hotbed of over-fed microbes and slaughtered villi, and it’s well time that everyone knew.

Shout it to the rooftops – Facebook it – Tweet it: ‘MY EXCESSIVE BLOATING AND FLATULENCE WERE THE GLUTEN ALL ALONG – I WAS A VICTIM OF THE BLOODY CIVIL WAR INSIDE MY BELLY DON’T YOU SEE?!?’  It’ll feel great – trust me.  And it’ll help you weed out your real friends from the hangeronerers.

Oh crap!  Are you crying now?

Can I just say something obvious at this stage?  Do me a favour and don’t just turn to Dr Google.  He’s not gonna hold your hand and walk you through the supermarket isles.

gluten is... google search

See a dietitian.  A certified glutenopathist. They’ll feel your pain, and the nice ones will probably shed a little tear with you, because they KNOW how much it sucks to be broken on the inside.  It’s just gonna take a pantry overhaul, a PhD in food science and a good twelve months, but you’ll be back baby.

And talk to the official Nerds Of Gluten at Coeliac Australia.  They know their rice malt syrup from their wheat glucose syrup (hooboy yes they do).  And they have apps, and hotlines, and experts, and seminars, and magazines, and even EXPOS dedicated to helping you get this right.

Better? Okay good.

Now most of you have already worked out how simple it is to eat gluten free at home.  No dramas there.  Except for the time when you’ll try making pizza dough on a whim and end up with a kitchen that resembles a white bomb-site and a pizza crust that doubles as a weapon against intruders.

The Not-So-Good News

The crappy news (you knew this was coming) is that popping out for a meal will never be the same again.

Ladies – you have a head start here, as you already possess the innate ability to ask what’s in your food without feeling like a twat.  Blokes – I just have to say right now that I’m really sorry.  Yes it does suck (It sucks Big. Hairy. Balls), but you’re going to have to man up, and start having that conversation.

wheat flour in everything meme

Gluten is a social creature.  It gatecrashes just about every dining occasion from your posh dinner out, to the backyard barbecue. Take that potato chip you’ve just been offered: Better check if it’s coated in starch or hydrolysed vegetable protein (HVP)** from wheat. And that delicious, innocent-looking sausage over there?  Sorry, but you’re you’ll need to do some serious hunting and gathering (coeliac style) before it’s allowed on your plate.

**by the way, please stop freaking out –  HVP sounds very similar, but has absolutely NOTHING to do with Human Papaloma Virus 

Hunting and Gathering the Coeliac Way

1.  Hunt down sausage provider, by systematically questioning everyone present at BBQ

2.  Gather information regarding sausage ingredients, employing specialist bin retrieval tactics as needed

And while you’re hunting and gathering the sausage safety information, you may as well find out what mayonnaise was used for the coleslaw dressing, and whether that tempting pink dip has been laced with breadcrumbs.  Pass on the beer (once again I’m so, so sorry), but accept the wine.  DRINK THE WINE.  It will give you courage.

And you will need courage in the early days, as you adapt to your new life of planning EVERY meal in advance, and having to explain to EVERYONE how you’re not a prat – you just don’t particularly want to poison yourself.

coeliac fad meme

Because my final words of wisdom are that people can be nice, and supportive, and considerate.  But some of them can be assholes about it too.

As a general rule, most punters don’t have a clue what gluten actually is.  And here are some of the types you’re going to have to get used to:

1.  The well-meaning friends who love you but will annoy the crap out of you, when they:

  • Insist on taking you out for Yum Cha, then on realising there’s nothing you can eat, they offer to peel a dumpling for you.
  • Buy you cookies and cream ice cream, and then look horrified when you gently point out the inherent gluten threat from the ‘cookies’ component.  Ask them to bring you a bottle of vodka next time.

2.  The purely annoying people, who:

  • Insist that spelt bread is fine for coeliacs (these are the same people who claim to have cured their own ‘gluten intolerance’ with spirilina shots and kefir).
  • Make quips like: ‘Yeah well we’d all be better off without gluten wouldn’t we? It’s like, really fattening, isn’t it?’ A: No it’s not fattening YOU TWIT. 
  • Slip you the business card of their kinesthesiologist / aromatherapist / spirit healer because apparently they’ll fix you up in a jiffy.

3.  The evil people

  • The clueless, cocky person who says things like ‘C’mon – a little bit won’t hurt’ – at which point you employ a vice like nipple cripple and say ‘okay maybe you’re right, but tell me DOES THIS HURT?
  • The jerk who thinks you’re being uptight for not accepting the sausage in bread (or the sausage put in bread then removed from bread, which is now so cross-contaminated you can sense it acutely with your gluten-detecting spider senses)

And last but not least:

  • EVERY OTHER PERSON AT THE CONFERENCE who is trying to get at the sushi platter you’re so zealously guarding. That’s YOUR freaking sushi man!  It’s like, the only thing you can eat.  Slap those hands away, and jostle if you need to.  Just keep them away from that sushi like your life depends on it.

And get used to it, because from now on, you’re gonna be eating a lot of sushi…

***

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NEWS FLASH: Impossible Quiche Saves Day

I’m sitting on the couch, snatching a moment of peace with my coffee and computer. The weather’s grey and drizzly, the puppy’s sprawled in the plush bean bag by the heater (I’ve conceded defeat on that one), and the room is filled with the loud tick-tock of a metronome.  One of the kids was playing on the keyboard, but has since scuttled off elsewhere, leaving just the oppressive tick, tock, tick, tock.  And so goes my Thursday afternoon.

dog comaWe’re almost a week into the holidays, and my patience is waning.  I’m trying to embrace the mess, but really I’m not fooling anyone.  I’ve reverted to ‘take no crap’ mode.  In the car just now I presented them with the facts: If you don’t stop arguing I’m going to lose the plot!  Of course, what I really wanted to say was I’m dangerously close to LOSING MY SHIT.

…< big breath >….

The addition of our newest family member – the delightful Billie – has added an extra level of intensity these school holidays.   It’s been wonderful watching the kids rolling on the grass with her, lovingly making her dinner and cooing to her while she laps up her puppy milk. And against house rules, we’ve engaged in many indulgent, late-night couch snuggles.  She’s beautiful.

billie on bean bag

With the territory though, has come a few not-so-great moments.  There’s the early mornings which always start with paper towel, Pine-O-Clean and rubber gloves.  And there’s the constant stream of ‘Billie NO!’ ‘NO SHOES!’ and ‘No BITE!’ exclamations throughout the day.  Beautiful, and kind of exhausting.

Because of the puppy we’ve stayed close to home this week, and I’ve been donning the apron and getting my Nigella on a bit.  So while I’m inspired, here’s one thing I’ve been meaning to do for ages:  I want to share the magic of The Impossible Quiche.

Don’t worry – I haven’t gone all ‘easy, quick meals for mums’ on you.  I’m just really loving this quiche right now – it’s dead simple and bloody delicious.

The ‘impossible’ component is the lack of any pastry, yet the oddly pastry-like end product.  And the bit I’m amazed by is that it’s all light and fluffy, rather than all eggy and wet like your traditional frittata.  As long as you have the integral ingredients of eggs, milk, flour and cheese, you can make up the rest depending on the contents of your fridge.

I also tried this with gluten free flour, and it still worked beautifully.  The kids and my ‘eggs are not dinner’ husband all gave it their seal of approval.  And (be still my beating heart!) it even holds up well for lunch the following day.

Behold.. The Impossible Quiche (thanks Anna!)

The Impossible Quiche

Core ingredients:

4 eggs

1 cup grated cheese

1/2 cup self-raising flour

1 1/4 cups milk

Discretional ingredients:

Spring onion / onion / any vaguely onion-like vegetable in arms reach

Chorizo / ham / bacon / last night’s leftover sausages

Cherry tomatoes / capsicum / sun-dried tomatoes / spinach leaves / any old crap from the crisper

Basil / parsley / neither

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 200 celsius and grease a large, round, quichey-looking dish (I use a non-stick fluted metal pie dish)
  2. Heat oil and cook spring onion lightly, then add tomato / ham / other crisper remnants and cook down for a few minutes
  3. Whisk eggs, milk and flour in a bowl, then stir in cheese and add vegetable mixture from the pan.  Season, add herbs.
  4. Pour mixture into quiche dish and bake for ~40 minutes, until golden on top and not wobbly in the centre.  Leave to stand for 10 minutes.
  5. Slice and serve with a green salad (the kids may baulk – but at least you tried)
  6. Pour yourself a glass of wine, sit back and bask in the glory of the impossible quiche.

Go you.

wine

ps. It also helps to close your eyes and pretend you’re sitting in a wine bar
(Image: Judy Merrilll-Smith)