The pasta has suddenly turned inky in color and is chocked full of organic black beans; quinoa is ever present at my dinner table and every item in the pantry contains one or more of the following words: earthy, earthiness or earth-some.
This is what occurs when your teenage daughter goes gluten-free, joining the growing ranks of individuals who are determined to make the rest of us question our desire for a hamburger bun.
Before all you celiac sufferers make me the object of angry online diatribes, let me clarify that I'm not harping on you. Nobody should have to go through life knowing that a piece of toast can inflict painful damage on your small intestine. But every time I turn around, everyone except me seems to be eliminating gluten for reasons ranging from "I read online that I'll think better," to "All the other girls are doing it."
In my daughter's case, she's self-conscious about her skin complexion. OK, I get it. She's 13 and entering those boy-crazy years. Gluten might be linked to skin abnormalities, so who am I to stand in her journey toward clear, soft skin? NOTE TO BOYS: If you attempt to touch my daughter's clear, soft skin, I will pummel you with the first item I get my hands on. Ever been hit with a frozen, gluten-free bread loaf?
I briefly considered joining her in her gluten-free ways, not for the alleged health benefits but because I am always searching for Daddy/Daughter bonding experiences that a teenager would find appealing, even if it means spending four hours in a grocery store, scanning every food label for taboo phrases like "hydrolyzed vegetable protein." However, three simple words stopped me in my tracks:
Beer. Contains. Gluten.
So I continue putting this horrible additive into my body. Problem is, many foods I consumed daily because I thought they were healthy alternatives seem to be disappearing from our house. The low-cal pretzels that I switched to because I thought they were a sensible snack alternative to cheese balls? Gone. My morning Special K? No longer special. Those whole wheat bagels that formed the perimeter of my succulent turkey, cheese and guacamole sandwiches? Where art thou?
In their place, the grocery cart (and subsequently the pantry, refrigerator and freezer) contains Annie's Homegrown Gluten-Free Bunny Cookies, Snikiddy Baked Fries and Ancient Grains Rice Snack Crackers made with amaranth, millet, sorghum and, naturally, quinoa.
Some gluten-free foods are also chock full of patronization, as evidenced by their titles. Want to make gluten-eating individuals feel badly? Simply stand next to them at a party as they enjoy baby quiches and pizza rolls while you loudly crinkle a bag of Way Better Multi-Grain Corn Tortilla chips. Or, as they consume Sunday pancakes, sidle up next to them and casually read the label on your new choice, Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free Pancake Mix:
"Bob's Red Mill products labeled gluten-free are milled and blended in our dedicated gluten-free mill room, packaged in our dedicated gluten-free packaging room, and batch tested in our dedicated gluten-free quality control laboratory."
OK, Bob, we get it. Please go back to the lab.
Finally I decided it was time to mark my turf. I led my daughter into the pantry and drew an imaginary line down the middle.
"Gluten-free on the left, non-gluten-free on the right. Same goes for the grocery cart. Deal?"
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, don't forget that I live here too. And I want my favorite foods back. And I want to eat traditional stuffing this Thanksgiving. Even if it's not physically in the bird, at least place it nearby."
"OK, Dad, if you want to experience joint inflammation and possible neurological damage, have at it."
Bob couldn't have said it any better.