Food Blog Confession & Wheatless in Seattle"/>
At the corner of Greenwood Ave N. and 100th, there stands a Mecca for the food-allergy afflicted. Snuggled up against a residential neighborhood it used to be a member of, the converted little red bakery bears the name "Wheatless in Seattle" on a sign outside. People from all different districts and walks of life, having only the post-script [food]-free in common, travel here to visit this rarity: a local, completely dedicated, gluten-free bakery, where owner Kaili McIntyre and her team turn out decadent treats like lemon-lavendar-blueberry muffins and double chocolate cupcakes that even "normal" people enjoy.
Sweet Potato Rosemary bread & Green Tea bread with Cranberries, from Wheatless in Seattle
Somewhere over the course of the last decade, food allergies have gone from being something weird and abnormal to being downright trendy. This is great news for people who have food allergies, because it makes shopping so much easier. It's also kind of annoying news for people who have food allergies, because things like gluten-free "diets" are now all the rage, and people who don't even actually need them are dabbling in them, under an illusion that the word "diet" means "health food" or "weight loss."
Don't get me wrong; I am absolutely certain that we here in the U.S. eat too much gluten. When a society starts dusting its french fries with flour before deep frying them (because there wasn't enough starch already, I suppose), the love affair has certainly gone too far. And it's probably time to work on some solid relationship boundaries. But there is a big difference between "taking a break" from gluten, and undergoing a necessary (permanent) lifestyle change for the sake of survival.
As for myself? Almost four years ago, one blustery day in January, my life-long chronic tiredness suddenly escalated to the point of fear-inducing exhaustion. The progression began out of nowhere with the words "I feel funny," and culminated two weeks later in the realization that I couldn't walk all the way across the living-room without sitting down, and had actually started forgetting to breathe. The beauty of it all was that there was absolutely nothing wrong with me. It wasn't until some doctor thought to check for food allergies that I started to recover from that nothing.
I've been gluten-free ever since. And, for somebody who hangs around with the Voracious crowd, I also have a ludicrously long list of other foods I cannot eat. People like, say, Julien Perry seem blessed with the ability to eat anything under the sun, no consequences. People like me are known for phrases such as, "... well, can I just get a side of cucumbers?"
While I don't have any severe allergies, and can deal with minor cross-contamination unfazed, the past four years have still required me to learn how to order "creatively" at restaurants, how to identify when a server is at the limit of their patience, and how to choose establishments that look inclined to be allergy-friendly (or at least allergy-accepting). It's been a process of learning to spot "likely" brands in grocery stores, and how to skim ingredients to identify probable enemies. Of learning to hold my ground when the cook at a pub decides to assert that Panko won't hurt me. Of relearning how to cook, and finally becoming sympathetic toward people who can't figure out how to make a decent batch of chocolate chip cookies. And above all else: it's been a slow journey toward developing a sense of humor for the whole situation.
Not everyone is as welcoming and supportive as Kaili and friends at Wheatless in Seattle. But even in the four years that I've been eating cautiously, things have drastically changed for the better. No longer do all gf-tortilla options have the texture of cardboard, and significantly fewer restaurants offer gluten-free menus like the gem in the photo at left. Things are looking up! And we formerly exiled high-maintenance eaters are finally edging our way successfully back into the social world... including all its restaurant-, bar-, and cafe-going.
So here is a column in keeping with the times: a blog to share tips, tricks, and anecdotes about navigating the Seattle food scene when you're Allergic to Food.