Yesterday was Mardi Gras, and I kicked it off with gluten-free banana pancakes from the Portage Bay Cafe. It was actually a convenient mistake--wholly unintentional, since I didn't realize until halfway through the day that it was in fact Fat Tuesday. Fortunately, the pancakes were excellent regardless, and judging by the fact that the cafe wasn't busy, I don't think anyone else realized the day either, so there was no waiting in line.
But I feel that somehow it's not right for a whole day (let alone an entire season) to pass with so little recognition. Therefore, in honor of the fact that yesterday was Mardi Gras, this is a post about pancakes, and about not treating your food allergies like a permanent extension of Lent.Mardi Gras goes by a number of different names, such as Shrove Tuesday or Fat Tuesday ("Mardi Gras" in translation), all of them linked in some way to the fact that it is the last day before the liturgical season of Lent: 40 days of fasting, confessing, and abstaining from vices such as alcohol.
Years ago (and I do mean years ago), the tradition of beginning Tuesday with a giant pancake breakfast gave it another nickname, "Pancake Tuesday." Because butter, sugar, and eggs needed to be out of the house so as not to tempt those who were fasting, pancakes were chosen as a great way to use them all up. It's a tradition I am particularly fond of, being also particularly fond of pancakes. But good gluten-free pancakes can be tough to find, even in a food-allergy haven like Seattle. I can't imagine what the rest of the rest of the country must be up against.
For many people, there is a funny misconception that eating gluten-free equals eating healthy food. This is no more true than the misconception that a vegetarian diet is a healthy diet. Any diet, restricted or not, requires an active investment on the part of the dieter to make healthy dietary decisions as opposed to unhealthy ones. It can stand as a case in point that refined sugar is completely gluten-free, and french fries are most often vegetarian. But frequently, those sentenced to gluten-free living default to foods made with garbanzo flour or other advertised "gf" flours like buckwheat; find themselves experimenting with raw foods; and even consider henna body art they never would have looked at back in the day when lunch was an easily assembled sandwich.
Friends, I'm a fan of health food. But let me be the first to inform you: You do have other options. Take, for example, pancakes. Pancakes are completely possible on a gluten-free diet, and a bit of online browsing will produce everything from a hyper-healthy version of this classic to . . . those found in the book sitting beside me right now.
Cooking for Isaiah is a book full of recipes from non-chef Silvana Nardone, mother of a child who cannot eat dairy or gluten. Full of beautiful pictures, attractive fonts, compelling anecdotes, and simple steps, it is a must-have recipe guide for anyone in search of gluten-free recipes that are not in any way compatible with a "low glycemic index" diet. S'mores pancakes with marshmallow sauce? Banana pancakes with warm cinnamon goo? Chocolate-dipped doughnuts?? Oh, my! Where has this book been my last five years?
For anyone not observing a fat- and sugar-free Lenten season, I advise picking up this book, whipping up a batch of Silvana's all-purpose flour blend and an accompanying batch of Silvana's pancake mix, setting them on the shelf, and planning for a proper weekend breakfast of everything-but-health-food. You should probably plan to Netflix some classic Saturday-morning cartoons while you're at it.