5 Foods to Live For

Chocolate's gotta be on the list, right?

Yes, it's Meme time again and this time around I've been tagged by Susan at Fatfree Vegan Kitchen to declare my 5 Foods to Live For. Asking someone who must live gluten-free due to celiac disease to list five foods to live for is an ironic and thorny question. If she had asked me, say, ten years ago, my list would have sported Italian semolina pasta as my number one. Following a close second? A tie between a crispy crusted French baguette and a chewy, salty rosemary foccacia- dipped in number three, extra virgin olive oil. Fourth would have to involve chocolate, perhaps a dense, rich slice of Devil's food cake. Number five?

Suddenly I'm feeling a little woozy.

This has-been (once upon a time) list ought to be named, 5 Foods to Die For. In some other incarnation I'm sure it is. Celiac is that serious. Yup. It can tumble you downhill so fast you'll be cringing- more than usual- at thinly veiled envy, er, I mean, compliments (Wow, you look amazing! Bitch. What are you- a size zero?) and discussing plans with your husband on how he'll look after your sons once you're gone.

Gone? he will ask with a raised eyebrow and a glint in his eye that begs to spark the levity he knows from experience simmers just beneath your gloomy inscrutable surface. You're not going anywhere, he declares with a bear hug, wrapping himself around your alarmingly bony shoulders.

Learning at mid-life that in order to survive you must be gluten-free every single day for the rest of your life is a mixed blessing. Yes, it's a relief. You haven't woken up in the third act of some Stephen King movie titled, Wasted. There is, finally, a reason you can point to. A culprit.

And the cure? The cure is simple, the doctor will tell you. Avoid gluten. And? you ask expectantly. There will be a shrug, followed by, You'll be fine. The depth of this nutritional advice is astounding, you think to yourself in utter and complete awe. Out loud, you murmur, Oh, okay, glancing at the faint remnants of powdered sugar on his charcoal wool trouser leg.

Finding five foods to live for is easy for me. After five years of living gluten-free I have forgotten what it is like to eat and live spontaneously, to stop, on an impulse and try a new bakery or a new cafe or the new restaurant in town. I must read every label of every single food, every ingredient that goes into my mouth. I make grocery lists in my sleep. I pack food for even the shortest trips away from home, knowing there will be nothing safe I can eat during an emergency. Well, if I'm lucky- a bottled water in a vending machine.

Eating now is sober business.

It's not just something to do on a whim, or out of boredom, or even, politeness. Every single food choice has to be conscious (How Zen, you think to yourself, chewing your brown rice. Maybe Buddha was a celiac?). For those of us intolerant to gluten, each bite we take is either healing or destructive. It's as simple as that.

And this is the hard part. To regard food as a possible enemy, as something adversarial, even life threatening, like some nasty virus or invisible bacteria, can turn any food loving girl's concept of nourishment and pleasure upside down. In fact, it is the antithesis of pleasure (unless you happen to be a masochist).

No, it's not easy to be even a quasi-foodie or comfort-foodie like me, when you have to keep your guard up. Strict vigilance isn't exactly, um, sexy.

Luckily, I was born with a resiliency and fluidity that has served me well in my life; and I have adjusted to my limitations and the stringency of living gluten-free. I still have foods I adore. I get pleasure from cooking. Sharing meals with those I love is as important now (if not more so!) than it was before I learned about celiac disease.

And after some minor and major adjustments, food has become equal to pleasure once again.

Food Bloggers Five Things to Eat Before You Die

So, without further ado, my 5 Foods to Live For - aka Five Foods to Eat Before You Die Meme - are:

1. Roasted green chiles- fresh from a New Mexican roadside stand
2. Garlic- rubbed, minced, chopped, roasted
3. Extra virgin olive oil- organic and fruity, from Italy
4. Wine- both red and white, from velvety dry to clean and crisp
5. Tomatoes- in every shape and color and size, raw, cooked, and sun-dried

Wait, wait! But then there is organic dark chocolate and sweet potatoes and blueberries and peaches and vanilla bean and fresh corn tortillas. Sigh.

How lucky can a girl be?

Rather than tag five others (the bloggers I've asked have already done it - shows you how late I am getting into this) I invite readers to post their own list here (in comments) and write about it- especially those living gluten-free.


Mare said...

Extremely well said!

Kalyn said...

I agree, you said it very well, and a great list of foods too.

MappyB said...

Great choices! I have three of the same myself, garlic, wine, and olive oil!!! YUM!

SusanV said...

I think those of us who are able to make choices about the food we do and don't eat often forget that we're lucky to be able to make those choices, and that something we enjoy so casually can be deadly to someone else. Thank you for the reminder, so eloquently put.

As for your 5 foods, I agree with them all (though #3 doesn't agree with me, LOL). I came very close to putting wine on my own list, and probably should have.

Jennifer said...

I loved reading this Karina...your perspective is so valuable. I agree with Susan -- this was a good reminder that unlimited choices about food is a gift that not everyone shares.

I love every, single food on your list!

Jo said...

I'm celiac, and have recently switched to a vegan diet due to some dairy issues. Here's my list:

1. Apples, preferably organic Gala
2. Fresh naval oranges
3. Slivered almonds
4. Gluten-free beer
5. Dark chocolate

Roberto said...

Okay here's my list. I'm gluten free.

1. Coffee
2. Pesto
3. Garlic
4. Apples - Golden, Gala
5. Coffee

g said...

Love your blog. It has become nearly the staple that allrecipes is! Your brownies from scratch are *amazing* I cannot tell you how wonderful it was to make them from scratch again! (I agree GF Pantry's mix is the best of them... but I always baked from scratch pre-gluten free)

So... my (current) top 5

fresh berries... sun dried tomatoes... organic yogurt smoothies... my father's bbq chicken... and tea

Thanks again for the site!

Garrett said...

OMG, that dish picture up there looks amazing. I also have to agree with the garlic. I recently got a whole box of heirloom variaties of garlic, it's amazing how much difference there can be! (Killarney Red garlic is the best in my opinion, very very strong and sharp with a parmesan cheese sort of underscent)

Natalie said...

Thankyou Karina!
Your entry eloquently and poignantly describes an experience familiar to me. It closely resembels my own illness and diagnosis of celiac, and my reaction to being told no more gluten (horror, stunned disbelief, and relief).
I have always loved food, but I enjoy it now more than ever.
Today my list of 5 GF foods for life are:
1. Peaches fresh from the tree on a hot afternoon
2. Big, chewy red wines
3. Espresso coffees,
4. Polenta (Oh! Polenta cakes!)
5. Broccoli Rabe (sauteed with olive oil, garlic, black pepper and chilli, with a splash each of stock and white wine).

C said...

I am celiac and living the gluten free good life, which includes
2. peaches
3. black beans, black beans, and more black beans
4. corn tortillas
5. brown rice.

Anonymous said...

how to choose only FIVE gluten free foods. Yikes!
A complied list (with input from one of my two celiac daughters...)
2. apples
3. peaches
4. steak (the really good kind with tons of sauted mushrooms)
5. crab legs (with browned garlic butter and lots of napkins)

OK. So NOT fair. But we will play by the rules..... at least for now!

Violets said...

Okay you inspired me to write my own list at my own blog http://maybeitsstress.blogspot.com/2006/09/foods-to-live-for.html. But mine isn't nearly as eloquent...or interesting...as yours!

Its so good to see you posting new entries again :)

Elise said...

Hi Karina,
I love that photo! I just picked a bunch of anaheim chiles from my garden and I think now I'll just have to roast them.
Five favorite foods? Here are mine:
1. Avocados
2. Artichokes
3. White nectarines from our tree, that are so delicate that even picking them bruises them
4. Blood oranges
5. Anything my mom makes using chicken stock she's made from scratch

AK said...

Karina ~ It's just so hard to imagine "starting over" food-wise, forever leaving so much behind. What a wonderful post, helping the rest of us understand, speaking for others who choose to LIVE.

Anonymous said...

I'd have to say (and this is a gluten-free list) ...

PEET'S COFFEE (Blend 101)




Trader Joe's GF "RYE-LESS RYE BREAD" toasted to a perfect crisp, spread with fresh-fresh-fresh high-cream unsalted butter (uh-oh -- I probably cheated on that one ... two-fer-one!)

Mike Eberhart said...

Extremely well written!

My own top-5 list (Gluten-Free):

* Anything Chocolate
* Pizza
* Thai Food - hot and spicy
* Fresh Fruit - melons, mango, berries, and many more
* Peanut Butter

Too bad the Thai Food and Pizza are rather certainly a homemade event, since I can not match my memories of a good Chicago deep-dish, or my favorite California Thai Food restaurants of old.

Like you, I would place good Italian pasta at number 1 if not for obvious reasons. I basically lived off pasta from College through my mid 30's. Part of the time I wonder if I overdosed from all my wheat intake and brought this condition upon myself. I am just thankful I was able to eat all that wonderful pasta (and a few other things) prior to being hit by this condition.

Mae said...

Karina, i totally agree with roasted green chillies! Especially on a bbq.

I love it with succulent cherry plum tomatoes with a drizzle of anchovy sauce and a few slices of white onions.

Oh, your photo have me drooling really badly! :)

GrewUpRural said...

My top 5 foods as being gluten intolerant:

1. Dark chocolate
2. Fresh fruit, especially pineapples
and red grapes
3. Crabs
4. Sorbet
5. Ice cream

Anonymous said...

Since this post emphasizes the gf lifestyle, I wanted to get some help/feedback. What do those of you with food allergies/intolerances do at events/parties/dinners? In a few weeks, I'm supposed to attend a casual but large celebration in the hosts' home followed by a luncheon (after religious services) the next day in the temple. I'm not sure whether the first event will be catered or homemade; both will be certified kosher and vegetarian. I know that I should eat a heavy meal beforehand but I always have a hard time with the politeness factor (I'm not referring to eating gluten-filled food - because then my throat closes up) but just pestering the host/waitress to see if anything *is* safe. And even if I eat a heavy breakfast, after several hours of religious services, I'll probably need to eat again (even bringing my own food could be problematic due to kosher-related concerns). Suggestions? Thanks!

natalie said...

Hi anonymous!
Your question about what to do at a dinner party and stay healthy and polite is a good one - It's always tricky.
I like to talk to the host/hostess before hand to both explain the allergy, and organize something safe to eat. For me, this helps avoid awkward scenes at the event in front of other people (which I hate). You can also offer to bring a plate. If it's catered, you could offer to talk to the caterer yourself before the event (to prevent mixed messages).
For what it's worth, that's my strategy (along with copious apologies) and I've found that people go out of their way to make sure there's enough for me to eat and not get ill (or at least they are more than happy to let me bring a plate.)
Good luck!

k a r i n a said...

Thank you all for having a bit of fun here...I hope it's on-going. Nice lists.


As for Anon's question re: parties...

I eat well beforehand and arrive ready to mingle and sip wine. If I know the host well, I may offer to bring food, and bring my own contribution to the gathering. When attending a large event, I pack a cooler with foods that travel well and snack on the way, in between, and on the way home.

Guinchogirl said...

I loved reading your blog! Gluten-free Heaven!!It's nice to know you're still passionate about food, even though your choices have been limited to some extent. When I was diagnosed with gluten intolerance, I began trying foods I probably never would have tried without the diagnosis. I suddenly found that although some of my favourite foods were now off the menu, I was being introduced into a whole new world of flavours.
www.eatingbritain.com - My Food Blog

Guinchogirl said...

PS: I'll post my 5 Foods to live For on 11th Sept.



ByTheBay said...

Gorgeous photo, Karina! Great list.

JV said...

My big 5 ...

1- baked yam till it caramelizes, top it w/crispy shallots ...

2- green salad w/feta and roasted corn ...

3- caprese ...

4- garlic sauteed spinach..

5- saffron risotto w/butternut squash ...

Kelly Sweazea said...

Ahhh I am with you on so many levels! Veganaise has made my life easier, but I understand your fight...

For me my # 1, before and after gluten, is tomatoes! I don't care how you serve them, just give them to me!

Second and beyond is creamy goat cheese (only dairy I can have), wine in any color, almonds in all it's forms, and finally, rice, I just love rice sooo much.

Thank you for all your inspiration!


Beth said...

Really well said! That's exactly how I feel, although, after a year, I'm getting more comfortable with the whole thing. A diagnoses last fall of dairy and egg allergies have not helped matters.

top 5:
1. Trader Joe's brown rice pasta
2. San J tamari
3. Rice Dream vanilla "ice cream"
4. gf beer
5. zucchini

Recent blog:=- Key Chains Were a Hit!

Beth said...

Really well said! That's exactly how I feel, although, after a year, I'm getting more comfortable with the whole thing. A diagnoses last fall of dairy and egg allergies have not helped matters.
top 5:
1. Trader Joe's brown rice pasta
2. San J tamari
3. Rice Dream vanilla "ice cream"
4. gf beer
5. zucchini


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