Discover more from Intolerant-a newsletter about eating superbly with food intolerances
But what about bread?
With hope, and links to recipes that I like, and you might like, too
In which our protagonist eats something that is not bread for breakfast.
Let me first say, I know. I know I know I know. I know you want to eat bread. I know that a slice of toast is how you have started your day every day since 19always. (or 20always if that’s when you were born). You want bread dripping with butter, spread with peanut butter, to pull a hunk off the challah, pile your bagel high with cream cheese, you want garlic bread, beans on toast, a tunafish sandwich on rye. Or a quesadilla or garlic naan. Or garlic knots. Ok, I might be fixating on the garlic. But you want bread.
Believe me, I know.
Bread is the backbone of many of our diets. When we can’t think of what to eat, our minds go to bread. In my own Jewish background (though I am not religious), we break a fast with bread. When we talk about someone who can’t cook, we say, “they can’t even make toast.” Bread is basic, it’s elemental. To share an experience with someone, we “break bread.” So what to do now?
First of all, it depends why you can’t/shouldn’t/don’t eat bread made from wheat flour. If you are celiac, don’t. Just don’t. Same if you are allergic. But if there is something more in the department of “I know I shouldn’t but I kind of feel like I could splash out every now and then,” then you have my blessing to do that from time to time. For me, with histamine intolerance, I can tell my body is not crazy about wheat. Probably something about inflammation. If I eat it too much or too many days in a row, I can tell that my body is saying no. But I am not here to tell you how to maybe eat bread or how many times a week/month/year your body can take real bread (if at all). The answer to that lies within your body. But assuming you want to keep bread at bay, but not follow what sounds like one of those torturous low-carb diets (no shade, you do you), I ask you the following.
Q. What’s wrong with bread?
A. For most people nothing. But maybe you are sensitive to yeast. Or gluten. If you think maybe maybe maybe it could just be yeast that’s giving you reactions, try making a quick bread. Or eating flour tortillas. These might have baking powder or baking soda in them, or no leavening agents at all, but generally should not have yeast. If they work for your body, then bingo! a bread-solution (more or less, quick bread is fine for a thickish open-faced sandwich but not so great for a real sandwich). Also it’s worth pointing out that these days everyone and their brother is making sourdough. That could also be the problem for you. Some people are more sensitive to commercial yeast or (more likely) sourdough, so switch it up and see if maybe just regular bread is ok for you, or just sourdough works for you.
But even if not, all is not lost. Now it’s time to think about why we eat bread.
Q. What is it you love about bread?
A. This will depend on you. And I am asking you to do something very difficult here, which is to split into many pieces a thing you may consider to be a monolith. I’m asking you to split why you love bread into tiny little parts.
Here are some of the things I like about bread, yours may differ. For me, they fall into mouthy things and worldy things.
Mouthy things: taste, crunch, mouthfeel, resistance in the mouth, stretchiness, toastability, carby goodness.
Worldy things: utility, availability, portability
But why, Eileen, why? Why can’t we just say we like bread and be done with it? Because I am trying to help you find a solution for you, and to do that you need to know what you’re after if you’re going to find something to use as a stand-in.
I am going to try to convince you not to eat gluten-free bread. If there is one that you can get where you live and you like it, you have my blessing. We get one mass market one here that is so not to my liking that I once abandoned a plate of french toast I made with it, walking away mid breakfast (shocking, I know). It tastes like a sponge and sadness (stolen from my sister, who reported a gf cookie she made with riceflour tasted like sand and sadness, and she is also good with words and are you surprised?). The other brand we get here in Chile is Italian, it is called Schär, and it is pretty tasty but a) it has yeast in it (so your mileage may vary) and b) it has a lot of ingredienti (ha, see what I did there?) that I don’t know what they are and c) it costs so much here in Chile that it makes you want to fly to Italy with an empty suitcase and bring it back to hawk on the street corner to more than pay for your flight. If the borders were not closed and variants and and and.
But people all across the interweb talk about gluten free bread and if you can eat it and buy it and afford it and it does not taste like sadness, then by all means, EAT THE BREAD.
But maybe you are like me, with no tenable bread soluzioni (sorry, I’ll stop) and still a hankering for the mouthy and worldy breadlike things. WHAT TO DO?
It depends what you are missing. But basically, my answers are the following: rice, corn, tapioca flour, cornstarch, sorghum, buckwheat, almond flour, coconut flour, flax seeds and chickpeas (though chickpeas make Eileens very unhappy, they may work for you, and if they do, make yourself some socca ASAP).
For me, non bread but starchy mouth-filling, toothsome solutions include arepas. These Colombian and Venezuelan cornmeal patties are a good three-meal solution (though maybe not 3 in one day). They go great with eggs or cheese, and some people do sandwichify them, splitting them in two, and putting in avocado, cheese, shredded lettuce, or shredded beef. They are made with Masarepa (a kind of corn flour) and room temperature water. I have also developed a rice-flour version, which I call rice arepas, which I make with rice flour, salt and boiling water. I don’t have a recipe to link to, but I trust that you can google. You may already have googled socca or even soluzioni for all I know.
I also trust that you already know about corn tortillas, and other store-bought gluten free wraps. I don’t live in a place where the latter are so very available, or they are very expensive. But maybe your local supermarket or specialty store shelves are heaving with these and in that case, you really are a friend because what are you doing here?
These are some options that work for me (but take that with a grain of sea or himalayan salt because of oxalates, etc, if those things upset your system)
3 ingredient paleo naan. (tapioca starch, almond flour, coconut milk) These are hearty and calorically dense and will keep you full. But if you don’t like the sproingyness of things made with tapioca starch, you might not like them as much as I do.
Tapioca flour flatbread. (tapioca flour, coconut flour, hemp seeds) Not as sproingy as the above. Hemp seeds are a nice addition, but you can skip them.
Brazilian tapioca. (tapioca flour) I love this one, but I think of it as being a little light in the nutrition department. I have included this link to a video because it’s kind of hard to explain, and also because it’s short and sweet, even if it does include some profanity (on screen, not spoken).
Banh Xeo. I use equal parts water, rice flour and coconut milk, a heaping teaspoon of turmeric and as many scallion greens as I feel like. I also add salt, and cook in a hot skillet. Feel free to google. I am not Vietnamese and I have only ever eaten these at friends’ homes. They are meant to be eaten with all manner of fishy and tangy things, but I find they are great alone or also with avocado. Google! or peep here on my instagram, where I made this mid-covid. I couldn’t exactly taste it, but turmeric is antiinflammatory and I enjoyed the crunchy parts.
Buckwheat crepes. I make these alot, and my early discovery of them saved me from the worst of the “I’m starving and will never eat again” feelings from the early days. These are 1/2 cup of buckwheat flour and 1 egg and “enough” water to make a crepe batter, and I pour into a hot oiled cast iron skillet. If you make them thick enough, you can use them as wraps. You can see one under some delicious fillings here on my instagram..
I have lots more solutions, including some of my own devising (many of which appear on my instagram, but my advice is to think of what you are missing in bread and try to figure out how to get that elsewhere. If it’s starch, maybe rice or potatoes will do. If it’s biting into something with meat or cheese, maybe the arepas or rice arepas. If it’s a wrap, there are many solutions at hand. I can see how many times people click on links, so where we go from here depends on comments and links. I am happy to keep sharing ideas and explain other non-bread bready things that fill up my day and my belly and have kept me alive all these years. No matter what your intolerance, there is something bread-adjacent for you. I endorse all of it. Except bread made from coconut flour, which ends up being very eggy for my taste. But you’re the final decisionmaker.
Now please go eat something delicious for me. Or you know, for you.