Completely Re-Learning How to Cook and Other Adventures

For years Mr. MM had dealt with crippling stomach issues that often left him curled up on the floor in pain. As you can imagine this was extremely distressing for me; I couldn’t bear to see him hurt but didn’t know how to fix it. Being the only one who knows how to cook chef of the family I had formed a somewhat tenuous link in my head between what foods I cooked and his resulting stomach pains so I consulted Dr. Google and what I found there matched what I was already thinking. I believed that he was gluten-intolerant as anything involving bread or pasta left him in pain almost immediately however I was thrown off because it seemed that rice did the same thing. But rice is gluten-free so I was hesitant and confused. It also didn’t help that Egyptian food is built on a three-fold foundation: rice, bread, and pasta, and as such Mr. MM had never gone without eating one of those three for more than a day, if that. I was at a loss and Mr. MM himself was no real help in that every time I brought up the idea that he stop eating them he balked, add into that the fact that I had no idea what I would feed him and that meant that he continued to suffer while I dithered. *sigh* 

Finally it got to the point that I could no longer handle watching him in pain and he could no longer handle being in pain and we made an appointment with a gastroenterologist. As usual there wasn’t a GI doctor appointment to be had sooner than two months out, but we plugged along while I began serious research into what I would do if he did, in fact, turn out to be gluten-intolerant. I read, I researched, and then I did what I had never really done before: I planned out weekly menus.

Armed with this, and a test-run with quinoa that turned out much better than I expected, I approached Mr. MM with the suggestion that while we wait for the GI appointment we put him on an elimination diet. It took a bit of persuasion, me pointing out that the GI doc is going to suggest it anyway, and a promise that it would only be for two weeks, and he finally agreed.

Two weeks, and many new dishes later, Mr. MM was feeling great, while I was a bit kitchen-burnt-out. But whatevs, stomach-pain GONE. The next day after the Great Elimination Diet of 2012, Mr. MM had himself a sandwich and was curled up in pain after a few hours. A few more days without gluten or rice and he was fine again, and then a dish with rice and the same pain began.

My poor husband is not only gluten-intolerant but he is also rice-intolerant. I honestly can’t imagine anything worse for an Egyptian trying to eat Egyptian food than this. Our appointment with the GI brought the same diagnosis, especially as there really isn’t any way to test for gluten-intolerance other than an elimination diet. We could test for Celiac’s, but I don’t believe he has that, and we could test for a gluten allergy except he doesn’t exhibit any allergic reactions like hives, itchy anything, or swelling.

So, poor Mr. MM. And poor me!; poor, poor me. Because almost every gluten-free substitute for sale in the market uses rice flour as its base. So buying gf bread is out of the question, gf cookies almost as hard, and definitely no gf brownies or gf cake mix.

What’s a girl to do?

This last week I finally took the bull by the horns and mixed up my own gluten-free all-purpose flour mix and began baking with it, but that’s a story for another post later.

For now I can say that we are eating really healthy and I am very happy about it. I don’t think I’d go back to cooking rice and eating bread now, even if we could. Post gastric-bypass I shouldn’t be eating rice, bread, or pasta anyways so not keeping it around the house isn’t hard. I’ve had to become a little adventurous in my cooking, yes, but it keeps things interesting. And thank God – seriously alhumdulillah – for quinoa because having that as an option has made all the difference. I can still make most Egyptian main dishes, simply using quinoa instead of rice, so not too much has changed.

I have to say though that molokhia over quinoa really isn’t the same. *sigh*

Still, we both feel healthier and happier, and I’ve been looking into ways to further clean up our food through reading my friend Rehaam’s blog Steak and Sass.

Now, she’s gone Paleo and that’s a bit lot further than I care to go, but some of the principles of cleaning up what we eat make sense, especially working in Cancer Care, as I do.

I’m going to start blogging some recipes in the future as I can’t imagine that Mr. MM and I are the only Muslims and Arabs dealing with how to cook ethnic gluten-free food.

Maybe I can help a sister/brother out.

And if you, or someone you know, is dealing with gluten-intolerance AND rice-intolerance let me know in the comments. I feel like there are many more people dealing with that than just us.

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