gluten-free pasta on a summer afternoon


spontaneous saute, originally uploaded by shaunaforce.

A slow summer afternoon and I have nowhere to go. Even during the summer, this doesn’t happen often enough. In the last few days, time on Vashon and in Gig Harbor occupied my hours, and I enjoyed them all thoroughly. However, there just wasn’t time to sit around in my most comfortable t-shirt (It says Cutie Pie on it, with the pie being an icon of a lattice-work cherry pie. There are too few places in the world where I can wear this without feeling ridiculous.), reading Harry Potter all day long. Oh yes, I have succumbed.

I’m also at home because I’m feeling a little off, physically. On Saturday night, my brother and sister-in-law celebrated their fifth anniversary with a picnic and campout with all their closest friends. Hilarity abounds, particularly when some of us camped out in the pasture land on their property, only to be woken by the crowing of nine roosters at 4:45 am. So I’m a little tired. But more than that, I got glutenized.

That’s my name for it, the distinct physical realization that I’ve ingested a small amount of gluten, unkowningly. Within fifteen minutes of eating a bite, I have a headache in the middle of my forehead that threatens to spread. I flush bright red, with streaks extending to my throat and chest. (Note: I’ve had this tendency to redness all my life. I just thought it was part of being me. Now, I never have it, unless I’ve eaten gluten. This means I can look at photographs of myself from childhood on and say, “Oh look, I’m having a gluten reaction.”) I feel woozily tired, as though I’ve taken a sleeping pill. And my stomach is as full as if I’ve eaten Thanksgiving dinner.

And that’s just the first day. On the next day, I’m either dealing with constipation or diarrhea. Or both. (Sorry, this is scatological talk, but we all have to be honest with each other. And do you know what I learned recently? Diarrhea doesn’t have to mean the sudden runs, the subject of embarrassing television commercials. It just indicates when you have more than one bowel movement in a day. My goodness, I had that for years without knowing there was anything wrong with it.) It’s best if I’m close to home, because the headache continues and everything feels tenderly tired. And there is also, I’ve noticed, a rise in anxiety, a feeling of thoughts spinning beyond my control, and sleeplessness.

It’s not joyful.

But it certainly does explain a lot to me. In one way or other, I’ve been dealing with a cluster of those physical and psychological manifestations for years. The past three years most acutely, but long before that as well. In fact, it’s strange to have physical symptoms that I just took as facts of being Shauna now slowly disappearing. I’m happy to not have the creaky knees, swollen wrist joints, and spinny thoughts. But it’s strange to wonder how much I have been myself in this life so far.

So on Saturday night, while celebrating with everyone else, I ate three bites of potato salad, before I wanted to smack myself in the forehead. DOH! I don’t know who made that salad or what ingredients he or she used, but most commercial mayonnaise and mustard and pickle relish have gluten in them. And I just ate it without thinking.

This is a journey, I keep reminding myself. I’m still learning.

When people tell me they’re following a gluten-free diet, but still not feeling that much better, I’m thinking they’re ingesting hidden gluten. It can be hard, but I have to be awake to it. Gluten lurks in places you’d never suspect (and that’s another entry for later).

So this afternoon, I’m home. Gluten-free honeyed corn flakes for breakfast. A big pot of coffee. Lots of water to flush out the system. Naps. Reading Harry Potter and giving into the couch.

And for lunch, I just combined what looked interesting in my refrigerator.

Small Planet tofu is the best I have ever eaten. I’ve actually enjoyed tofu since I was a teenager, when I became a vegetarian. And if you haven’t already learned to love the taste of this cultured soybean, this one will make you an enthusiastic student. Made in Newport, WA, a small town on the border of Idaho, Small Planet uses organic, non-GMO soybeans for their fine tofu. Also, they make the tofu in small batches, like local microbrews of beer. I don’t know what they do, exactly, but damned, it’s good. I found mine at PCC, but I think you could order it online, wherever you are.

So I had some of the garlic-herb tofu in the fridge. The last of the pint of cherry tomatoes, which I sliced up as best I could. A wilting bunch of cilantro. A splash of good olive oil, a dash of sea salt, and sautee.

Tinkyada pasta is the best gluten-free pasta out there. It’s so good that my father, who is a pasta afficionado, declared it the best packaged pasta he’s ever eaten. Made in Canada, it has a wacky package in strange, fractured English. But no matter. The pasta holds up to cooking, stays firm, and tastes fresh. I can’t eat enough of it.

So I made some penne, which I like to cook for under the time specified, drained it, let it sit in the colander for ten or fifteen minutes, then threw it in the skillet with the tofu and veggies. Add a glurb of Seeds of Change pasta sauce and let it all gently simmer until the smell of it forces you to turn off the burner and eat right away. Take the time to throw some shaved asiago on the top, though.

It wasn’t real cooking, I suppose. I’m going to try a new recipe from scratch tonight. But this pasta, when I was tired and feeling a little bedraggled from three bites of potato salad two days ago, tasted perfect to me.