Let’s celebrate!


Scotch III, originally uploaded by shaunaforce.

When I was a kid, I wasn’t much of a rulebreaker. In fact, I pretty much did what I was told. Homework done, chores accomplished, goals met: I was regular and plodding as bleached white bread. Well, not entirely. Not internally, where I lived a wild life. But on the outside, I was the model student and model daughter.

Believe it or not, I actually waited to start drinking alcohol until I was 21, just like the law said I should.

Oh my.

It’s only as an adult that I’ve learned how to make trouble. Now that I’m the loudest one in the room (at least when I laugh), my friends don’t believe me when I say I suffered from mortifying shyness through most of my high school years. And when we used to go out for drinks, and I’d be sipping at my inch of dark-amber Scotch, no one ever believed I’d been such a goody two-shoes, waiting, primly, until the state said I could imbibe.

I’ve always been a Scotch girl. Actually, that isn’t specifically accurate, because that lovely slithery liquid is only allowed to be called Scotch if it’s entirely distilled and aged in Scotland. I love Irish whisky, with its beautiful blends — it always makes me think of green fields, rousing good music in crowded pubs, and James Joyce. So I should say I’m a whisky girl. But really, with apologies to the memory of dear, obfuscating Mr. Joyce, I do prefer Scotch.

The first whiff rushes at the back of the nose. Sniff too hard and take a big cough — this stuff could eat right through you, if you’re not careful. Peer into the clear brown liquid and take a moment to pay homage to the journey it has taken from its barrel to your hands. It must be aged for at least three years before it’s allowed to be called Scotch. (And I have a feeling that no Scotch lover would ever drink a three-year-old spirit.) Depending on how old you are, this Scotch may have been maturing with you, half your life, just to reach your lips.

And when it does? That first little sip of Scotch prickles at the edges of the tongue. Immediately, heat rises up. What was clear and thin suddenly fills the mouth. That sharp bite at the back of the palate. There’s a slight sweetness, but only so slight, followed by an insistent angularity that spreads over the tongue. Everything burns for a moment. Everything widens. The lips tingle. And then there’s that slow, cool burn, down the esophagus. It fills the entire chest, which feels as though it’s breathing Scotch. A pleasant warmth, everything soft and sharp at the same time. And the tongue darts out, over the lips, for one last taste. Until the next sip.

Ahhh.

The word whisky comes originally from a Gaelic word, meaning breath of life. Indeed.

As someone has written on a website called Whisky Web:

“Of all the spirits mankind has distilled, refined and enhanced from nature’s huge store of goodness, Scotch whisky is the noblest. It is a natural drink, a distillation of the riches with which Scotland is so abundantly endowed — of fields of golden barley and wheat; of clear waters tumbling down glens of granite and over moors of peat; and of the cool, pure air of Scotland.”

Wait, say that again? Golden barley and wheat? Wait a minute. I have celiac disease. I can’t drink Scotch anymore.

Or so I thought. Like that long-ago good girl, I followed all the rules laid before me. I’ve never “cheated” on my gluten-free diet. That’s never made sense to me. Who am I cheating but myself? So, following the tenets written in the celiac literature I had read, I resolved to cut whisky and beer out of my diet for the rest of my life.

Beer truly wasn’t much of a loss. I liked a good beer, on a hot day, particularly an Alaskan Amber. But drinking beer always meant a nap afterwards, and an overly full stomach. Until my celiac diagnosis, I thought everyone in the world grew red-faced, bloated, and really, really sleepy after drinking beer. Now, I know it’s the gluten. So, no more beer. And no more gluten reaction.

But Scotch? That was a loss. Now, before you start forming the wrong idea of my alcohol habits, you should know that I’ve only been truly drunk about three times in my life, and each time was increasingly unpleasant. Apart from one glass of full-bodied red wine with a great meal, which I have three or four times a week (as recommended by the medical field now), I just don’t drink. But there are times of the year, or certain people, that make me want to sit in a capacious bar, laughing hard and sipping my inch of great Scotch, neat. (And it always seems to impress the boys, when a girl drinks her Scotch neat, no water, no rocks. Just straight up Scotch.)

Oh well.

But no more. What’s wonderful about the increasing awareness of celiac disease is the increased research on what we can eat as well. A friend of mine, about a month ago, listened to me say that I can never drink Scotch again, and was appalled. In fact, he went home and spent some time researching on the internet. He found out some good news for me. My non-Scotch diet was now outdated. Here’s part of what he sent me on a BBC site on the gluten-free life:

Beers, lagers, stouts and real ales must definitely be avoided by coeliacs. However there are a number of gluten-free beers and lagers now on the market. Wine, champagne, port, sherry, ciders, liqueurs and spirits, including whisky, are all gluten-free. Although whisky comes from barley initially, the distilling process involved in its production means it is suitable for coeliacs to drink, as there is not
gluten present in the end product. Of course, as with everyone, coeliacs should only consume alcohol in moderation!

I stared at my computer screen when I read his email, then whooped out loud. Of course, before I went out to buy a bottle, I did my own internet research, and found this little ditty from celiac.com:

“The new standards set in this publication conform more closely with current international standards. Included on their safe list are items that have been on Celiac.com’s safe list for over five years, including: amaranth, buckwheat, distilled vinegar (no matter what its source), distilled alcoholic beverages (including rum, gin, whiskey and vodka), millet, quinoa and teff.”

Hooray!

So, to celebrate, another friend of mine brought over a bottle of Macallan. We ate my homemade shepherd’s pie with ground lamb and poured ourselves stiff drinks of Scotch. Gad, but it tasted good.

Of course, tonight, I hope that no one drinks too much. That’s no way to celebrate the start of a new year of our lives, everyone. And please, don’t drive if you’ve been drinking. Just don’t.

But, I have to say, when I’ve tried to adust to not having many foods I took for granted, and overcome that with joy, it’s wonderfully unexpected to have something given back. My life feels even richer now.

Cheers to that.

Braised Chicken with Scotch and Major Grey Chutney

chutney chicken II

If you don’t like drinking Scotch, I’m sure you wouldn’t mind eating something simmered in it. Last week, when some friends came over for dinner, I made up this recipe, using what I had in hand. In joyful experiment mode after finding out I could drink Scotch, I splashed some of the amber liquid in the pot and came up with this. Two of my guests were under twelve, but I felt fine serving them this, since the alcohol burns off in cooking.

More and more, I’m cooking meals based on what’s fresh that day, and what my internal taste sense tells me should go together. Earlier that day, when I was strolling through the aisles of my favorite food store, I reached for a jar of Major Grey chutney. Made with mango and ginger, this has been a standby of Indian cuisine for decades. It’s slightly sweet, slightly hot, and a surprising combination of flavors. And this brand I bought is gluten free. This chutney, along with Scotch and wasabi mustard, works beautifully with chicken.

eight chicken thighs, preferably organic and locally produced
two tablespoons high-quality olive oil
one medium onion, diced
four cloves of garlic, finely minced
one cup of Major Grey chutney
one tablespoon wasabi mustard (I use Amy’s organic) or a good Dijon
one cup of Scotch
one cup good chicken stock
salt anc cracked pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 350°. Heat the olive oil in a medium-sized, cast-iron Dutch oven, then throw in the diced onion on medium to medium-high heat. Sautee the onion until it starts to soften. Add the minced garlic and stir it all with a wooden spoon, continually.

Lay the chicken thighs on the sizzling onions and garlic and brown them on one side. Turn, then brown on the other side. Set them aside in a large, wide-mouthed bowl. Spoon the onions and garlic on top of the chicken thighs, then add the chutney and mustard. Stir to mix it all together, until the chicken is coated.

Return the chicken thighs to the pan, then splash in the Scotch and chicken stock. Put the lid on the pan and put it in the oven for one hour, or until the chicken is tender at the bone, and the liquid has simmered into an intoxicating concoction. Serve immediately.

29 comments on “Let’s celebrate!

  1. Lynn

    I am so glad that you discovered you can drink Scotch! It’s one of my favorites too. I am very enamored of French green lentils braised with onion, garlic and carrot with a quarter cup of single malt (no substitutions!) poured over (for every cup of lentils) at the last minute. I made this for Christmas dinner with our vegetarian son and served it with mashed potatoes and other roasted vegetables. So good and plenty of Scotch left over. I have enjoyed your blog this past year and I like your new photo. Somehow the old one just didn’t look like you sound from your writing and recipes. Happy New Year.

  2. Becca

    Indeed, removing whiskey from my life would be a sad, sad thing. I came upon your page while googling to find out if I, too, have to give up one of my favorite beverages. Hurrah for that.

    One small correction– the word whiskey comes from the word uisce beatha, pronounced ish-kuh bah-ha, which means water of life. Er, yeah, sorry, had to be nerdcore for a moment. And the Scots dialect may be spelt slightly differently as I am only familiar with Irish gaelic.

  3. Mandy

    Funny to be back at your site again. I was googling just to double-check that I could consume whisky. Thank you for this post!

  4. Anonymous

    I have started making homemade Irish Cream and wondered if my wife was going to be able to have some (She’s the one with Celiac). It is good to know that we now can sip away. Thanks for the helpful information.

  5. Anonymous

    Whoop ‘DE’ doo This link was a life saver for me and my scottish links.
    I always get my Dr a bottle of 18 year old Malt…Me thinks he might have known about whisky all along…lol
    Well here is to a very happy New Year.
    Hope you have a good one
    Shauna..
    From Alexander.…..

  6. Anonymous

    Thank you. This is great news. I was recently told to go gluten free and really didn’t want to give up any of my whisk(e)y, especially my Scotch.

  7. Brian

    Just curious, but did you contact any manufacturers? I was told, and obeyed like a good boy, that some wiskeys add a little mash to the barrel. Since I prefer no mystery gluten I just cut it all out, but had been meaning to contact my favorites to see whether they did this or not.

  8. Marie

    I am so relieved to find out Scotch Whiskey is safe for celiacs and that I did not have to give away my 18 year old Balvenie Doublewood Scotch and other lovely bottles I collected over the years. I was so excited, in fact, that instead of going to bed I went directly to the liquor cabinet after reading you and had a celebratory glass. I DO NOT drink regularly or excessively but what a pleasure when it is what we enjoy the most. I would think that chicken, scotch and mango invention of yours will be delicious. I shall try…but with ordinary whiskey. The luxury stuff is for drinking only!!Yeah

  9. darci

    I am so happy to find this blog! I was doing a search to see if I can drink scotch, as I just developed a love for it. I am so happy to find you and to see a great list of gluten free bloggers!

    I had another uncomfortable lunch meeting today–pizza was the main course and everyone, as usual, has to make a HUGE deal out of my Celiac’s. I, of course, am used to not being able to eat most things that “normal” eaters eat and brought my own lunch, but needless to say it made me feel a bit like an outsider when everyone has to take notice. So, it makes me even happier to find this blog today–thanks for making my night!

  10. Anonymous

    Yet I truly wonder if whiskey IS safe. When I went gluten free it was amazing how I was no longer losing huge clumps of hair daily. Then someone introduced me to Pendleton whiskey. Oddly for me, I actually fell in love with it. In fact, it became my snowshoeing companion. Then I found there were odd days where I was experiencing high levels of hair loss for a day or two and then it would go back to normal. I started wondering if I was somehow occasionally consuming gluten in my diet that I was unaware of. It hit me this weekend I was experiencing the gluten-like hairloss issues the night of or day after snowshoeing … when I’d consumed whiskey. That when I came to search the ‘net only to find that indeed whiskey does have a link to gluten. Hmmm …

  11. Elric

    Thank you so much for this information. I was recently diagnosed with Celiac disease, and was also told that beer and certain liquors were off my list, such as scotch an non-potato derived vodka. The beer and scotch were a major loss for me, as I loved a nice, dark beer or a scotch, neat, to wind down my day with. I’m so happy to learn that my dear scotch (and other liquors) are at least safe due to the distillation process. And while I must surrender my normal beers I have tried Bard’s, a Sorghum derived beer, and it’s better than I thought it would be.

    So glad to know all this and thank you again for the information!

  12. Debra

    Hi Shauna,
    Both my daughter and I have found the distilled beverages a big no-no. I’ve done the experiment quite a few times-cause I love Irish Mist. But no drinkee-1/2 inch of whiskey (or any drink made from a glutenous grain) means I wake up with every muscle aching and just crummy feeling. However, Tequila is OK! We’ve also discovered some vodka’s made with grapes & potatoes only, and pomegranate liquor. I still looking for Slivovitz, but the whiskey is out of my life.

  13. Kiva Studio

    Thank you so much! I’ve been so crushed about not being able to enjoy a Whiskey every once in a while—afterall it’s part of my Irish blood!

    Cheers!

  14. Charlotte

    I am still new to my gluten free diet, since I found out about my celiac 4 months ago. But I have found that my favorite alcoholic beverage, hornsby’s hard cider and amber draft are both gluten and yeast free! And so are all of mike’s hard beverages. I’m excited to read that whisky can be gluten free too, though I may need to check into it more since I also have an allergy to brewer’s yeast. Thank you for the information! Its nice to hear from others who have to ask the same questions as I do!

  15. Karen Barton

    6 months into my gluten-free diet I finally decided to go back to drinking single malts which I love. Big mistake! After drinking one a night for a week I was starting to get symptoms. Aching calves feet etc. Sore elbows and hips. Mouth ulcers. I for one will never be able to drink whisky again! :(

  16. Theron

    I’ve found out that most whiskey reserves some of the pre-distilled liquor and reintroduces it in to the distilled liquor before it goes in to the barrels in order to help flavor it. This basically reintroduces gluten in to the mix.

    Until I find a certified gluten free whiskey it is unfortunately off my list. In the mean time I will be enjoying vodka, tequilla, gin, wine and gluten free beer.

  17. Brent

    I drink Jack Daniels regularly. The Jack Daniels site states their black label is gluten-free because the gluten does not pass through the distillation process. I avoid blended whiskeys and scotches as I’ve found the majority are single malts blended with ‘cheaper’ products that have some of the ‘beer’ mixed in after distillation. This brings gluten back to the drink.

    Also, be careful with pre-mixed drinks. Most of the pre-mixes contain gluten products.

  18. jamesongirl

    Searched what drinks I could have now that I need to go gluten-free. So excited to come across this as my two drinks are dark beer and jameson whiskey. At least I get one :)

  19. Becca

    Thank God! I have Hashimotos and was advised to go gluten free, but I thought this was going to be a deal breaker. I am so happy I don’t have to mourn my Ardbeg 17. Phewww!

  20. Paul Stoltzfus

    Horay!!!! You totally made my day. After the first beer I would get light headed feel drunk and feel exceedingly bloated, so the next 2 beers would follow shortly thereafter spaced only be a glass of water — no ice — between them. I was saving my two livers.
    Now! Whiskey to the rescue… but only the good stuff. Can’t wait to taste all the world has to offer. And the journey of whiskey magically tumults my story telling buds into an array of pulsing ginger snaps.

    The gods are alive again. Long live whiskey and whisky and Scotch and their artisans. And starve please die oh yea tax assaltents.

    Cheers,
    Peach & Love

  21. Denise

    OMG!! You have made my life worth living again!
    I was diagnosed with Celiac disease 2 and a half years ago. I can tolerate giving up a few things — but Grandma’s Hot Toddies (made with only the finest whiskey) were one of them. I’m feeling puny tonight, but I’m off to make my first hot toddy in quite a long time. I will raise the glass and drink to your health.
    Thank you for giving me back one of life’s little pleasures.

  22. Zef

    For the last 3 years I’ve avoided scotch because it was made from grains and I’m terribly gluten allergic. I have missed it so much!!!! But after reading your blog post, I decided to try some tonight. So far so good. Hopefully it will be something I can once again enjoy. Scotch, neat, no rocks. Booyeah! :D

  23. Gigi

    7 years after you wrote this post but nonetheless.… you’ve saved me once again!! I recently have been having a renewal of stomach issues and was worried that it could potentially be my scotch/whiskey happy hour habit, oh the horror! Thankfully, it is not that. I have to tell you, I discovered your blog 3 years ago when first going gluten free after a serious battle of my body rejecting even water. You made me feel SO much better about the whole change. Not to mention, my fiance is a chef (really a soldier working his way up the ranks at this moment) like your husband which made reading your blog all the more fun. Thank you for the heart warming writing and recipes… it has really made a difference in our lives. Now I am off to try that scotch chicken recipe!!

  24. Barbara S

    Wow! What an exciting article! I was diagnosed gluten intolerant and have been drinking only wine tequila and potato vodkas. I lived in Scotland when I was younger and I love the smell of a good scotch…I’ve never tried it before because I knew it was made from grain. This is going to be an interesting holiday season now that I can share the beautiful bottles that I bestow as gifts to my close friends! Let the merriment begin!