One Sunday, on a visit to my hometown, I went to see His Holiness the Dalai Lama give a public talk. I’m a big fan – in fact, this is my fourth time seeing him speak – and the experience was nothing short of moving and enlightening. However, on the walk to the Civic Centre, I found a bakery that sold gluten-free, sugar-free brownies.
I can’t tell you which was the more spiritual experience.
You see, I have not eaten sugar in over two months. I have also not eaten wheat in over two months. Or dairy. Or fruit, except for the occasional apple and frozen half-banana. No soy sauce, soymilk or tofu has passed my lips. I have not had honey, or maple sugar. Or Splenda. Or even organic cane sugar juice, which we have all been suckered into believing is somehow healthier and validates dropping $8.99 on a box of cake mix.
Nothing fermented, either. That means neither of my two favourite vegetables: pickles and olives. And you can forget about booze. I already have, which might account for what I am about to do.
When you can’t eat sugar, you realize that it’s actually used in just about everything. I challenge you to go to the grocery store, and buy only foods which are sugar and wheat free. You will spend most of your time picking things up off shelves, reading the packaging and then shoving them back in a huff. Even health food stores are rampant with both ingredients, albeit cleverly disguised as organic wheat and bloody organic bloody cane sugar.
You are now asking the question everyone asks.
Why on earth?
Without going into too much detail, I have something called Candida. You can read about it here, and here. I’ve had it before – in fact, I’ve probably had it for a very long time. But I’ve always been too lazy to do anything about it. And also too scared to go longer than two weeks without chardonnay.
But since starting this diet, I’ve felt like a million bucks. Don’t worry: I’m not bursting at the seams with energy, or glowing in the dark. But strange things have been happening. Things I wasn’t expecting. Things that I thought would never happen, because I’d basically gotten too old and partied too much in my youth. My mind is sharper and clearer than it’s ever been. Go ahead, make jokes, but that afternoon “fog” that so often descended upon me at lunch has lifted. I’m able to think straight, which I seemed to be having more and more trouble with. My stomach, for which I gave myself the affectionate nickname of “snake belly”, because of its protruding bulge after an even moderately sized meal, has retracted. And my PMS has all but disappeared. God knows there’s at least one person in the world – two if you count the dog – who are thanking their lucky stars for that.
I’m even happy to answer your next question:
What the hell do I actually eat?
Suffice it to say I spend a lot of time in the produce section. I also regularly frequent the spice racks, where I hover around and hem and haw over ground This and whole That. There are amazing things that can be made with brown rice, which include pasta, flour and yes, gluten-free brownies. And thanks to the wonders of modern science, I’ve got vanilla-flavoured protein shakes to get me through the morning.
I’ve got other tips and tricks, too. If you really want to know, drop me a line and ask. Because now, I am about to do something I have never done before.
I am going. To post recipes. On my blog.
Yes! The girl who once thought Montreal steak seasoning was the only spice she needed is cooking. And baking, and blending and mixing and even creating. It’s tiring, but it is also immensely rewarding. Especially when I’ve pulled off a Candida-friendly meal that’s actually – even according to the Greek – delicious.
So without further ado, I bring you:
Three Candida-Friendly Recipes I Currently Can’t Live Without.
Amazing. Honestly. Even if you're not deprived.
You will need:
- A red onion (or half of one, at least)
- Olive oil
- dried rosemary
- A good amount of baby spinach
- Handful fresh parsley
- Sliced almonds (pre-sliced, obviously – I haven’t totally gone off the deep end.)
- Bacon (optional, and going Candida, without sugar. This is not as easy as it may sound.)
- Dried parmesan, if you’re using bacon and feeling devilish
- Goat’s Feta Cheese, if you’re not
Chop about half the onion up in big chunks. Put spinach into large salad bowl. Heat olive oil, add onions and rosemary, and fry it all up until lovely and caramelized. Dump onions and oil in with spinach. Toss. Fry bacon, adding almonds about halfway through so they get brown and crispy but don’t burn. Chop bacon, and add to salad along with parmesan. Or, crumble in feta cheese to taste. Add parsley last, toss, and serve.
Thank me later.
Existential Crisis Muffins
Enjoyable even with a cup of steaming green organic rooibos tea!
You will need:
2 cups gluten-free flour (I recommend a blend of quinoa and brown rice or amaranth flour)
1 cup applesauce
½ mashed banana
¼ cup oil
¼ tsp sea salt
1/3 cup (or less) apple juice
1 tsp cinnamon
Mix oil and applesauce together. Mash banana and add. Separately, sift all dry ingredients. Add them to the wet mixture. Add extra juice if needed to soften the batter. Spoon batter into a muffin tin lined with those little cupcake papers. Do not think about cupcakes. Bake for between 40 and 55 minutes at 350 degrees. Let cool before removing from paper thingies.
Hummus Which Will Cause my Ancestors to Roll Over in their Graves
You will need:
- one large can hummus (rolling already)
- 1 lime
- 3 large cloves of garlic
- red chili flakes to taste
- sea salt to taste
- cayenne spices (optional) to taste
- cumin to taste
- chopped fresh coriander leaves, to taste
Crush the garlic, mix everything up, and try not to eat it all, because the longer the flavours have to mix, the better it tastes. Serve with rice crackers, Mary’s Gluten-free crackers, or fresh veggie sticks.
And if all else fails, go to the Wild Oat on Bank St. in Ottawa, and buy all the brownies they’ve got.