Oh, here you are. I’ve been looking everywhere for you. This past weekend, I found myself in a situation. Ever find yourself in a situation? Yeah, me either. Except this … more
This past weekend, I found myself in a situation. Ever find yourself in a situation?
Yeah, me either.
Except this past weekend, I did. I was in a situation. And you were nowhere in sight. I called you, but you didn’t come. I was all on my own. In the universal language of food, I was meant to explain to about 30 celiac families — and the kitchen staff that would bear that mantle this coming Summer — that preparing fresh, melt in your mouth gluten-free food is well within reach. Shouldn’t be a problem, right? Especially since I could actually cook and bake for them.
Here’s the rub: (1) It had to be kosher, so no dairy when they were serving meat (boo!); & (2) There were limited resources besides (think: one kind of unidentified cooking oil of mysterious origin with unknown properties, etcetera) (eeek!).
Gluten-free is one thing. Diary-free is another. Many of you are dairy free, I know. And we used to be dairy free. It was really a pain, if you wanna know the truth. It cramped my style in a big way. When we reclaimed dairy, it was awesome. I hope we never have to go back.
Except, this weekend, I had to go back, if only briefly. And the food still made people’s eyes light up at the magic of it all. And the thing is, it wasn’t magic. It was a matter of
better is better, and good enough is good enough.
Maybe I should explain. My family and I were invited to the First Ever Celiac Family Camp Weekend at the New Jersey Y Camp. In partnership with the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University, the N.J. “Y” camp has created a completely separate gluten-free kitchen to accommodate campers with celiac disease. It’s the first of its kind, and their commitment is remarkable.I was invited to the weekend to talk and do a cooking demonstration (we made vegetarian potstickers), blah blah bladdy blah blah. The kitchen staff was incredibly accommodating, and they let me do whatever I wanted in the kitchen. They totally get the whole gluten-free thing, but they’re understandably spooked. They don’t want to get anybody sick, so they were kind of playing it safe, and relying upon mountains of packaged gluten-free foods (like rolls, bagels, buns) that, quite frankly, weren’t that good overall. And the buzz the first night at dinner was that the food was very similar to what everyone already ate at home. And everything was super duper expensive for the camp! How could they sustain that?
But it was time for lunch on Sunday, and the Udi’s hot dog buns were turning to dust. It was a bad scene. I wanted to make some gluten-free bread real quick, but I couldn’t use dairy, had no stand mixer, and not a ton of time. But I really wanted to support the camp’s amazing efforts, to show the willing kitchen staff what was possible even without gluten and dairy, and to help the celiac families feel connected to this camp and feel a sense of possibility.
Enter MacGyver. MacGyver could probably have made some gluten-free bread with nothing more than duct tape and his trusty Swiss Army knife. Since Better Batter had donated a 25 pound bag of their all-purpose gluten-free flour to the camp for the weekend, I was halfway to fabulous gluten-free bread. But I had a bunch of limitations.
I didn’t have olive oil (I had “salad oil” — what the heck is that??), I didn’t have kosher salt (only table salt), no milk (this meal had meat, so I couldn’t use milk, and they didn’t have any good nondairy milk on hand — and the nearest market is at least 30 minutes away), and I couldn’t use cheese (so Pizza Crust was going to be useless) or butter (only margarine – yuck). I was flipping through the pages of My Cookbook, looking for inspiration.
I didn’t need a main dish, since they had that covered. I just needed something that would make it feel like love. Food is not love (not at all), but what you do in the kitchen can be an expression of love (get your mind out of the gutter — I’m talking about bread).
So you already know where I’m going with this. I didn’t exactly bury the lead.
Focaccia topped with a simple saute of chopped onions and tomatoes and a sprinkling of fresh parsley and cut into squares, and everyone’s eyes lit up. It wasn’t entirely perfect. I pressed the salad oil, whatever that is, into service as a stand-in for olive oil. I had table salt understudy kosher salt, and cut the amount by about half (since fine grain salt is more concentrated than coarse salt). I didn’t have cream of tartar, so I doubled up on the egg white so give the dough the needed structure. I even brushed the dough with some melted margarine (when in Rome, I suppose).
Score one for some gluten-free love.
Click HERE for the focaccia recipe (it’s also in the cookbook), grab your duct tape, and go cook up some love.
How do you speak the language of love to your family? I show you all love like this. Coming right atcha, through your broadband connection, every Monday, Wednesday & Friday. How about you?
P.S. Please check out the New Jersey Y Camp. Ever consider sending your gluten-free child to sleepaway camp, but assumed it wouldn’t be possible? Well, it is. They are pursuing certification with the Gluten Intolerance Group of North America, and they’ve got it goin’ on. I really want them to succeed!
P.P.S. The camp did not charge my family the $250 fee for the weekend, so we stayed free, but I sang for my supper. And my endorsement is my own.
P.P.S. Please show me some love, and click on the Stumble Upon button here below this post — it looks like a weird “SU”!