Sunday, February 17, 2013

My dairy free odyssey

Though Garlic is Love, dairy is life. Jalapeno poppers were a socially sanctioned way to eat vast quantities of cream cheese in public (same goes for crab rangoons). Cheese sticks and yogurt were go-to snacks, pizza was a weekly food at minimum, and fondue and souffle showed up quarterly. Then I had a baby who, like only 3% of babies out there, was allergic to dairy. Oh, and since 40% of babies allergic to dairy are also allergic to soy, my dr asked me to cut both from my diet, for 4 months. Most babies grow out of the allergy by a year, if not sooner. But that meant 4 months in a dairy free, soy-free wilderness. I say that to people I love, but I didn't think I'd ever have to prove it.
During this time, I've learned a few things to keep me sane. 1. There's dairy (and/or soy) in EVERYTHING. Most prepared, packaged foods have dairy or soy in them. Breads, frozen meals, crackers, cookies, and more. Even things you'd never think could, would or should have dairy in them do. Like chicken bouillon concentrate. I learned that after I had the turkey soup my dad prepared for Thanksgiving. Fast food and restaurant food is even worse, and made it nearly impossible to go out to eat. 2. Co-ops to the rescue. Co-ops and whole foods stores cater to those with dietary restrictions. I became good friends with my local hippie whole foods grocery co-ops,and got a frequent shopper card for the discount. 3. The blessed trinity: Bacon, almonds, coconut. These three ingredients pretty much saved my life. Bacon was a good substitute for butter in most things. Almond milk, butter, and flour added richness to food and also let me have my morning cereal. And coconut ice "cream" was in some ways better than the real thing. 4. Cheese substitutes are almost, but not quite, entirely unlike cheese. Don't eat them. 5. Being an adventurous omnivore helps. I'd always kept a running list of weird foods, where I'd tried them, and where to find them locally. This, more than anything, was a lifesaver. 6. More meat, more veggies. I had a lot more vegetarian meals, with eggs, chickpeas, grains, but I also simply ate a lot more hamburgers, chicken and steak. Happy ending to the story: The ban is lifted! The babe has outgrown the allergy, I have discovered a few new tasty recipes, ingredients and snacks to add to my culinary repertoire. And, I lost the baby weight plus another 15 pounds. But, between you and me, I'd have preferred to be heavier, and to have had the cheese.

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