I've tried my hand at gluten-free, casein-free (GFCF) cooking before. One of the families I nannied for before I had kids had a child on a GFCF diet, and Emma was allergic to wheat for the first year of her life. But this past week has been a real stretch for me.
The natural and most common starch replacements for wheat would be potatoes and rice, but Naomi likes neither. There are GFCF replacement breads and cereals made to mimic common wheat-filled snacks, but they are certainly more expensive and almost always less tasty. The replacements for milk are rice, soy, or almond milk and things like soy yogurt and soy cheese. These undoubtedly taste much worse, at least if you're used to a thick glass of chocolate milk, a rich block of cheddar cheese, and a granola bar for snack after school.
Naomi has to pack her own lunches for school now. This was exciting at first, but her GFCF crackers with GFCF lunch meat, applesauce, and soy-milk are quickly losing their appeal next to the cheese pizza on the tray beside her. Of course, someone had a birthday and brought cupcakes which she couldn't eat, and she's decided that every variety of expensive GFCF granola bars I've tried are unpalatable.
Dinner no longer comes from the freezer and the microwave, oh I miss those days. No, Mommy now spends from four o'clock to seven o'clock each evening cooking from scratch with strange ingredients like tapioca flour and xanthum gum, serving meals that people are struggling to choke down, and washing every dish, pot, pan, and utensil that went into preparing the less-than-well-received meal.
Last night I tried a recipe for "Salmon Balls" from the Internet. I should have thrown the batch away the instant I mixed up the final ingredients and couldn't stomach the smell, but I was sure that some chemical reaction would happen inside the oven that would make them mouth-wateringly delicious. Warning number two was when my father-in-law came home from work and exclaimed, "What is that awful smell?!"
Matt was quick to defend me, "I'm hoping it's Toby's diaper." He checked Toby's diaper, then announced, "Nope, it's dinner." We sat down to eat, and Matt was visibly relieved when I admitted the salmon balls were disgusting. At least I had the GFCF version of Oreos, which everyone agrees are fantastic, on hand for a quick palette-washing.
I know it will get better. I have multiple friends who have cooked for this diet before, and there are endless resources on the Internet to be taken advantage of. I will get used to what brands I can and cannot buy when shopping. I will find my favorite recipes, whisk them up in double-batches, and put half away in the freezer. Once in a while I will pull a pre-made dinner from the freezer and enjoy a night off. Someday I will be lauded as a GFCF cooking genius. For now I will have to stomach the smell of the rotting salmon-balls in my garbage can.
I went with meat and veggies in the crock-pot tonight. Safe, proven, and easy tonight; tomorrow: another cooking adventure.