Without ‘Staffs’

Bri DeRosa (Red, Round or Green)

Bri DeRosa (Red, Round or Green) › I like to think of myself as a young, cool, urban fringe locavore, but the reality ...


“No bread?” my father inquired, half-facetiously.  “No milk?  No Velveeta?  But these things are the staffs of life!”

Dad’s theories about the various foodstuffs that may, at any given time, be considered “a staff of life” are a running family joke.  The list usually contains, in no particular order: Velveeta.  Peanut butter.  Raw hamburger sandwiches.  Saltines.  Pretzels with onion dip.  Bread (but none of that weenie whole-wheat crap).  Milk.  And so forth.  It’s partly funny because, although certainly my father enjoys all of those items, he by no means really believes that they’re the cornerstones of a decent diet; and it’s also funny because, being married to my epicurean mother, he’s been served his fair share of pesto sauces, goat cheeses, and other various “exotic” items…and has lived to tell the tale.  (He may even have enjoyed some of those things — but don’t tell him I said so.)

A few weekends ago was Dad’s birthday, and he and my mother came to visit us for a family celebration.  My sister, D., surprised Dad by coming up from New York on the train.  There were festivities, merriment, and of course, plenty of food.  But since we were entering Week Three of a six-week gluten-and-casein-free trial with L., cooking and eating as a crowd was definitely a bit more… interesting?… than we’d planned.

Mom and Dad were, naturally, very supportive of our decision to try this dietary intervention for our little guy.  But I think it’s fair to say that it caused every one of us at least a momentary pang, at some point over the weekend, as we tried to work around the delicate dietary prescription for L. without either a) compromising some of the things we wanted to enjoy as a family; or b) denying a five-year-old a large number of items that were available to the rest of us.  I’ve been okay with the new diet, largely, because it’s been relatively easy (if not totally painless) for me to simply adjust what the four of us have eaten at home in order to accommodate L.  Over the weekend, however, with a birthday party to execute and houseguests afoot, it hit home for me just how much “tweaking” was necessary to make everything go smoothly, food-wise.

The lobster was no problem, but the drawn butter would have to be carefully clarified if we wanted L. to have a taste.  The grass-fed steak was no problem, but fettucine was off the menu altogether, and the brioche dinner rolls were sort of eaten on the sly (not that L. was unaware of them — he was grumpily resigned to his bread-free fate prior to dinner).  Asparagus and salad were welcome points of relief.  But bread pudding… bread pudding, Dad’s requested birthday dessert, was going to have to be off-limits to our newly GF/CF guy.  And as for Mom’s desire to take us out for lunch the following day, well, we satisfied ourselves with Japanese take-out instead so L. could enjoy some sushi and vegetables (no soy sauce) under our watchful eyes at home.

It’s not all dire, by any means.  We’ve done pretty well, and now that we’re part way through this challenge, I’m starting to catch on and figure out a rhythm that works.  I’m even starting to experiment, a little.  In some ways, we’ve expanded our palates a bit (quinoa was a new food to everyone in the family but me, and it turns out to be a raving success); in others, we’ve had to narrow our scope a little in order to quickly and confidently adjust to the list of “approved” foods without driving us (or, okay, ME) stark raving mad.  GF/CF is a steep learning curve, to be sure, but it’s not impossible.

This article originally appeared on RedRoundOrGreen.com. It is re-posted here with permission from the author.

THE WRITER: Bri DeRosa likes to think of herself as a young, cool, urban fringe locavore, but the reality is, she's just a working mom, neither quite as young nor as cool as she used to pretend to be, who’s trying to figure out how to get everybody fed. See how that's all working out for her and her family at RedRoundOrGreen.com.

Have you had to contend with a gluten- or casein-free diet? What were some of the most useful tips you received?