The last month, I have been so inspired by some of the other food and eating disorder blogs that I have been reading -- like Emily Jolie's -- that I have begun to reconsider my no-gluten policy.
If bodily functions gross you out, skip down to the recipe below for zucchini chocolate cake and read that instead. It's guaranteed to not gross you out.
When I first recovered from my eating disorder, and began to eat normally after a few years of binging and purging, my whole digestive system was in serious trouble. It was as if it had forgotten how to move things forward, and every evening, without fail, I had body-stopping cramps that left me huddling on the couch with a water bottle on my stomach. I spent a miserable summer trying a series of "elimination diets" to see if I had a food allergy, and in the process learned that things seemed to get better -- a modicum of improvement -- if I eliminated gluten from my diet. I consulted gastroenterologists, allergists, chiropractors, acupuncturists, and nutritionists, with mixed success. I didn't like the GI doctors' advice to take anti-acids for the rest of my life, but I also knew that following a strict diet when I was recovering from an eating disorder could potentially put me at risk for more eating-disordered behaviors. So it was with caution that I adopted a gluten-free diet.
Miraculously, I have been gluten-free for almost three years, and it hasn't led me down the old road of restriction + binging. Absolutely the contrary. Because I couldn't rely on my old stand-bys of peanut butter sandwiches and Honey Bunches of Oats, I had to look farther afield, and start making my food myself. I didn't hurt that at this point I moved to China for four months with the man who is now my husband; living in a rice-based culture is much easier for someone who doesn't tolerate gluten well. But even after I left China for Brazil, it was as if a whole world of cooking and food opened up to me, once I was forced to cook for myself.
Cooking for myself is the ultimate act of self-nourishment. Cooking is what grounds me in a foreign country; cooking is what keeps me from going crazy about food. Cooking for others puts me in contact with my friends and family and shows them that I care about them, and allows me to spend time with them. Cooking has, in a sense, saved me from an eating disorder, and I am passionate about and respectful of food in a way that I could never be when it shared the bejeezus out of me.
Over the past few years, limited by my gluten intolerance, I have let so many other foods back into my life, foods that I never would have eaten during my eating disorder: red meat, whole milk, cheese, tuna fish, butter, mayonnaise -- the "bad" foods -- not to mention kale and beans and amaranth and sweet potatoes and beans and almonds and mangoes and sweet corn and brussels sprouts and did I mention beans? Like Shauna, the Gluten-Free Girl, by tailoring my diet to what I could tolerate, I was able to find "food that loved me back."
But this week I am going back to eating gluten. I am going to take it seriously, and see if we can tolerate each other again. It has been a long time, baby.
Which means: I know that I don't have celiac disease, that sometimes gluten makes me have an upset stomach (but mostly when I eat a lot of processed, white foods in overabundant quantities, a.k.a. binge), and that, in theory, I should be able to tolerate gluten. So what has been keeping me back? Fear, I think, of opening that door and letting in all of the foods that were once so hard for me to stop eating: cookies and candy bars, cakes and pastries and puddings. Conveniently, not eating gluten because I fear its consequences in my lower intestine has helped me to avoid binging on those very foods that once were so irresistible. Is it a coincidence that I developed an intolerance to the same foods that I once binged on? I think not. However, given what I know about my body, about eating intuitively and eating the foods that nourish me, I am willing to give it another shot with gluten. Especially since lately, even in the midst of Italian gelato and Perugian chocolates, I have been able to hold my own, to ask for food when I need it and stop when I am full.
And what better way to celebrate a return to glutenhood than baking a cake? Because I'm not afraid of cakes anymore.
When I arrived at my parents' house on Thursday, there was a mountain of vegetables in the refrigerator from their CSA share, and the clear injunction to do as much as I could to get rid of them. My mother produced an outlandishly sized zucchini and a recipe for zucchini chocolate cake, reproduced below. I got busy this morning and now have an entire cake awaiting my unwitting family.
Chocolate Zucchini Cake
(And please don't pretend that the zucchini makes this a "health" food. This is chocolate cake. Chocolate. Cake.)
3/4 c. oil
1 1/4 c. sugar
1 t. vanilla
2 c. grated zucchini (I used less than half of my larger zucchini)
1/2 c. sour milk or buttermilk
2 T. cocoa powder
1/2 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. each ground cinnamon and cloves
2 1/2 c. flour
1 smallish bag of chocolate chips (however much suits your fancy)
Heat oven to 350 degrees, grease two round cake pans. Mix all ingredients and bake for 25 minutes. Glaze or frost if you so choose.