For almost nine months I’ve been experimenting with a grain-free diet. Grain-free, not gluten-free. Grain-free encompasses gluten-free eating but goes a whole lot further. No corn, no rye, no barley. No bread, no pasta, no pizza. No oats, no muesli. You get the drift.
Anyhow, there was a time when I didn’t think I’d survive without my staples: grains, grains, and more grains; and now I live very well without them. I’m healthier and more energetic. I don’t have perpetual stomach aches and mysterious episodes of nausea. It’s only this strongest of motivations that keeps me grain-clean: I don’t want to feel sick.
But heck, sometimes it’s like being an alcoholic in a bottle shop. The world out there is Grain City. What else is there to eat? Food courts are a nightmare and restaurants a torment. Everything’s served on, under or inside bread, or with bread on the side, or is breadcrumbed. And that’s just the tip of the grain iceberg.
The social factor is a challenge. Try sitting at a baby shower (I received the invitation too late to take grain-free snacks) where the rest of the party watches you for two whole hours in consternation as you eat nothing but the bacon off the top of a toastie. This is peer pressure so intense (made worse by the genuine concern of said peers) I reach home exhausted by the twin efforts of a) restraining my urge to indulge in delicious scones, chocolate biscuits and banana cake and b) resisting my urge to please the party by eating their delicious scones, chocolate biscuits and banana cake.
But such minor instances aside, the grain-free thing has been working brilliantly. Nine months grain-dodging means I’m now skilled at picking out the one or two suitable menu items, avoiding bakeries and warning my friends in advance that I have a peculiar diet. Everyone is most thoughtful. I’m served nuts and dark chocolate for morning teas and platters of fruit instead of cakes. I’ve become almost blasé. I even thought I could safely embark on a five-week holiday staying with other people and stay grain-free.
Oh yes? says the universe, ha ha.
I arrive in Melbourne to be met by mine first kind hosts. An enormous box of Krispy Kreme doughnuts accompanies us home from the airport.
Par for the course. The Krispy Kremes are a tradition. I knew that. I eat a banana.
The household’s filled with laughing kids, furry animals and blaring tvs. There’s bread in the bread tin and pasta in the cupboard. They have sixteen grain-based cereal options for breakfast. This is perfectly normal. No worries, I say, no problem! I can always cook up an egg.
The teenage daughter mixes up a berry cheesecake. I eat the topping. The twins bake rusks. I inhale the delicious fragrance. I can do this! I decline offers of biscuits and tuck into the chicken and salad. Easy as! Well, ok, the pantry is slightly alarming, but I look the other way as I reach in for my jar of nut butter.
Then a family friend arrives with a gift, and this is when I realize the universe has a sense of humour. And it’s wicked. It’s throwing sacks at me – garbage bag-sized sacks of the damn stuff.
It’s day-old bread thrown out by the local supermarket. Yes, sacks of it. Mine hosts (and their friend) have no intention of allowing such a shocking waste of food.
I absolutely applaud their intent. And I absolutely admire mine hosts’ stamina – the white bread-based lasagna made from day-old loaves, the rye toast with soup, the slicing and packing and freezing of sacks of rolls.
But please… I’m on a grain-free regime!
So, I wonder, what awaits me at my next destination? Have I become an irresistible grain-magnet? Will Krispy Kremes launch themselves at me from the next airport terminal and stick themselves to my stripy red poncho? Are vast quantities of grains manifesting out of my subconscious to puncture my hubris and discombobulate my self-control? How long will it last? Is there a lesson here? If so, what?
Thirty-two days to go. Ha ha.