Being a Private Chef the first question I ask my clients is “Are there any allergies, intolerances, or serious dislikes to food that I need to be aware of?” Having an adverse reaction to food is definitely not desirable. The last thing I want is someone to feel like a) they can’t have something that I have prepared and b) them to feel miserable after eating. An increasing amount of our population is starting to give notice to the way different foods affect their body. It gives me hope that there are more people that are really starting to connect back to the one thing that nourishes us; food.
Lately, “Gluten Free” has been popping up all over the place. Gluten Free has become the new diet craze. Everyone is looking for alternatives; even I personally started to realize that when I eat wheat-based products, I seem to always get a stuffy nose right afterward. I wanted to do a little research. People have been eating wheat for thousands of years, so why now do we have such a problem digesting it.
I came across an interesting answer that makes the most sense to me. Although there are a lot of different components of wheat, gluten may not be the source for all allergies. With the modern food industry as it is today, an increasing amount of food sources or plants are being Genetically Modified and hybridized, to contain proponents that could never happen naturally. On top of that the plants are then treated with fungicides, pesticides, and herbicides.
By Genetically Modifying a certain crop, its DNA is being altered. Today’s wheat has been designed so that the husk surrounding the grain is more pliable making the gain easy to separate from the stock, reducing the amount of time it takes to process it. The husk that surrounds the grain is naturally quite strong. That is it’s natural defense system against pests. Now, since it is not as resistant as it used to be, pesticides are used to protect the plant from what it was already designed to do. They have altered wheat to be resistant to herbicides inserting genes that are resistant to these harsh chemicals. They have even modified the wheat plant to contain more gluten so as to make baked goods more palatable. In all actuality it’s not the same plant as it used to be. And it’s still labeled wheat, not Genetically Modified Wheat, which is what it really is.
This whole gluten free allergy may actually be the result of what can happen to the human body when a plants’ natural genetic structure is altered. Dr. David L. Katz of Yale University said, “It may be that genetic modifications are also introducing new nutrients into the diet and some reactions to gluten may be primed by the company it is keeping.” You are introducing new components into your body that your system doesn’t know what to do with, which activates your immune system and results in inflammation, gas, allergic skin reactions, ect. Mother Nature never intended for these Genetic Modifications to occur, so it’s no wonder we are experiencing adverse side effects.
Thomas Edison once said “the doctor of the future will give not medicine, but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame in diet and in the cause and prevention of disease.” Food is our medicine. I truly believe that. It is the only thing we have that is as complete as we are. Our bodies know exactly how to utilize all unaltered food. The trace minerals, vitamins, fiber, fats; we need all of those things in order to function at optimal level.
This enlightenment has really encouraged me to take a closer look at the ancient grains that were once so vital to populations. Ancient grains have remained relatively unaltered and include; Quinoa, Amaranth, Millet, Spelt**, Teff, Buckwheat, and Kamut just to name a few. Some of these do contain gluten like Spelt and Kamut. Spelt contains gluten but in a different way. The proteins in Spelt are in greater amounts, soluble, and easier to digest and assimilate. The husk of the plant is very strong, requiring no pesticides and also grows quite well in poor soil conditions, no extra synthetic fertilizer needed. I’ve been experimenting with Spelt in my own diet and found that after I eat it I don’t have a stuffy nose, which tells me that my body obviously prefers it. You can buy it ground in flour form and it’s a good substitute for regular wheat flour, or you can buy the dried berries and make them into a salad. One of my favorite salads is made from spelt. I really love the texture of the cooked Spelt Berries. Here’s one of my favorite recipes for you to try using the Spelt Berry. I call it Spelt Berry Salad.
Spelt Berry Salad (Serves 10-12)
1 Cup Spelt Berries
6 T Olive Oil
1/3 Cup Pomegranate Molasses
1 tsp *Sumac
4 Stalks Celery
Small bunch Chopped Mint
Small bunch Chopped Fennel Leaf
Small Bunch Chopped Parsley
3 Apples, Chopped in Small Cubes
2 T Chopped Walnuts
½ Cup Dried Cranberries
Put Spelt Berries in saucepan. Add 1 ½ cup water bring to a boil and reduce to simmer with the lid on and cook just like rice for about 30 to 45 min or until tender
Add oil, molasses and sumac to the warm cooked spelt and stir to combine. This allows the spelt to absorb the flavors of the dressing
When the spelt is cool add the rest of the ingredients mix. Adjust ingredients as needed to taste: more mint, pomegranate molasses etc.
Hopefully I have inspired you to broaden your horizons in terms of Ancient Grains. I know I will be experimenting with some new recipes soon. I’ll let you know what I come up with.
**Note: Please be aware that people with Celiac Disease are not advised to eat Spelt and Kamut as they have an autoimmune reaction to gluten. Others with wheat intolerances or allergies may try spelt to see if it works well with their system.
*Sumac is a ground purple powder of bitter tasting berries. I love it! It adds such and interested and delicious flavor to the dish!
Written by Chef Gwen