How Can I Make Peace with Loving Bread while Having a Gluten-Sensitivity?

A close-up on a cross-section of stuffed picnic bread made by Tom and Chef Nancy, who has a gluten sensitivity.

Yep—I, too, have gluten sensitivity, but in my case, that is also like saying I have gourmet potato chip sensitivity or red wine sensitivity.

By expressing loving restraint, I have found peace between my gluten sensitivity and desire to indulge in well-made bread.

If I indulge in way too much my body shouts, WHAT?!! Fortunately, I have learned to heed the bodily feedback, preventing more severe consequences. I experience no lasting physical damage like the one in 133 people (at the time of posting) in Canada who are estimated to have celiac disease, according to the Canadian Celiac Association.

With my simple cookʼs math and the help of Statistics Canada and Celiac Canada online resources, I calculate that approximately 34,877,320 Canadians do not have celiac disease, and 264,222 do. Somewhere amidst all those numbers are people with gluten sensitivity.

During chef training and my lifelong study of food, I’ve learned to appreciate dietary variety through exposure to diverse food experiences. It’s truly a gift I’ve come to appreciate.

Oscar Wilde said, “Everything in moderation, including moderation.” My true sweet spot is honouring the beautiful balance between loving restraint and loving open-mindedness. As a chef, I judge foods’ complexities better when consciously abstaining from overindulging. This helps to make the palate really come alive, and what a sensation it is when you do give yourself a chance to be wrapped up in the full experience of a treat!

Yes, I do mean wrapped, like in a mother’s arms or a blanket on a cold night. Recognizing that there truly is love baked and cooked into some foods is another developed sensitivity I have!

The conditions placed on our collective food experiences by over-emphasized food trends, food phobias, food reporting and nutrition science can be stifling. Unconditional love is remembering that, collectively, we do not yet possess complete knowledge about the human body and its workings.

We should do our food homework and trust ourselves at the same time. Know that many, many food producers do what they do because of unconditional and uncompromising love for their product, craft and industry.

Recently, I found myself in an altered state of consciousness at Lawrence restaurant in Montreal. I abandoned myself to sopping up a delicious dish with the most incredibly hearty, alive-with-flavour and textured bread. The dish featured a black, dense, rich and lemony cuttlefish sauce, similar to squid ink, with capers and samphire (green coastal sea vegetables saturated with sea flavours) and perfect gnocchi.

The care and generous spirit the team put into that dish—and their environment, staffing and warm, baked-in-house bread (which Chef Marc Cohen kindly told me was in the style of Tartine bread and master baker Chad Robertson)—was beyond measuring in a food lab.

Considering the health benefits of experiencing pure joy, we have to loosen up occasionally and sink into the pleasures of the bite. There is nothing like simply burying your hands in bowls and getting some flour on your nose to gain some perspective.

Learning the delayed gratification lessons of do-it-yourself, as wafting bread aromas spirit throughout the kitchen, is another way to honour, enjoy and savour every bite. Intuitive skills are developed as you partner with the simple ingredients of bread in their complex dance of nature and chemistry, offering priceless lessons.

In making bread, manual labour comes with a sweet reward—a lesson I teach my kids. When the family has time to make bread, my kids teach me that the process and joy of discovery is never work!

Thankfully there are now multitudes of flours, ingredients and recipes to satisfy every bread-eaterʼs needs, whether doing it yourself or sourcing from a caring bread-making artisan.

The stuffed picnic bread pictured above was made and shared with love by Tom (13) and Nancy.

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