Some days, gluten free is easy. Just use no grains, lots of fish, meat, veggies, and fruit, or use the GF mixes that Bob’s Red Mill puts out. Or use the grains I know, like rice and corn. But on days when I want more than that, it’s trickier. And learning to cook all over again, when I’ve known how to cook practically my entire life? Not so easy. Not hard, just time intensive. I feel like I have to crash-learn it all in about five minutes when I’ve been picking up tips and tricks here and there from parents and grandmothers and friends and cooking shows my whole life. Because I did not get to gourmet-ish cook at thirty to have to start all over at boiling water. If I’m starting all over, I want to be able to make souffle, bread pudding, and fettucine alfredo again right away. None of this waiting to learn that in ten or twenty years. Skip to the end, please.
Well, I’ve been putting off re-learning how to cook. Mainly because I want to reorg my kitchen and get everything ready. I want all my tools lined up for the process. Where’s my apron, let’s get down and dirty. Get rid of the stuff I don’t need, because I’ll need more storage space for my GF flours (most of them, I learned last night, keep best refrigerated, so I need another refrigerator for that!).
I finally just bit the bullet and decided to stop waiting and short-cutting with Bob’s mixes. Reorg or not. Bob’s mixes are good, but first off, I have a cookbook that uses GF flour mixes containing no bean flour, and I would like to try those for variety (even though the bean flours taste much less like beans once cooked than you would expect and do not provide that gassy aftermath that I would expect). Plus, I’d like to start baking GF breads so I can have garlic bread, and I’d like to make a GF na’an on Indian food nights (ugh, if I can tolerate tomato sauce — is it just fresh tomatoes, or the sauce too?). I also want to make GF pasta with my new KitchenAid attachment that my in-laws got me for Christmas. The GF pastas are great, but they’re also very expensive (about 3-4 times as expensive as wheat pastas), and if I make them myself, they will be so much cheaper.
A big flour to use for GF cooking and baking, I’m learning, is tapioca. Ok, so I went to the health food store. My massage therapist recommended one that I had previously thought was just a vitamin store, and they have most of the things that Wild Oats has, but with fewer hippies and lower prices. Here’s how little I know: I saw tapioca flour (not Bob’s, which I know doesn’t give me any trouble) and pearl tapioca (Bob’s). They didn’t have Bob’s tapioca flour. So I agonized in the aisle for literally five minutes over which one to buy, because I truly knew nothing about tapioca. Does tapioca come out of the tapioca bush (haha) in little foam-looking pearls that are later made into tapioca flour? I was asking myself. Seriously, this was the conversation. Well, I can grind it myself into tapioca flour, because my KitchenAid pasta maker attachment came with the food grinder. But this crazy tapioca flour on the top shelf is some Asian brand I’ve never heard of, I guess for putting in your green tea.
So the nice man came over and asked if he could take some items off my hands for me, because I was overloaded with bags of potato flour, potato starch, white rice flour, brown rice flour, and Bob’s gluten-free brownie mix (the best brownie mix ever). While I had his attention, I asked if he knew anything about tapioca flour. Like can I grind pearl tapioca down into tapioca flour, or am I thinking about this all wrong? And he had a kind of glossed-over look for about a half second before I said, “You don’t know,” and laughed. He laughed, too, and said, “No. What exactly is tapioca?”
Yeah. So I took a leap and bought the pearl tapioca, figuring that I could look it up and, if nothing else, try some pudding or something. It’s GF, so hey, why not?
Well, I looked it up, and wow. I learned anything I ever wanted to know about tapioca. And it turns out that pearl tapioca is tapioca flour cooked with water.
So I don’t have all the ingredients I need to start baking and making GF pastas and sauces. But that’s ok, I still have mixes until I get back to the health food store (which is not far — I’m making it sound like it’s an hour away or something when it’s right by the post office). At least I’m learning, and I get to learn how to make tapioca pudding.
And for added variety, I can always eat naked. If you know what I mean.