Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Opening the Box

Hi and welcome!

This is my new blog all about what it's like to be dairy-free and how to prepare yummy things without milk. If you're new to the dairy-free lifestyle, hang in there. It gets easier once you get the hang of the basics and start building up an arsenal of "safe" products. If you're looking for recipes because you want to cook something for a friend or family member who is dairy-free, yay!

Cooking dairy-free is harder than it might seem. It's not enough it simply omit milk, cream, butter, yoghurt, etc from a recipe. You also need to look at each individual component of the meal. For example, a friend of mine once invited me over for dinner. She planned for a couple of days in advance, searching for ingredients at several different shops before gathering everything she needed to make my favorite: grilled cheese and tomato soup. (I know, I know. I've always loved grilled cheese, even when eating the mainstream version makes me cry.)

My friend bought margarine instead of butter, rye sandwich bread, soy cheese, dairy-free culinary milk, and fresh tomatoes. She spent her afternoon creating a delicious meal for the two of us, and in the end it made me sick anyhow. The bread and margarine contained casein and whey. Even the soy cheese had milk proteins in it. What started out as an enormously generous effort ended in tears. Fortunately, my friend was not easily discouraged and asks me for tips and hints every time we eat together now.

Today the two of us went out for lunch as part of her "education." She watched in awe as I attempted to order a simple hamburger. First I checked that the burger was made with fresh ground beef instead of a pre-made frozen patty. Then I asked if anything other than salt and pepper was added to the ground beef. If bread crumbs had been added, I would have had to ask for an ingredient list to make sure they didn't contain any dairy. Once I was set on the burger being safe, I assured the waitress that I really didn't want cheese. When she started to tell me that there was no extra charge, I explained that I can't eat cheese because it contains milk which, hence the whole song and dance surrounding the beef, I am allergic to. I asked for mustard on the side, but only if she could bring me the bottle. The ketchup was on the table already. I went with the french fries as a side as macaroni and cheese was out of the question and she didn't know whether or not there was dairy in the coleslaw. I've learned the hard way, when in doubt, don't eat it.

Unfortunately, I couldn't eat my burger. When I lifted the bun to add the condiments (after checking the ingredients,) I saw what looked like butter. I asked the waitress and she told me yes, the rolls are buttered before being toasted on the grill. I told her I couldn't eat it because butter has milk which, unfortunately, I'm allergic to. I told my friend to go ahead and eat so that her food didn't get cold while I waited for my new meal. When it came out, I checked the bun, both top and bottom, to be sure that they were, in fact, new. I went ahead and ate my meal only to discover that milk was used somewhere. My guess is that the cook buttered the grill before putting down the patty. I should have checked. I excused myself before making it half way to...take care of the symptoms. When I returned, my plate was mercifully cleared (my friend explained that I was having a reaction when the waitress asked if she should wrap it up) and my friend was seething. She was gripping the little black thingy the bill came in so tightly that her hands were white and shaking. When I asked what was wrong, she informed me, "They're charging you for a meal that they made wrong." I let her know that this isn't unusual. My symptoms aren't life-threatening like someone with a nut allergy might experience. For the time being, until people are more aware of the fact that people with allergies actually have a legitimate reason for avoiding particular foods, this is going to happen again and again.

Well that's enough from me for now. My very first recipe posted comes from the amazing blog, The Aliso Kitchen. In order to make a good sandwich, you need some really good bread. Here's a great sourdough starter that should help you on your way. I'm going to get ahead of myself and tell you what to do with it in a 2nd post coming right now. After that one, you're going to have to wait until next week for another. Hope to see you again!

Happy cooking!


  1. Great intro! I look forward to seeing more.

    1. Thanks, Michelle! I'm hoping to post recipes once a week or so. Let me know if there's anything in particular you'd like to see.