You know my secret love affair with bread? I suppose it’s not exactly secret. And it goes beyond bread. I’ve been enamored with cookies, cakes, pies, and all manner of baked goods for a very long time. I’ve even travelled all over NYC to settle a debate about the best chocolate chip cookie. I’ve experimented with different butters, milk and other raw ingredients. I’ve compared bagels and cream cheeses. I’ve eaten entire baguettes by myself (with garnishes like butter and cheese) and have even made my own croissants when I couldn’t find a bakery selling decent ones.
Lately there’s been a wrench thrown into my baking and eating. I’ve got a confession to make (although you’ve probably figured it out by now). Over the past year or so I’ve been un-well. Looking back, this corresponds with my posts over the last year. As they year went on, there were fewer food posts and more posts about other activities. It started out slowly, but then things got progressively worse and worse until I couldn’t ignore it anymore. Food was making me sick. Run to the bathroom, curled up in stomach-pain sick. And I couldn’t figure out what it was. It didn’t seem to matter if I ate animal, mineral or vegetable. Some days I was sick and some days I wasn’t. There was no rhyme or reason to the problem. After a lot of experimentation and a number of doctors visits I’ve finally been able to identify the cause of my problems. I have Crohn’s Disease. I’m not the first in my family to be diagnosed with this digestive disease, yet it still came as a surprise. Luckily, I’ve responded well to treatment and am doing much better. I’ve been paying even more careful attention to what I eat and how I respond to different foods. The main difficulty is that I’m lactose intolerant.
Like many Americans, my body can no longer digest the lactaid enzyme. This is likely related to the intestinal inflammation caused by Crohn’s Disease. In my case, I have an extreme sensitivity to lactaid that developed in a relatively short time. Just a few years ago, I was eating ice cream, butter, cheese, and milk products with no abandon without any ill-affects.
What does this mean for me on a day to day basis? No milk, cheese, whey, ice cream, or butter. No more insanely rich french-inspired desserts like this. It means reading the fine-print on labels even more carefully. It means only dark chocolate (ha! I only ate dark chocolate anyway). This has been a bit of a difficult adjustment. My food cravings have not entirely caught up with what my mind now knows I can and cannot eat. Those grilled-cheese sandwiches still look delicious. Pizza still smells amazing. I definitely still want to get ice cream on these hot summer nights.
Perhaps one day, I will be able to eat dairy again, but for now, even the smallest shmear of butter, or ounce of milk in a recipe, puts me in trouble for a day or two. On the positive side, I have more energy, I’m no longer nervous to eat, and I don’t feel sick anymore. I also have a new challenge ahead – to modify recipes and continue to cook in a new, healthy, and dairy-free way.
I hope my dairy-free recipes will still be as appealing to you as the buttery-recipes of the past. I still sometimes will use dairy or advise it as a topping or add-in at the end. My husband and many of the people I eat with and cook for are not dairy free. I also can take a lactaid or two and have a tiny amount of dairy if I do really need to satisfy some obscure buttery-craving.
And who knows, perhaps in time, as my intestines heal, I’ll be able to eat dairy once again. I hope you’ll enjoy my new, improved, dairy-free recipes.