Before I make this quasi-foodie post, I think I should make two disclaimers! The first one is (1) I’m not a foodie and I don’t do endorsements for any companies. The second part of that disclaimer is so you can trust me. The first part is so you know not to trust me: I feel like before I dash about dispensing any advice about food, you should know that I have no idea what I’m talking about on a professional level. I don’t know what products have high-quality ingredients. I don’t know what things are easier or more versatile to cook with. I’m really not that versed in money-saving by cooking from scratch. The only reason I know how to peel a peach is that I accidentally stole my ex-roommate’s book How To Peel A Peach once.
The second disclaimer is (2) I live like a bachelor. The products I default to here probably aren’t as much use to, say, an experienced parent of three who cooks every weeknight and is used to meal planning, or even a household of casual-hobbyist college roommates who grew up with a good family food culture. I am an urban young person who eats for one, doesn’t always manage three square meals and when he does, doesn’t always manage them at three square times, defaults to a lot of frozen food and take-out, and is terrified of his oven exploding. I guess that what I am saying here is that when some people say, “I live like a bachelor!” they mean this bachelor:
Whereas that is not what I mean:
Anyway. The point is, when I was diagnosed with celiac disease in January, I had the life skills of — I would say a small parakeet, but there is evidence that small parakeets can survive in the wild. I had, well, the life skills of me. Here are some products that have allowed me to eat food and exist in the meantime.
1. Tamari Soy Sauce.
(On the left is what you want to buy! On the right is what you really don’t.)
As an Asian with celiac, tamari soy sauce is basically the main reason I have not sunk into a deep and horrible depression. It’s already embarrassing enough to have to tell your family to cook with GF soy sauce all the time (never mind carrying a tiny bottle of the stuff when you go out for sushi, aughhghh); imagine what it’d be like if it didn’t exist! Actually, I really don’t want to. Anyway, soy sauce is one of those stealthy gluten things you don’t really find out about because most people with celiac disease do not hail from ethnic backgrounds that use it all that often. Unfortunately, soy sauce is saturated with wheat for some sadistic reason, so GF soy sauce is manna from on high.
It tastes the same to me, too, but I’m sort of known to have scorched my tastebuds into barbarism with Tabasco and hot coffee over the years, so. Kikkoman also makes a variety, but it’s a little harder to find, which makes me feel guilty considering my inexplicable Kikkoman brand loyalty. San-J’s is pictured above.
Amy’s frozen food is a GODSEND. The tamales. The enchilada casserole things. The curries. The mac and cheese. The broccoli-cheese-pasta bowl. You can eat Amy’s GF frozen stuff and actually feel like a real person eating real non-GF food kind of for a while, until you get sick of frozen food, anyway, which is really easy after you first discover Amy’s. But until then it’s amazing. Also, one really big bonus here is that they’re available in lots of regional grocery store: one of the biggest pains about hunting down GF products is that lots of non-specialty stores don’t carry them, but lots of U.S. grocery stores carry Amy’s.
3. Late July chips (especially Summertime Blues)
These are just tasty and addictive and can be dipped in lots of things, and have the little GF circle stamp on them. As corn chips goes, these are definitely my favorite. I end up eating a lot more corn chips than I used to because they are less powdery than Pirate’s Booty. Woo.
4. 500 Days of Cornmeal: Corn tortillas, polenta, arepas amarillas, etc.
Much of new GF life for incompetent people like me is spent trying to switch up carbs! I never thought it was possible to get sick of rice, but it is, in fact, possible to get sick of rice when you cannot eat wheat any more. I’ve also never been that much of a potato person. So I end up either inadvertently going on the South Beach Diet (not recommended) or sulking at my rice if I don’t explore the wonders of cornmeal. The thing is, cornmeal is not something I really grew up on that much, aside from after moving to California and indulging in a lot of fast-mex, but it’s pretty awesome and it’s versatile.
You probably don’t need me to tell you that corn tortillas are amazing and you can use them on basically everything. Arepas, however, I just discovered recently and have been making horrible butchered “fusion” dishes with; they are delightfully yellow (amarillas!) and are like big, fat, later Pokémon evolutions of corn tortillas. Polenta any foodie worth their salt knows about, like every other Italian food under the sun, but it comes in rolls and it’s really easy to pan-fry and eat if you have no interest in or experience with doing anything that doesn’t involve your skillet.
5. Feel Good Foods Dumplings
These are in the aforementioned category of “slightly hard-to-find GF products,” but I certify as an aforementioned GF Asian that they are completely worth it: as a kid I grew up on a lot of frozen mandu AKA gyoza AKA potstickers and was brokenhearted to find I couldn’t eat all the brands I used to rely on and that most of the types of store-bought GF dumplings were disgusting. Not so with Feel Good Foods: these are REALLY tasty, really easy to make (follow the box instructions even if you usually just throw ’em in the pan with some oil), and just need a little bit of GF soy sauce drizzling to make you feel like you are eating an actual meal of some kind. The veggie ones are especially good, but the chicken ones are pretty good too.
Extra: Chipotle Mexican Grill
If you went to college around the same time as me (class of ’07!) in California, you probably have already eaten enough Chipotle to last you a lifetime. Except no. No, you haven’t. There’s no such thing. Seriously, you can eat everything here that isn’t a flour tortilla holy fuck what are you waiting for.