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My Small Stint with Gluten Free Diet

In the Indian context, being asked to go gluten free possibly comes simpler than we ever thought. The doctor had suggested reducing strain on the stomach and the small intestine and hence this diet was advised for a period of 15 days.

Initially, it came as a shock. What was I supposed to eat, if wheat was out of my diet list? I lost weight just at the thought of what I could eat. I had never eaten only vegetables and I have never been a good rice eater all my life. In fact I love wheat more than any other form of grain.

Now, here I was struggling initially to eliminate what I was not supposed to eat and finding the list of eatables in the bread’s section too small. So for the first day, stuck to eating a few idlis and rice almost throughout the day with dal and vegetables.

This continued for a few days and with a little bit more of reading up and the doctor’s advice my wife and I realized that jowar is a completely gluten free grain, but it is surely a difficult bread to make. And there the experimentation started which resulted in a great amount of learning on the food front. I had made jowar rotis / bhakris / dhodho (as called in Sindhi language) only once and was not very successful at that. My wife gave me the confidence that she can surely manage it in the traditional Sindhi way of making a dhodho. I was trying to make things slightly simpler for her and started hunting easier ways of making the Jowar dhodho, when we both realized that we had seen Maharashtrians actually rolling the dhodhos / bhakris, which we were never able to do. So we went about demystifying the process of making a dhodho.

After some reading and asking friends, we decided to experiment with this method of cooking a dhodho. A cup of Jowar flour is put into 1.5 cups of boiling salted water and mixed and allowed to cool. After it cools, the soft dough was now roll-able with a lot of sprinkling of dry Jowar flour.  This was how the Maharashtrians had simplified the process of making the bhakri. Traditionally they too made the bhakri by beating the dough with bare hands on a flat surface.
From that day on, my problem of eating a gluten free diet reduced and my wife would make lovely dhodhos with very little effort and it started becoming fun. I particularly like the nutty flavour of jowar and the smell of hot bhakris made my stomach roar for more.

I had eaten dhodhos made by my mother / wife and also others in the family and at restaurants but there was a mindset that this form of bread only goes well with specific veggies. But to my suprise I found that this bread literally can go with any vegetable cooked in the Indian style and enhances it with its unique nutty flavour.

And believe me that is the only change that I had to do to my diet and become gluten free, but of course another thing that i had to stop due to this was the beer (barley is not allowed).

Another interesting fact that came out of this was sago / sabudana (Indian word) which is a starch extracted out of a fruit, which we Indians generally eat on days we fast; is something that can be eaten easily in a gluten free diet. In fact, potatoes, sweet potatoes, sago and a few other things that are eaten specifically during fasting are gluten free.
This led me to the observation that some Indians fast weekly / bi-weekly / monthly and the reason for the fast is basically to provide some rest to the stomach by eating lighter food and hence allowing us to focus more energy for being closer to God. If this concept is anywhere close to truth then I am sure it was devised very sensibly by the ancestors so  that the digestive system gets a much needed break from all the different types of heavy / oily / spicy food that we eat.

This gives me immense pride that we are a part of a culture which possibly understood everything way too long back and we as kids made keeping a fast a big joke. I am sure this may be a widely known fact, but believe me I had never read this up, till I actually had to go through this experience and learnings that were associated with it.

So now with the diet coming back to normalcy, I will surely be fasting at least once in 15 days to give the much needed rest to my gut.