Every now and again, Hubby and I decide to do something wild and crazy. I guess we like to take on challenges and create new experiences.

Every now and again, Hubby and I decide to do something wild and crazy. I guess we like to take on challenges and create new experiences.

This month, we decided to give up gluten.

There are many folks out there with gluten sensitivities and allergies. Some suffer from celiac disease. We are fortunate in that our bodies can easily process gluten. But we heard that even people without allergies would be healthier with less gluten in their diets.

Of course, the operative word was "heard." After simply overhearing someone talking about the evils of gluten while hanging out downtown, we thought it would be a great idea to go gluten free for the entire month of February. We jumped in with our eyes closed and noses pinched.

We could have challenged ourselves to a day or a week. We could have changed it up for a couple of weeks. But since this brilliant idea hit us at the end of January, the decision to make the change for the entire month of February easily slipped out of our brains, through our lips and into our kitchen.

It was possible for us to simply change our minds and go back to eating gluten. However, we are both stubborn. The moment either one of us feels weak or wants to give up, the other one becomes more resolute. More resolve in one partner simply motivates the other to go the distance because, as we all know, whatever you can do I can do better.

And let’s be honest, it is only a month. Those who cannot eat gluten have to do this every day for the rest of their lives. We are barely getting a glimpse of what they go through just to stay nourished.

Considering we recently discovered the best place to eat pizza in the South, our timing was not great. Pizza is sauce and cheese topped gluten. Meatballs contain gluten crumbs. Eggplant is dressed in gluten before it is fried. And don’t get me started on pasta. So, gluten free meant no nights out or quick lunches at our new favorite pizza place for a month.

You would think no pizza place for a month would save us money, and it has, but not enough to make up for eating gluten free. We started the month spending $80 on gluten free flour, pasta and snacks. In my naïve mind, I thought I could replace our all-purpose flour with gluten free flour and live as we always did, just healthier.

It doesn’t work that way.

My first attempt at making gluten-free bread resulted in three rock-hard, flat loaves. They were not exactly edible, but they could be used at the bottom of doors to decrease cold drafts. We quickly learned that yeast can be used in gluten-free recipes, but those little buggers are picky. They clearly prefer gluten.

For my second attempt, I did a bit of research. I learned that gluten-free bread dough is supposed to have the consistency of peanut butter. I was skeptical, but I gave it whirl. What did I have to lose, other than $65 of specialty flour.

It took most of the day, but the finished product convincingly took on the appearance of a genuine loaf of bread. It was beautiful. I was so proud. Hubby was so impressed, he immediately began using it to make his gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches. I heated up soup. We took pictures. Then we picked up our sandwiches. The sandwiches fell apart.

We quickly learned that not even melted cheese has the ability to keep gluten-free bread from crumbling. I decided to give up on bread and try a dessert. We’d gone days without any sweets. I was ready for something chocolaty.

The brownies I whipped up were surprisingly delicious. The batter had a brownie-batter consistency. The finished product was only slightly more crumbly than the glutenous version. But the best part was the taste. A week into our experimental month, homemade brownies really hit the spot.

With a couple of weeks to go, we now have a deep respect for those who must go through life without gluten. They do not have a lot of choices when they go out to eat. Between lack of choices and the possibility of cross contamination, eating out is a challenge of its own.

I thought I was proficient at baking. However, my talents are limited to flour-based products and rice flour, cornstarch brownies.

I thought this diet change would be healthier. But when I dug deeper, the information I found suggested that for those not allergic, gluten, in moderation, is not necessarily unhealthy.

March 1 will be here soon. And while we plan to reintroduce gluten into our diet, we will never forget our February experiment. We greatly appreciate our ability to digest the gooey miracle that makes bread, pizza, pasta, biscuits, cookies, cake, pretzels, pancakes, waffles and pie crust the delectable foods they were born to be.


Micki Bare is a columnist for the Arkansas News Bureau and the Courier-Tribune in Asheboro, N.C., and the author of Thurston T. Turtle children’s books. She and her family live in North Carolina. Her e-mail address is mickibare@gmail.com.