Thursday, October 27, 2011

Lactose Intolerance in Paris

Bonjour!  Ooh La La!  Tres Bien!  Planning a trip to Paris --- the land of cheese and baguette?  Home of creamy coffee and buttery croissants?  In other words, are you prepared to travel to a lactose intolerant's worst nightmare?

When I think of Paris, I am always reminded of Meg Ryan's fabulously funny scene in the movie French Kiss when, after years of avoiding dairy products due to lactose intolerance, she succumbs to the temptation of milky cheese on a French train.... ah the hilarity!  Ah, the painful accuracy.  I go between hysterically laughing and crying in commiseration.

I am always on the look-out for other lactose intolerant bloggers and any good article on living with the annoyance of dairy issues.

This morning, I stumbled across a fabulous article written by Bryan Pirolli about living with lactose intolerance in what is undoubtedly, a very lactose-full city.

Read Bryan's Article by Clicking Here (thank you)

I am book-marking Bryan's blog on my list to the right.  He doesn't write exclusively about his lactose intolerance, but his essays on an American's Life in Paris and his accompanying photos make clicking over to his blog a fun treat.  As Meg Ryan would say "... ah!  Beautiful!  Wish you were here!"

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Cooking For The Lactose Free Gourmet

Even though I've been lactose intolerant for more years than I care to admit on the internet, I do not own a single lactose-free cookbook.  Heck, I'm not even sure if there ARE any lactose-free cookbooks.  I know there are dairy-free cookbooks, but I'm not really dairy-free.  I can have butter and (most) cheeses and milk - as long as it is lactose-free.  My favorite recipes can accommodate these issues, but occasionally, I get adventurous and try to adapt something new.

Last night, was one of those evenings.  I was feeling adventurous and sassy so why not?

I went to my favorite go-to cookbook, The Best of Cooking Lite (2004), and chose "Gorgonzola Fettuccine with Asparagus."  Yum, right?  I looked over the ingredient list... fettuccine (no problem), asparagus (yep!), 2 tsp of butter (no worries), 4 cloves of garlic (great), 1 T of flour (still nothing to worry about), 1 1/4 cup low-fat milk (I can use lactose-free), 1/2 cup of Gorgonzola cheese (may be a little worrisome, but I can put less on my portion and hope for the best), 2 T of walnuts (love).... and uh-oh... 2 ounces of cream cheese (not good at all).

I knew with the exception of the walnuts (I have a nut-free child), every one would love this recipe, so I moved ahead with my plans and did what every lactose-intolerant person has to do... I made two sauces. One with the cream cheese and one without.

When you are lactose intolerant, you'd better own more than a few sauce pans and have more than a little time on your hands.

This was an incredibly easy recipe.  The pasta was cooked and the asparagus was added to the boiling pasta water 2 minutes before the pasta was finished.  In one sauce pan I made a rue about of butter, garlic and flour before adding the milk and cream cheese... in the other pan, I left out the cream cheese.  When the pasta, asparagus and sauce were cooked and ready to plate, I tossed with the Gorgonzola....

Voila!  My cream-cheese-free, walnut-covered portion!

And everyone else's cream-cheese-filled, walnut-less portion.  As you can see, the cream cheese made the sauce a whole lot creamier, but mine was still delicious.  

I think the whole thing took about 12 minutes.  Here's the lactose-free recipe:

Gorgonzola Fettuccine with Asparagus (adapted for the Lactose Intolerant)

8 oz uncooked fettuccine
3 cups diagonally sliced asparagus (about 10 oz)
2 t butter or margarine
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 T all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cup fat-free, lactose-free milk
1/4 t salt
1/2 cup (or less depending on how you tolerate Gorgonzola cheese.  I used probably less than 1/4 cup)
              Gorgonzola cheese
2 T chopped walnuts

1.  Cook the pasta in boiling water for 6 minutes, omitting salt and fat.  Add the sliced asparagus and cook for 2 minutes or until the pasta and asparagus are tender.
2.  Drain pasta and asparagus, place in a large bowl.  Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add the garlic, and cook 3 minutes.  Add flour;  cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly.  Gradually add milk, stirring well with a whisk.  Add salt and allow to thicken.
3.  Add sauce to pasta mixture;  toss to coat.  Serve with Gorgonzola and walnuts.  

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Lactose Intolerance and The City

I love eating out at restaurants.  I love eating, period, but eating out at a restaurant is the absolute best.  Unlike at a friend's house, where you have to be honest about your lactose intolerance or forever after be labelled as a liar, at a restaurant full of strangers, it is okay to throw the truth out the window and just tell the server that you are allergic to dairy.

A food allergy is always accepted as truth and no one ever rolls their eyes at you when you say that you have a food allergy.  

Should I be embarrassed by the fact that there are currently about 1,000 waiters in the United States who think I am allergic to milk?  I don't think so.  Even Carrie Bradshaw lies about being allergic -- and parsley isn't even a believable allergy!  

Poor Lactose Intolerance - it gets no respect.  But I'd much rather claim an allergy and eat a wonderful, milk-free dinner than tell the truth and hope that the chef understands exactly what ingredients need to be avoided when making my dinner.  I don't want to pay to be sick.

So join me in the lie ... and have a cosmopolitan, too:  they're dairy free!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Woes of A Lactose Intolerant Dinner Guest

It is hard to bring your lactose intolerance to someone else's house for dinner.  Lactose Intolerance makes for the most rude and obnoxious dinner guest.  Unlike the safe confines of one's own home, at a party, it is hard to avoid milk products and even harder to ask a hostess for a list of ingredients before you partake of her cooking.  No one thinks to ask if a guest has lactose intolerance as they might with a food allergy and if you are like me, you find it hard to bring the subject up to people who you don't know intimately.  A discussion of lactose intolerance often encourages the question, "what happens when you have milk?" and who really wants to explain THAT to an acquaintance.  One small lactose intolerance talk can turn awkward in a hurry.  Not to mention a little rude, considering that the hostess has kindly offered to cook for you in the first place, and is going to feel badly that you can not eat what she has prepared.

I've had all sorts of luck at dinner parties.  I'm pretty good at guessing ingredients without much fanfare.  Appetizers are a breeze.  Main dishes are often fine and it's easy to fake being full instead of taking that cream-laden dessert plate.  Sometimes its easier if the host has no clue that you ARE lactose intolerant.  You can skip food without causing much fuss.

Really, it's the people who know you are lactose intolerant that pose the most problems.  I can put these people into three categories:  those people who know you are lactose intolerant and go out of their way to buy/use lactaid milk and avoid anything else you might have issues with (I won't bother writing about them);  those people who believe that you are lactose intolerant but don't realize how vigilant you have to be;  and those people who think lactose intolerance is a bunch of hooey and go out of their way to stick milk into dishes to prove that you don't really have a problem.  I've encountered those last two types of people more than I'd care to admit.

Let's start with the people who believe that milk is your enemy.  After all, these are the good guys - your friends and neighbors who want to be accommodating and kind.  I know these people are going out of their way to find something to serve that I can eat and they have my best intentions in mind but avoiding milk is not as easy as you would think.  How many times have I been offered a fancy baked dish that the host assures me I can eat because it's "a simple bechamel sauce."  Um.  Did you use Lactaid Milk in that simple bechamel sauce?  Because if you didn't, I'm going to be spending most of the evening in the bathroom.  I've also been shown a lasagna that has been made In My Lactose Intolerant Honor which I have to pass on since ricotta cheese is like kryptonite to my stomach.  I hate having to point out that I can't eat ALL cheeses and I'm never sure how to sit at a table and pass up the main course that someone has made especially for me?  How do you remain kind and polite without embarrassing the host?  It's quite the quandary.

I know.  These are Princess Problems.  I am extremely grateful to be fed anything at all and I love a good night out with my friends.  I don't mean to complain.  I just wish there was some way to avoid milky foods without making a fuss or drawing attention to myself.

I CAN complain about the third group of dinner party hosts:  the nonbelievers.  These are the kind of people who think that you are weak if you get a common cold.  These are the kinds of people who fear not the ecoli-laden spinach salad or undercooked turkey filled with stuffing.  These are the kinds of people whom stomach ailments never bother and they do not understand how something as simple as milk could possible annoy you.  These people do not believe in Lactose Intolerance and when dining at their house, you must have Constant Vigilance.

On more than one occasion, I have been offered food -- mostly desserts - that I have been assured "has no milk" or worse yet "has milk, but I used Lactaid" only to find myself doubled over in pain a short time later.  It is while in the bathroom, cursing that chocolate cake, that I realize that I've been fooled.  I never fall for the same trick twice.  I may be too polite to confront the person (thus leaving them with the misconception that I AM indeed just pretending about the whole lactose intolerance thing), but I never accept anything uncertain to eat from their hands ever again.  You know the expression... fool me twice....

How do you handle dinner parties and your lactose intolerance?  Any suggestions?

Monday, October 3, 2011

Lactose Intolerance, How I Hate Thee

I discovered I was lactose intolerant the hard way.  I was in my teenage years, and had stopped at a road side ice cream stand to indulge in one of my favorite summer-time treats.  Oh, that soft-serve, vanilla ice cream with rainbow sprinkles.... I can taste it now.

Except, that I can not taste it now and unless some miraculous twist of fate occurs, I will never taste it again.  That soft-serve ice cream cone attacked my stomach with angry vengeance.  I remember barely making it to my grandparent's house thirty minutes away.  I had hoped that the problem lay with the softness of the soft-serve ice cream, but then I had similar reactions when I ate hard ice cream and whip cream.  The day that my stomach started its wretched churning after I had eaten the butter cream frosting off a bakery cake, I knew that my life had changed forever.

Nothing is more wonderful than butter cream icing.

I've done my research, but there isn't much information to be found.  Mostly, I get around being lactose intolerant by avoiding all milk products.  I've learned that I can eat most hard cheeses and soft cheeses up to and including mozzarella.  Brie is okay in small quantities, but I have to avoid ricotta like the plague.  Butter seems fine, but cream freche is a definite no-no.  I can drink Lactaid milk, but those lactaid tablets only work 50% of the time and who wants to risk that?  I've been lactose intolerant for years, but I still have so many questions:  Does cooking milk change anything?  Can I eat cream cheese?  Am I doomed to cool whip forever?  There are so many "buts" when you are lactose intolerant.

What have you found out?
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