Emergency Biscuit: Newly Gluten-Free and Fretting
The seventh installment of our breakfast advice column
Are you in a breakfast conundrum? Do you have deep-seated, unresolved feelings for brunch? Are you at a loss in front of the smorgasbord of life? Because so often breakfast is about feelings, and relationships teeter on the edge of the morning meal table, Extra Crispy editors Kat Kinsman (Bis-kat) and Margaret Eby (Bisc-gret) are here with the fifth installment of Emergency Biscuits, our breakfast advice column, to dole out hopefully not half-baked counsel and recipes for life. Got a question for the Biscuits? Email email@example.com.
Dear Toast Lover,
It's no picnic to cut out the toast and pastries after a lifetime of enjoying the stuff, and a major dietary shift for whatever reason often comes with a long adjustment period. But fear not: Even though you might still look longingly at a gluten-packed croissant now and then, there are many more breakfast options out there outside of the standard bacon and scramble. As a gluten-eater myself, I reached out to co-host of the politics podcast An Ear For Baby and fellow celiac disease sufferer Chas Carey for some non-gluten breakfast advice.
"First of all, good on you for thinking about cross-contamination," Carey wrote. "The breakfast griddle is a minefield for celiac sufferers and you're very wise to avoid traditional diner fare that may have been cooked in the remnants of pancake batter. The good news is you live in New York City, where there are many restaurants that take your sub-glutenousness seriously and many types of cuisine that traditionally avoid gluten altogether. Because many (but not all) Latin and South American cuisines feature corn-based products as their starch staples, you might find restaurants that serve those types of cuisines have better practices when it comes to avoiding putting flour tortillas or tortas through the same process as corn tortillas or arepas. Bogota in Park Slope, for example, has two dedicated gluten-free fryers."
The other way to find a gluten-free breakfast worth writing home about is to seek out some non-traditional brunch options. Barbecue joints, Carey notes, often have good gluten-free options—though it's worth asking about their preparation, lest there's cross-contamination involved. "I've found bacon, egg and cheese arepa sandwiches to be as (if not more) rewarding than the roll-based hangover remedies I used to get at the bodega," Carey wrote.
But you are already doing the right thing by advocating for yourself, and being serious about the ways that gluten can sneak into seemingly non-glutenous fare. "Above all, go out and ask around," Carey noted. "I still hate explaining that our condition is not some fad diet almost eight years after I was diagnosed, but as you doubtless know, it is always better to be safe than to risk dive-bombing your small intestine for the sake of some homefries."
Good luck and the best breakfast to you.
Dearest Toast Lover,
Sometimes it feels as if our bodies are open-faced jerk sandwiches served with extra jerk, and a side of jerk sauce in which it dip it all. If this had happened to a casual lover of carbs it would still suck, but the fact that you devoted your time and dollars to devote yourself to learning the craft of them makes this an especially bitter twist. It also seems to go to the core of who you know yourself to be.
Food can be a huge part of how we identify ourselves in the world, how we find our tribes. Championing or eschewing a particular kind of food can be a call out into the void: Here I am. Here is what I value. This is where I am from. This is where I hope to go. Some of these are regionally-born (You fold your pizza? I fold MY pizza! Death to deep-dish! Or hurrah for it!)—an edible shibboleth. Others are steeped in conviction (Yes, Mr. Morrissey, meat is murder!) or the want for reassurance (see: Instagram). But this was inflicted on you, suddenly and cruelly, and now you have to rethink some things about yourself. That’s tough, and I’m very sorry.
Here’s the flip side: The gluten-free are legion and loud. Whether by choice or necessity, it is not a population that suffers in silence and obscurity (though perhaps some disdain and again, I’m sorry). The internet abounds with meticulous guides to safe products, restaurants, vendors, and dishes, and assembles on message boards and Facebook groups to assess the options and issue cautions over contaminations and bad attitudes. You may be new to this, but others have been fighting the G-free fight for a goodly long time and you can sail in their wake.
And then, when you’re ready, you can get loud. Those places you frequented before—they don’t want to lose you as a customer, I’ll bet. The proprietors and servers may be wondering to themselves, “Hey, where’s Toasty? We haven’t seen her in a while. What gives?” Go to those places—especially the neighborhood joints—where you spent your dollars and hours, and tell them of your new circumstances. Rather than look at what is on the menu and sigh—call ahead, send an email, or drop in for a drink and give them a chance to explain your altered needs. See if they’re willing to tweak a dish, get creative, adapt. If not, well, you know where you’re not going again (their loss). If they do, well—you’re a regular again, and you’ll no doubt spread the word to your celiac brethren.
While this may not be a solidarity you sought, you may find great comfort in knowing there are more of you in the same basket.
A few highlights: Egg Shop’s gluten-free English muffin sandwiches, Dirt Candy’s vegetarian brunch, Del Posto’s pastas (OK, they’re not open for breakfast or brunch, but leftovers are bitchen), plenty of brunch dishes at Hearth where they take great pains with ingredient-intolerant diners, and a whole host of dishes at Friedman’s Lunch—which prides itself on gluten-free breakfast, brunch, and lunch.
Love and gluten-free biscuits,