Nobody does healthy food like Robin Asbell! Don’t take my word for it… take a look at her books:
Gluten Free Pasta, More Than 100 Fast and Flavorful Recipes with No-and Low-Carb Options (Running Press) Spring 2014
Juice It! Energizing Juices for All Times of Day (Chronicle Books) Spring 2014
Sweet and Easy Vegan Treats Made with Whole Grains and Natural Sweeteners (Chronicle Books, Fall 2012)
Big Vegan (Chronicle Books)
New Vegetarian (Chronicle Books)
and The New Whole Grains Cookbook (Chronicle Books)
I have cooked from Big Vegan and The Whole Grains book. Robin has a terrific understanding of ingredients and how to pair them so that the end result is not just a nutritious dish but a delicious one!
I asked Robin to tell us a little bit about her gorgeous, new gluten-free pasta book.. Robin shared such a heartfelt essay.. I loved it and I think you will as well:
Behind the book
By Robin Asbell
It was one of those moments that lodges in your memory, for no apparent reason.
I was in my Mother’s kitchen, we were cooking and drinking wine, and she was telling me about a dinner party she had attended.
“All I can say,” she said, “Is that I NEVER want to be one of those people with a wheat allergy.” She shuddered visibly. “I got stuck sitting next to a woman who talked about her wheat allergy all night. I nearly died of boredom.”
It must have been in the mid-80’s, and I was already making my living in the natural foods biz, baking and cooking. We always made a few wheat free cakes and muffins, and the customers who bought them were kind of desperately grateful.
Maybe it struck me because my Mother was usually so patient and compassionate with people.
” I hope she didn’t talk about her digestion. Did you try to change the topic?” I said, slathering some pesto on a hunk of whole wheat baguette.
She sighed dramatically. “It was all she could think about. It’s happened to me before, I get stuck listening to someone talk about how miserable they are without bread.” she said, bracing herself with a sip of wine. “Just shoot me if I ever become that person.”
We laughed, we drank wine, we ate bread. It all seemed funny at the time.
Of course, my Mother had a number of health problems that plagued her. Like a frog in a pot of cold water set on a stove, she had learned to live with the itching of her skin, as the eczema got worse every year. She coughed alot. She smiled and soldiered on, and didn’t want to talk about it. I went vegan, and nagged her to give up dairy. She laughed at the idea of it and ate bread and cheese.
I got married and moved to Minnesota, so I didn’t see her as often, but we talked on the phone frequently. Life was fine, until I woke up to find a message on the answering machine. Mom was in the hospital. Emergency surgery, no details.
Now that I was a 9 hour drive from home, I had to work the phone to try to find out what was going on, pre-cell phones. By the time I found her, she was still unconscious, but the surgery had gone well.
It turned out that my Mom had been getting monthly cortisone shots for her skin, and her immune system was weakening. Her skin often became infected, and her doctor pushed antibiotics. That fateful weekend, she felt crummy and went to bed, thinking that she had the flu. By Monday, she had lost the feeling in her hands and feet.
Her local doctor was able to see her, put her in an ambulance, and rush her to a hospital in a bigger city. The infection inside her spine would have killed or paralyzed her, if left untreated.
In the hospital, doctors finally set to find out the source of all her problems, and it was a good thing that she was heavily medicated when they gave her the verdict.
Her allergy tests showed that she was allergic to wheat. Wheat, dairy, eggs, beans, at that time, she was reacting to just about everything.
She read me the list of what she could eat over the phone. “Beef, chicken, potatoes, carrots, green beans, black coffee. They always put black coffee on there. Jello, too.” she said, mustering a little laugh at the absurdity of it.
“Mom, we will figure it out, don’t eat a bunch of artificially colored jello,” I said, distraught. “I can find you some food here in Minneapolis, and mail it to you.”
Her voice was weak. “Now I’m one of those people. I’ll be like the women in ‘The Potato Eaters.”
It was a relief that she could still crack a joke that referenced an early Van Gogh painting. A horribly bleak painting, in which starving, gnarled peasants eat plain boiled potatoes.
“Oh, Mom, it isn’t a death sentence. At least you’ll feel better.” I said, reeling as my mind raced to all our family’s favorite meals. All built on bread, drenched with dairy, and buttressed with stacks of wheat flour cookies.
It was my first experience with the emotional side of food allergies. For my Mother, this was almost like a death in the family. She would have to go through a period of grief. I wondered, thinking of that conversation all those years earlier, whether some part of her knew, but just didn’t want to find out.
And so began my career as a gluten-free cook. Before Tinkyada, Asian groceries were my go-to, and I packed boxes full of rice noodles and springroll wrappers, bags of tapioca and sweet rice flour, and toted them to the Post Office to mail home. I worked on my muffin recipes, I tried to perfect my biscuits and breads.
20-plus years later, I’ve made a career specialty out of creating gluten free recipes, teaching gluten free classes, and cooking for people with food allergies and other special diets. My latest book, Gluten Free Pasta, More Than 100 Fast and Flavorful Recipes with No-and Low-Carb Options (Running Press) hit bookstore shelves in February.
Oh, and my Mom? Still going strong. She recovered and gradually was able to eat many of the foods that were on the banned list. In fact, she can tolerate ancient wheats, like kamut and spelt. She knows she is one of the lucky ones.
But don’t ask her to talk about it at a dinner party.