Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Story of the Grain Mill

And now for a tale that I tell myself every time I bake. Beware, it is a little sappy, because as tough as Honey Bear tries to be, he is still a big pushover in love.

It started about a year ago. I had been feeling like crud, my gut was always yelling at me, and my joints hurt. Something had to be the culprit, so I skipped the expensive doctor's visit and went straight to the source. I did an elimination diet and the only thing I reacted to was gluten (didn't see that coming did you?) At first it wasn't that big a deal. I ditched it about 95% and figured it would be enough. I wasn't going to worry about malt extracts or wheat-based thickeners.
One day I had a bad gut day, and it was seriously painful. We narrowed the culprit down to the thickener in the taco seasoning we had with dinner the night before. Again, no big deal, we will just throw out the little stuff like that, too.

And that is where it got hard. Breadcrumbs in meatballs, roux for gravy, there was still quite a bit of wheat in our diet and I had no idea! I found myself wandering through the grocery store alone looking unsuccessfully for something to make for dinner and stumbling upon the gluten free aisle. I had never looked to hard for it before, but now that I was there I found it really hard not to break into tears. Here was food that was safe in a sea of junk.

I grabbed a package of marinated fajita steak with a giant red 'GLUTEN FREE' label, some corn tortillas, and some Glutino sandwich cookies and booked for checkout.

I held it together on the way home as the realization dawned on me that this is not a little thing. This is not easy. This SUCKS, and it was forever. It's not a fad diet, it is a health condition. This was a major life change, and I was not prepared to cope with it. Flours were so expensive, and learning to bake again would require a lot of trial and error. And specialty goods are pricey, too, how were we ever going to keep this up?

My husband greeted me with a huge cheese-eating grin, because a large check we had been waiting for had come in, so we could finally make some large purchases and we even had some fun money left over. I listened patiently, but finally had to break in and tell him about the decision I had just made. He just smiled, and cut me off. 

“So we need to buy that grain mill you had your eye on.”

He had pretty much taken the words out of my mouth. Rice is cheap, rice flour is not, so the need was pretty evident, but the machine was expensive. His automatic support finally broke my emotional dam, and the fact that he held me and smiled gently while I cried made me cry more.
See? Pretty sappy.

Two weeks later, this guy arrived:

He does not have a name yet. I should get on that.

A Wondermill that I originally planned to buy for wheat is now our exclusive gluten-free flour maker. It set us back $300 of tax return money, and I do not regret a dime. Instead of buying over priced little bags of flour, I store buckets of white, brown, and sweet rice and make it on demand. The cost is cut by roughly 250%. By the end of the year that machine will have paid for itself. I still purchase tapioca starch, but that is only because making it is a huge time consuming and money burning process that I will happily pay 75 cents a pound to avoid. 

It took a few more weeks of experimenting before I found I flour blend I liked. I wanted one that was easily obtained, versatile, and easy to use. I settled on Jeanne's Gluten Free All-Purpose Flour, because it met all of my needs very well. I have found it is easy to adapt to other recipes, and is accepts other flours well. Plus, she has a huge list of applications with it already, so there is very little work involved finding a tried and true recipe.

Well, now you know why I spent the money on a grain mill. Would you have done the same?