If you have been granted the gift of a tolerant gut, be gracious. This is a lesson me and my cast-iron stomach have taken far too long to learn. The freedom to fill oneself with peanuts, tree nuts, fructose, lactose or wheat is not a freedom available to all. I have finally come to see beyond my own stomach. I have finally come to be sensitive to food sensitivity.
How did my stomach come to understand other stomachs? How did this sensitivity to others unfold? The same way it so often does: by getting to know one of these “others” very well. Yes, my comrade cooks. The other stomach in my life—my partner’s—growls at me when its sensitivity is not entirely respected.
There are plenty of no-go foods on the FODMAP list. It is hardly garlic alone. But, I mention garlic as I remain in a state of great mourning for garlic.
Perhaps you have heard of the FODMAP group of foods. Research undertaken at Monash University identified a long list of things for the cranky, leaky gut to avoid. Some stomachs, including my partner’s, find that this list has liberated them from long hours in the loo.
There are plenty of no-go foods on the FODMAP list. It is hardly garlic alone. But, I mention garlic as I remain in a state of great mourning for garlic. As you know, garlic is a source of pungent delight upon which so many flavour profiles depend. And, as you also know, there are very few human palates who would gladly give it up.
There are those, like me, who have found food sensitivity in others just as difficult to grasp.
But, people do. Many of us suspect that Kate McCartney, co-hostess of history’s best cooking program, The Katering Show, lives without garlic and in compliance with the FODMAP list. There are individuals who find life less physically painful without garlic. Then, there are entire cultures who find life less spiritually painful without this stinking magic.
Brahmana styles of cooking are empty of garlic, and its allium cousin, onion. Jains do not take in any food whose harvest requires disturbance of the earth. The Ayurvedic diet recommends garlic to some, but not to those seeking a Sattvic, or enlightened, state. If you live in a low-FODMAP household in any culture, you’re soon going to be very grateful that some parts of Indian and Desi food culture made garlic a great taboo.
Let me introduce you who must say goodbye to garlic to asafoetida. Let me warn you who are yet to use this aromatic that it can be rather overwhelming. Open that little jar, purchased for a few bucks in many large Asian, Mediterranean or Middle-Eastern specialty stores, and greet a colossally new sort of smell. My Western nose still finds the fragrance overpowering, however grateful my tongue remains for the taste. In time, though, you’ll get to know it like you got to know fish sauce or shrimp paste or miso or any of the “other” things you tried just once or twice before they became a staple.
There are those who find food prohibition in different cultures hard to understand. There are those, like me, who have found food sensitivity in others just as difficult to grasp. Me? I can eat that schnitz left atop a pub bain-marie for three days without any ill effect. It took this low-FODMAP life to see that not everyone can, or even cares to, eat everything as I do all the time.
Me? I can eat that schnitz left atop a pub bain-marie for three days without any ill effect.
Every culture, including Western culture, produces its own food prohibitions as a way of knowing itself. Every individual tummy knows what food it can withstand. We can get to know the idea of other people, and all their taboos or sensitivities, at the stove-top.
I now know that there are those who cannot eat garlic. I now respect this—even when I pop out of the house at times to secretly fill myself with the postcode’s most garlicky curry.
Helen Razer is your frugal food enthusiast, guiding you to the good eats, minus the pretension and price tag in her weekly Friday column, Cheap Tart. Don't miss her next instalment, follow her on Twitter @HelenRazer.