That Which We Cannot Have

Have you ever been told you cannot have something? Crazily, it’s all you think about. I remember being pregnant and told not to eat spicy food. Suddenly, all I wanted to eat was chips and salsa, enchiladas, fajitas. It was horrible. I thought about it all the time. Finally, after the baby was born I was able to satisfy my craving at our favorite Mexican restaurant.

Not so for Matthew. Before lunch wrapped in a tortilla became chic Matthew was Mr. Tortilla Man. He loved anything in a tortilla. I was reminded of it last night. Years ago he was diagnosed with Celiac Disease. It’s a condition that prevents the small intestine from properly absorbing certain foods, in particular those with gluten (wheat, rye, barley). If one eats the offending foods the intestines become damaged causing all kinds of long term problems. The only treatment is total avoidance of these foods. For most people this diet change is a shock and difficult. For someone with autism and challenges with reasoning it’s even worse.

When we started a gluten free life over ten years ago there were few palatable choices. Bread tasted like cardboard, cookies were blegh, and the alternate flour choices were terribly grainy. It was tough. But worse was how I felt for poor Matthew. Bob and I could sneak a sandwich or enjoy a piece of cake on occasion. Matthew could not. When we would find the occasional good tasting gluten free food Matthew would do one of two things: he would eat it all in one sitting (if possible) or he would hoard and hide it. We learned to avoid the bread aisles in the store but on sometimes he would pass the bakery, walk over to the shelves and run his hand over the wrapped bread and sigh. He missed it so much.

The good news is that over the years a gluten free diet has become more popular. Today even Betty Crocker makes cookie and cake mixes. The bread we buy is now tasty and soft and makes a good sandwich. Even great tasting donuts are now available. In addition, over the years I have gotten smarter, finding better, finer ground rice flour and more options for the starches we mix to make good tasting treats. Matthew is happy. Lots of options to choose from. He loves shopping at his favorite grocery store and always comes home with a choice treat. You would think all is well and the past forgotten.

But last night we visited a favorite Mexican chicken restaurant. I like it because the chicken is roasted and we have a good choice of gluten free sides from which to choose.  A popular way to eat is to pull some chicken off the bone, add fresh salsa and roll it up in a tortilla. These guys offer fresh and soft corn tortillas as an option that we always get. I asked Matthew if he wanted his chicken in a tortilla and was surprised when he said no. He loves the tortillas. Being mom I made one up anyway and of course, he gobbled it up as usual. But when I asked him if he wanted a second one he again said no and put his hand over the bag holding the tortillas. I realized then, that he wanted to save the tortilla for later. In his mind he was back to those days when could only look longingly at the bread in the store. I finally convinced him that there were plenty of tortillas and he wrapped his up, keeping one hand on them while he ate the rest of his dinner.

Cheese crisp lunch and some leftovers! Yum!

Today we pulled the day old tortillas out of the refrigerator. They now look and feel just like the corn tortillas I buy at the grocery store. But to Matthew they are special. Because they are no longer soft and pliable we made cheese crisps and added leftover coleslaw and beans. You might not be impressed, but Matthew is. And he loves that he can have this special lunch.

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One thought on “That Which We Cannot Have

  1. You have made me hungry. 🙂 It's interesting how the availability of the things you need to keep the food palatable has changed over the years for the better as well as your ability to make it tastier! Matthew is such a sweetheart. I can really feel it through this post. There is a lot of love going on in your house. And it shows. ❤

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