Tender Tongues and Tummies

Perhaps it’s the Fibromyalgia or the damage to my digestive tract caused by gluten and grains, but my body doesn’t like spicy hot food. Other family members seem to tolerate spices that send me, gasping, to the frig looking for something cold and wet. I don’t recall this always being a problem, but in recent years it’s been a huge issue. As I’ve focused more and more on my special dietary needs and cooking, I’ve looked for ways of overcoming this problem by compensating in other ways.

One of the strategies I’ve developed is to replace the black pepper corns in my pepper mill for a blend. I used to buy a jar of mixed pepper corns at the grocery store, but I found it to be extremely expensive and not always available. I discovered that the local bulk food store sells spices. I’m able to buy white, green, red and black pepper corns separately there. I combine them into a mixture that’s pleasing to my mouth and tongue. It took a bit of experimenting to find just the right blend for me, but I have one now that I keep on a glass jar in the pantry. I use equal parts green, white and red pepper with a half part of black pepper. When my pepper mill needs refilling, I just go to the glass jar in the pantry and refill the mill. We keep a second mill on the table that contains just black pepper for everyone else. Now, I can use pepper like other family members and really enjoy it.

In the past, I have avoided eating curries because they burned my mouth so badly that it ruined my evening, let alone the meal. I love the aromatic vapours that waft off curry dishes in restaurants, so I decided to identify the offending elements and create my own curry blends. I took all the spices that might typically go into a curry and placed ¼ teaspoon of each on a large plate. I then put a tiny amount on the tip of my baby finger. I smelled the spice and then tasted it by dabbing it on my tongue in various spots and rolling it around. It was easy to identify which ones to avoid and which ones were safe, but more importantly, the intensity of the flavour and the aroma helped me to decide how much of each to use in a curry blend for cooking. I’m now able to enjoy a variety of curries with different tastes that compliment the protein and vegetables that I add. For those who enjoy a more robust flavour, I offer a small container of chilli powder or pepper flakes at the table. They can create their own degree of heat and the rest of us can still enjoy our meal.

I love garlic, but it doesn’t love me back! I particularly enjoy a bit of garlic in tomato sauces and Mediterranean style cooking. I can’t always buy mild garlic in the stores, let alone organic garlic, so I have had to develop some coping strategies that will allow me to use garlic without all the suffering that so often accompanies its use in food. My husband came up with the first technique. He showed me that by cutting a large clove of garlic in half I could find the “bud” in the middle. You can actually see it. It’s often green, but even if it’s white, it is slightly separate from the rest of the clove. I simply pop it out with the tip of the knife and discard it. The outer meat of the garlic clove is not as strong and causes less distress to my digestive system. I also find that roasting garlic makes it easier to digest. When all else fails, I add a bit of powdered ginger to the sauce. You can’t taste it, but it cuts down on the indigestion. I’m not sure how that works, but it does!

Sometimes a recipe just gets too hot, salty or spicy in spite of my best intentions. When that happens I either add a bit of lemon juice or some honey. Sometimes it’s necessary to go all out and add both. It requires a bit of adding and tasting to get it just right, but I have saved a number of meals by using either a bit of lemon juice or honey.

By using these techniques, I have been able to create a more interesting and varied diet without suffering any of the unpleasant consequences caused by a tender tongue and tummy. I’m always interested in learning new things. If you have any tips or suggestions to add, please leave a comment and share your ideas. I’d love to hear from you!

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