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Prisoner of gluten

Nancy recently discovered she can't eat wheat or products that contain wheat gluten unless she learns to like stomach pain. Because that's unlikely, my wife is now gluten-free.

Which means I am pretty much gluten-free, as well, because it's hard to eat ravioli or pizza or fresh whole-wheat bread when your spouse is sitting there eating fish, rice and salad.

Why isn't there a pizza place in the valley that makes a gluten-free pie? Or a doughnut shop that makes gluten-free doughnuts?

Did you know there is gluten in most brands of chocolate?

Or that gluten-free flour can cost you $8 a bag, making it hard to justify a homemade blueberry cobbler?

I suppose I should be thankful this is happening now because gluten-free products have exploded in recent years, giving us a lot more options than we'd have had 10 years ago. Most local grocery stores have a gluten-free section these days, or they scatter gluten-free alternatives among their offerings — although the prices are usually twice the cost of their wheat-laden counterparts.

I've gained new appreciation for Fred Meyer, which probably has the best gluten-free selection in town. I teared up with gratitude when we went to the First Street Cafe in Phoenix for brunch, and Nancy was able to have toast because they offer a gluten-free rice bread. Ditto when we ate at Omar's in Ashland and found gluten-free items featured on the menu.

But I'm really hurt that homemade sourdough pancakes and waffles have disappeared from our life, except for when I visit my in-laws down in Siskiyou County, which I've been doing more often lately. We have a sourdough starter in our fridge that goes back four generations and more than 100 years. But it's a wheat-based starter, so it is languishing.

I suppose Nancy and I could cook separate meals, but who has time for that? We're just going to have to learn to cook without wheat.

For the most part it's not that hard because we eat a lot of fish, veggies, fruit, beans and grains like quinoa, rice and oats.

But many baked goods appear to be a distant memory. Most gluten-free baked goods suck (excuse my crude language, but it's true). And they're seriously expensive.

Please help us.

Does anyone out there have a recipe for wheat-free sourdough? Is there such a thing as wheat-free bread that weighs less than a boat anchor? Are there wheat-free buns softer than hockey pucks?

I recently started a discussion group called Gluten-Free Gang on the Mail Tribune's new social networking site, Rogue Current (www.RogueCurrent.com), in the hope of learning from my gluten-free brothers and sisters.

Although I am not gluten-intolerant, I feel your pain. I am a prisoner of gluten in a gluten-filled world. If you have suggestions, please log onto our group. Maybe we can help each other break down the walls of wheat.

CORRECTION: In the March issue, in a story about local mandala artists, we incorrectly identified the creator of a mandala shown on page 15. The correct caption should have read "Rose Mandala" by Augusta Lucas Andreae. Sorry Augusta.

Prisoner of gluten