If you’re like me, you probably heard it a million times growing up, “Looks can be deceiving.” This idiom was most often used to quell any expression of jealousy we kids might posit in the presence of my grandmother. We heard it often enough that it became ingrained in our thought process. Even now I’m rarely tempted to accept how things appear on the surface. This particular brand of skepticism has served me well in the gluten-free world because when it comes to gluten-free food nothing could be more true – looks can be REALLY deceiving.
Is there anything more disappointing than popping open that pristine package with beautiful graphics and gluten-free labeling that called out to you in the store only to find a cinnamon roll that’s so dry you can’t swallow it, or a donut that’s only good when eaten frozen, or a breakfast bar with perfect texture that tastes…well, BAD? Okay, admittedly when you remember you paid 50% more for that product you may be even more disappointed, but when your eyes tell your salivary glands to expect something delicious and your taste buds return the message, “yuck”, there’s an immediate sensory letdown. That’s the feeling I’m talking about. I hate that feeling. I want gluten-free food that makes me smile! I have to think that’s what all of us want.
I’m thinking about this because I’ve been on the road this week where my experience with gluten-free baked goods has run the gamut! This beautifully decorated cupcake looks like it will taste amazing, but you couldn’t pay me to eat more than the one bite that I tasted. Prepared from a prepackaged mix according to the package directions, it was AWFUL. The texture was dry and chewy, the smell unpleasantly chemical, and the taste like that of cornstarch plus a touch of baking soda eaten straight off of a spoon.
This sticky bun from a nearby restaurant had a pleasant crunch on the edges and came covered in a cinnamon sugar pecan glaze. The dough smelled and tasted good, but had the sponginess that comes with using a significant amount of xanthan gum to hold the flour together.
At this point, I could cavalierly tell you that you can prevent such disappointment by eliminating prepackaged products or packaged mixes from your diet, but that wouldn’t really give you a realistic picture of the full gluten-free experience either. Looks may be deceiving even if you bake something at home.
These homemade banana oat muffins don’t look as picture perfect as the two previous items. The tops are jagged and it appears as if the texture might have that graininess rice flour sometimes delivers. Surprisingly, the muffins do not disappoint in either taste or texture. Made with overripe bananas, maple brown sugar oatmeal, almond flour, brown rice flour, coconut flour and butter, they are moist and full of flavor. The crumb is slightly crumbly with no grainy texture at all.
I know you’re probably thinking, okay you may have illustrated your point, but how does that help me? It doesn’t give me a quick and easy list of products to buy or delectable restaurant items from which to choose. You’re right, it doesn’t. That’s not what this post is about. Instead it’s a reminder to keep an open mind and enjoy the adventure of surprise and discovery on your gluten-free journey. Think of it this way, if looks can be deceiving, you’re free to ignore them and try something anyway!
Love what you love! Enjoy what you enjoy! Clean your plate if it tastes good and only eat two bites if it doesn’t! The pleasure is in embracing the experience and occasionally finding that perfect bite which may or may not be perfectly packaged.