It’s official, I am “allergic to gluten”. I wander around with an invisible sign that reads “no wheat, no maida, no rawa”. Sympathetic colleagues ladle out curry before someone dunks a puri. They scoop out hummus before a bread stick “glutenises” it. A birthday girl uproots the wheat-free marzipan flower that adorns her cake and offers it to me kindly.
The year is 2013. Gluten-free cakes, biscuits, pancakes and waffles haven’t made it to Mumbai's menus, markets, shop shelves and my own consciousness. Here’s what does enter the latter: those sweet nothings – those tiny, lovable biscuits with their cherubic faces are anything but nothing. And they are everything that the palate yearns for, and the hardest to resist.
Not everyone turns up for the pity parties I throw. Most roll their eyes with a “whatever”. Some are curious skeptics. “So what can you eat Sweetie?” The list is short and savoury, not sweet, I pout. Most deserts contain refined wheat.
In the weeks that follow, I squirm in restaurant seats and summon cooks. The chef at The Oberoi’s Vetro informs me that my vanilla ice-cream is a grey area. It might contain a touch of maida, why take the risk? He brings me a sorbet. I savour it with gratitude.
As I navigate across a black forest laden with wheat, desserts turn light as my heart heavy. I do not cherish the weight I lose, for I lose perspective as well. I can never ever really enjoy myself again. Ever. No more malpua at Swati Snacks. No more gulab jamun in my Samrat thali. I shall never kiss a Brijwasi jalebi again.It’s a slippery slope. Opinions are divided on Indian sweetmeats.Barfi contains khoya that may or may not contain maida. Shopkeepers themselves aren’t sure. And then happily, a silver lining. Every white cloud of my beloved sweetmeat has one. I can eat the strictly-no-maida pedigree kaju katli!
I pardon my extravagances, beam at the Adarsh Sweets’ shopkeeper and extoll the virtues of my pitiful diet.
A clear vast sky and a big bite. Diamond-shapes sure are a girl’s best friend.