I don't mean to imply that food is a panacea for all the world's (or even my) problems, but sometimes there's just no escaping a simple truth: A piece of homemade chocolate cake tends to imbue life with an undeniable zip. Even better: pulling off a creation that's dense and decadent and not being all that talented a baker to begin with. What I mean is, I made this lovely work of art from a mix.
For a while now, I've heard the growing buzz from the g-free community about Namaste products. My mentor and friend, Diamond Dallas Page (www.dddpyoga.com) swears by them. He's been eating gluten and cow-dairy free for years and got me to convert three years ago. Our reasons for doing it may be different: his body was battered by a decade long career as a professional wrestler; mine was battered by several decades of the American way of eating. By eating clean he gets to walk across the room pain-free without hobbling and I get to walk across the room minus the burden of 185 unwanted pounds. Dallas has one unbendable rule though, about g-free eating: it must taste good or he won't eat it. Naturally he values his health, but he also knows the value of pleasure, and blandness, no matter how healthy, usually doesn't spell out a lifelong habit.
In spite of Dallas's endorsement, I admit to being initially skeptical about Namaste. Their baking mixes and pastas aren't just gluten-free, they address a multitude of allergies. In other words, the products are made in a dedicated facility which eliminates any chance of cross contamination, and are free of wheat, gluten, corn, soy, potato, dairy, casein, tree nuts, and peanuts. How in God's name, I wondered, would cookies or cake taste good under such circumstances? Curiosity ultimately won in the end and this week, as I realized it had been several long months since a piece of chocolate cake had passed my lips, I set about putting their mix to the test. It turned out to be astonishingly easy since all that was required was the addition of water, eggs, and oil. The frosting was equally breezy: a few tablespoons of margerine and warm water was all it took. An hour later (30 to bake, 30 to cool), I presented my significant other and his teenaged son with a glistening, two-layer chocolate wonder. Neither eats gluten-free, both said it was better than any cake mix they'd ever tried.
The reason for this can be traced back to Daphne Taylor, who founded the business more than a decade ago when she decided to give a young family friend saddled with food allergies the treat of a lifetime: a batch of brownies he could actually eat. That maiden tray of brownies born out of pure concern ultimately gave way to a homespun but burgeoning business that cranks out bags of mixes like chocolate and vanilla cake, pizza crust, cookie mix, all-purpose baking mix, muffin mix, pancake and waffle mix, bread mix, and flavored pastas.
I swooned at the denseness of the chocolate cake and the glossy decadence of the chocolate fudge frosting. The cake was sweet. It was moist. It was ultra-chocolatey. And it didn't take a wrecking ball to my health. I pretty much eat according to my body's wisdom (and that includes honoring the cravings) but yes, Virginia, quantity DOES matter. So I had a nice, generous piece, but not a quarter of the cake as I would have easily done back in the day. But the good news is, I can have my cake and eat it too, in more ways than one. And birthday celebrations just got a whole lot more intriguing.