The Small World of Diabetes… the Same Challenges… Only Different


Here at Diabetes Support, the world - including the world of diabetes - has become smaller. I am still somewhat surprised that I get comments, questions and responses from every part of the globe.

My viewpoint is that of an American chef. For example, without thinking, I often list a “stick of butter” as an ingredient. It gets dozens of questions from around the world, asking what exactly, and how much, is a “stick of butter”? A stick of butter equals four ounces. It is so easy to forget that not everybody measures or packages foods in exactly the same way.

Moving from the east coast to the desert, I have become acutely aware of so many items and brands I ALWAYS used that are no longer available to me - and it is the SAME country. It is too easy to forget that what we take for granted is sometimes uncommon or unavailable elsewhere in the world. A recent recipe listed Half and Half as an ingredient. My friend Ruth from Australia wanted to know if she could substitute cream for the Half and Half… “whatever that is.” It never occurred to me that Half and Half was NOT available everywhere. Live and learn.

Recently I have been corresponding online with a friend from an Indian culture. I have no clue as to where my friend is located. It could be in India or in any other part of the world where people from India have settled. It is slightly embarrassing for me to ask after weeks of correspondence. The first question from my friend was:

Reader: “Do you cook Indian food at all? Any suggestions for rice, roti or naan? It's a staple in the diet but very carb heavy. “

I suggested riced cauliflower and low-carb pita and Lavash breads.

Reader: “Thank you, appreciate it. The pitas just don't have that right texture but cauliflower might work.”

Having eaten both naan and pita, I know that they are somewhat different, but not as different as say a slice of whole wheat bread and a whole wheat bagel.

The question I ask is: “Won’t the pita work well enough to help keep you healthier?” A big white flour fluffy bun on a burger is what we grew up eating here in the United States. Since that is not the best choice for those of us with diabetes, a sandwich thin or round can work “almost” as well, and allow us to eat what we really want…the burger. Sure it is different. It is thin. However, you can still pick up the burger and munch away.

Reader: “Indian desserts are impossible to do low-carb, (I am) lost there too. Indian food is all about sugar and carbs. Food is our entire culture! How on earth can I cook anything when the whole culture revolves around it? Roti, naan, rice, desserts, mango lassi... have you eaten Indian food ever?”

The answer to the desserts is EASY. There is a world of desserts from all over the world. Open your mind and your kitchen and try something NEW... and delicious.

Yes, I have eaten Indian cuisine. I do it as a special treat just like all the other foods from different cultures. I do it in restaurants or in the homes of friends that have the skills with those cuisines that I lack. What I have always done is to pick and choose what will work for me. I have a very sensitive soft palate. Foods with certain spices (cumin in particular) inflame the palate so severely I can not eat for days.

Food is a huge part of any culture. But it is NOT all of it. There are so many other components, like the colors and the music and manners and architecture. You don’t have to give up everything you know. The trick is to make what is new to you work within your cultural being.

VARIETY is the spice of life. I grew up with a tradition that cooked in a certain manner, used certain foods in certain ways, as did the many families in my neighborhood. But some people in the neighborhood were from other cultures and it was pure JOY to experiment with other foods and other holidays. Is Christmas more or less fun than Hanukkah or lunar New Year?

I have to laugh thinking about the first time I ate broccoli. I had never even seen it before. My first thought was that it was the centerpiece for the table. As I said…live and learn.

Reader: “Thanks, this struggle really sucks. Good for you for seeing the positive.”

Positive is my only real choice. Ruth in Australia takes the prize, and my praise. She is willing to figure out a way to make a dish that she finds interesting even though one of the ingredients (Half and Half) is alien to her. Now it is up to the rest of us to give it a shot. Diabetes-compatible foods can taste great and help enlarge this small world of eating with diabetes.

Enjoy, be happy, be Healthy, BE DECADENT…be adventurous.

Source:Ward Alper, the Decadent Diabetic