I never knew what the word “gluten-free” meant until the summer of 2017. My mother took my sisters and me to the hospital for an allergy test, which concluded that I was in fact gluten intolerant. After the doctor explained that I couldn’t eat anything made with flour – i.e. bread, noodles, and pizza – my world just about collapsed in on itself. As a child, I ate everything, especially food made with flour. I was known as a 面肚子 miàn dǔ zi by my family, which means a “noddle stomach.” That summer, we went to Canada, where grocery stores and restaurants had gluten-free sections and menus. There were gluten-free labels on various snacks, and I had gluten-free pizza. And it was at this point that I thought to myself, “Hey, maybe a gluten-free diet won’t be so bad!”
But when I came back to China, my world turned upside-down once again. No stores had gluten-free foods, waiters looked at me in utter confusion when I asked them for a gluten-free menu, largely because most of them didn’t even know what the word meant! I suffered terrible allergic reactions a few times due to hidden gluten in processed foods, or because restaurants claimed that the dish was gluten-free when it clearly wasn’t. Needless to say, it wasn’t pleasant, as my face turned into a red tomato and my swollen eyes and throat were itchier than a deadly mosquito bite. Thus, I began to research what a gluten-free diet entailed, such as the foods I could and couldn’t eat. I realized it’s not just wheat that I couldn’t eat, but also rye and spelt. All of which led me to discover not only the power of research but also Taobao. Unfortunately, however, gluten-free things aren’t cheap.
Thankfully, I live right next to Jenny Wang Grocery, and the owner – Jenny Wang herself – lives in my compound. I approached her with a plan, which was to import gluten-free products into her store. I mentioned that gluten-free products would attract more international customers as we live in a pretty international city. A month later, she approached me saying that the gluten-free products were a hit!
Now, as I mark nearly four years of a gluten-free life, I would like to share something special that has made my gluten-free time sweet and enjoyable. Of course, there is still a lot more to share about my gluten-free journey and healthy approach to life, but enough about that, because here is the moment you’ve all been waiting for: The recipe for a healthy version of brownies! It’s one of my favorite healthy recipes that I’ve experimented with – sweet potato brownies! I’ve made it so many times that it’s basically my go-to healthy baked good! My whole family loves it, as the sweetness from the sweet potato harmonizes perfectly with the bitterness of the cocoa powder. It is also full of fiber and perfect for chocolate lovers who want something healthy.
But wait, there’s more! This blog comes from our sister blog, Jingkids International.
Images: Helena Zhao