There’s definitely an art to finding the positives in otherwise negative situations, and it often involves being a brilliant liar – to yourself. When you’re a soulfoodie with fructose malabsorption like me, the only way to not let it shatter your spirit entirely is to convince yourself that sometimes you’re better off with it. Of course, the effectiveness of this self-deception varies greatly each time. My own little Silver Lingings Playbook comes into play (successfully), for instance, at every celebratory occasion where food is involved: I’m genuinely thankful that my intolerance steers me away from calorific finger food and menu temptations like cakes, pastries, creamy pastas, pizza and deep-fried foods, because it means that I no longer have to rely on willpower alone to dodge them. Another positive which accompanies being intolerant to so many different and seemingly unrelated foods (like honey and lentils, for example) is that those around me don’t even think twice anymore when I turn unhealthy foods down. Now, I can comfortably decline greasy shared entrees and the fatal table centrepiece (the God-Damned Bread Basket), because everyone just assumes I’m intolerant to whatever I say no to. Of course, this isn’t always the case, but it makes for a bloody good excuse.
While before I felt obliged to eat “just a slither” of each and every birthday cake I encountered (that adds up to be a shit-load of birthday cake) as a means of Going With The Flow and avoiding all the irritated looks, rolling eyes and occasional “anorexic” taunts, my notorious intolerance now means that I escape the Fat Trap absolutely scott-free. Hosts would be rightfully offended if I turned down their Beef Wellington or Apple Crumble Pie that they’d slaved away at on the pure basis of them being nutritionless, but my intolerance gives me the power to say, “Oh I’d love to, but I’m intolerant”. Then, instead of a mutual guilt-trip, I’m smothered with sympathy and, more often than not, offered healthier alternatives. It’s great, really…
So yes, admittedly, I am guilty of playing on my intolerances just a little bit. Or a lot, depending on what’s on offer. When Cake Time rolls around at family and social get-togethers, I can almost bet my bottom dollar that I’ll hear at least one person exclaim:
“Oh, it’s such a shame/just awful/sooo shitty that you make all these cakes and you can’t even eat them yourself, you poor thing!” And with that, a sea of synchronised, pitying nods and compassionate murmurs will follow. I’ll just smile and shrug it off casually, and I might even ponder the sadness of it all for a moment or two. Then I snap out of it and remember that I avoided all those foods way before I developed intolerances to them, anyway. I know how instantly the biscuit base of that cheesecake Melts in Your Mouth. I’m well aware of how delectable the chocolate cream cheese frosting atop that caramel mudcake is. Yes, the smell of Sticky Date Pudding does make my mouth water. We’re all human here. The truth is, at the end of the celebration when others are balls-deep in Carb Coma, this “poor little thing” ain’t so poor, because none of that delicious junk is going to my trunk. Muuuahahahahaha.
Of course, I’m exaggerating here. It’s not all doom and gloom for my tastebuds: since I only have intolerances, not anaphylaxis, I can still afford to taste dangerously delectable offerings without developing any horrid symptoms, let alone dying. I just have to know my limits – one spoonful of cake is enough for me.
So, I guess fructose malabsorption has its pros when I’m faced with unhealthy foods that I’d feel obliged to eat otherwise. Being intolerant to a lot of refined and processed crap doesn’t bother me at all, because it gives me yet another reason as to why I must avoid it. However, fructose malabsorption doesn’t restrict me from just the bad stuff. In fact, there are so many perfectly healthy foods that I’ve loved all my life, but am either partially or totally intolerant to. I won’t sugar-coat it: dining out at my old favourite restaurants is now downright depressing. It’s very hard to be intolerant to flavoursome staple foods like onion and garlic, because they’re in all pre-made bases, marinades, sauces, soup stocks and dressings. The fact that I can’t eat legumes, beans or chickpeas restricts me from many ‘healthy’ menu options, and I can’t enjoy sweet treats at organic eateries as they’re all sweetened with agave or honey. People are just baffled when I tell them I could eat an entire deep fryer’s yield of Maccas French Fries, but I can’t have more than one floret of broccoli in a sitting. When I speak to other fellow FructMal victims, they’ll often say that they just order a bowl of chips when dining out because they’re either too embarrassed or can’t be bothered talking to the chef about other possibilities. I obviously have an issue with this, but I bite my tongue. Eight times out of ten, chefs are more than accommodating.
Still, I’m elated to announce that I’m not as sensitive to all these things as I was five months ago, and that my digestive system is slowly recovering. In March, I couldn’t let a trace of garlic, sweet potato or nuts pass my lips without appearing pregnant with triplets and being bed-ridden for the whole next day. I’ve recently reintroduced things like nuts, some rye, broccoli and sweet potato (I can now eat 1/4 cup at a time!), and I can even eat dishes with small amounts of cooked garlic, too. Hellllllo, tandoori prawns! I still can’t touch the biggest offenders like onion, legumes, apples, mango or dried fruit, but hey, beggars can’t be choosers – I’m just grateful that I can again eat some of the things I’ve been missing so badly!
So, to honour the newly rekindled flame with my Clean Carb Sweetheart, Sweet Potato, I thought I’d share one of my all-time favourite snacks and side dishes: oven-baked sweet potato chips. To spice things up for the occasion, I’ve added a little twist by seasoning them with sensationally flavoursome Egyptian Dukkah and a hint of pure maple to show off the potato’s natural sweetness. I can never get enough of Dukkah. I use it to flavour everything from curries to veggie stir fries, grilled meat and eggs. Traditionally, Egyptian dukkah consists of nuts (usually hazelnuts), sesame seeds, salt and various herbs and spices. Its nutty texture adds an element of crunch to dishes and the magically flavoursome combination of herbs and spices is just awesome.
I hope you enjoy these babies as much as I do, and to those of you who can have more than 1/4 cup’s worth at a time, I’m riddled with jealousy. And utter resentment.
Dukkah & Maple Sweet Potato Chips
Serves 4 as a snack or side dish
- 1 large sweet potato, scrubbed clean, ends chopped off & skin left on
- 1 tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 2 tbs good-quality Eqyptian Dukkah, wood-fired if possible as the flavour is more authentic
- 1 tbs pure organic maple syrup
- Himalayan salt or sea salt flakes
- Preheat oven to 200*C. Chop potato in half through the width, then continue to cut into large French-fry like pieces, as pictured.
- Put chips in a bowl and drizzle over the olive oil. Use your hands to combine the potato and oil, ensuring that each chip is covered evenly.
- Lay chips in a single layer on a lined baking tray. Sprinkle evenly with dukkah and place tray in the oven. Allow to bake for approx. 20 minutes.
- When chips have browned and appear cooked on one side (after about 20-25 mins), remove from the oven and carefully flip onto the other side. Cook for a further 10 minutes or until cooked throughout and slightly crisp, but not burnt.
- In the last 5 minutes of baking, drizzle chips with maple syrup. This will allow the syrup to caramelise and go deliciously sticky.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with a little extra dukkah if desired. ENJOY!
Note: The chips should be lightly crispy around the edges, but don’t expect them to be as crispy as French fries – fries are crispy for the very reason that lies in their name – they’re deep fried! If you want a crispy packeted potato chip effect, cut the sweet potato into 2mm-thick rounds instead of thick sticks. The cooking time will be less, and they will be very crunchy once completely cooled. If you do them this way, you can also store leftovers in an airtight container in the pantry or portion into snap-lock bags, ready to grab and go! This version is great to serve on dip platters as a healthy biscuit alternative.