Cookbook Q&A: Free of Allergens, but Full of Flavor

Elizabeth Gordon has celiac disease. She also has wheat, egg, and string bean allergies. But, this three-time cookbook author and owner of an online allergy-free bakery is adamant that having allergies doesn’t mean you have to kiss good food goodbye.

Gordon’s latest book Simply Allergy Free: Quick and Tasty Recipes for Every Night of the Week is filled with mains, sides, and desserts that can all be adjusted for people with food allergies, but enjoyed by everyone. We got Elizabeth to dish on her new book, living allergy-free and her food influences growing up.

Q: So the easy question first. Why did you write this cookbook? What is your experience with allergies?
A: I was diagnosed with food allergies at 28 years old. I just had my daughter and that’s how this whole journey began. Times really have changed since then [when she was diagnosed in 2004] now that there are products available in grocery stores…but then I felt like a stranger in a strange land [laughs]. Then I started to see what I could make, bake and cook and that’s how my first book came along.

Q: How many children do you have?
A: I have two daughters. A nine year-old and a six-year-old. Neither they nor my husband have any food allergies.

Q: What advice would you give to moms whose kids have food allergies?
A: I know a lot of people in that boat. There’s a stigma attached to having food allergies. That your good eating life is over… for children it’s a struggle with that and for adults too. Children struggle with it in a sense that if everyone is eating the same thing at a birthday party why can’t I? People also ask a lot of questions on why can’t you eat certain things.For parents with children that are just diagnosed there’s defiantly a lot of fear. They are scared, reasonably because some of these allergies are life-threatening, and there’s trepidation about how to cook allergy-free food. But, you can have food allergies and still cook and eat good food.

Q: The recipes in the book all look so yummy, but how do you get your kids to try things like kale and collard greens? What’s the best advice you have for parents of picky eaters?
A: If you get your kids involved in the cooking then they are invested in it. I also have a rule that you have to try one bite of everything. My oldest daughter really likes vegetables, so I’m lucky. My youngest one is a little harder but she usually gives things a try. She likes to give me a hard time sometimes and will say she doesn’t like something, but by her face I can tell that she actually really likes it.

Q:I think I was guilty of that with my mom too growing up.
A: [laughs] We all were.

Q: In the cookbook you talk about a close friend growing up who was Persian and how her mother taught you a lot about making Persian dishes. Who were your other culinary influences growing up?
A:I grew up in the Midwest and so you can see a lot of that influence I think in recipes. I also lived in Paris for a bit so that is in there. Plus, I went to school in the South so that’s in there particularly for the desserts.

Q: Growing up who did most of the cooking in your family? What was a typical weeknight meal like?
A: It was my mother. We never dined out and almost always ate at home. It was a treat to order pizza. My favorite thing is still her pot roast. I have her make it for me every time I go home still.

Q: Now it’s time for the most creative question. If you could only eat one meal/thing for the rest of your life what would it be and why?
A: Avocados. They are rich and creamy and you are eating something that seems decadent and it is but not really. Oh and it’s good for your skin, I’m more aware of that as I get order.

Q: Since giving up gluten and your allergy diagnoses is there anything you haven’t been able to make gluten-free that you really wish you could?
A: Being gluten-free isn’t as difficult. The challenge is the eggs. Since I can’t have eggs I haven’t had lemon meringue pie or popovers.

Q: And lastly, what’s something important our readers should know about you or this new book?
A: I have three books out, but of all of them this is my favorite. It really reflects real life and how I live and eat. Just because you have food allergies your food life is not over.

Interview has been condensed and edited 

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