Welcome to Knives and Corks!
My name is Joel and my amazing wife, Rachel, has graciously been sharing some of our culinary adventures. We sincerely hope you’re enjoying the fruits of our exploration. One of our first dates was attending a cooking class, setting the tone for many of our simple weekday evenings at home. We’re not professional chefs or medical professionals, but it’s been a fun journey so far and our simple desire is to share what we’re learning along the way.
To her credit, she’s been a real trooper trying to cater to my dietary restrictions. She can eat almost anything, while for most of my life I’ve had “stomach issues.” I was never very systematic about it despite my typically systematic approach to things. I often made excuses like, “I can’t drink milk in the morning,” usually getting sick after eating a bowl of cereal. Then again, morning was almost the only time I had dairy products. But when I had pizza or queso dip, the results were the same.
One weekend in 2001, I ate a fried egg sandwich (the eggs were fried in butter) and drank a few glasses of milk. I didn’t leave my apartment for two days.
That led to a process of elimination to find the root cause of the issue. The obvious issue was milk, so I cut it completely from my diet and experienced a step change improvement in my overall health. Not only did my stomach feel better, but my attitude improved as well. Hailing from the Midwest, this was not easy to accept, since Wisconsin cheese-curds are an oft-received gift when my parents come to visit.
A few years ago I jumped into the CrossFit craze and pursued a Paleo diet. I’m not going to begin to address the ongoing controversy, but I will say that I did feel better overall when I followed it and cut out processed foods and gluten. I knew several people with legitimate Celiac disease (I am not one of them), and others who experienced supposed side-effects from gluten, so avoiding gluten just became the norm. Admittedly, by avoiding gluten and cutting the massive amounts of pasta I used to consume during my Ironman triathlon days, I felt better. Less tired, less anxious.
Things improved, but I still wasn’t 100%. In 2014, I ran into a few occasions where I got sick again, and upon retrospect, I realized that eggs and egg-containing products like mayonnaise were the culprits.
Side note: I like fries and mayo. I also like how people make fun of me for liking fries and mayo, but then they completely ignore that fries dipped in aioli, which is trendy, is still just fries dipped in flavored mayo. Now, I avoid mayo and aioli.
I cut eggs from my diet and again experienced a remarkable improvement. I did some controlled tests with my food selection and feel pretty confident I’ve gotten it narrowed down.
For those that are curious, there are a number of tests available, such as the ALCAT or the skin allergy test. I had the skin test done when I was a kid, but at the time we were checking for allergies to things like ragweed and cats (I eat neither of them). I don’t recall testing for or finding any food allergies back then, and haven’t gone back for a follow up. I am curious about both tests, and would love to cross compare the results, but perhaps another time.
It’s largely been a process of trial and error with inconsistent medical advice. This year, though, we experienced a breakthrough with Greek yogurt, labneh, and Kefir. Effectively, all contain probiotics and some are of the fermented variety. A bit of research postulates that the good bacteria cultures eat the lactose (milk sugar) and render them safe for people like me. I have tried them and found them to agree with me. I cannot speak for others, but reserve a weekend where you can stay home and try them. For a guy who has avoided milk and milk products for 15 years, they were a pleasant discovery. We use Greek yogurt in place of sour cream, and labneh in place of cream cheese. Kefir, a fermented milk drink, tastes a bit tangy, like buttermilk, but it’s a welcome treat once in a while.
Rachel has never complained about my limitations, and instead has worked hard to find fun recipes or create recipes that cater to these restrictions. We both love to cook, me from the standpoint of a scientist, and her coming at it with more artistry. We’re a good team that way.
So, we hope you enjoy what you find here. We’ll share what we learn. To me, cooking is just like chemistry lab, but feel free to try this at home and don’t be afraid to make the recipes your own. If you think it needs salt, then add salt. If you find something to make it better, then we’d love to hear from you.