Eating Gluten-Free may seem like a fad, but for people like Kristie Buford, it’s a matter of breathing freely or not. Food allergies that came on at 21 years of age were a challenge to diagnose. Sickness brought a determination that eventually caused her to fashion an alternative to traditional Cajun cooking. How do you make a roux without flour — usually made with wheat — when wheat is literally taking your breath away? At the recent Iberia Film Festival movie premiere for “Gumbo,” the audience sampled Your Way Cuisines’ gumbo. The non-wheat roux could be a solution to many area residents with the same food allergy. Plus, corn or sorghum-based products just might be something others will enjoy, too. When it comes to cooking gluten-free, it’s a family experience and so is sampling for potential new customers.
Where you raised in the Teche Area?
I was raised in Franklin, my husband was raised in Kaplan and we now live in Maurice. We met at UL Lafayette then later married. My mom’s in St. Martinville, I have a sister in Cade, my dad’s in Franklin and my husband’s family is in Abbeville and Kaplan.
How did you come to be at the IFF “Gumbo” night?
Alyssa Rachelle first contacted me, she did the documentary “Gumbo.” We were at the Gumbo Cookoff the year she was filming in New Iberia. We were doing a lot of promotion back then. Her friends actually shot us and were surprised there was a gluten-free roux at the cookbook. She is also doing a cookbook and contacted me because she wants my recipe for that as well. Then after that, then Mark Boyancé with the film festival contacted me with the details.
When did you start cooking this way?
I’ve had variations of illness most of my life, but the biggest one I’ve had since I was 21, asthma. It progressively got worse. Back in 2009 I really sick and in the hospital a long time. I decided there must really be something triggering my asthma. All my life my stomach would swell and go down, swell and go down, but I couldn’t figure it out. In part I was allergic to wheat. Then I was diagnosed with celiac disease. (According to MedlinePlus.gov, celiac disease is an immune disease in which people can’t eat gluten because it will damage their small intestine. If you have celiac disease and eat foods with gluten, your immune system responds by damaging the small intestine. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley.) Health starts in the gut. You’re ingesting things and in time it causes inflammation and binding to things in your body that are staying and not suppose to be there. It can cause auto-inflammatory disease. It is a good trigger for my asthma, if I accidently eat wheat. The symptoms depend on the person, it’s a big issue for me. I decided when I was really sick, I took my health into my own hands. I started doing a lot of research, switched doctors stopped eating wheat. Once I stopped, gluten all together, I felt so much better within a month.
Then, it’s not just a matter of eating gluten-free, it’s a matter of life and death when it involves the ability to breathe.
Not being able to breathe is like the worst feeling. To function properly you need oxygen in your blood stream and for your body to function properly. I get uncontrollable coughing and can loose my voice. In 2017 I was sick from February to May, I was home bound, couldn’t speak. My doctor said I’m one of the worst cases he’s seen. All of my tests and lung functions are normal, but I get these bouts that they can’t figure out. Staying gluten-free keeps me in check and lets me have a normal life. There is more to my treatment than eating gluten-free, because of my immune system. I’m working with a dietitian. A big factor for me is diet. I try to get the vegetables in and everything.
Was it hard to identify what you could or couldn’t eat?
In addition to bread, cookies, it’s sauces, flour, thickener. Flour goes in everything. You can have cornstarch or thickeners with corn, rice or potato. That’s the main ones. People use coconut flour, almond flour, but they are also more expensive.
How did you get into making the roux?
At first I was devastated. No more gumbo, etouffee, stews, rice and gravy, all these things we ate on a daily basis back then in 2000. My husband is a big rice and gravy person so how was I going to cook for my family and keep it simple. We started testing different flours. Now there are big companies with different flours, but back then, not so much. They’re starting to incorporate things like pizza crust and things like that but not that is usable for Cajun style cooking. Even breads, it’s hard to find a really good bread that’s not dry and crumbly.
Is it hard to trust “Gluten-Free”?
It is. I have supplements that I take if I eat out and it is cross-contaminated. I know when it is cross-contaminated. There are regulations that big restaurants have to follow. But you have to watch it for yourself. There’s a pizza place that advertised gluten-free pizza but they don’t separate where the two crusts are made. I watched some of the workers and they were going to put it on the spreader thing that they used with regular crust. I asked them, are you going to clean that first, and insisted on it. I made them change their gloves, take the time, they got the manager and I told him that anyone that has celiac disease, needs that to be cleaned to be gluten-free. They cleaned it for me. But it’s hard. You’re going to eat a salad, that’s your safe bet.
How many products do you have?
Just these two. People tell me all the time, why don’t you make the already made gumbo because it’s really good. It’s a big deal, at that point you’re dealing with the USDA and not just the FDA. We have other recipes but its time consuming and it’s hard to find a co-packer that is willing to take it on and be a gluten-free product.
Do you have recipes how to use your product?
If you go to our website, YourWayCuisines.com, you find some recipes (some featured today). The meatball stew is a huge favorite. We did that at the Gumbo Cookoff one year for the other food day anything goes. It is the biggest hit. We use the corn roux in the meatball stew. We say the corn roux is good for robust flavor, wild game, pork, round steak, things heavier. We use the sorghum for chicken and seafood dishes.
What is sorghum?
It’s a grain. They also use it to make molasses. It naturally has protein and fiber. It’s in the class like quinoa. My husband is the one that found it. A roux is not very difficult. A lot of people over think roux or put more thought into it. But it’s basically you start with oil and flour, you just have to find a thickener with gluten-free. With flour it’s all combined. So you have to find something that binds it together. Then cost varies and a lot of things like organic, Non-GMO. It’s hard to find.