A Gluten Free Pantry – From the Beginning

by Jenn on February 10, 2010

in Gluten Free

Starting over.

In effect, because of our move across an ocean, that is exactly what we are doing.  We are starting over, and it’s an incredibly intimidating concept.  It’s amazing how used to routine one can get with life.  Now we have literally no expectations, and must build a home for ourselves from the beginning again.  All over again.  It seems like every day we are figuring out something that we are missing or need, and the kitchen is no exception.  I had totally forgotten how much work goes into building a pantry of staples, and while I knew all along that we would have to do this, it never really sunk in until we found a place of our own, finally unpacked our bags for good, and I opened up our fresh bright white cupboards to find them completely empty and clean, as if brand new.  And then it hit me – hmm, they are empty.  Like not just “I don’t feel like making anything that we have so I’m going to complain about how there is no food in the house” empty, I mean really empty.  We actually have to make it a point to go out and buy all of those things that I am used to seeing in there in our old home.  Rice, quinoa, nuts, beans, pasta, all of it!

So, like all neurotically methodical scientists such as myself, I made a list, planning and thinking about everything that I would need.  I love lists.  I drive my husband crazy with them.  Whenever he forgets something, I invariably ask him (sometimes much to his irritation), “Well, did you make a list first?”  This often elicits an eye-roll response haha.  But I stand by my lists.  It is the single easiest and quickest way to stay organized to let yourself feel like you have a handle on things.  Just a little bit of control when presented with a huge task such as seeking out, translating (mon français est très mauvais), and purchasing ALL of the ingredients for a proper gluten free pantry.

So exactly what does a gluten free pantry look like when you are starting from scratch?  Here is our pantry after our first go at navigating the ins and outs of a few stores –


And yes, that is a pile of SIX bars of chocolate at the top left.  We are in Switzerland after all :)

So other than the fact that it’s painfully obvious that I need to purchase some more containers to hold everything, I think it’s really a pretty good start.  The complete description, going left to right –

Top Shelf – Chocolate.  This is a daily necessity to life.  Must have chocolate. Then – quinoa, rice, gluten free corn pasta, thai rice noodles, polenta in front, tapioca pearls and whole millet on the right.

Bottom Shelf – These are the baking ingredients, which were surprisingly lower in price than their equivalents in the States – I took the sucre (sugar) and sucre glace (powdered sugar) and gelatin out of the picture because they aren’t really specific to being gluten free.  In case you can’t see so clearly, here’s a closer view –


So we have:

  • Amidon de maïs – cornstarch
  • Maiz blanc – white corn flour
  • Farine de chuño – potato starch
  • Sarrasin – buckwheat flour
  • Gram flour in the back – chickpea flour
  • Farine d’amaranth – amaranth flour
  • Levadura sans gluten – this is a packet of yeast
  • Thai rice flour – white rice flour
  • Noix de coco – coconut meal
  • Pois de chiche – this is also chickpea flour
  • Noixettes – hazelnut meal
  • Amandes – almond meal

So this was fun – 4 different stores were used to purchase all of these ingredients, but our best find was this little specialty shop downtown that has a lot of Latin American ingredients – hence why potato starch is not called “pomme de terre” here, but chuño.  When asking about it (because I asked about every ingredient I did not recognize), the store clerk specifically mentioned it being potato and a starch product.  The amaranth flour is a new one to me.  I have used amaranth powder before and love to use it in the starch portion of my gluten free baking recipes.  But this is flour, not starch –  I was told has properties very much like quinoa flour.  So that should be interesting to try out.

So what’s missing?  I can’t find millet, tapioca, or sorghum flour, I forgot to pick up the brown rice flour or any beans, I purposely did not get soy flour (I hate the taste), and I could not find baking soda, baking powder, nor the most universally used ingredient by nearly every gluten free cook I know, xanthan gum.  When I have asked people about it I just get blank stares, as if people haven’t heard of it.  Nor guar gum.  Maybe I am just not translating correctly (gomme de xanthane, gomme de guar?).  But maybe I can live without them and find other gluten substitutes instead.  Maybe I will try using more eggs or play with adding gelatin or agar agar.  It will be interesting re-adapting some recipes and trying new ones for sure.  I can’t wait to see how these ingredients work together, and wondering if I can get away with not having some of the other ingredients, though I do love millet flour so much.  If I can’t find any, I am seriously thinking about purchasing a grain mill and making my own from the whole millet.  And I bet if I find an Asian food store (which I am sure there are a few around here) I can easily get tapioca starch.  So I will keep looking for things, keep exploring, and seeing what I can find.

But, for now, this is a start.  And having a somewhat full pantry makes my kitchen feel more complete.  I am more relaxed now since I have a pantry with staples that I can turn to for inspiration or science…er cooking experiments – it just makes everything seem a bit more settled.  For pretty much picking up all of our stuff and just hopping across the ocean, we are still very much homebodies at heart – and we still have a bit of “nesting” to do :)