is being gluten-free a fad and what to do with those annoying guests who have food allergies
It all began one rainy morning. I was meeting a friend for brunch. There had been a change of plans and her wee girl came too, so a bakery a short walk away seemed to be a good compromise to tempt a child with a fussy appetite and little legs. Once seated the friend announced that she’d just been diagnosed with coeliac disease, an intolerance to anything containing gluten. There we sat surrounded by a whole shop full of the most delicious wheat products. Fortunately, the bakery was Babka and there were also some toast-avoidable meals, like eggs, on the menu and sustenance could be found. But I worried that just sitting in the gluten dusted air may harm her.
That morning, before I headed of to chat and eat, I had an email from a gluten-free blogger who was enjoying the rich pickings at food nazi. It seems that every tenth person I speak to right now is wrestling with a food allergy. In the medical world, coeliac appears to be the new black, with a greater awareness amongst health professionals about the indirect ways this condition can show itself. But unfortunately large pockets of the food world still treat food allergies and intolerances as a fad.
In the past week all this erupted thanks to a piece in Epicure.
Gastronomic snobbery is nothing particularly novel. The princess and her pea are but the latest in a long historical line of snotty food wowsers. There have always been those who consider your pantry an index of refinement.
They snigger if you pronounce "l'ancienne" or "conch" inaccurately. They consider your pantry the register of your moral condition too. You know the sort. They're gluten intolerant and bring their own nut-meat and herbal tea to lunch.
Helen Razer’s rant about food snobbery, carelessly implying gluten intolerance was a fad, understandably got the backs up of many in the local coeliac community.
For those lucky individuals whose lives haven’t been touched by a food allergy, it might seem like it’s a case ‘they’ll never know – a little bit won’t hurt them’. Unfortunately it might. Some allergies can be excruciatingly painful or even fatal. Sometimes it is a case of ignorance but too often there is condescending annoyance, especially in the food world. Unfortunately I’ve spoken to many caterers and chefs who don’t understand that the client is not being fussy or wants special attention – not to be ungrateful but they’ll get sick if they eat the beautiful food and in this enlightened age people shouldn’t have to miss out and go hungry. Looking at the lunch provided by a local gourmet bakery at the local Fairfax run food talkfest, it was gluten as far as the eye could see. “What about the coeliacs” I asked, as an aside to someone in the know. The look and pithy condescending response told me the answer to that question.
I have been aware of my dairy intolerance for 20 years now. Of course, I've had it all my life but I thought it was normal to get tonsillitis or a cold every month let alone the ongoing bloating and pain in my gut. Even now two decades on at least half the time I eat at a catered event (when I have let my food preferences be known well in advance) there is a mistake or a chunk of the meal is missing, such as a dessert or a starter (if you can't eat dairy you obviously wouldn't like to eat something sweet or have dried fruit instead of the cheese platter). Or what is delivered for the same price as the standard meal is clearly lacking. I can’t count the amount of times my vegan airline meal has arrived with its nifty little “VGML” sticker, with dairy on the tray. The Wellington to Melbourne leg of my frequent, Trans-Tasman trips often have up to three milk containing items. Don’t get me started on what meat and dairy-free food I can stock up on at the airport for an exorbitant price. It’s a toss up between a 2 day old, utterly tasteless egg and lettuce sandwich or 12 hour old sushi.
Though my food allergies are of a different variety, a lot of gluten-containing recipes just aren’t that healthy so much of what I tend to cook is coeliac friendly. I am slowly retro-tagging my posts to show this but be patient it might take a while.
Next week we have a vegetarian and her meat eating, recently diagnosed, coeliac partner coming for lunch. It shouldn’t send me into a spin but for a moment I can understand that little panic that sends you back to square one to rethink the menu. Between us there are three major food restrictions to cater for. Oh no, make that four, as there will also be a hypertensive at the table, requesting a low sodium diet. When it is something out of the box, even as an allergy aware cook it can feel like you’ve hit a culinary road
After a deep breath or two, you realise there is a world of variety. Do I want to pop out to Silly Yaks in the morning and grab a gluten-free loaf of bread as a treat for the recently diagnosed one to go with a bean and tomato soup? A Spanish omelette and green salad to follow perhaps? Or a selection of curries, rice and pappadams (mild with extra chilli on the side, so as not to upset the digestion of the breastfed baby, food restriction number five)? Or just throw together a deli spread – dolmades, smoked fish, (low salt) olives, and salads so it is easy to graze around the demands of the little one?
If you are feeling a little overwhelmed by low allergy cooking check out some of the following tags:
Gluten-free (as mentioned, some untagged ones also fit the category but retro-tagging 280 posts takes a while). All the salads, soups and healthy detox foods in the drop down boxes on the sidebar are also coeliac friendly.
Almost all my recipes are dairy-free with butter being easily substituted in the rest. And of course all vegan and the tautological tag ’vegan dairy free' are by definition free of all animal products including moo juice.
Gluten-free bloggers everywhere
Gluten-free for good by Melissa who incidentally is a coeliac (like all the following bloggers) and is a nutritionist. If all this it new to you, keep an eye out for her evolving celiac (yes that’s the way they spell it in some parts of the world) FAQ.
Gluten A Go Go
Gluten-free Goddess, Karina is an artist and author as well as a cook, with links to a great vegan and vegetarian section at Karinas Kitchen.
Gluten-free Girl, who has turned her whole life around by embracing what her body really needed. Though so many of her recipes are out of bounds for me due to the dairy and meat content, I recommend anyone newly diagnosed with coeliac and those wanting to understand it, check out the early posts starting with The Diagnosis.
Gluten-free in Melbourne
Melbourne Naturopath, Gill Stannard’s RRR segment and write up on wheat allergy and coeliac.
Silly yaks a long running coeliac café in Northcote (which even makes gluten-free beer!). I’m told that Pizza Farro just down the road in Thornbury has also started making it’s own GF beer. More gluten-free beer courtesy of the Beer Guide.
S.KomatsuStill waiting on some feedback about this one, a dairy-free and gluten-free restaurant in East Melbourne.
Some gluten-free eateries and more dining links from the Victorian Coeliac Society
Allergy Block is a store in Carlton specialising in allergy-free products. It also has online shopping. Flinders Organics ,a part of the IGA supermarket chain in the CBD, has a growing array of gluten-free and dairy-free foods.
..and more coeliac, even celiac, gluten-free, allergy friendly links
Keep the comments coming and I will add your site to the links
Sure foods living a comprehensive gluten-free and allergy-focused site with medical updates, gluten-free recipes and a heap of great resourses.