Gluten Free Child

Overwhelmed by choice

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could go to a shop and know that you could eat anything on the shelves?

Most of us, of course, can go to any supermarket any day, and don’t even notice the extraordinary range of choice available. We pick up the same old things, and toss them into the basket, without a second thought.

But what if, when you go to the supermarket, there isn’t a choice?

This is the way it is for coeliacs. There may be a shelf or two with gluten free products on – and, of course, many things are naturally gluten free – but there isn’t the vast cornucopia of food that is available to the Normals.

My coeliac daughter had the Normal experience this weekend – or very nearly!

We travelled to Brighton for a family wedding – about six hours drive south of us. Johnsons Dietary Provisions - gluten free cateringJust off our route was Johnsons Dietary Provisions, a company which sells gluten free food. I’ve bought from them before online, and exchanged emails with Helen on various topics – as well as chatted on the gluten free messageboard.

Johnson’s is primarily a web business, but Helen does open up to retail customers for a few hours four days a week. This was one of them.

We detoured – much to the alarm of my mother, also driving south but in a different car. “You’re going the wrong way!”

Which we were – but also, we so weren’t.

Hot and sticky, after 6 hours in the car, we unloaded our three children and headed into the shop. It was great to meet Helen at last, who was welcoming and informative, and very relaxed about being invaded by five noisy and excited people.

But the best thing was that (except for one set of shelves in a corner, which were dedicated to nut-free foods) our daughter could eat everything in the shop.

“What would you like? You choose …”

Of course, she couldn’t choose, overwhelmed by the possibilities. We loaded up a basket, and came away happy.

Those who can choose anything from thousands of products on the shelves of a supermarket every day can have no idea what an astonishing experience this is. If you are a Normal, next time you go to the supermarket, take a moment to look – really look – at the huge variety of food offered, and enjoy making your choices.

Decorating birthday cakes: gluten free

There is an Ebay shop called Cake to Decorate which specialises in ‘cake toppers’. These are made from rice paper with edible ink, and mostly depict children’s cartoon characters, though you can also use a photo – or even your business logo.

Ideal for a lazy way of decorating your child’s birthday cake, I would think. They come in either fairy cake size or bigger (about 7.5 inches, or A5 paper size).

The ingredients used for these are: water, cornstarch, corn syrup solids, cellulose, sorbitol, glycerine, sugar, veg oil, arabic gum, polysorbate 80, vanilla, titanium dioxide and citric acid. But do check each one – ingredients could vary.

Thanks to Sue G for sharing this.

Survey: UK children with allergies

Blossom are conducting a survey on allergic children in the UK, to find out how allergies impact on the children’s lives.

I know that strictly speaking, coeliac disease isn’t an allergy, but the issues seem the same to me. If you are caring for a child with allergies in the UK (yes, including food allergies), you might think about completing this quick survey. It doesn’t seem very detailed to me, but I’m hoping that the results will be interesting – you will have to give an email address to the survey team, but they will send out the results of the survey when completed.

Blossom is the new children’s campaign from Allergy UK.

“My children don’t do wheat-free.” What?

weddingdress.jpgWe went as a family to a wedding last weekend – beautiful, small, intimate, English wedding in the country. Marquee on the lawn, lovely gardens with ponds and streams, and – coincidentally – the Red Arrows and other planes flying overhead as part of the nearby Air Tattoo. (Very appropriate, as many of the guests seemed to be airforce, or civil pilots).

The bride had gone to a lot of trouble to arrange entertainment for the 12 children at the wedding, to keep them entertained while the adults ate – t-shirt painting, glass-painting, games, DVDs and so on.

She had also arranged for a special party tea for the children, and party bags with presents for them. Crisps, sandwiches, cheese cubes, crudites … and she had been very careful to organise a wide range of cakes and biscuits, which were all gluten free, so that my coeliac daughter could eat freely from the table. (We’d brought our own gluten free bread for the sandwiches).

I was touched that she’d gone to so much effort on her own special day.

Which made it even more shocking that later in the evening, she whispered to me that one of the other guests had decided to whisk her two children away to McDonalds, saying “my children don’t do wheat-free”.

What? What was she thinking?

I can’t decide which feeling is uppermost – I am horrified by how rude this is, and astonished that someone could object so strongly to food that was gluten-free. It wasn’t even as if the children were going to go hungry if they didn’t eat any cake …

I just hope my coeliac daughter didn’t hear this woman spurn the food so lovingly provided for her.

No cookery lessons for the gluten free?

I was shocked to read about a small boy with multiple allergies and his coeliac friend who were not able to join in cookery lessons at school, but instead had to sit in a corner and read a book (read more on this in the Daily Mail). This shouldn’t be happening …

allergyfreecookbook.jpgMy daughter has been able to join in cookery in her primary school (though she couldn’t taste all the sandwiches her classmates made in the ‘design a sandwich’ lesson) because they’ve used gluten free flour and baking powder – and her secondary school, where she will go in September, has assured us that there won’t be a problem there either.

Now, this small boy’s allergies include eggs and peanuts, which are dangerous allergies, so I can understand the school being reluctant, but there are ways around the problems other than simply excluding the children from lessons.

The point of the article was that his mother, Alice Sherwood, has written a book: the Allergy Free Cookbook (aff), with variants for each recipe including dairy-free, nut-free, gluten-free and egg-free.

We can do gluten free easily enough by now, but the thought of needing to create interesting meals that are also dairy-free and nut-free is a real challenge. I’ll be looking out for this book, perhaps in our local library … in the meantime, I think Alice should talk to the governors of her son’s school, and see if between them they can arrange a better solution to cookery lessons.

I’d love to know what you think! (Alice, are you out there?)