Living Gluten Free

Gluten Free Student: Sandwiches

gluten-free-student
We’ve visited nearly 20 universities over the last two years, so that coeliac daughter (and her sister) could identify her favourite five to apply to. (In case you don’t know, the system in the UK is that you apply to five universities, wait/hope for offers of places to roll in, and select one from your set of offers as a ‘firm’ choice and one as a ‘reserve’ – then you wait to see whether you achieve the grades demanded by your chosen universities).

One of the things we looked for – apart from the obvious ones about the course and the university – was how easy it was to eat gluten free.

Here are the very unscientific and incomplete results of some of our expeditions around the country.

  • At Nottingham, we discovered that readymade and wrapped gluten free sandwiches were available for sale on campus. Daughter ate two. We were pleased to find that these were standard fare on the shelves.
  • At Lancaster, she had gluten free rolls alongside a cold collation (meat and salads). They were down to their last gluten free roll when we arrived, and were talking about going to another outlet on campus to get more, so they obviously were aware of the need to supply gluten free food. We were pleased by the concern shown by the staff that they might not have enough.
  • At Leicester, gluten free sandwiches are usually available in the main shop in the – very nice – student union. They weren’t available on the day we went to visit because the students were on holiday (though they did have 7,000 visitors on that day, so I think they missed a trick there). We were pleased that everyone we asked knew where we could (usually) find them.
  • And at the University of East Anglia, when I asked one of the academic staff where we could find gluten free food on campus, he not only escorted us to the main cafe, he asked the staff for advice – and the chef came out to discuss options with us. Apparently there are always gluten free hot meal options as well as lighter meals. We were amazed by their kindness.

She’ll be going self-catered, because it’s usually easier – and much more usual these days – but at Leicester there is still quite a lot of catered accommodation, and they made it very clear that they catered for gluten free diets as well as other special diets.

All in all, I found it reassuring; gluten free diets are increasingly well catered for. It is astonishing to remember that when I went to university back in the olden days, even my (these days quite normal) vegetarian diet was tricky…

Are you a gluten free student – or perhaps, like me, the parent of a gluten free student? How easy are you finding the gluten free diet at university?

Gluten Free Student Starter Pack

student-university
Big weekend for us coming up… coeliac daughter heads off to university to start her first year.

She’ll be in self-catering accommodation, because that just seems easier for her, though the university does say it can cater for coeliacs. We’ve already spotted a café on campus that serves gluten free food, and a gluten free fish and chip shop in town (she does love gluten free fish and chips…)

We’ve equipped her with an endless list of stuff: pots, pans, plates, knives, airer, cleaning products, pens, post-its… even down to a door wedge, which is, apparently, essential equipment for making friends.

She’s registered with a doctor on campus, and we’ve discussed signing up for a prescription season ticket (which she will do once she’s too old to receive free prescriptions).

She’s practiced cooking a variety of meals, including things like risotto, fish pie, chili and macaroni cheese – and was baking again today. They’re going to be well supplied for gluten free chocolate brownies…

And of course we’ve organised a student starter food pack. This includes:

Grocery items:

  • Salt, pepper, chili powder
  • olive oil, sunflower oil, white wine vinegar
  • sweet chili sauce, gluten free soy sauce
  • tomato puree and cartons of chopped tomatoes
  • stock
  • cornflour
  • tea, coffee, sugar
  • butter, milk, cheese
  • orange juice
  • jam, chocolate spread
  • Salute gluten free pasta
  • Tesco’s gluten free couscous
  • rice: arborio and basmati
  • pulses: red lentils and kidney beans
  • a few tins/jars: tuna / ready made pasta sauce and balti / tikka masala sauce
  • some fruit and vegetables, including onions and garlic

Prescription items:

  • Juvela pasta
  • Wellfoods flour
  • Juvela buns

And specifically gluten free products, mostly bread and treats:

Breakfast:

  • UDI’s bagels – she likes the chocolate chip ones best for breakfast, though there are other flavours, including plain, and the new multi-seeded ones (good for lunches)
  • UDI’s apple breakfast bars (these are new, and a little like fig rolls – yum!)
  • Nestle’s gluten free honey cornflakes – we’ve not seen these before, so this is an experiment

Lunch (we expect she’ll be making up packed lunches most of the time)

  • Sainsbury’s gluten free baguettes
  • Warburton’s gluten free thins

Sweet treats

  • Tesco’s chocolate wafers
  • Sainsbury’s mini chocolate logs

Mixes

Savoury treats

  • Tesco’s salt and vinegar Chipz

Now I look at it, it is a long list!

She’ll need to buy meat and fish when she gets there, but she should have enough provisions for a few meals, as well as enough basics to get her through a few weeks.

So tell me, what have we forgotten to do, or to pack? What would you take?

Review: Healthier Gluten-Free

healthier-gluten-free-sLisa Howard recently sent me an early copy of her new book, Healthier Gluten-Free to have a look at – and it does look delicious!

And: it’s finally out here in the UK – published today.

It’s aimed at anyone interested in healthier eating and/or avoiding gluten, and is in three parts:

  • the first discusses going gluten-free, with a useful list of wheat variants to look out for (something people sometimes find confusing).
  • the second discusses the importance of ‘whole-grain’ to a healthy diet, and includes:
    • a fascinating discussion of flours: their taste, and their best use. This includes a whole range of flours I’ve never thought of using, such as poppy seed, acorn or coconut flour – interesting.
    • discussion of different milks and dairy products, and of eggs, oils and sweeteners (again, including unusual ones such as yacon syrup and sucanat – I’m going to have to hunt some of these fascinating ingredients down…)
    • advice on which flours would work well in various dishes: for example, she advises using a mild medium-starch flour such as brown rice flour in shortbread, or starchy flours such as potato or sticky rice flour in dumplings.
  • and the third part is six chapters of recipes: breakfast, hand-held meals, salads and pilafs, appetizers and snacks, and finally baking.

    Some of these are twists on classic recipes, and many are definitely going to be on my list to try out, starting with:

    • goats cheese & walnut scones with pears
    • goats cheese, fig and caramelised onion pizza
    • pear, walnut and gorgonzola salad
    • halloumi & grape salad
    • parmesan-battered fish and chips
    • almond-dusted crab cakes
    • cumin-scented guacamole
    • baked brie with homemade berry jam

    Theres more, much more: these were just the ones that caught my eye and made me peckish – and now that I look at the list, I’m obviously craving some cheese!

It’s written in a light and friendly tone, full of sidebars and summaries, with good explanation of technical matters – the section about leavening agents is excellent.

gfreefrittata-healthier-gfNote that it is written for an American audience, so ingredients (such as types of cream) and brands (such as Grainaissance or Aunt Jemima’s) may not be the same as in your country, and do check everything you buy – for example, tortillas almost inevitably contain wheat flour here in the UK unless you make your own or buy from a specialist.

The book is dedicated to Lisa’s mother, and there are many elements in the book that remind me of my own, sadly missed, mother, who also kept every butter-wrapper for greasing cake tins, and who once memorably repurposed one of my childhood baking disasters as Resurrection Cake.

Eating Gluten Free and Rule 17b

rule-17bEvery family has its own traditions and in-jokes. One of ours is Rule 17b.

When my children were little, and we were trying to teach them acceptable table manners, the number of rules about what they should/shouldn’t do at the table seemed to get ever longer.

Rule 17b came about as a joke rule—something to do with not-deliberately-humming-in-a-way-that-annoys-your-sister-at-the-table—and is now used as a general hint about behaviour.

One of the rules that my sister has is that no-one should be rude about anyone else’s food. As an experienced foster-mother, she’s dealt with a lot of children with a variety of food-related and behavioural issues, and I was impressed by this rule when I first heard her invoke it.

I wished I could have used it the other day. My coeliac daughter—a Young Leader at Guides—was eating, picnic style, with her group of Guides, and one of them commented on her food:

“Oh yes, I used to have to eat gluten-free. It’s disgusting, isn’t it?”

Hmm. My daughter has a core of steel, and wasn’t affected – but someone younger, more recently diagnosed, or struggling with the diet might have found this kind of comment very hard to deal with. Especially from someone who presumably has experienced the difficulties of a special diet – and who was certainly old enough to know better.

Definitely a call for Rule 17b, which may need to be rewritten:

“No-one should be rude about anyone else’s food.”

Coeliac Disease: from Child to Adult

child-to-adult
We recently got involved in a clinical research study that researchers at Birmingham University are carrying out, looking at the transition from Child to Adult Services in the NHS.

My daughter and I were interviewed for about an hour each (separately) about everything from her diagnosis all those years ago, through the care provided by Child Services, all the way to how we thought the transition to Adult Services had been handled. The researchers will compile the results from a whole series of paired interviews – we were one of the early pairs.

It was a very interesting process; while living with coeliac disease, in our experience at least, we just get on with life, and don’t really think about or discuss CD very much. It was good to sit down with somebody and go through it all, how we manage it, and how we feel about it.

It was also surprisingly emotional – for me at least – remembering how I felt when my one-year-old switched to a gluten free diet and started eating again.

It was also interesting to think through the transition process, and to realise that my daughter didn’t, in fact, get what we were told would happen – a referral to an adult gastroenterology clinic – and that there had been some communication failures. I’m looking forward to seeing the results of the study.

Of course, as we all know, the way the NHS functions is not consistent across the country, and each coeliac’s experience is different. If you are a young person diagnosed before you were 14 and who has recently been moved from Child Services to Adult Services, the research team are still recruiting volunteers, and may be interested in hearing your story. You can find out more on the Coeliac UK site