Living Gluten Free

Gluten Free Wheelin’ and the Open Road: A musicians perspective

Darius Lux is a rock star—and is also gluten free. I asked him how he manages to live gluten free while on the road… travelling at all is often difficult enough for coeliacs, but how does he manage, travelling the world?

Find out more about Darius, and listen to some of his preview tracks too. I really enjoyed No Problem.

Do you pack food from home?

Absolutely, there is no other way unless I know exactly what is available wherever I am going (which is rarely). A lot of festivals and venues very kindly have food for musicians to eat, but even if it’s really healthy food it will still usually have a lot of gluten in it – I used to wing it and kinda hope to find gluten-free foods but after a while you just don’t want glutens in your body for any reason and so prepping at home is the best.

How easy is it to find food in different countries?

Thats an interesting question, it depends on a lot of factors. I think that South East Asia can be good because there are areas that don’t particularly make their food from the traditional (Western) glutenous staples such as wheat or white flour. They will often have rice as the main carb at almost all meals, and often brown rice is available. As much as I grew up loving Italian food, in Italy it was tough avoiding glutens because so much of their best cuisine is pasta or bread based, tho I have to say I found the food in italy a lot less allergenic than here in the US. I think once you know what your restrictions are you get good at finding what you need mostly anywhere you go. The Australian outback is a tough one too, especially when you really get out into the desert – tho that might warrant trying some of the ancient Aboriginal cuisine such as bugs! Bugs don’t appear to be glutenous LOL.

What is the easiest country (in your experience, as a visitor) to find gluten free food?

Thailand – hands down. Almost everything is rice-based and incredibly delish – even the noodles are rice based, coupled with a strong tradition of reverence in the food preparation and Vegan tendencies of the culture. India too if you can avoid the famous breads, there are still countless curry dishes that pair well with rice.

Any tips for travelling gluten free?

Simplest is to make sure you have a strong staple on you, I often like to keep trail mix and dried fruit handy, they satisfy appetite well and are relatively light to pack and carry – you have to make peace with the fact that you probably wont find what you’re looking for a lot of the time.

Secondly, when I traveled in countries that have less English speakers in them, I would find somebody at the hotel or airport or wherever and have them write a sign for me in their native language explaining my food allergy – this helped a lot along the road in more remote areas and saved a lot of confusion.

What food do you miss (and eat first on returning home!)

My favorite is a rice-based pizza crust with tapioca cheese and roasted veggies on it – the BEST!

Thanks Darius!

Yes! You Can

Which gluten free bread are you eating at the moment?

Maybe you make homemade regularly; maybe you get bread on prescription… but if you buy gluten free bread from a UK supermarket, do try the new Roberts Bakery bread, branded ‘Yes! You Can’.

They do white and brown sliced loaves, and they are really very good indeed.

After my earlier posting, when I found the Yes! You Can loaves unexpectedly in my local supermarket, I was contacted within 3 hours by the General Manager at Frank Roberts & Sons (GF Division). Impressive response times!

He sent us some loaves to try, both white and brown: I think we’ve given them an exhaustive tryout, using the bread at a variety of meals, fresh, toasted, and in recipes such as fish cakes, including in packed lunch sandwiches for daughter’s Duke of Edinburgh expedition – yes, they survived without crumbling!

Apart from the taste, which we like a lot, and the texture, which is soft and pliable without falling apart, the bread has been carefully made to be low in fat. We know this is an on-going issue with gluten free products, and I think this is commendable. The loaves are also wheat free and dairy free – and are made without egg and nuts, though eggs are handled on-site, and nuts are handled by suppliers of ingredients.

Notably, the bread was enjoyed by coeliac and non-coeliac alike: yes, we run a mixed household here.

Do try the bread. You can find the loaves in Tesco and the Co-op across the country: our Tesco had more in yesterday.

They’re made at the Davies Bakery near Chester, which is a dedicated gluten free bakery, and which was bought specifically so that the Roberts Bakery could enter the gluten free market.

There are plans for other products… I’m looking forward to finding out what those might be!

Going for Silver: Gluten Free Expedition

So our coeliac daughter has set off on the first of her Silver Duke of Edinburgh expeditions. She has to do two, each involving 3 days walking and 2 nights camping: one practice, and one for real.

I’ve been watching—with some trepidation—the flash floods, massive thunderstorms and golf-ball-sized hailstorms that much of the country has been dealing with recently. You just have to love England in the summer. I dropped her off this morning in the Peak District and drove off leaving her standing in the rain…

She did the Bronze (two days) last year, and perhaps she’ll do Gold in the future (four days/three sleeps). But whichever the level, the girls have to carry everything they’ll need, including tent, sleeping bag, trangia, fuel and food for the whole of the hike, and navigate for themselves between points.

So what has she packed to eat? Always a key question for coeliacs, and I thought you might be interested to know what she’s chosen:

  • Warburton’s white bread rolls (found in Tesco)
  • Roberts Bakeries Yes! You Can brown sliced bread for sandwiches, with a variety of potential fillings (tuna/cheese/hummous) – Tesco
  • a variety pack of miniature cheeses, each individually wrapped
  • cucumber and satsumas
  • Sakata crackers – because they pack down nicely, which crisps don’t (and Pringles are a no-no these days) – Sainsburys
  • Look What We Found sachets of chili con carne, which will only need heating through – Sainsburys
  • Part-cooked express rice sachets (because they’ll only take 3 minutes to cook)
  • Tesco Belgian Chocolate Wafers
  • plus jelly babies and chocolate

Not ideal nutritionally, but it should keep her going for three days.

Another Northern Baker Enters Gluten Free Market

Just in from a quick dash to Tesco again (I seem to have been to one supermarket or another every day this week) where I found:

  • Genius pains au chocolat (more on these when we’ve tasted them)
  • Roberts ‘Yes! You Can’ brown bread

It’s interesting that yet another mainstream baker has joined the gluten free providers. Roberts Bakery is a northern brand (Cheshire, Staffordshire, the Midlands and North Wales) and is probably Frank Roberts & Sons primary bread brand. One of their newer acquisitions (2010) was P&A Davies, from Chester, now known as Davies Bakery, and which specialises in gluten free products.

Curiously, the new gluten free bread is branded as Roberts Bakery bread, not Davies Bakery.

I haven’t managed to find much online about this new bread—not much more than a trademark submission from the Intellectual Property Office in early 2012. The Products/Gluten Free page of the Roberts website is blank, and I haven’t found any press releases. I wonder if the bread on the shelf in my local Tesco is part of a trial?

And… don’t you think it’s interesting that this is the second major northern baker to offer gluten free bread? I wonder what Allied Bakeries and Premier Foods are working on?

Two and a Half Cheers for Tesco Free From

Have you spotted the gluten free ready meals from Tesco yet?

We came across them almost by accident; I don’t usually go down that aisle in the store, because I don’t usually buy ready meals (too expensive to feed five of us on ready meals), and even if I did, I wouldn’t expect anything to be gluten free.

But I found these when I placed an order online:

  • Free From three cheese fusilli pasta bake
  • Free From chicken and bacon pasta bake
  • Free From beef lasagne
  • Free From beef and dumplings
  • and Free From spaghetti bolognaise.

Did I miss something? Or did these just sneak in without much publicity? I even chatted to the Tesco Free From brand people at the recent Free From Foods Awards event, and they were all about the Free From dairy-free products, and didn’t even mention these…

No matter: we’ve tasted the first two on this list, and the beef lasagne is in the freezer (it was on special offer, yay!). And… she liked them!

I probably won’t buy them very often, because of the cost, and because I prefer to cook a meal we can all eat. However, it is great to know that they are there, and they’ll be a good fallback for the occasional evening. Or, of course, if one of her friends wants to invite her round to eat, and needs something easy to feed her.

So, two and a half cheers. Not three, because it seems to me that Tesco is struggling with communications. Not only was I not aware of these… why not, Tesco? You know that I buy Free From goods; you have my email address; you print out coupons for me when I go to the store. Where’s the message? A mailshot to all of those of us who buy free from products would be easy enough, surely.

But also: when I visited our local store this week, there was a mysterious Tesco sign up on the Free From shelves saying ‘Visit our Bakery for more Free From products’.

There’s nothing like the hint of new products to get me excited, so I trotted over to Bakery to ask them about it. Naturally enough, they said ‘no, we don’t do Free From in Bakery’. And customer services didn’t know anything about it; and nor did the deputy manager. ‘Come back next time’ they said ‘we’ll find out’.

So I went back (sign still there) and asked again. Still, nobody knew anything about it. ‘It must have been meant for a bigger store’, they said. But SOMEONE put the sign there; someone is planning Free From products in the Bakery aisle. Why don’t the brand people tell the stores?

Anyone know anything about these mystery products? And… if you’ve tried the Tesco Free From ready meals, let us know what you think!