It's Coeliac Week!!
Tuesday 9th May 2017
Do you know a coeliac? There are 1 in 100 of us that suffer from this so the chances are, you do. The condition is unpleasant, with symptoms such as bloating, diarrhoea, nausea, constipation, tiredness, mouth ulcers, hair loss and aneamia. These symptoms occur when a coeliac consumes gluten, which is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. Trying to avoid gluten when you're out and about can be quite a challenge, so much so, this year's Coeliac Awareness Week concentrates on "eating out".
Being Coeliac Awareness week THIS WEEK, I thought I would add a few thoughts. One of my closest friends I grew up with suffers as a Coeliac (once a coeliac, always a coeliac). We have had a laugh in the past at the "running for the toilet" results of a lager laced with wheat, the bag of crisps that the ingredients list hadn't been studied quite hard enough or the coated chips at the pub that hadn't even been considered. But the consequence is serious and the lining of the small intestine is actually damaged.
Coeliac UK is a fantastic association that has been working with supermarkets over the years to increase the availability of gluten-free food in shops. Staple items, such as bread, pasta, cereals, rolls, flours, cereal bars and crackers are now given their own shelf areas in many stores, allowing gluten free shopping to become much easier. I do recall a time in my friend's life where bread on prescription resembling a biscuit, was a firm favourite...at the chemist; I kid you not! So, being out and about at the shops is easier.
So how about restaurants and cafes? I have been out and about on the look out, and when I'm with my friend, I can see some of the issues she sometimes comes across. There are eating establishments who embrace the likelihood of a coeliac, or someone with a sensitivity to wheat, or someone who just wants to avoid wheat (which is on the increase!) entering their doors. A beautifully designed menu, carefully considered with those comforting initials "GF" stamped by the side of a good selection of seasonal, imaginative dishes. These eateries are a joy to visit. However, there are STILL a number of cafes, bars and restaurants that have left any consideration that gluten may be an issue in a pile with bills to pay and jobs to do in a musty, back office somewhere!
It would seem that there are many both savoury and sweet dishes that can cause problems with coeliacs, so please don't just think as long as they don't have the bread with the soup, the pasta with the bolognaise or the cake for dessert, they'll be ok, because there is hidden gluten in many places! How about something as simple as an added tablespoon of flour in a beef stew? Unless you regularly made a cheese sauce, would you think to consider the flour in that? Chinese food with soy sauce (loads of them!), beefburgers (added breadcrumbs), ready made soup, bacon (some smoke flavourings can be from a source of gluten), how about lip balms, makeup, pills, medicines, envelope glue and a multitude of devices and pastes at the dentist!
It would seem being a coeliac is a labour of love, to protect your stomach against attack, keep vigilant, be aware and read, read, read! I applaud the restaurants that provide the gluten free options, in a non-excluded, natural way, that doesn't cause feelings of being "abnormal" or that you are just being an awkward customer! I would make a choice to eat at these places, knowing if they have put such thought in to providing excellent choices no matter what the dietary requirements are, chances are they are proud of their service and the chef beavering away in the back probably is well trained, up to date and sound.
Desserts have always been my love in life and I have always felt a little sorry for my friend over the years, as she has held the menu full of gateaux, pastries and heavenly pies, laden in gluten, to skim over in wonder. The lack of gluten free options for a good old pud has improved over the years, but I do feel they could still be better. Being a coeliac doesn't remove your sweet tooth! I have worked with gluten free baking projects and clients with requests to remove wheat from their diet, and I must say, hand on heart, it IS a challenge. However, producing a mouth watering dessert to finish off a wonderfully gluten free main course, is possible. So is a bread, that goes with the soup (not needing to be supplemented with an extra cost on a set menu!) or a cracker to go with the cheese board.
So, to my Coeliac Friend: This blog is for YOU. And my challenge for this week during Coeliac Awareness Week, that concentrates on eating out? To produce a dessert fit for the menus we found ourselves with last October (you know exactly where we were and what we were up to). Plus, the Eating Plan to join it, coming up! I may just convince you desserts are GOOD!