This is possibly the longest post I’ve ever written but I hope you’ll read it all.
I decided to add a new category to my posts – gluten-free (GF). I was diagnosed as having coeliac disease nearly eighteen years ago and although I still get an occasional yearning for ‘real’ bread, I’m actually more than happy to stick to a gluten-free diet because the long-term ramifications of not doing so outweigh any yumminess that my memory (wrongly) tells me I’ll get from eating gluten. GF foods are expensive to buy, but in the UK a certain amount is allowed on prescription. I don’t care for some of the brands that the NHS offers, and a few of the available products are things that I just don’t eat so I buy a limited number of convenience GF foods and occasionally bake from scratch at home.
There’s a wealth of gluten-free blogs and websites and I’ve looked at hundreds of them, mainly in the hunt for a decent bread or pitta recipe and I’m still hunting. The majority of sites are American and I’ve gotten used to translating their recipe measurements to British equivalents, (like the stick of butter*) but it can be disappointing to come across what might be ‘the best GF recipe ever’ only to discover that I can’t buy a necessary ingredient in my area and by the time I have actually sourced it I’ve usually forgotten what it was that I wanted to bake.
As a coeliac who’s also an insulin-dependent diabetic, I have to consider not only that my food is GF but also the carbohydrate and sugar content because those are mainly what will affect my blood glucose levels and therefore dictate the amount of insulin I inject. Consequently, cakes, biscuits, and sweets are reserved for occasional treats or an emergency glucose boost, and while a decent-sized slice of bread is a thing that my culinary dreams are made of, I am ever optimistic of finding GF bread that actually has flavour to my liking and doesn’t distintegrate as soon as a buttery knife comes over the horizon. If I could make decent GF bread and pitta myself then heaven for athiests would surely be possible.
Eating out as a coeliac diabetic is limiting and frustrating. Anything to accompany tea or coffee is a major challenge. GF offerings are generally limited to three options – smothered in chocolate, heavily laden with fruit, or both, so while the coeliac part of me is catered for, the diabetic part isn’t and the item therefore dismissed. When it comes to a main course, there are always gluten-free items available but if there are no accompanying carbs the selection for me is restricted yet again. GF pasta, breads and pitta are generally absent from most menus so I end up with plain rice (sauces are a minefield), or potatoes in one form or another. Boring. On retail therapy days out, I normally take a GF pitta that I’ve toasted and lightly buttered at breakfast time and that together with a bowl of soup is lunch. The GF choices for type 1 diabetics are certainly few and far between and although I’m used to this now, it doesn’t mean that it no longer bugs me.
From magazine articles and television programmes, I learn that more and more people are turning to GF food and whilst this may be nothing more than a fad for some, we coeliacs have no alternative, but if the demand for GF food continues to rise, perhaps the availability will too. If eateries want more custom, they need to provide more choice. They could, for example, store GF bread and pittas (and scones etc.) in their freezers and defrost each when required. I always toast GF bread and pitta from frozen without defrosting first.
An alternative to the usual poor choice was offered by my local Waitrose’ supermarket cafe recently – the assistant at the counter said if I wanted a GF product to accompany my cuppa and it was being sold in the store, someone would get it for me. I didn’t test this offer as I had not yet shopped so couldn’t actually think of anything but at least they were willing to offer more than just the fruit and/or chocolate laden alternatives at the till. On the other hand, it’s thumbs down to my local Sainsbury branch for leaving the label for an especially tasty brown GF pitta (that I’d been buying for more than a year) still showing for more than two months after I first noticed it was missing. After several unsatisfactory head office responses to my enquiries, I was finally told that the product had been discontinued, but not why, and it still took the store another month or so to remove the label from the shelf. Grrrrrr!
If I’ve only previously briefly mentioned in past posts that I’m a coeliac, it’s because it’s just something else that I’ve learned to live with and I’m not looking for a sympathy vote by mentioning it today. Adding it as a new category was prompted by a post at The Petit Kitchen where Miss Preece is on the hunt for fellow UK food bloggers and whilst food is not principally what my blog is about, it did get me wondering why I couldn’t post an occasional GF recipe that I’d tried, or a handy tip or two related to the cooking and eating of GF foods. I’ve got nothing to lose and there might be a fellow coeliac out there who’d be glad of the information so here goes nothing! Additionally, if you know of any good GF recipes or hints and tips that you’d like to share, let me know.
*a stick of butter = 4 ounces (or approximately 113 grams if you’re a lot younger than me!)