Living with food allergies
I grew up in the 80s, long before the days of The Paleo Diet and other widely recognised gluten-free diets became almost mainstream. There were no “free-from” aisles in the Supermarkets; no warning labels on food packaging next to the ingredients list that said, “not suitable for wheat allergy sufferers or coeliacs”. As a result, I am happily amazed at the growing popularity and choice of products in mainstream stores that are gluten, wheat, dairy and egg free. This is a double win – it benefits people with restricted diets due to allergy and it also makes it much easier for people to engage in diets that make them feel good, be that Paleo, Atkins, or whatever. My childhood was a very happy one but not a very healthy one. I had frequent, severe allergic reactions and was under the care of Sheffield Children’s Hospital as an outpatient until I turned 16. The early years were very tough for my parents and now that I’m a father, I can relate even more to what they went through. Imagine the situation back then - your child is ill when he eats, you are nervous to try new solid foods because of the potential for frightening reactions like anaphylactic shock. The Children’s Hospital were brilliant, supportive and caring and yes, curious about me too. I remember lots of PhD students being in my consultation rooms over the years. I hope it helped! My diet was, and is, quite restricted. I have allergic reactions to eggs, dairy, fish, seafood, poultry, wheat, oats, barley, rye, potatoes, and am gluten intolerant. This means two things, principally. Firstly, I have had to learn to cook and adapt recipes from an early age so that I can maintain a varied, balanced and healthy diet that has flavour and joy in it. Secondly, I’ve had to grow accustomed to missing out on most of the things that feature highly on favourite food lists. Now, I don’t want to paint a picture of a sob story here – it’s not about me sitting forlornly at the table when the Christmas Pudding arrives or moping through another birthday party that ends with me blowing the candle out on a melon slice. There were always "special" cakes or biscuits that my mum would make for me, and the family and invited guests would go out of their way to tell me that the cake they were sharing with me didn't actually taste like wet sand at all (sorry mum I know you tried!) and that it was just like - if not better than- the real thing! Bless 'em.
Things have, thankfully, got a bit more palatable in recent years, with most of the supermarket chains expanding their free-from ranges significantly. That is something I am really glad to see, and I wish that my parents had been able to shop back when I was a child with the degree of confidence that this trend has afforded. However, most of the items are quite sweet or use ingredients that are still no good for me or others with complex dietary needs. Potato starch and eggs still feature prominently. Gluten free oats are fine for many, but for others it is the oats that are the problem - gluten free or not. Some things are wheat free but not dairy free. Every time a new product is added to their lines I find myself reading the ingredients to double check that I can or can't eat it. It is notable that the ingredients lists on a lot of these products are quite long...
So, when Becca began experimenting with gluten, wheat, egg and dairy free baking, I braced myself for more textures of grit and sand. At first, there were a fair few mishaps and misadventures. But I've honestly been massively impressed with the way the recipes came together over time and, as I write this enjoying a coconut macaroon and a cup of coffee, I can proudly tell you that I think she's really done it. Becca has made delicious, easy to bake mixes with wholesome ingredients that fit a range of dietary needs. But most importantly they fulfil our need for something delicious and pleasurable to eat. And now when a batch comes out of the oven, there is no mistake - nobody telling us that these delicious treats are just as good as "the real thing". They are the real thing....and give my family 5 minutes and they will gladly scoff the lot!
I really hope that our mixes fill your homes with delicious home-baked aromas and put a smile on your face. Now....where did those macaroons go?
With all best wishes to you and yours,