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Everyone at ‘Home of the House Proud’ is delighted to bring you the latest guest blog post from our lovely coeliac ambassador Karin Joyce (@CafeBebe). In today’s blog post, Karin tells us how she deals with food and eating when out and about:
Living a gluten-free life is very manageable and will eventually become second nature. You’ll begin to know what you can and can’t buy, where the hidden gluten can be found and what works and doesn’t work in recipes. I refer quite often to Coeliac UK’s Food and Drink Guide which is exceptionally useful. I find that if I have a question about something it’s perhaps best avoided until I can get a concrete answer or can research it properly. I have been known to Google to see if something is gluten-free or not, however. This is not always the best method of research but sometimes needs, must!
Grocery shopping and cooking in your own kitchen are situations that are relatively easy to control. When you are cooking the recipe you know exactly what has gone into it because you are the one making it. I find that eating out and about and even in family member’s homes provides an entirely different challenge. My mother-in-law makes us dinner every Wednesday. They are a fairly traditional English family…meat, potato and veg. My father-in-law is quite set in his ways and doesn’t like pasta or rice so the choices are somewhat limited. This might seem like it would be easier but it’s not. Gravy, pre-made roast potatoes and other ready-made meals have provided a real dining challenge for me at their home. I have finally convinced my mother-in-law that using Bisto Best gravy granules is ok (they are gluten-free) and cornflour is not the enemy when attempting to thicken sauces. She is learning but it’s still a process that finds me eating more veg and mashed potatoes than I would like. I usually end up having an after-dinner snack at home quite frequently.
The past few weeks I have been out and about more often and have been forced to realise that eating gluten-free is a real challenge. My default choice tends to be a jacket potato with baked beans (as long as they’re Heinz or another gluten-free option). This becomes a bit boring but at least I know I am safe. I have also learned the hard way that eating a bog-standard menu item without requesting gluten-free changes is a big mistake. Instead of ordering scrambled eggs on their own without any bread near them, I instead ordered the standard option of scrambled eggs on granary bread. I thought that scraping the eggs off the bread would be sufficient. Within five minutes of eating the eggs (which were delicious), I began to have cramps in my stomach. I spent the end of the weekend very ill and being able to keep very little food in me. I believe that was a gluten reaction. At the time I had been eating gluten-free for seven weeks and my system was not pleased with the re-introduction of gluten and let me know it. I will not make this mistake again and will instead make sure to request the necessary modifications for a coeliac.
Over the weekend I struggled mightily, finding a café or restaurant which could provide gluten-free options. When we finally settled on a restaurant that specialised in pies but had jacket potatoes on the menu, we thought all would be fine. We ordered pies for my husband, daughter and niece and then asked for a jacket potato for me. We were then told that they had just sold out! I had no choice but to eat NOTHING! I was starving as well! I watched everyone eat (a 2 year old is not going to wait for a gluten-free restaurant!) and we eventually found a Sainsbury’s later where I was able to get a salad and some rice cakes to serve as my lunch. It was a very frustrating outing where I realised that gluten-free diets are still a relatively new thing. There are restaurants that are making an effort but it is difficult to find easy options on the High Street.
I am learning that it’s best to have a few things stashed in your handbag in order to keep hunger at bay. There are several stores on the High Street that are starting to offer gluten-free sandwiches but I am finding that the prices, as with most gluten-free options, are extortionate. Marks and Spencer has just launched several gluten-free sandwiches but the sandwich is VERY small and cost around £3.50 which is quite high. You end up paying for the convenience which is a bit unfortunate. If you know ahead of time that your gluten-free choices will be limited, make a gluten-free sandwich to take along or pack some of your favourite GF snacks to tide you over until you can eat a proper meal. Coeliac disease is becoming more prevalent (1 in every 50 Britons has Coeliac disease) but until we start shouting a bit, it will take a while until our choices are greater.
If you have some good experiences with “High Street” restaurants and café chains that are catering to coeliac needs, please share them in the comments below.
My name is Karin Joyce and I am a freelance writer and parent blogger. I am the author of Cafe Bebe, a parenting website where I share my adventures in motherhood, marriage, mealtimes and moi. I am the mother of an energetic and entertaining two year old and the wife of an Englishman who is fully supportive of my coeliac diagnosis. I will be a regular contributor to Morphy Richards ‘Home of the House Proud’ where I will share posts, tips, recipes and reviews.