Sunday 11 May 2014

Free From Food Fair in York & Coeliac Awareness Week

Yesterday I attended a free from food fair hosted in York. This annual food fair is quite well known on the gluten free circuit but this was the first year I had been to it myself.

It was wonderful to explore all the delights on offer, knowing they were suitable for me. I was with a non coeliac who was quite amazed that people were queuing to get in before the event actually opened. I tried to explain the sheer delight and excitement at being able to enter a room and know you could eat everything on offer without having to ask multiple questions first.

There were some of the usual suspects in the gluten free world – Genius, Dietary Specials, Warburtons to name a few as well as some new ones, which are always great to discover. Most were giving away free tasters which is always nice as it means you get to try before you buy.

Delicious Alchemy (love the name) are new to the food show scene. They have been around for a few years but have recently launched a whole range of gluten and dairy free baking mixes, cereals and breads. I love the colourful packaging and the products taste just as delicious as the gluten equivalents I remember. They were giving out samples of some super fudgy brownie made from one of the baking mixes, really intensely chocolaty.

I also had a lovely chat to the people of Hayloft Foods who had a range of fresh soups and chutneys. I bought a jar of the apple & beetroot chutney. It was such a gorgeous colour with real large chunks of apple and beetroot. I loved the beetroot addition; you don’t see enough beetroot things in my opinion.

Fairly Scrumptious were a stall selling a delicious array of cupcakes and slices, which did indeed look fairly scrumptious – wonder how many times they’ve heard that before!?

Al-Ameen was another stand selling honey and bee pollen granules. Honey has many health related properties and I’ve heard of bee pollen but never seen it before. From the sound of it it’s a superfood full of all sorts of B vitamins. I loved its golden colour.

The weather was horrible outside so it was the perfect day to stay safely undercover at the show and enjoy sampling some of the delicious gluten free delights on offer. Anyone else go? It was also the perfect event to attend before the start of Coeliac Awareness Week which runs from 12th – 18th May.

1 in 100 people in the UK are currently diagnosed with coeliac disease (myself included). It is a condition where the person’s immune system detects gluten – the protein found in wheat, rye and barley, as being harmful to the body, which caused the body to react and produce antibodies to fight what it determines to be a poison. This in turn damages the gut of the person with coeliac disease which leads to all sorts of symptoms and other related health issues. There is no cure and the only treatment is a lifelong and strict following of a gluten free diet.

It’s not as simple as just cutting out bread as gluten is used in all sorts of things you may not even realise – soups, sauces, seasonings, sausages, flavourings on crisps, salad dressings, pasta, cous cous, beer, sweeteners on breakfast cereals and bars of chocolate etc. It can appear in the most unlikely of places. Even on things such as bags of prepared salad! There is also the risk of cross contamination to consider meaning you can’t share packs of butter, jam, mayonnaise, toasters, bread boards etc as only tiny amounts of gluten are needed to make a person with coeliac disease ill. So dunking your butter knife into a jar that’s previously been used to make a gluten containing sandwich is a no-no. I know ‘going gluten free’ is starting to be seen as a bit of a fad diet, which is disappointing, as for people like myself who really are coeliac, it is a serious, lifelong and often complicated condition that is not helped by people not taking it seriously or saying they are gluten free and then happily tucking into the office birthday cake!

During coeliac awareness week, as you sit down to a meal, maybe stop and think about the food you are about it eat. Would it be safe for a coeliac to eat? What would you eat instead if you couldn’t have what you were about it eat? How would it affect your everyday life? Which of your favourite foods would now be off the menu? Would you trust your local restaurant to understand and not feed you something containing gluten?

During Coeliac UK awareness week why not try eating gluten free for just one meal a day? Maybe wander down the free from section in your local supermarket (if they even have one) and seeing the types of food on offer. Ask local restaurants about their menu choices or trying baking with some alternative gluten free flours. Thankfully there are now a fantastic range of alternative products on offer, as highlighted in the food show above, meaning missing gluten doesn’t mean missing out!


The Caked Crusader said...

I have no idea how to use bee pollen granules but they just sound lovely - the sort of thing the animals would eat in a Beatrix Potter story!

Gluten Free Alchemist said...

You're right! Free From food fairs are so exciting when you are gluten free. You can gorge on lots of new products without worry! The York one looks a good size....... But I have never seen bee pollen granules!

Choclette said...

This must have been such a treat for you Katie. I used to buy bee pollen quite regularly and always included it with my muesli or had it sprinkled on porridge, but the shop I used to get it closed a couple of years ago an I've not had any since.