Fish Punk

I've mentioned before how much I LOOOOOOVEEE hot chips. MMMM ... 

But they're kind of hard to find, which is odd since potatoes are gluten-free. The problem however is two-fold: cross-contamination from gluteny products in the cooking oil, and chips that are more than just potato and oil (e.g. flavourings and coatings).

Recently while driving home from work I noticed a new kid on the block - Fish Punk located on Grey Street, Hamilton. This is not your average takeaways. The outside is decorated street-art style with spray paint branding, and corrugated iron. Once you step in you're greeted by the entire staff hollering "Fish Punk!" at you. It sounds a bit scary, but it feels like a big friendly hug hello.

The menu for gluteys is extensive, and if you explain your allergy requirements they're super careful with handling and cooking.  

After trying yoga for the first time recently, I treated us to dinner (you can dine-in, or takeaway - I chose takeaway because #Television). And, for the first time in years I had a burger and chips. OMG a burger! It was amazing! And I can happily report, there were no food allergy issues - hoorah! My husband had a normal person burger and also reported deliciousness.

Tonight we're going again and I'm not gonna lie, I've been thinking about dinner ALL day. ALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL ... day.

Check out the noms for yourself.

 

 

 

Guest post: Feeding the intolerant

Feeding friends with food related CIA*s

(CIA = Conditions/Intolerances/Allergies)

Guest post by Janine Williams
 

Janine is one of the best people I know. She also happens to be a whiz in the kitchen and supporter for all us food challenged folk. Here's a guest post Janine wrote for me about her experiences cooking for friends with "CIA*s = conditions/intolerances/allergies" (haha, i love this acronymn by the way Janine!).

When I was a kid, my brother had a dairy intolerance (although this was the 80s so we called it an allergy not really understanding the difference. He grew out of it.) It resulted in our entire family going dairy-free. I remember just accepting it as part of my life, as it didn’t impact me, really – I was only eight and I wasn’t the one in the kitchen trying to figure out recipes or substitutes for dairy-containing ingredients, and my mum still kept baking and didn’t make a big deal of it at all. She just got on and dealt with it for the health of her child.

Her attitude has resulted in an adult (me), who accepts my friends’ food related CIAs with alacrity, along with the friends of my kids. I cater for them as best I can and am pretty horrified if they inform me after I’ve baked something tasty that they cannot partake in, that I did not have something that was just as nommy for them to eat so I always ask before I intend to bake with intent. (When my kids turned four (yes, I have twins) I made one cake GF as there were a couple of diagnosed coeliac children at their day care – I didn’t want them missing out on birthday cake so I just ensured one was GF. To me it’s just this simple.) 

Gluten-free thai beef salad

Gluten-free thai beef salad

 

When I have hosted my vegan friends for a BBQ, I kept all the packaging of the products – because I am not offended if they want to double check my word that what they are about to eat isn’t going against what they want or need to put into their bodies to fuel them (even if the idea of myself ever being vegan horrifies me!) I offer them the oven/stove inside to cook their meat-replacement so it doesn’t have to touch the BBQ. I offer to clean the already clean pan so they know that they are supported in their choices. They probably think I am over-the-top. They’re probably right, but I’d rather that then them feeling awkward or difficult because they need or want to ask.

So when I cook or bake with intent for my CIA friends (now they will know how cool they actually are in my head because my secret name for them is out), I double check with them, I don’t assume. 

Their diets change to meet their bodies changing needs, and honestly, if they’re avoiding all eggs, sugar and dairy, the last thing they’re likely to want is me waving some chocolate mousse in front of them. But if they are coming around and I know they are coming, I will bend over backwards. Making pancakes? One batch of pancake mix is gluten free and gets cooked in a separate pan with separate utensils – to me when you’re cooking doing the little extra just isn’t that much more effort.

When I bake, I usually bake all day, tripling and quadrupling recipes as I go (all the while dreaming of a chest freezer). If I am going to do GF baking, I do that first. I clean my kitchen thoroughly. I then clean my mixer – because it’s usually covered in wheat flour from my last baking time and the last thing I want to do when trying to do something nice for friends, is for it to backfire horribly. And they’d probably be too nice to tell me anyway. So I take extra precautions, and by ensuring the GF baking is done first and then removed out of the kitchen when done I hopefully limit cross contamination as much as I can.

Baking has always been something ‘easy’ for me – I know it’s not for everyone. So already being in the kitchen cooking from a young age, altering recipes isn’t a daunting task for me. However in saying that I find going gluten free the easiest when I bake – the Healtheries Gluten Free Baking mix has never steered me wrong with replacing any recipe 1-for-1 with it. Annabel Langbein, Jo Seager, Jamie Oliver – none have been spared my heavy-handedness with replacing ingredients.

For some friends I admit defeat – no, I have not found nor created a recipe that is sugar, egg, gluten and dairy free. I am not saying they do not exist, I’m just not dedicated enough (nor rich enough) to go and acquire all the necessary ingredients to make it so. Fortunately my CIA friends are awesome and have never made me feel bad for being unable to provide food for them when caught unexpectedly. (They are usually well prepared and have their own noms in a cute little bag). For three years my boss was a coeliac (no, he didn’t suddenly become cured, I acquired a new boss), so I would also make sure any baking I brought into work was also gluten free. He was always very appreciative and no-one else ever noticed the difference.

Cooking dinners for CIA friends is straight forward. Just don’t use what they can’t eat. (I know that sounds simple but I have come across some really ignorant people and feel like it needs to be spelled out). My mother-in-law cannot eat capsaicin or too many tomatoes, so either these get left out, placed in big enough pieces so that she can pick them out (she is fine with that by the way, I have asked!), or I put them in a dish to the side. I just ask. If I have enough advanced notice, I send through the recipe and tell them what my plan is and again ask. If you’re going to do something, you might as well do it properly. For me it is just second nature and an additional facet of being a good host; coupled with being a considerate friend or family member.

Dinsdale Bin Inn (Land of Noms)

Last night I had the opportunity to chat to Alison Short, owner of

Dinsdale Bin Inn

(Hamilton).

Holy smoke, this Bin Inn is fantastic for us allergy-affected folk!

Alison's built a fantastic range of

gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free, sugar-free and organic products

These aren't just the products you'll find at the supermarket either. There's some really yummy options here, and a lot of food options that I haven't seen anywhere else <ooh

Pana chocolate

!!!>.

Alison let me interrupt her busy

evening to take her photo - thanks Alison!

Alison really knows her products too, and is passionate about providing high-quality allergy-friendly products to her growing customer base.

So why the interest in allergy-free food?

Alison's son was diagnosed with Autism at the age of two. Like many autistic families, she was interested to learn about the impact that gluten can have on autism (I'll talk more about that in a later blog post). Her son's health dramatically improved on a gluten-free diet, and she has been committed to improving his health through diet ever since.

One of the fab things about Dinsdale Bin Inn is the range of gluten-free flours. So you can still buy in bulk, but without the worry of contamination. Gluten-free flours are stored away from gluteny flours to prevent cross-contamination (bonus!)

Aside from food you'll find the usual Bin Inn staples in store - bulk bird feed, brewing ingredients, cleaning products etc. and you'll find an ever-increasing range of environmentally friendly products, and organic therapeutic and beauty products.

Alison says in the near future she'll be bringing in a range of allergy-friendly breads and increasing her range of organic products.

Such a great store! Check it out guys!

P.S. If you're looking for

gluten-free, dairy-free chocolate advent calendars

, you'll find these at Dinsdale Bin Inn right now!

Gluten, dairy and egg-free protein powder

Specialist grains and other magical ingredients

OMG gluten-free chips!

Gluten-free flours tucked away in their special gluten-free area.

An open letter to supermarkets about allergy-free food

It's fantastic to see so many allergy-free foods making their way into supermarkets. #WeLOVEtheNoms #ThankYou.

However, with the increase in allergy-free foods, there's a need for supermarket owners and staff to quickly get up to speed on the dangers of cross-contamination.

What is cross-contamination?

When allergy-free food comes into contact with allergic contaminants during preparation, storage or serving we call this cross-contamination.

In essence, although the food may initially be 'allergy-free' if it comes into contact with allergic contaminants, it's no longer allergy-free and can make us allergic-folk really sick.

For example, french fries may be naturally gluten-free, but if you cook them in the same vat of oil that has been used to fry crumbed fish, the french fries are no longer gluten-free.

Cross-contamination is a real hassle for allergic-folk because even a small amount of our allergic nemeses can make us sick. And most people handling our allergy-free products are unaware of the dangers of cross-contamination

What's going on in supermarkets?

Strolling through local supermarkets, reading discussions online, and talking to my allergic-buddies I've noticed some major causes for concern.

Have you noticed how many gluten-free foods are stored right next to regular gluteny products? Quite a few!

This wouldn't be a problem if all packaging secured it's contents in a way that there wasn't leakage, but that's not the case.

Weetbix for example, should not be stored right next to Gluten-free Weetbix. Those boxes are notorious for leaking crumbs everywhere (those yummy crumbs are part of the appeal of eating weet-bix afterall). 

Gluten-free flour does not belong on the same shelf as regular flour for the same reason.

That's not to say that cross-contamination is definitely happening in supermarkets, but if foods aren't properly handled, there's a definite risk of cross-contamination occurring.

It's not just crumbs that are a problem

Anyone who walks down the baking goods aisle of a supermarket knows the distinctive smell of flour. It's in the air because flour bags are notorious for leaking, that's why we can smell it so easily. Mmmm ... the sweet smell of wheat flour (said no glutey ever).

Inhaling gluten can cause a reaction in some gluteys* so browsing the gluten-free products in the same aisle as the flour is not the best experience for those of us trying to maintain our health.

How to avoid cross-contamination in a supermarket

  • Move baking ingredients (especially flour) into a separate aisle to allergy-free foods.
  • Ensure all allergy-free foods are stored and displayed securely away from allergy-containing foods that could potentially contaminate product.
  • Train staff to ensure safe allergy-free food handling

All of us allergic-folk are incredibly grateful to see more and more products in store that we can eat. A few small changes could ensure we're safer and would be much appreciated.

Thanks so much guys!

Peace,

Gluteygirl

* Source: http://celiacdisease.about.com/od/Coping_with_Celiac_Disease/f/Inhaling-Airborne-Gluten.htm

Children with food allergies ... part one

Something that I've been thinking about lately is babies. Cute, pudgy cheeked munchkins with my curls and outgoing nature, and my husband’s long eyelashes, gingery colouring, and sharp sense of humour. 

Our children will be beautiful, smart, funny and all round great girls/guys <I’m already biased in their favour>.

Being of the glutey persuasion, something we need to plan for is the likelihood of our children having food allergies. 

There’s a bit of debate about allergies and whether they are caused by genetic or environmental factors, or a combination of both. One thing that the research does show though is that parents with food allergies are more likely to have children with food allergies.

Being a carrier of the Coeliac marker gene, chances are that our children will also be Coeliacs or at least carry the gene.

With that in mind, I've been talking to parents of allergic children to hear their story – how they manage on a day-to-day basis and their pathway to diagnosis. There’s lots to talk about, so I’ll spread the posts over a few weeks.

Anyway, let’s start.

How do you know if your child has food allergies or intolerances?

The symptoms of a food allergy do not always appear to be gut related on the surface, which can make diagnosis really tricky. Symptoms vary from mild to severe, even life-threatening.

Cale - happy and healthy on his allergy-free diet

Mother of two, Jenaya hadn't had any experience with food allergies until the birth of her youngest son “Cale was unsettled pretty much from birth.  He was constantly squirming in pain, would scream at night time with stomach cramps/pains.  Had chronic wind problems. Irregular bowel motions and ‘Allergic shiners’ all the time.  

"There were obvious signs of discomfort during day and night and he developed a rash on his face.  Once I had introduced formula (the cows milk protein kind) he constantly had bronchiolitis and chest/throat infections.” Cale was eventually diagnosed with food intolerances to gluten, egg, dairy, soy and food colourings.

Catherine has two children with severe food allergies, their symptoms were quite different to those described by Jenaya, and could be life threatening. “They start coughing as their throat closes, intense hives and itching, swelling and redness occurs.” This response to food is typical of an anaphylactic reaction, which requires close monitoring and use of an epi-pen to prevent asphyxiation.

Not sure if your child has a problem with food? Here’s a short list of just some of the signs that your child could have an allergy:

  • Hives or welts
  • Flushed skin or rash
  • Face, tongue, or lip swelling
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhoea
  • Coughing or wheezing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Drop in blood pressure
  • Urinary infections
  • Eczema
  • Itchy mouth or ear canal
  • Odd taste in mouth

And more …

Take care out there folks, look after your children’s health as well as your own!

Note: The symptoms described above can also be signs of other health issues, so make sure you see a pediatrician rather than self-diagnosing, and don’t adjust your child’s diet without talking to a medical professional.

References:

http://www.foodallergy.org/symptoms 

http://www.babycenter.com/0_food-allergies_12409.bc

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16476197

http://kidshealth.org/parent/medical/allergies/allergy.html

http://www.celiaccentral.org/riskfactors/

Only wealthy people have food allergies ...

Have you seen those Pak'n'Save ads at the moment for bread under $1?

Pretty sweet deal eh?

The average cost of gluten-free bread in the UK is approximately three times the cost of regular bread, a trend comparable to New Zealand.

The stick man can kiss my glutey butt, because NEVER has pak'n'save or any other NZ supermarket made our glutey bread super cheap.

$7.99 for a loaf of gluten-free bread that's roughly half the size of regular bread is just outrageous.

My husband has a theory that food allergies are only for wealthy people, because poor people couldn't possibly afford to eat if they had food allergies.

He has a point.

So why is allergy-friendly food so expensive?

A couple of reasons ... allergy-free food has to be prepared and cooked in facilities that are allergy-free, and because of our small population and smaller allergy-free population, it's hard to get the same economies of scale you can get with regular food.  

In relation to gluten-free food in particular, the cost increases also because gluten-free ingredients are expensive - wheat is cheap, especially when compared with gluten-free alternatives. Plus, unlike wheat, gluten-free mixes require additional ingredients to get the same stretchiness that gluten provides to wheat.

So what can you do to reduce the cost of eating allergy-free?

1. Get back to basics

Cook like you're in the 1950s - avoiding packaged food and eating whole foods will save you a mint. Be prepared to spend extra time in the kitchen though ...

2. Buy ingredients in bulk

This is particularly cost-effective if you can share a bulk order with others. Make sure that you're careful if buying from bulk bins - some bulk bins are contaminated with other unsafe ingredients

3. Investigate funding options

There are subsidies available for people with diagnosed food allergies. Some of these subsidies are income tested, some aren't.

4. Look outside the allergy-free aisle

Many allergy-free foods aren't tucked away in the 'aisle of ridiculous expense'. There are many allergy-free foods mixed in with regular food, and they're half the price. Be sure to check the label, and if in doubt, contact the manufacturer.

So do you have to be wealthy to be allergy-free? No. But it sure helps ...

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