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.

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