Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Introducing...Madame Free-From

Once upon a time, an ill wind blew across the kingdom of chefs, waiting staff and caterers. An ancient curse  arose to strike fear into the hearts of anyone who cooks or serves food. A sudden horde of hungry people swept across the lands, all of them hungry, and all of them armed with a magic spell crafted to chill the very blood of those who fry, saute or grill:

The words, 'Is there wheat flour in the sauce?'

I'm Madame Free-From. I'm an editor and writer, I like sunsets, heavy metal, and I just so happen to eat gluten-free. Unfortunately, despite having no choice in following a gluten-free diet, some people see me and other gluten-free diners in a very unkind light. Suspicious waiters, patronising co-workers, and those charming folk who say food intolerances are all natural selection (may they choke on their next croissant). 

This is me, Madame Free-from, eating one of
many berry flavoured ice creams I would have
on this particular Spanish weekend away.
Inevitably, following a special diet becomes a significant part of your life so I've decided to embrace the love for all things gf, and join the wonderful community of gluten-free bloggers. Room for another voice, right?

My gluten-free story is rather different to many coeliacs. I was diagnosed a few years ago, almost completely by chance. I know plenty of coeliacs suffer terribly with a whole spectrum of symptoms, but this wasn't the case for me. Essentially, my doctor had a hunch: I had fallen ill and needed an eyebrow-raisingly high level of medication to set me right. My doc told me that this could mean I wasn't absorbing nutrients properly, which is a red flag for internal damage caused by coeliac disease - would I mind having some tests run?

I was fairly confident that nothing would be found: surely I'd be doubled over in pain after every plate of pasta if I couldn't tolerate gluten? But your body doesn't always know best, because I tested positive for high levels of anti-transglutaminase antibodies, a sure sign that my body reacts against gluten, and my body thrived and healed after a period gluten-free. There was no turning back.

I was hugely sceptical. It took me a long time to get my head around this 'silent condition' and even longer to figure out the nuances of the diet. What the heck is spelt? Looks like I'll never get to find out, as it's a form of wheat. Quinoa? Can't pronounce it, can eat it. I eventually got there, despite the occasional 'WTF' moment ('There's wheat in certain kinds of soy sauce? Oh come on...').

Boar sausage, chilli and broccoli pizza from the
Bake at Home pizza company - gluten-free!
The biggest breakthrough was realising that yes, there is gluten-free pizza out there, and while some of it tastes of cardboard and tears, there are plenty of others that make you weep from joy (please take a bow, Bake at Home pizza, Otto pizza and Cotto restaurant).

But now I'm over the initial hurdles of the diet itself, the trickiest part of the gluten-free lifestyle is navigating people's attitudes: the often bizarre reactions of waiting staff in restaurants (is it that hard to hold the croutons?) and those tricky people who will always just label you a 'fussy eater'. So there'll be photo blogs, food tips, thoughts from the Wheaty Eater and but also a bit of blowing off steam. And for some reason, I'm looking forward to the last one the most!

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