Tuesday, 3 September 2013

What's it like having a gluten-free girlfriend?

We haven't heard much on this blog lately from my fellow gourmet adventurer, Wheaty.

Gluten-free, gluten-containing... Wheaty is indifferent to
the components of pasta provided it's slathered in cheese.
Here he's enjoying a gf variety at Bruschetta in London.
Image (c) Anita Isalska
No prizes for guessing from his nickname that the Wheaty Eater is my non-gluten-avoiding partner in food. He and I live together, cook together and dine out together. His perspective on the gluten-free world is a little different to that of a coeliac - he's a reluctant expert on ingredients lists, a connoisseur of gf pasta and shares my whoops of glee when we spy a menu with gluten-less pizza.

But is it hard work being on my gluten-free team? Let's find out.

Madame Free-From asks: What did you think when I first broke the news that I was gluten-free? 

Wheaty replies: I'd heard of gluten before as it was pretty common to see it mentioned on Australian menus [Wheaty's an Aussie]. I originally thought it was one of those 'hippie' lifestyle-choice type things, like being a vegetarian. But I didn't think of gluten-free eating as abnormal. 

Q. What's the most annoying thing about dating someone who eats gluten-free? 

A. It's generally not very annoying at all. It can sometimes be a bit difficult to find something to eat in a hurry if we're out and about, especially as London seems to struggle with gf food unless you know where you're going. Also, the lack of gf Chinese food!

Q. Are there any advantages to being part of the gluten-free world? 

A. There are some great restaurants that really care about everything that goes into their food that I don't think I'd have found without this connection to the gluten-free world. I think I'm more aware of what goes into my food and probably eat better because of it.

Q. How do you manage sharing a kitchen with a gluten-free girlfriend? 

A. The kitchen is gluten-free – though a croissant might sneak through to the lounge on a weekend. The 'substitutes' are usually just as good as anything they're replacing, and it's much easier than trying to remember whether I've used a particular surface for anything non-gf recently.

Wheaty's natural habitat, the snow.
Image (c) Anita Isalska
Q. What's your best gluten-free recipe? 

A. I find gluten-free pasta a pretty good option, and have a favourite smoked salmon, yoghurt, tiny tomatoes and dill pasta combo that I like to whip up every now and again.

Q. Do you eat more gluten-filled food outside of the house, to make up for not having it at home?

A. When I'm outside the house I don't really think about finding gluten-free stuff on my own, but I don't think that I try to make up for it all. What would be the point? :) I sometimes buy the gluten-free sandwiches from M&S just to make sure they don't stop selling them, but then feel guilty about potentially depriving an actual coeliac of their sandwich!

Q. From a wheat-eater's perspective - in that you can still compare gf and non-gf food directly - what would you say is the best gluten-free food out there? 

A. If we're talking about substitutes, I think that there are some amazing gluten-free pizzas from places like Bruschetta in Kingston and Bake at Home in Fulham. Otherwise, brownies, which are frequently gluten-free anyway! [Madame Free-From notes that certain gluten-free brownie wrappers mysteriously appear at home]

Berry and chocolate cake in Wheaty's home state,
Tasmania. Gluten-free of course.
Image (c) Anita Isalska
Q. And the worst? 

A. Pizzas again... some of the frozen-base options are just really awful.

Q. Which type of cuisine or item of food do you wish would up its game in the gluten-free stakes? 

A. Chinese food is particularly disappointing, when I don't think that there'd need to be many changes to support gluten-free eaters. Change the soy and maybe the thickening agent and that would be it?

Q. Which country that you've travelled to has the best to offer gluten-free travellers? 

A gluten-free frozen aisle in Australia,
putting the UK to shame.
Image (c) Anita Isalska
A. Without wanting to sound like some raving nationalist I think Australia is the best place for gluten-free eaters.

Practically every restaurant will list the items which are gluten-free and they are almost guaranteed to have at least one and usually many more dishes. Staff are usually educated in and aware of gluten-free issues.

Q. Any final thoughts or words of wisdom for anyone reading this who is wondering how to be supportive towards a newly diagnosed coeliac friend or family member? 

A. Can I say, 'toughen up, princess'? :) In seriousness, there are great replacement options out there, and part of the fun of being the partner of a coeliac is trying to find new places to eat that cater for gluten-free. It takes you places you might not ordinarily go. Go out and explore!

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