Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Gluten free gnawfare - let the games begin!

As I sat at home the other day, reading the newspaper 'The Age' and its fabulous Tuesday section called 'Epicure', I decided that what this world really needs is another blog about food. This time though, the food's special... as in 'different'... as in 'unusual' in "Ooh, we don't really do that kind of food here, it's a bit tree-huggin' for us. And by the way, you don't look like you need to diet sweetie".

I'm talking about gluten free food.

But I'm hoping to achieve more than just discussing where you can find a gluten free pizza or a gluten free choc-blueberry-pistachio cupcake with marzipan fairies in Melbourne (and other locations as I travel to them). There's plenty of blogs and websites out there that do that. What I want to do is write about the gluten free food that I and my friends have eaten. My chats will be set within the context of a holistic experience, that is, the cafe, restaurant or food stall that happens to serve that gluten free food. I want to review and discuss the whole experience of ordering and eating a gluten free meal.... A bit like what food critics do for that mysterious 'real food' most people eat.

Here's how it will work. Myself and my willing participants will take ourselves out to sample the fares of cafes, restaurants and food stalls. Our mission - once we have chosen to accept it - will be to review this food, the service we experience and the general atmosphere of each establishment we visit. I have set up a loose criteria by which we will review this food, but I imagine this will develop further as we get more experienced in reviewing.

As I don't want to be a gluten free obsessive (too late some say), I am also planning to review the food we eat for its appeal to vegetarians, vegans, nut avoiders and any other special dietary requirements of the friends I invite along.

The criteria we have to start with is as follows:

1) The availability of gluten free food at the establishment
2) The knowledge of gluten free food and other special dietary requirements of staff working for the establishment
3) The ease of ordering this food - i.e. the 'attitude quotient' we're dealing with
4) The number of gluten free options, as well as any of those pesky other special dietary options
5) The taste and quality of the food we order
6) The general atmosphere
7) Any other incidentals we happen to notice while we're there, such as the quality of the coffee (sorry to the coffee snobs out there... calling coffee an 'incidental'!), if they're baby/pram friendly, if they put marshmallows in the hot chocolate, if they make pupaccinos etc.

So what exactly is gluten free food? For those of you who are a little uncertain, gluten free food is food without any wheat, rye, oats or barley products in it. Obvious foods like bread, pasta and cakes are a no-no, unless made with gluten free substitutes, but other foods can also contain gluten which is hidden in things such as flavourings, thickeners and the romantically named anti-coagulants. In the Western diet, gluten is pretty much everywhere, and it's taken me a long time to get the hang of buying, preparing and ordering gluten free food. For example, my first trip to a supermarket after I was diagnosed with Coeliac Disease took me three hours! I had to read the ingredient labels for all of the foods I was used to buying, then find appropriate substitutes. I'm sure a store detective started following me around I was in that store for so long!

I will include a few websites that explain all of the dietary requirements much better than I can (after all, why reinvent the wheel?), so stay tuned for those over the next few weeks as I get the hang of this blogging thing.

If you have a cafe or restaurant you'd like to suggest feel free to drop me a line!

Ta ta for now.


  1. Well, hi! A friend sent me a link to your blog on Twitter. I am also a Melbournian Coeliac, diagnosed aged 34 (almost 3 years ago now), after two years of ill health following the birth of the second of my three children. I have eaten both real and alleged gluten free fare across the city in the last three years and I have a shedload of stories to tell one day ...! I look forward to your experiences.

  2. Hiya Kathy! Gotta love those alleged gluten free meals! I'm not sure I'll share with the punters all of the experiences we have if we eat non-gf food (after all, who wants to read about unfortunate bowel problems), but I will certainly shed some light on what can happen to us. Hmmm... am I setting myself up as a crash-test dummy?!

    If you have some places you'd like myself and my friends to review, let me know and I'll schedule them into our list of places to visit.