Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Basic ingredients

I follow a wheat free, gluten free diet. This means avoiding wheat, barley and rye in all their forms and all derivatives thereof.

If, inadvertently I consume these grains I suffer almost immediate bloating, burning acid indigestion and, from the next day, joint pain and fatigue. I have tested negative for Coeliacs disease. There are several schools of thought about this. Some say a gluten free diet prior to the test will cause it to be negative, others say it should still give a positive if the condition is present. I guess I could have re-introduced wheat for a month or so before the test to see, but quite honestly, a possible positive test would not be worth the misery of all the symptoms. It would take several months to calm things down again afterwards.

It is often obvious if something contains wheat - bread etc. However, I still get caught out by forgetting to check. The stuff is cheap and easily available and it gets everywhere. I accepted a 'jelly-bear' sweet from a child - bad mistake! Not listed in the ingredients as wheat but I have since found that some sugars or syrups are wheat-derived. Malt is usually barley. This affects many confectionery items but also many pickles and table sauces in the form of malt vinegar. Often these do not apparently contain barley but would be listed as spirit vinegar. A recent bad experience, which has annoyed me intensely, was the purchase of some sliced ROAST BEEF! Not roast chicken or pork with stuffing, or roast ham with breadcrumbs, but apparently 'pure' roast beef. It was not a 'luxury' product. It admitted to containing water. I didn't check the ingredients but it looked like basic roast beef! All the usual symptoms, rifle through fridge checking and yes 'contains wheat'. Apparently something about the introduction of the water. If I buy roast beef I want roast beef!!!

There is a lesson in all of this COOK FROM BASIC INGREDIENTS! Fortunately, apart from the occasional lapse of laziness we have tended to do this anyway since we are committed to supporting organic production at every opportunity. Here is a second lesson - as a general rule, organic foodstuffs contain far fewer additives and I hardly ever find 'hidden wheat' in organic products. They often have a shorter shelf life, but we like to eat fresh anyway. I am often told that organic stuff is 'OK if you can afford it'. Yes, certainly more expensive than the bargain lines - but if you buy basic ingredients and cook yourself its not too bad. I won't embarrass you by mentioning our income, but I recently checked out a website that enables a comparison of household incomes (takes into account 1 income supporting 4 people etc) I think we were about 20% of the way up. So, basically, if we can afford it 80% of UK households can certainly afford it - its all about life choices - and in our case a very detailed spreadsheet keeping checks on all expenditure!

I also like to use 'basic ingredients' in my craftwork. OK I don't have a sheep farm, or a cotton plantation. I admit that I have never processed a raw fleece - I have trouble with the lanolin. However, I have tried spinning, have done a small amount of painting and printing on fabric etc. Some 'crafts' are to my way of thinking more a finishing of a process. I like to think that my stuff goes back to the design stage at least.

And so to craft. My latest brooch is an appliqueed and embroidered design featuring a heathery hillside. The second picture is a small clump of heather in our garden. I think we'll need some annuals to help fill the spot .


  1. Hi Sue - I'm a fellow suffer too. Testing negative for coeliacs disease but suffer severe pain, bloating, IBS, not to mention several other bad reactions and symptoms(don't want to go into too much detail here). I also suffer with a slight diary intolerance too, so only skimmed milk passes my lips. You are right to suggest cooking from raw ingredients only. I do it every day and you get used to it. It's healthy too. The rest of the family just add various sauces to their meals. I also suffer with rosacea (a skin disease) which is triggered (in me) by wine, chocolate and heat (hot water, steam, general warmth from fires, radiators etc). So it's a pretty difficult really. However, now I know what's causing my problems I can avoid eveything. Although I miss life's little luxuries I'm much happier and healthier. Good luck with the diet. Lynne xx

  2. Hi Sue
    i just saw your blog on Folksy and followed to offer any advice you may need. I am an expert in gluten free and coeliac disease, My Mum was diagosed about 20 years back after suffering all her life.
    Sainsbugs do a good range of gluten free if you have a large store nearby. Being over 65 Mum gets a lot on prescription too, breads, biscuits, pasta's.
    She also has an updated 'bible' that tells you of all the things you can and cannot have, as manufacturers have a horrible habit of changing ingrediants like their socks it does need regular updates.

    My poor old mum is a very quiet shy person, so I have spent the last 20 years checking her food if we go anywhere to make sure everyone does it right, surprising just how many people try adding gravy to her meal.

    Happy Cooking.
    Lynda x