As this blog continues and I set up each category, you will notice that I want to cover many subjects.
One of the first will be Food Glorious Food, I have to admit that I love food The inspiration of colour and palette can brighten the dullest day, lift your mood and create endless possibilities, if you get it right. Get it wrong however and it’s a whole different ball game.
I do love to cook, now I don’t claim to be a great cook, but I do have my favourites which are welcomed when we have dinner guests. I enjoy cooking and experimenting with food, I think that I get that from my Mum, who served me nettle soup when I was six. Green soup to a child captured the imagination.
Over the years, I have had a love hate relationship with it. There have been foods which I used to eat, which suddenly I could not anymore and whilst I attempted to find the things that I could, it was at times a rocky road. Now I find that I look at the ingredients in everything I buy, do not have many processed foods and stay away from take-away and fast foods wherever possible.
I try to live healthily and make sure that I cook every day, using fresh foods wherever I can, to keep me and the family healthy. This is borne more from necessity than following a fad.
There are foods which I miss, but I have learned that the side effects of eating something which does not agree with you, far outweigh the joy of that naughty treat. But life is easier once you know what to avoid.
As a child, I remember that I did not have the food allergies or intolerances which I do now, but there was something which set me off with a headache even back then. Strawberry flavoured anything and Pear drops. It is probably one of the E numbers in them, a flavouring of some kind, but it was guaranteed to make me ill, they also have them in those tinned travel sweets and to this day I avoid both. There was also about 18 months after I was knocked down when I was a teenager when I could not consume anything with caffeine in. Right at the time when Chocolate, Coca Cola and Coffee are the staples of most teenagers and young women as they get through teenage life and their studies, I could not have it. It brought on an instant migraine. Other than those things, I don’t remember there being any allergies although I wasn’t keen on Liver,but could happily eat Kidneys, which seemed strange to me even then.
Fifteen years ago, I was put on a medication by my GP. It was supposed to help the Endometriosis which I had been suffering with for many years at that point. Although there was un upside to it, it seemed to alleviate the symptoms of the condition for a short time, in the months that I took it, it caused havoc in the side effects department and I suddenly found myself with other issues. My eyesight went from “perfect” 20/20 vision at eye tests to me needing a prescription for glasses and I became Lactose Intolerant. For me, two things which caused me great distress. 6 months later and I would need another prescription for glasses even stronger than the first and so it went on. But the food issue was huge for me. I had been able to eat almost anything for the whole of my life and suddenly, I couldn’t keep food down. I had no idea what the cause of it was so as the doctor prescribed antibiotics first and then sent me for colonoscopies to get to the bottom of the problem, to see if it was bacterial. Following a clear diagnosis that it was not and with him not being able to offer any other advice, I decided to try something novel and try the elimination diet. I did this for a couple of months and found that as I tried to reintroduce anything dairy related, it set me off once again. At the time, there was very little in the “Free From” aisle of the supermarket as it didn’t exist. and I ate a lot differently to now. Previously I used to eat dairy products regularly, having had problems with my teeth as a youngster and always suffered with weak nails, I was convinced that I needed to up my calcium intake to compensate for it. So at the time I regularly ate Ambrosia Creamed Rice, Camembert and Cheese in general, Philadelphia and Bio-Yoghurts. I included them in my food preparation and thoroughly enjoyed cooking. Back then I really struggled to find food products which did not contain lactose, to my absolute dismay, even in Ready Salted Crisps most brands added it to the ingredients. Who knows why? But it forced me to think about the food that I consumed much more carefully and check the ingredients thoroughly.
I think that eating Bio yoghurt, first thing in the morning, when you have nothing else in your system, definitely does not help. If you think about it, they contain friendly bacteria which gets to work on what is in your stomach. However if there is nothing there, what is it going to work on. So not the best plan having digested everything you had eaten the night before. When you think of it, it makes sense, but how may of us do actually do think about that?
I also found that every time I tried to introduce Pork back into my diet, it disagreed with me, I loved sausages, I didn’t eat them often, but a good breakfast on a lazy weekend was a bit of a treat and suddenly I couldn’t eat it anymore. Gone were the Bacon sandwiches and Spaghetti Carbonara, which were other regular favourites in my kitchen.
I thought back then that writing a dairy free cookbook might be a great idea since there was no such thing readily available and not everyone had the internet as a resource. However I did not have much confidence in my own culinary skills and had no idea as to how go about creating it. Now of course it is so much easier to find good dairy free ingredients and recipes to feed the family and many such books now exist. Unfortunately it has become something all too familiar within so many families the need to cut out foods which were once the norm, as allergies and intolerances grow common, I may still write one, after all, one more surely can’t be a bad thing.
I also found out that I am highly allergic to Oysters, now that was an odd one. I had never had them before, although I regularly ate Chinese food with an oyster sauce and never made the connection that it was that which made me ill. We went to Paris for a ten day holiday over Christmas and New Year and I hired a car to explore, it was supposed to be terribly romantic and we had saved to go and enjoy ourselves. The Eiffel tower was going to be just wonderful. The first meal on our first evening was a seafood platter with Oysters. Afterwards I was so ill that I could not leave the room for a week, my body went into shut down, it totally poisoned my system and I spent a week in a hallucinating, violently ill. There was no doctor available, it was not a grand hotel and the local doctor was away for Christmas and no-one would attempt to move me. So there I stayed delirious in the hotel room, watching “Finding Nemo” in French on a loop and watching the Eiffel Tower twinkling the year in the distance every evening. My partner was very worried about me and spent most of the time by my side, or pacing the hotel like a tiger in case I took a turn for the worse. I did not eat at all for several days, consumed only water it was not the holiday either of us had planned. I was so delirious over that time that when Finding Nemo was on TV some years later, I suggested that we watched it since I had not seen it. He looked at me in utter disbelief, that I had absolutely no recollection of it. Thinking back, despite the twinkling year on the tower, I cannot recall what year it was. I remember that we had to dig the car out from the snow before heading back home but must have blocked as much of the experience as possible from my mind.
Dining out became such an issue so many years ago, that my first task on any holiday or visit to a restaurant is to ask the chef for the dairy free options on their menu. I quickly learned that despite the phrase Non- Laiterie being used in France, the chefs in most establishments claimed not to understand me. They did not want to defer from their usual route and would not prepare anything without dairy produce. I resorted to a list of “Non’s” Beurre, Oeufs, Fromage, Lait, Yaourt, which I handed to the waiter or Maitre d’ on arrival and ensured that they passed it to the chef who prepared my meal. One such time was particularly difficult where we stayed at a beautiful chateau. Although I had a lengthy discussion with the Management and the chef he felt that he knew best and since he always cooked everything in butter, he would continue to do so. I spent a wonderful weekend there on a Dinner, Bed and Breakfast package being unable to finish a meal that he had cooked and breathed a sigh of relief when the breakfast chef came on duty, so for that holiday, on his day off breakfast in the hotel was the only meal I could safely enjoy when the chef who covered him actually listened. After that, we have not returned there, for the sole reason that it is important that your chef listens and understands. Immodium and Antacids have become my travelling friend in case of emergency, but not one wants their holiday ruined or to be reliant upon them. As I pointed out, if it had been a nut allergy that I suffered, where you can go into anaphylactic shock would he have served nuts?