I was thinking last night and this morning about the radio program on gluten free foods that was on yesterday, and naturally onwards to my own experiences. Although he didn’t cite a source, Simon Morton quoted that 1 in 10 New Zealanders (“us”, so I am presuming New Zealanders) avoid gluten in their diets. That is a huge number! Not 1/10th of the people I know avoid it, that is for sure. (Despite my best efforts some of the people I know are still not sure what it means or entails – the receptionist at my old work once thoughtfully bought a vegetarian lasagna for me to share with the vegetarians at a function catered by spit roast. I’m not too sure what she thought I couldn’t eat although this was a remarkable improvement on the idea that all starch was gluten).
Of all the people in the world who you think might have an idea of what gluten is, or at least an interest in making food taste good regardless of which proteins it has present, you might think that chefs would top the bill? I have had two very opposite reactions to gluten free food by chefs who are themselves gluten free recently which I would like to relate to you. The first was in Sandspit- there is only one cafe there so you’ll know the one I mean. Having walked across the spit from the camping ground (while pregnant, I might add), I had rather built up an appetite so I asked the guy behind the counter if their friands were gluten free. I thought this a reasonable question as friands are the constant of gluten free cabinent food at a lot of cafes I can name. Well no, and I got a chuckle with that reply, they are not gluten free because there just simply isn’t enough gluten free custom at the cafe. This was the first I had heard that the intolerance worked that way around! And as a small insult, the counter guy admitted he was mostly in charge there as the chef, and was sympathetic because he too was gluten free and it is hard to eat out, right? Yes, right.
The second experience as far and away more positive. We had a family wedding to go to in Wellington so we packed up the offspring and off we went. The reception was catered by Nosh catering. Knowing that at least 2 members of his immediate family were gluten free the groom, or possibly the bride-to-be, had mentioned this to the caterers. When I asked which dishes I could eat the answer was all of them. The chef (I am pretty sure) is also gluten free and so every dish except the bread rolls (and the cake which a friend of the couples’ had made) were safe. And all the dishes were really, really good. I went back for seconds and was contemplating thirds when I realised if I didn’t go there then I would legitimately have room for seconds of the desert. The baby sleeping through the party, and not having to miss out on something yummy looking- it was a great night out!
But seriously, why two such opposite reactions to the same experience and problem? And how do we get more food professionals to begin to think more like the Nosh crew? Big questions….