Travelling beyond the Free From aisle 1

Last night I watched my new favourite food programme on tv – Two Greedy Italians. It features Antonio Carluccio and Gennaro Contaldo eating their way around Italy. One of my personal ambitions. Maybe one day… Anyway, this week they were exploring Alpine Northern Italy. They cannot grow wheat in that area, due to geology and climate, so use buckwheat to make their pasta.

It is not seen as an alternative for those who cannot eat wheat but is just the standard ingredient. In another visit they witnessed some men making flour from chestnuts. Apparently it gave a delicious flavour and worked perfectly well in a gnocchi recipe. I am aware that Carluccio is using buckwheat pasta in his restaurant chains, so now I understand. Not only is he doing it to cater for intolerant market but it is an Italian (lesser known) product anyway!

Then I started to think about other countries that produce non-wheat flour. There are many parts of the world where wheat cannot be grown yet they produce flour for cooking. Isn’t gram flour made from ground chick peas, in Indian cookery?

So perhaps the intolerants among us should not just look to the ‘allergy’ aisles in the supermarkets but also look on the shelves of the world food aisles, e.g. Japanese rice noodles, any noodles or pasta made from buckwheat, gram flour. We should remember we are not just limited to the specially created ‘free from’ foods, but could find some real solutions to our problems just by having a look among the more exotic ingredients. There are many products that are naturally without wheat flour and dairy. They should be relatively easy to find and unlikely to be any more expensive than the ‘free from’ foods. I am quite certain they will be more versatile and delicious too.

So where else should we be looking for our alternatives and safe products? I have a few more ideas. Vegans cannot eat dairy, so any place that caters for vegetarians is also likely to have a range of vegan products, I would think. As a general rule, anything with the Vegan society logo on will be dairy free. www.vegansociety.com

Then also remember the whole food and organic people. Keeping our food as pure and simple as possible is what drives them and so you are less likely to find milk and cereal junk in these kinds of products, e.g. the Debbie & Andrews sausages. www.debbieandandrews.co.uk

They are not produced or marketed for the intolerants among us. They are just the best quality sausage they can be and milk and cereal has no place in them, so they are naturally ‘safe’ and suitable. Any quality, non GM, organic, premium branded foods may be safe, as they are created by people who share the belief that unnecessary junk additives, such as milk and cereal should not be used.

When you first start on the journey of feeding your intolerant child or family you do feel anxious that your choice is limited and you are doomed to a life of paying over the odds for some very non-delicious food but as I have discovered, that is not case. You don’t just have to look at ‘free from’ foods. Quite literally, there is a whole world out there of naturally suitable and delicious products. You just have to know where to look and remember the one golden rule – always, always read the labels and ingredients list – just in case!

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