Over the last eight years I have re-discovered and re-educated myself about food. We need it to survive, but what about when food is not always your friend and can be your worst enemy.
The one thing that I have had my eyes opened to is processed and pre-packed foods. How many people can honestly say that they know what ingredients are actually found in some pre-packed and processed food items. I bet not many.
Having spent a lot of time reading ingredients labels, I am surprised that wheat and gluten can be found in some of the most surprising of places – crisps, chocolate and meat products are just a few that spring to mind. I know that some are very obvious, but I get so annoyed that wheat seems to appear in so many products. Why? Surely they all don’t need to have wheat in? I don’t and have never really bought a lot of processed foods, but pre-packed food is pretty much the norm today. I wonder if in the future when wheat supplies run short (because they will) that we will see less and less foods being bulked out with wheat?
Rant over… so, what has made me smile this week? It’s the fact that the amount of restaurants and supermarkets that are really making an effort for people who are gluten free. Over the past eight years the quality and the quantity of products has got better and better. At the beginning of last week I wondered through town to the Lincolnshire Co-op. This is one of my favorite local stores – perhaps because I used to work for the national version of the Co-op. What I love about them is that they really do support local producers and produce and you can find some real gems in them that can’t be found in the bigger supermarkets.
Browsing through the shelves I stumbled across their gluten free products. Until very recently it was non existent and now there is a whole section dedicated to various products which made me smile. My eyes were drawn firstly to their bread shelf and her I found their new product, ciabatta rolls. They looked a good size and were reasonably priced, gluten free food is expensive and I have accepted that. I am looking forward to tasting them and I have a couple of Ina Gartden recipes that I would like to try with them.
My other find was the chocolate cream filled cookies. Once upon a time I used to be a big Oreo fan… I remember going to America when I was 16 and buying a box that contained 32 packets of them… they were all consumed within 6 weeks! I loved how chocolaty the biscuit was and I imagine still is. The slight bitterness of the biscuit was balanced out with the sweetness of the cream centre. Now back to my find in the Co-op… all those memories came flooding back to me and before I could really think about what I was doing the box was in my basket. I am looking forward to trying them and I don’t think they will be quite as good as the original American treat, but I hope that it will become a good substitute.
Another gluten free find this week was going into a restaurant here in Lincoln that went out of their way for their gluten free customers. Having eaten there a few times I knew that I could swamp the bread part of my meal for a salad, but it was nice to see that they had included this information on their menu.
I know that you would have to take into consideration cross contamination, but I always tell the person taking my order that I am gluten free. I walked away unharmed, so they must have taken into consideration my dietary needs.
I really appreciate and respect any restaurant that is making an effort for people who are on a gluten free diet. Over the last year or so more and more restaurants are thinking about people with a gluten free diet. Quite often some will go out of their way to substitute items for you if you can’t have them.
My final find this week was on my travels to Kent. I love fruit and my favourite is cherries. I love the sweetness of them as well as the ever so slight sourness that comes through. Apparently, my love for them came as a child. I have been told that I was a difficult child when it came to meal times, especially as a baby, my father and mother dreaded it. I would often refuse the food that was put in front of me and many of my meals either ended up in the bin or up the walls. One of the few foods that I did eat was cherries. I could eat and eat them and not get bored. My parents ended up buying huge bags of them when they were in season, it did not matter what variety they were, I was more than happy to eat them.
In Kent, I visited Brogdale, the home of the national fruit collection. They grow several different varieties and types of fruit and if I had more time I would have taken the tour. But what caught my eye was the range of cherries that they farmed. I was gutted that I had missed the cherry festival, but I did get a chance to try some of the many cherry varieties that they grow.
My favourite type of cherry is the morello. They are a plump cherry and perhaps one of the biggest types of cherries that you can grow and buy. When cherry tasting I tasted a variety that was cultivated in 1900 – it was a much smaller and darker cherry than some of the ones that come from North America, but it was really sweet and juicy and took on a much darker appearance than my favourites.
The farm is well worth a visit and has a number of small farm shops on its sight. I am hoping to go down for the apple festival in October. After my visit to Kent, I can appreciate why it’s called the ‘garden of England’.