The Children’s category of the FreeFrom Food Awards, sponsored for the third year by Delamere Dairy, is run for us each year by chef-nutritionist Christine Bailey. Christine has a seemingly bottomless pit of brilliant children with coeliac disease and food allergies just queuing up to become FreeFromFood Awards judges! And here are this year’s panel, being kept in order by Isaac, one Christine’s three sons, all of whom are old hands at this game and who are gluten and/or dairy-free themselves.
From the left – James, Anna, Addison, Kayjay, Owen, Jake, Simeon (Isaac’s twin) and sisters Emily and Charlotte with their backs to us.
Charlotte is another old hand but this was 10-year-old Emily’s first year. And this is a slightly better view of them both studying their forms….
The children all take their responsibilities very seriously as Christine stresses to them, absolutely rightly, that their opinions are very important to the manufacturers and may well influence what they do with these products and how they develop them. As a result, even the youngest write quite insightful comments on their forms.
As is always the case, the savoury products were the front runners. Here is Addison tucking into what I am pretty sure was her second, if not her third helping of a pulled beef and spaghetti entry. Well, you do need to be sure that you get it right and maybe one tasting is not really enough to be sure… In fact, a lot of the kids seemed to think that one tasting was not really enough, either of this entry or a number of others, and a forest of hands appeared each time seconds were offered.
And just in case anyone thinks it was rather mean of me to take a picture of Addison in full spaghetti mode – which it was – here is a lovely image of her and Anna listening to Christine before they got started.
Over the other side of the table the boys were listening pretty well too. Here are Isaac and Simeon, with Jake, our youngest taster at only 5 years old, also fully focused on what Christine had to tell them.
And moving on…. Here are Kayjay and Owen fully focusing all of their thoughts on some chicken goujons…
But although the savoury products are always very popular, that does not mean to say that no one wanted to try the sweet ones. Some mini chocolate sponge cakes went down pretty well, as did the rather fancy celebration cake – not to mention the MooFree chocolate, and the ginger bread men, the pecan ice cream, the jammy dodgers, the profiteroles, and the little frozen coconut thingies on sticks….. Even the date and coconut energy balls which I had thought would be far too adult a taste and texture for them did a pretty enthusiastic second round.
I think it was the profiteroles that had particularly taken Anna’s fancy here – although, to be honest, she proved herself to be a pretty good trencherman throughout! I think that her mum had been slightly nervous about her taking part in the judging but, as happens so often, once they got started she was in there with a will and in no time was calling for seconds (and thirds) along with all of the older children.
Anna was also a good doodler – and was not alone in that. We have fine doodles from her, from Addison and, down the bottom of the table from James. I am not sure whether it is his doodle or what the manufacturer has written about the products that was amusing him here.
But they are not finished once they have done the tasting as then they have to choose a winner, runners up and commended products. So, like the adults, they have to give Christine all their marks and she then works out the averages. (Far more 21st century than me, she has a spread sheet on her laptop so it is all done electronically…)
This is Oscar, a veteran taster of at least three years standing, reading out his marks to Christine before the general discussion.
In previous years, the kids’ main consideration has been that the winning foods should be ones that any of their friends could also eat without knowing that they were gluten or dairy free. But this year – hopefully a sign of how freefrom food has moved on – although this was still a consideration, they were actually more interested in the quality of the product, taking it for granted that their friends could and would eat it too. How good is that!
Anyhow, the shortlist will be published on February 8th so you be able to see what it was that they were all getting so excited about. Meanwhile, here is a rather replete Emily, having, I think, thoroughly enjoyed the whole event, listening to the final list of winners.