What I like about Alex Gazzola’s blogs is that they always raise questions – and as a result, tempers – while, it appears lowering tolerance levels…. His latest, titled just that, Questions, questions, questions quoted a forum post from a non-allergy/intolerance sufferer asking why, if someone found that they could not eat certain foods, they did not just forget about them and change their diet rather than trying find replica ‘freefrom’ versions.
Inevitably, this prompted a rash of incandescent-with-fury, ‘how could she’ responses (not quite at fatwah level, but not far off) along with some more balanced comments. Do read the full blog – it is illuminating.
However, the initial post raised two very interesting questions as far as I was concerned so I added a lengthy comment on Alex’s blog which I am reproducing below – only because I do think that both points need to be constantly borne in mind by anyone living or working with food sensitivity, allergy or intolerance.
So, to the question – should people be encouraged to ask questions, even when the questions are, apparently, crass or insensitive?
Yes, yes and again yes! Everyone should always be encouraged to ask questions. Ideally those questions will be sensitive and thoughtful – but even when they are apparently crass, rude and totally insensitive, they should still be encouraged. How else is anyone to learn?
And don’t forget that most of the crass questions stem from ignorance. If the person concerned gets a balanced, helpful and informative answer they will often end up a great deal more knowledgeable about the subject about which they asked the question – and deeply embarrassed at their own initial lack of sensitivity.
It is often hard for those of us who live or work with food problems (or indeed any other health problems) to remember that we are still a quite small minority and that there is no reason why the rest of the world should know about and understand our problems – any more more that we should all appreciate the finer points of the third act of a Wagner opera. Yet, while not understanding about Wagner is unlikely to be life threatening or even damaging to anyone, not knowing or understanding about food allergies or coeliac disease could cause someone to be seriously ill or even, in the worse case scenario, to die!
So it is very important that as many people as possible get some kind of understanding of food sensitivity and if the only way that they can do that is to ask what are apparently rude and insensitive questions, they should still do so. The person being asked needs to just take a deep breath, count to ten, remember that once upon a time before they became food sensitive, they might have asked exactly the same question – and give the questioner a polite, well informed and helpful answer.
And, on the question of whether those with food intolerances should just ‘give up on’ those foods which have been banned from their diet:
This does seem harsh but there is a certain amount of sense in the suggestion. I am not entirely sure that eating gluten-free look-a-like foods makes you more likely to ‘sin’ and have a slice of gluten filled bread – but it certainly keeps your ‘old diet’ alive and well in your consciousness.
The most successful followers of allergen-free/freefrom diets are those who have taken a deep breath, looked at their whole diet (and indeed often lifestyle) and have changed it to accommodate their sensitivities. They do not look for exact substitutes for what they cannot eat, but move on to eating the sorts of foods that they can eat without any risk or danger. In due course, their tastes change and they genuinely are no longer interested in the squishy breads or creamy cakes which they used to love. As a result they do not feel deprived and they are not tempted to ‘sin’.
However…… Although this may end up by being a far more satisfactory outcome, it is very hard when you start – and it is really not for everyone. When some people are diagnosed with a food allergy or sensitivity and put on a ‘freefrom’ diet they feel genuinely bereft – food is extremely important to us all and losing your favourite foods is like losing a relative or close friend. Which is why ‘freefrom’ food, and especially freefrom food which genuinely mimics the original (a gluten-free croissant or dairy-free cream cake for example) is so important for so many people, especially when they first start on the diet.
I am delighted to say that ‘freefrom’ food is now also moving away from merely looking for identikit gluten or dairy-filled alternatives, to using naturally gluten-free or dairy-free ingredients (the quinoa Alex mentioned, teff flour, coconut milk etc) and turning them into delicious, tasty and interesting foods that will gradually lead food sensitives on to other ways of eating that will not make them ill, and that will not tempt them back into their ‘old paths’.
OK – I will now duck as the brick bats sail overhead…..