Thursday, 30 January 2014

Outrageous! BBC One's 'Outnumbered' pokes fun at outnumbered allergic kids!

Last night I was watching 'Outnumbered.' For those who aren't familiar with it, it's a sitcom featuring a family - Mum, Dad and three kids. For a more detailed synopsis see here.

In the past I've found it amusing and I was a bit upset to hear that the current series is to be the last ever - although to be fair, I hadn't found most recent episodes as funny as I used to. However, I've now decided that perhaps it should go after all... after last night's episode. 

I was such a fan - look what The Hub bought me for Christmas the other year!

It was the allergy gags that did it.

Halfway through, enter the allergic child. We don't know this at first. First we learn that she is called 'Esme' and is nerdy and objectionable - we are encouraged to dislike her - especially when she attempts to drop Karen (the main girl character) in it with her parents. Chatting with folks on Twitter I hear that this is common - allergy = nerdy character on TV or in films. 

Hang on?? Really?? Every time?? What's all that about?? 


The subject of ice cream comes up. The father offers Karen and Esme some ice cream. Karen says that her class mate can't have it because she's lactose intolerant. Cake is then offered but Karen says no, Esme can't have that because she's allergic to nuts and her face will puff up. Karen then does a supposedly funny, but clearly sarcastic, impersonation of someone's head swelling as a result. Karen then declares that Esme would then need a 'stab' from an epipen (it's the way it's depicted - all in the tone, trust me). 

The offending nerdy allergic class mate exits the scene, as Karen's mother decides to take her home. Karen then confides to her father that she wanted ice cream whilst Esme was still there, so that she could eat it in front of her. And he (responsible adult) AGREES!

Now, you might say, 'Oh, it's just a joke, don't be so sensitive etc. etc.' But it was all a bit close to home... because the incident with the ice cream - well that rang so true, due to an incident between my little girl and her slightly older cousin. 

Said cousin decided to taunt 'Baby' by overdoing the 'Mmmm! Mmmm!' whilst eating chocolate ice cream in front of her - in a restaurant, when she KNEW that 'Baby' couldn't have one. In her toddler innocence, 'Baby' just thought that her cousin was really enjoying the ice cream and so her cousin didn't get the rise out of her that she intended, but later on, as she grows up, she unfortunately will. 

I cannot describe the pain in my heart and anger I felt towards my niece's shameless exhibitionism. I was desperate for 'Baby' not to feel hurt and left out.

However, in a sense 'Baby' and me are more fortunate - it may just be our feelings that are hurt. It was the bit with the peanut allergy that horrified me. This I regard as extremely irresponsible on the part of the show's writers etc. I'm pretty sure that older children, and teenagers may have been watching this programme - it went out at 9pm. As another 'allergy mum' on Twitter and I agreed, the last thing we need is tweens and teenagers (and immature adults, for that matter) to find it funny and decide to emulate this behaviour. 
The thing is, MOST tweens, teens etc. are perhaps unlikely to follow this bad example, but it only takes one. And, then, what if they decide to take things one step further to see what happens? 

It only takes one.

Anaphylactic reactions can kill - it happens. We see it reported in the press all too frequently.

Now, I'm not saying that jokes can't be made about allergies - I love following Howard the Celeriac - his cartoons about living with coeliacs are ruefully funny.

But watching the episode back, to try and decide how offensive the allergy gags really were, I couldn't help noticing that Jake (the older boy in the family) too the Dad (played by Hugh Dennis) into account over a throwaway remark he made about Italians - highlighting it's racism. So it's alright to contradict one form of prejudice, but not another?

I analysed the jokes about other 'types' in the show. The jokes about politicians/actors? Well, they put themselves in the public eye, don't they? So you can kind of expect them to be fair game, but allergic children?? 

Allergic children (and adults whilst we're at it) don't wake up one morning deciding to be allergic for the fun of it, or to freak everyone out. They are born with it or develop it! It can't be helped! It's hard enough as it is, having to watch other people eat things that you would love to be able to eat, but can't; to know that as you are in the minority, 'outnumbered' by 'normal' people, the food industry just won't cater for you in the way that they cater for others, and to know that people in general (through ignorance) will misunderstand and misrepresent you.

Just as we might consider ill-considered jokes about race or deformity repugnant etc. etc. negative jokes about allergies must too be rejected (unless it's made by the person concerned). It's just not funny to 'mock the afflicted'. (Oh and just to be clear, I'm not ascribing people of a different race as 'afflicted'.)

As Disney discovered recently.

If you too are horrified by this episode of 'Outnumbered', please contact the BBC to let them know. I find it somewhat ironic that the day after this episode is aired BBC news heralds a possible new treatment for peanut allergy sufferers...

Recommended reading:
Disney Thinks Bullying a Gluten Free Child is Funny by 'Gluten Free Dude'

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Co-yo Ice Cream

Finally! After some months of waiting, I've got my sticky mitts on some Co-yo ice cream!! 

Diggin' in  :)

Having heard about it on Twitter, I've been waiting for Co-yo's ice cream for a while. I already enjoy the Co-yo yoghurt, which I reviewed here.

Apparently the ice cream comes in various flavours, Vanilla and Nutmeg, Raw Chocolate and Sticky Date and Tamarind, but this one was Natural.

I found the ice cream in my local health shop. I must admit, I was so excited to see it, I bought a tub before reading the price label - £6.98. Oops!! But, as I told The Hub, it may be more expensive than my 'usual' but at least it's cheaper than Booja Booja (which I can't have anyway, as it's made with cashews)!!

Having got it home, I couldn't wait to dive in!

First thoughts? Creamy, definitely creamy and with a distinct taste of coconut. 

'You can certainly tell it's made with coconut,' I thought. 'So not for anyone who can't eat coconut or won't eat coconut but great for those who can/will!!'

In fact one of my earliest remarks, to The Hub, was that it tasted pretty much like frozen coconut cream. I really liked the creaminess, but thought that (apart from the coconut) it lacked a bit of flavour. For me, the coconut needed something else to go with it and give it a bit of oomph. 

Feeling that it would probably work best as an accompaniment to something else, I added some home made choc sauce and a few walnuts (you could always use some crumbled biscuit instead) which tasted yummy - a bit reminiscent of some Haagen-Dazs, maybe? 

Great with chocolate sauce!

However, I thought the Co-yo ice cream could work equally well served with a scoop of mango sorbet or strawberry - or maybe one of each!?! Not so long ago Tesco made some coconut and strawberry frozen ice lollies, and those were LUSH (unfortunately they no longer make them, now).

I'm really intrigued to see what Co-yo's other flavoured ice creams are like - to see what difference their added flavours make.

So, let's get down to the nitty gritty - what's in Co-yo's ice cream? (Or not, as the case may be!)

Coconut milk (84%), natural fruit extracts (apple, grape, carob), tapioca.

Additional information:
Worried about traces of other allergens? Co-yo say:

Our natural yoghurt is made with just 3 ingredients and none of these come into contact with nuts; our factory is a nut free environment, we do not produce anything with nuts in it.

Our ice creams are the same, just 3 ingredients, coconut milk, agave syrup and tapioca. Flavoured with raw cacao, date syrup, vanilla extract.

We believe very strongly in preparing our product in an allergen free environment and it makes us very angry to see other products calling them selves dairy free when they are made in and packed on dairy equipment that milk products go through.

Now, if you're interested in trying this product, how you get your hands on some? 

Well it's pretty tricky at the moment, unless you live near a Whole Foods Market, or your health food shop happens to stock it, but, hopefully, it will become more widely available soon. 

Other posts on a similar theme:
Ice - a cream- oh!
Ice, Ice Baby!

Friday, 10 January 2014

Show me the Menu!! - what I'd like to see available for the dairy and gluten free in restaurants

It's hard managing a meal out out, when you have an allergy/intolerance. One of my sisters got in a right old huff recently, when I questioned her choice of restaurant for a family get-together. It was obviously my fault I could eat hardly anything on the menu!!

Before I had gluten to deal with, and we just had the dairy to worry about, there was definitely more choice. Now, not so - especially since we have moved further away from London, where there seems to be a lot more choice.

Consequently, for my birthday this year, I ended up at a local pub, where we knew 'Baby' could and what's more would eat their ham and chips. However, the only thing on the menu that I could eat was grilled salmon with salad -  not even chips! And I couldn't eat half the salad, 'cos it was made with edamame (soya beans) and cucumber. Was there a hearty dessert to follow and fill me up??? Uh! That'd be a no, then!! Meanwhile, The Hub couldn't decide because he had so much choice!!

What I ate - looks lovely, but left me empty and check out how small that fillet is!! Cost more than The Hub's too!!

This isn't the first time this has happened to me. 

Reading through the results of a recent survey of the Free From community, it seems this kind of experience is all too common. Along with the lack of choice, is the worry of staff really understanding the issue as well as the worry as to whether they're doing their best to prevent cross-contamination of your food.

If you're at all interested in reading the results, take a look at Sarah @Sugarpuffish's blog post on eating out. It painted an all too familiar picture regarding eating out with allergies/intolerances.

However, I believe that it doesn't have to be this way - a few simple changes could make all the difference, providing more choice on the menu, making things easier for us as well as bringing more custom to them, which hopefully, they'd welcome. Then perhaps we wouldn't see so much of this lip-service, when we enter a restaurant (see below) but would be provided with real choice instead!

Hmm! Not much choice on the children's menu!! Good job they allowed me to pick from the adults, for 'Baby'!

I've decided to list these suggestions, in the faint hope that someone in the restaurant trade will stumble upon them and come up with something better - after all, I have no chef training and yet... I have a few ideas!!

So, if I were to chat with a restaurant owner who was interested in serving the dairy and gluten free community (always assuming, of course that they had properly trained their staff and ensured that correct procedures for preventing cross-contamination were in place) here are the suggestions I would make. Check out the list that follows and see what you think:

1.Choose items for the menu that are naturally dairy/gluten free or can be easily adapted never know, if they're made a feature of the menu, other punters may just select these too ;)  

Not set in stone, but here's some ideas for starters :)


Prawn cocktail (use dairy free mayonnaise)

Butternut squash soup (easy peasy, don't need butter/cream)

Gluten free battered calamari (I've had this in a Greek restaurant, so I know it can be done)


Ham and Mushroom Omelette/Fritatta (don't need butter for this use olive oil for frying a tablespoon of dairy free milk or even water to loosen up the egg)

Chicken and Bacon Skewers with sweet potato fries (had these at Center Parcs, could have done with a side of salad)

Gluten free fish and chips (a separate gluten free frier is required here and some gluten free batter - some fish and chip shops do tis already, on selected days)

Roast chicken, beef etc. (leave the butter glaze off the veg. and avoid using ready made roast potatoes covered in wheat flour) I can manage without extras like gravy, I'll bring my own, if you like!

The Hub's roast potatoes - no flour, no butter, just olive oil and Jamie Oliver's recipe!

Pizza - gluten and dairy free bases are now available - many pizza restaurants (eg. Pizza Express, Dominoes) now sell them as an alternative. If you could stretch to some Mozzarisella on top, I'd love you forever!! But otherwise I'll settle for cheese free.

Grilled or pan-fried chicken/fish (in olive oil, goujons if you wish) with sauteed potatoes or new potatoes and lightly steamed vegetables, or grilled vegetable kebabs

Spaghetti Bolognese (cut the acidity of the tomato sauce with carrots rather than milk)

Tuna & Mayo/Chilli Jacket Potato (use Hellman's Original - not light). Just why are Jacket Spuds (once a pub menu staple) now so out of vogue?? I LOVE them! And they're so much healthier than some options!

Sausage and Mash - a lot of high end sausages tend to be gluten and dairy free and you can make my mash with the water it's boiled in (if you don't have dairy free milk) plus a small knob of dairy free margarine.

Paella (no butter required)

A recent successful meal at the Sport's Cafe at Center Parcs
Chilli with rice

Steak and Chips (use separate fryer for the chips, to prevent cross-contamination)

Lamb Casserole (don't use butter)

Ham and Pea risotto (minus the butter - it can be done)


Now, granted, desserts are generally a bit more tricky, for the dairy free, although some restaurants can do gluten free. What doesn't count as a dessert, in my opinion, is sorbet or fruit salad (I can't eat most raw fruit - oral allergy syndrome) it just doesn't measure up to what everyone else is scoffing. 

What I'd really love is a good crumble, made with Dove's gluten free flour and some dairy free margarine, accompanied by dairy free custard! Either that or a gluten and dairy free chocolate brownie with a dairy free chocolate sauce, however, I'd just as happily make do with a scoop or three of dairy free ice cream (I could point you towards a few)! Or these:

Rice pudding (use coconut milk) 

Meringue nests with fruit

2.Stock just a few Free From store cupboard essentials:

...hopefully these wouldn't take up too much space in the cupboard!

Doves Farm Gluten Free Flour

Gluten and dairy free loaf/buns (BFree are a great brand for this, they're soya, egg and nut free as well, are longlife, and can also be frozen. If you get their wraps, I can have a Fajita). 

Gluten Free Pasta (to go with the Spag. Bol. obviously, although coeliacs who aren't dairy free might prefer a Carbonara, or Seafood Linguine).

Gravy - I would suggest Anthony Worrall Thompson's instant gluten free chicken gravy which was excellent but that's now out of production, but Orgran's would be suitable for a range of special diets, including nuts!

Nothing spectacular but suitable for various allergies/intolerances

Koko Coconut Milk and/or rice milk - I'll give them a bit of lee-way here, but both are long life, so suitable for keeping. Soya milk is most commonly used but many people allergic to dairy also can't have soya, so best avoid this. Coconut milk can be a bit strong in flavour for some but is  good in custard/rice pudding. Rice milk is not suitable for under five year olds in any great quantity, but is okay when used in cooking.

Bird's custard powder - easy to whip up with just a bit of dairy free milk!

Space in the fridge? A tub of Sunflower Pure margarine would be suitable for many.

And, if there's a tiny bit of space in the freezer... some dairy free ice cream which will keep for ages (now widely available).

3.Choose condiments carefully maximise the suitability for all your customers - or as many as possible!!

Heinz Tomato Ketchup is gluten/dairy free. It's such a small thing but can make a BIG difference! Witness the concern on Twitter recently about Mac Donald's dropping Heinz tomato ketchup (known to be gluten free).

Hellmann's Original Mayonnaise - Here I'm thinking of the many times I've investigated the tuna 'option' only to discover the mayonnaise contains milk (it's usually Hellman's Light - how bizarre that the 'Light' version contains cream powder)!

Drawing it to a close:

To my uneducated eye, all these suggestions look relatively easy! 

Not so easy, perhaps, if you enter a restaurant which only serves what basically amounts to reheated ready meals (we all know it happens) but these could always stock some Baked to Taste pies. HOWEVER, Leon restaurants manage to churn out good food fast, that is suitable for the gluten and dairy free (it's improved even further, since I reviewed it). 

Now as for other eating establishments, surely any chef, worth his/her salt can manage most of this stuff - I mean an omelette and sauteed potatoes?? Simple enough, surely??

SO come on chefs, show up!! Step up to the plate and just as Tom Crusie yelped, 'Show me the money', I'm asking: SHOW ME THE MENU!! Please??