Monday, 5 July 2010

“When ‘gf’ doesn’t mean girlfriend” A guest post for WheatSurrender by Ian Sanders

I’m standing in a supermarket in Copenhagen; I’m hungry and wishing there was a Waitrose nearby. Then I spot the shelves in the corner and my eyes light up as I read the sign above: ‘Gluten Fri’. Cue a huge fanfare as I discover supplies of gluten free pasta, crackers and bread.

I never used to get this excited shopping, but then I’ve been on quite a journey these past few months, living the gluten-free life. It’s a journey that’s been challenging, and also rather expensive. Especially in Copenhagen where I realise my packet of ‘gluten fri’ crackers costs about a fiver.

I used to have a relaxed attitude to eating, but from that moment my doctor suggested I choose a gluten free diet, I am forever scanning websites, shops and menus for those two letters ‘GF’ that mean I can eat safely. Hearing a doctor or nutritionist tell you to give up wheat can be quite a shock. Especially if like me, you lived on bread and pasta most of your life. But with hindsight I know it’s not as bad as you first think; survival is about three things:

  1. knowing what (and where) you can get good, tasty GF products
  2. being prepared when away from home or ‘on the road’
  3. having a supportive partner/ mates (my wife is great at putting up with my grumbles and making me special meals).

Sure, there are things I still miss. A fresh baguette on a Saturday lunchtime, a pint in the pub, but I have found some alternatives. So, here’s what I have to be grateful for :

- Genius bread: better than so many other brands out there, it tastes likes real bread.

- Tesco own-brand Free-From biscuits, pitta, crackers, pasta: good staples for the larder.

- Estrella Damm Daura lager: expensive but hey, a gluten free lager.

- ‘Against The Grain’ biscuitsDebbie and Andrew’ sausages are really good.

- Isabel’s pizza base mix (as discovered via this very blog) – makes awesome pizzas.

That’s fine when you’re near a supermarket or at home.
But it can get a bit complicated when you’re at work or out and about. So you need to know the right places to go. Here are my own must-go places: Starbucks for its GF tuna sandwiches; Leon for its GF-friendly menu; Whole Foods for breads and snacks. You just need to be prepared. A business trip to the States involved taking bread and biscuits in my suitcase and a trip across town to the local Whole Foods store to pick up top-up rations. I was the guy at breakfast bringing my own bread in to toast, and asking questions in restaurants like “are your burgers made with breadcrumbs?” Virgin Atlantic offer GF meals if you book in advance, but they seem to be dairy-free too which is probably why my GF mozzarella salad appeared with no cheese.

Nine months ago I was eating bread that tasted of cardboard at around £3.50 a loaf. It was that killer combination of tasting horrible and being really expensive. But, the good news is that in most towns and cities in the UK there are more and more options out there for us. And yes, often it’s expensive but it’s actually quite tasty. And missing all those things I love might be a pain but not as much a pain as all the symptoms I suffered from before.

Ian Sanders is a marketing expert, ideas-producer and writer. He’s author of ‘Leap! Ditch Your Job, Start Your Own Business’ and ‘Juggle! Rethink Work, Reclaim Your Life’. He lives by the coast in Leigh-on-Sea. His website is at and you can follow him on Twitter @iansanders

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