For anyone who missed the missable “Food Glorious Food” on itv last night, there were some pretty awful things said by one of the judges, Stacie Stewart, with regards to gluten-free (and general allergy friendly) food, as well as some references by the program makers to gluten/dairy-free as being “food fads”.
You can watch the episode here: https://www.itv.com/itvplayer/food-glorious-food (Episode 4, starts at 15:45) or for those who can’t watch it outside the UK, here is the transcript of the offending parts:
Voiceover: Brighton’s always been a follower of fashion, and that includes the latest food fads
Guy with delicious looking cupcake: … it’s gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soy-free…
Stacie: Oh so you mean flavour free!
Voiceover: And as Stacie gets stuck into the sweets, gluten-free cooking is starting to repeat on her
Stacie: Do you never fancy, just, risking a day on the toilet just having an amazing cupcake with loads of stuff in?
Guy: *nervous laugh* Sometimes…
Stacie: I would!
Stacie (to the camera): I don’t not like gluten-free but I think if something’s a dessert it’s gotta be unctuous and fabulous and you don’t sometimes get that with a gluten-free dairy-free wheat-free product
When I started writing this post, all that came out of my fingers were four letter words, and I try to keep this blog swear-free, mostly because if I start I think I would never stop. On reflection, I have tried to disentangle the specific things that annoyed me about this small segment of the show in the hopes of it reaching someone who shares Stacie’s ignorance.
Every time you call gluten-free a fad, us coeliacs all die a little inside. Imagine being told one day that you have to change your diet drastically, and that you can’t eat bread, pizza, cakes, biscuits without causing serious damage to your small intestine and potentially cancer, osteoporosis, infertility, depression and nerve damage.
Then imagine people constantly make fun of you for being a faddy eater.
Just in case you still don’t get it: WE DON’T WANT TO HAVE TO LIVE LIKE THIS. We don’t want to be different, or special. We want to eat and enjoy food just like the rest of you.
Stacie, firstly, if you think gluten has a flavour, you’re seriously deluded, and clearly know very little about the ingredients that make up your food. The other allergens he mentions – dairy, nuts, soy – are also equally unlikely to contribute to flavour (excepting perhaps nuts, but a purely nut-free dessert would never get this sort of disdain). The issue with allergy friendly food is and always has been the texture, not the flavour.
Secondly, there are many ingredients full of flavour that he didn’t mention and could easily have used instead. Your obvious lack of imagination is comforting to me in a sense, as I won’t lose any sleep over missing out on your own cakes.
Here is a quick list I threw together in about 30 seconds of things that can give flavour to cupcakes:
- Dried fruit
Yeah, not that difficult, was it?
Do you never fancy, just, risking a day on the toilet just having an amazing cupcake with loads of stuff in?
This statement is ignorant on several levels, but I’ll try and break it down. It is not clear what allergies the guy in question is suffering from, but if it’s an allergy, rather than an intolerance/coeliac disease, it’s got nothing to do with toilets.
“Do you never fancy, just, risking a day in the hospital just having an amazing cupcake?”
Yeah, thought not.
Coeliac disease is never mentioned, but I doubt Stacie would really know the difference between coeliac disease and gluten intolerance. It seems she thinks that anyone who avoids certain foods is doing it so they don’t have a dicky tummy.
Well, let me tell you something, Stacie. I don’t avoid gluten because it gives me diarrhoea. Sure, that’s unpleasant, but if that was the only consequence of eating it maybe I WOULD risk it for a good cupcake. S**t happens, as they say.
However, splurging on a cupcake wouldn’t just result in a day on the toilet. There’s diarrhoea, and there’s screaming in pain, tears falling down my cheeks, boyfriend rubbing my back, while my body rejects the gluten in the cupcake in every possible way. Then there’s nausea, overwhelming nausea, worse than any hangover. By this time the fatigue will have hit and my boyfriend might have to carry me to bed.
In the morning, the flu-like autoimmune symptoms start and typically last for a few days, or even a week. Worth it for a cupcake?
“I thought it was gonna be like a boiled bullet”
She was eventually won over by a gluten-free Christmas pudding that another contestant presented.
Stacie: I thought it was gonna be like a boiled bullet, but it was the lightest thing ever!
This really goes to show the extent of her ignorance – if she thought gluten-free texture = boiled bullet she cannot have ever actually tasted gluten-free baking. Seriously. Gluten-free cakes are light, often crumbly (even I’ll admit that) but very rarely are they dense or heavy.
I know this is a bit of a mega-rant and I don’t like attacking people personally, but I’m not angry because her comments upset little old me. I’m angry that these ill-informed comments are being broadcast to a large amount of people who may have heard somewhere that gluten-free food is not very nice and then think, well this proves it! I’m angry at her implication that being able to eat “unctuous” cupcakes is more important than a healthy life. And I’m angry at the programme referring to my critically important diet as “a fad” that gives the general public license to keep laughing at us and dismissing our needs as not important.