Cooking for Food Allergies

September 24, 2007

Onwards and Upwards

Filed under: Blog Stuff,General Commentary,The Book — Hew @ 8:43 am

Now that everything is beginning to take off, we’re moving the site to something a little more permanent.

This blog is moved, with all the archives, to here.

And Lucinda has her own proper site here.


September 10, 2007

Food Additives and Hyperactivity

Filed under: General Commentary — Hew @ 12:15 pm

Scotland's Other National DrinkJenny McCartney presents a rather mixed bag in her Opinion piece at the Sunday Telegraph yesterday.

There is some sensible commentary:

There appears to be a crucial piece of thinking missing from Dr Wadge’s logic. For if, as he suggests, the behaviour of a hyperactive child can be improved by cutting out such additives, it surely follows that the additives were partly responsible for the hyperactivity in the first place.

Quite. In fact, her opening paragraph on children’s parties notes that most parents entirely understand this.

Unfortunately, the piece starts to slip a little thereafter:

And if an unnecessary ingredient is known to cause serious problems in a significant number of children, what reason can there be for not simply banning it? The only one that I can think of is a craven reluctance to upset the food industry.

That might speak more of her thought processes than the cravenness or otherwise of our lords and masters. Without wishing to let the food manufacturers off the hook, here – off the top of my head – are some reasons Ms McCartney has missed.

Firstly, the case for an outright ban might not be strong enough. There are plenty of activities, objects and foodstuffs that are either inherently dangerous or could be dangerous in the wrong hands but which are not banned. Kitchen knives are not banned, but are very obviously very considerably more dangerous than food additives. A splash of vodka in one’s evening tonic water is nice; a whole bottle might kill you, two certainly will. Vodka is not banned. Its sale is hardly even restricted: it is quite possible to wander into a shop and buy a case – many multiples of the lethal dose – without any let or hindrance.

In order for the force of law to be invoked, you have to set the bar quite high:

  • Does the additive cause the reaction in any but a small proportion of children?
  • Is the hyperactivity reaction a problem on its own or does it only become an issue when in conjunction with all sorts of other environmental factors – insufficient space to allow the children to let off steam harmlessly, too much TV and too little real stimulation from parents, repeated high dosages at the wrong times of day and/or when the child does not have a decent balanced diet?

In short, is the additive really the problem, or does it simply unmask a plethora of rather more difficult underlying issues, mostly revolving around the parent’s ability to control the child? 

Secondly, the assumption here is that these additives serve no real useful purpose other than to impart a lurid colour. I’m not sure it holds. Indeed, as benzoate preservatives are specifically mentioned in the article, I can be quite certain that in some cases it doesn’t.

Thirdly, it is not the “Food Manufacturing lobby” that is the obstacle to a ban.

Fourthly – and I would argue most importantly – a ban won’t solve the problem. The problem here is not food additives: it is that parents are suckers to pester power. Jenny McCartney hints at this:

Parents should no doubt be firmer in opposing a multi-billion pound food and drink industry that knowingly exploits “pester power” in children; but why should they be forced into constant, dreary battle with it in the first place?

 Well because the one thing that parents have to do is learn to manage their children’s demands. It is precisely the same process governing the requests for fizzy drinks that governs requests for more time watching TV, another go on the swings and equally the refusal to eat your greens, do your homework or any of the other myriad of life’s challenges where parental and children’s desires appear to be somewhat orthogonal.

In an ideal world, no doubt, the vast majority of British mothers would spend their time sourcing the healthiest organic ingredients before slow-cooking three nourishing meals a day for their children. While one can only applaud those who do, the fact is that many mothers have neither the time nor the budget to shop organically …

This sets up a ludicrous dichotomy.  

… or always to cook from scratch.  

 Whilst I’ll give her points for avoiding the split infinitive, that’s about as far as it goes. This line perpetuates the myth that cooking from scratch is necessarily hugely time-consuming and/or more expensive. It might require a little more forethought and planning, but that is not the same thing at all.

Worse, a weak-willed and growing minority will feed their children on whatever fizzy, salty or sugar-laden processed concoction is most vigorously demanded.

Ah. Quite. Whether or not – especially if not – the parent learns to manage the child, the child will learn to manage the parent. A ban on certain food additives isn’t really going to address that problem.

 Besides, if Ms McCartney were to apply her methods to the favourite drink of my native Scotland, she might find that it wasn’t a minority that she was dealing with and their opposition would be distinctly unlikely to be “weak-willed” at that…

May 1, 2007

Woo Hoo! It’s on Amazon!

Filed under: The Book — Hew @ 2:50 pm

It’s got an ISBN (1905744048) and everything.

And you can pre-order it here. What, we ask, could possibly be stopping you?

March 5, 2007

Robin and Granny, Wrinkles and Tact

Filed under: General Commentary — Hew @ 9:21 pm

Lucinda has been dispatched southwards to get at least some decent photos in the bag before I turn up with all the boys and ruin everything.

 That means that we have Granny to stay to hold the fort for a day or so. Cue earnest conversation….

Robin (aged 5, for it is he): Granny, would you have liked to come to the do the photos for Mummy’s book?

Granny (aged – ahem – ): That would be enormous fun, but do you think I really ought to be there?

Robin (considering this carefully): “Well. You do have a lot of wrinkles.”


“…. and that might not help sell the book.”

Granny Wrinkles

February 14, 2007

Goldacre, McKeith, Kittens and Desperation

Filed under: Diagnosing Allergies,The Book — Hew @ 5:07 pm

I have been meaning to link to this excellent article on the desperation that many people feel in attempting to get a diagnosis for vague but nonetheless annoying symptoms. The ongoing recipe testing (see posts passim) denied me the time to do so.

I am prompted to resurrect it by the fuss across the blogosphere created by Ben Goldacre’s slating of Gillian McKeith. He does not pull his punches: his kitten has been “awarded” the same “PhD” as McKeith.

Stephen Pollard also notes an earlier, subtler article by the aptly named Rachel Cooke, which finishes with a flourish that is more relevant to our topic:

This isn’t down to all the bad science (though that is wearying enough). No, the real problem with her is that she is so anti-life. Food is about history, and culture, and ritual. But not for her the artisan cheese-maker, or the fifth-generation baker, or the man with an ancient vine. Many of the foods she recommends are not even indigenous to these islands; flying them here literally costs the earth. Most of all, though, it bothers me that there is so little that is celebratory – or even vaguely pleasurable – about her regimes.

Drawing these threads together, I think there are two points to note:

1) Prior to the diagnosis of allergies (of more or less any sort), people can be prey to all sorts of alternative remedies of possibly dubious efficacy. If you can’t replicate the results in a clinically rigorous double-blind trial, you may well be looking at a placebo effect.

2) After a diagnosis, you shouldn’t have to live like a monk. The whole point of the diagnosis is to enable to you to get your life back, not to have it taken away again by some other means.

That’s what this book is for: food that works for food allergy sufferers that EVERYONE will enjoy.

February 10, 2007

Foody Heaven

Filed under: Blogroll — Hew @ 9:44 pm

I’m afraid I’m teasing now, because I can’t begin to imagine that any of this is dairy, egg or gluten free. In fact, you are almost certain to be condemned to burn in Hell just by looking at this site. Naughty, but very very nice.

Recipe Testing: Tarte Normande

Filed under: Recipe Testing — Hew @ 9:38 pm

Normandy, in Northern France, is famous for its apples. It is also famous for quite a few of the things that the Normans make from these apples – cider and calvados being particularly notable. You could therefore expect that a Tarte Normande has at least a passing acquaintance with the fruit.

You would be right.

Here’s the various stages of preparation – it’s quite a batch job as even a small tart uses a surprising quantity and it would be wrong to be miserly.
Preparing Apples for the Tarte Normande
It does help – as it does with most things – to have a decent paring knife. This one is made by WÜSTHOF DREIZACK – one of the two superb German kitchen knife companies.

 Once assembled onto the (gluten, dairy and egg free) pastry case that has been filled with (gluten and dairy free) almond filling, it looks like this:
Tarte Normande ready before baking

It looks a little unwieldy, the way the apples are piled up so high above the tart. But it all comes right in the end, especially after it has been glazed to make it look delicious.
Tarte Normande Baked and Glazed

Perfect with a splash of cream.

Recipe Testing: Summer Berry Tart

Filed under: Recipe Testing — Hew @ 8:49 pm

The pastry, as we’ve seen with the Treacle Tart, can be made with a variety of gluten-, egg- and/or dairy-free alternatives. The crême patisserie is gluten and egg free anyway and can be made dairy free very easily. The summer berries, well they’re just summer berries.

As you can see, it is very important to have LOTS of summer berries.

And the boys all think that it’s very important to have LOTS of summer berries. Mind you that’s only because they want to eat them all before lunchtime.

But by the time you’ve let the adults at it, it’s largely academic.


January 26, 2007

Food Allergy and Intolerance Week

Filed under: General Commentary — Hew @ 10:08 am

We haven’t commented on the Food Allergy and Intolerance Week – partly because we haven’t posted at all this week – but, to be honest, it would appear to have passed most people by.

In this, I find that I have to disagree with Andrew Wadge, the Chief Scientist at the Food Standards Agency, who posts on this topic here.

Google News finds only 5 articles, with only one national newspaper, The Times (see here for the article), covering the story. The BBC does not even mention it at all. I’m struggling to make that “lots of press coverage”.

I want one of those

Filed under: Kitchen Equipment — Hew @ 9:33 am

I don’t need it, but I really, really want it.

Michael Chu continues to inform and delight.

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