When I began my blog, I knew that I had a relatively limited audience. I was targetting people with coeliac disease, more specifically I was blogging information for teenagers and more narrowly for parents supporting their teenagers who had a recent diagnosis and even more restrictive was that my blog had an Australian focus specifically when it came to available products.
So it is interesting to think about a blog’s audience. WordPress comes with many tools to assist the blogger in understanding your audience and I am amazed that Gluten Free and the Australian Teenager is read by people across the world. And if you set up your blog properly your audience can reveal themself in other ways. Sometimes your audience will sign up and ‘follow’ you. Sometimes your audience will make comments. Sometimes your audience will ‘like’ one of your blogs. Sometimes a blogger’s audience is anonymous. And sometimes the blogger wonders if anyone really reads the posted blogs.
So it came as a surprise that my blog has been mentioned in Feedspot’s Best 100 Gluten Free Blogs on the Web. My motivation for my blog is not for fame nor fortune, but my expectation is that it is primarily a resource for my gf son and secondly a resource to parents who are struggling with a teenager’s coeliac disease diagnosis. And more widely a resource for people who must follow a gluten free diet and are looking for good family meals and product ideas.
Thank you to Feedspot for my inclusion in your Best 100 Gluten Free Blogs on the Planet.
My audience is wider than I thought.
In the beginning, I found gluten free baking very confronting. I had always prided myself in baking my own cakes and slices. I wanted my sons to know that people really do make meals and cakes from scratch. I wanted my sons to know that pasta sauce doesn’t come out of a bottle. I wanted my sons to appreciate family favourites and the stories behind these recipes.
So when I started gluten free baking I resisted making a packet cake. I was stubborn and thought that I wanted to do things my way… the old fashioned way. So I baked my way through hundreds of recipes which I found both frustrating and calming.
But what I have accepted is that there is nothing wrong with a gluten free packet cake. You can dress it up with layering of cream and strawberries. You can decorate it with sprinkles. You can make it into decorative cupcakes. The possibilities are endless. For even more decadent recipes just go to Betty Crocker’s website.
I was speaking with a local restaurateur recently about his predominately gluten free menu and asking about the gluten free bread served with the soup. We talked a lot about gluten free and then he produced a Betty Crocker Devil’s Food Gluten Free Cake Mix from under the counter…his standby gluten free cake for when a ‘booking’ asks if he can do a gluten free dessert cake for a special celebration.
I keep a packet mix in the cupboard. It is my standby for the ‘just in case’ times when I have run out of plain flour or almond meal or special ingredients.
Lesson to myself is: it is okay to use a packet cake mix.
You know you are in Spain when the buffet breakfast showcases salami, chorizo and jambon. Our first breakfast in Madrid made me forget (very quickly) my standard yoghurt and fruit breakfast as I quickly filled my plate with tasty morsels of pork products. Many years ago, I was told by cousins that they “the Spanish” use everything from the pig. This accounts for Paella recipes calling for pig’s ear. On that holiday 29 years ago Terese, my sister ordered a pork menu item… at least we could translate the word ‘pork’. What she didn’t realise was that she had ordered Pork Cheek – still on the jaw so once she ate the tender meat, a row of teeth appeared.
This soup recipe is not so confronting but chorizo, chickpeas, paprika, tomatoes and capsicums combine to make a hearty Spanish Style soup.
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 chorizo sausages, cut into 1 cm pieces
1 red onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 litre chicken stock
1 cup water
400 g can chickpeas, drained
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
Gluten free bread to serve
500 g Roma tomatoes, halved lengthways
2 red capsicums, quartered and deseeded
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
- Roasted vegetables : combine all ingredients in a roasting dish and cook in a very hot oven (240C) for about 25 minutes or until tender. Cool slightly and then chop coarsely.
- While vegetables are roasting, in a large stockpot, heat oil and then add chorizo. Cook, stirring for about 3 minutes or until golden. Add onion and paprika. Cook, stirring for a further 5 minutes or until onions are soft.
- Add roasted vegetables to stockpot together with stock, water, chickpeas and vinegar. Bring to boil. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
(New Idea: from the New Idea Test Kitchen)
Newly diagnosed – then you will referred to a dietitian to help you will your transition to gluten free. From experience, I would like to offer a few words of advice for dietitians consulting with those new to coeliac disease.
To the Dietitian supporting a newly diagnosed Coeliac disease sufferer…..
- Know a little about your client and be prepared – the dietitian we visited bumbled his way through his notes mumbling that he wasn’t quite sure the condition my son was referred to him for but as he was a teenager and was referred to by a gastroenterologist then it was most likely one of two conditions. The fact that he knew my son was a teenager and the specialist who referred him meant that he did in fact receive the referral and should have been prepared but ….
- Remember that one size does not fit all– have age specific literature at hand – our dietitian showed us a pamphlet, said he only had one copy and would post a copy in the mail. The pamphlet we received was actually targeted for those aged 6 – 10 year old and was not the one we had been shown. My son was 15 years old. Be mindful that a client with coeliac disease is different to a client who is going ‘gluten free’ for other reasons. Be mindful that an 80 year old eats and cooks differently to a 20 year old uni student. Be mindful that emotionally a 55 year old will deal with a diagnosis differently to a 10 year old.
- Acknowledge that you have two clients in your room – the parent and the child. Both have specific and very different needs. Address the primary client – the person with coeliac disease. Our experience saw my son largely ignored with little attempt to engage him in conversation or ask questions of him. My son felt alienated as was clear by his body language as he pulled the hoodie of his jacket over his head and slumped down into the chair. A friend had the dietitian eye her other child and launch into the urgent need for him to also be screened. In an instant my friend had two insecure children and she felt even more overwhelmed than she did before her visit.
- Acknowledge that in the short to medium term the journey is difficult and confronting and time consuming – Never say “but there are some many products you can buy these days that are gluten free” or “a gluten free is relatively easy to adjust to if you make a few little changes” or ‘there is a whole aisle of gluten free products in the supermarket”.
- Speak from Experience – purchase a range of gluten free products and taste test them. Have a staff taste test. Have a family taste test. Experience for yourself how disgusting ‘Aussie Mite’ tastes or maybe have one of your own children taste test for you and get their honest feed back. Try some of the gluten free biscuits and experience how different the texture and taste is. Try a sandwich using gluten free bread to see how well it handles. Have a go at baking gluten free bread and experience how different the texture is. And please please don’t suggest to a teenager gluten free weetbix – taste it and see what I mean.
- Be Realistic – Is it really realistic to send a teenager off to school with a can of baked beans and a fork and expect them to sit with their friends on the school oval and eat cold baked beans for lunch? This suggestion we were given was wrong on so many levels and certainly did not take into account how different the teenager with coeliac disease is already feeling and at a time when teenagers don’t want to be conspicuous, the dietitian was suggesting the teenager make themselves even more conspicuous. This suggestion was not one of transition and small changes but a total shift from what used to be “normal”. It was like telling someone they need to fly to the moon to get a cup of water.
- Support the guidelines of Coeliac Queensland – A friend told me that the dietitian said that it was okay to eat products with the statement ‘may contain gluten’. FYI – Coeliac Queensland’s statement is : ‘It is also important to avoid cross contamination by avoiding products with statements such as ‘may contain gluten’. More importantly, it is one thing as an adult with coeliac disease to ‘take risks’ but it is another thing for a parent of a child to encourage their child to ‘take risks’. As the parent, we have a duty of care to teach our children about the importance of their need to be ‘gluten free forever’. We have a duty of care to teach our children to take responsibility for their life long gluten free diet and therefore we should NEVER EVER encourage our children to take risks. We must teach them so much about their new gluten free lifestyle and ‘taking risks’ is certainly not one of those lessons. An adult coeliac who takes a risk can then honestly evaluate if they suffer from the possible contamination. A parent encouraging their child to take a risk cannot honestly evaluate the possible side effects of contamination. More importantly for a sufferer of coeliac disease who is asymptomatic then how can they judge whether their health is being compromised other than another round of blood tests and gastrostrophy.
- Don’t Give False Hope aka Don’t Give False Information – My friend told me that Allens Red Frogs were okay because the dietitian told her daughter that she could eat them. My response was that I was 99% sure Red Frogs contain wheat, because if they didn’t, then I would have a jar full of them at home. I also do acknowledge that over time companies do change recipes and that possibly this had happened with Red Frogs. However: Ingredients of Red Frogs: Glucose Syrup (Wheat or Corn), Cane Sugar, Thickener (1401 or 1420) (Wheat), Gelatine, Food Acid (Citric Acid), Flavour, Colours (120, 122). When one consults Coeliac Australia’s Ingredients List it identifies 1400-1450 (wheat): meaning that the thickener in Red Frogs contains gluten and is therefore a ‘no go’ item.
- Don’t Confuse – It is all well and good telling someone about Teff and Quinoa and Sorghum and Millet and Buckwheat as a way of communicating that there is a range of grain options out there that are gluten free, but when the newly diagnosed is struggling with restrictions and major changes to their lifestyle and diet, then they are not going to want to experiment with ‘new’ produce. One really needs to be a confident cook to branch out, especially in the beginning. Don’t say: if you like your porridge then you can cook quinoa porridge. This is not a substitute in any shape or form; it might be trendy, but it is most definitely not palatable.
- Set Your Client up for Success and Confidence – Additionally to the advice and guidelines and list you provide your client with, tap into another valuable resource: other coeliac disease sufferers or mothers of children with coeliac disease. It might be worthwhile contacting your local Coeliac Support group for some grass roots advice: easy and simple recipes, tried and tested handy hints, a list of realistic and acceptable lunch box suggestions, seeing if there are members with whom you could pair your client eg another mother of a teenager, another adult who has Type 1 diabetes and coeliac disease.
My son’s experience at his dietitian’s appointment will most likely mean that he will never again visit a dietitian. He felt alienated, he felt ignored and he realised that ‘the experts’ really don’t understand how frightening and confronting a diagnosis is. Unfortunately, this is not the outcome I wanted for my son. I wanted my son to be guided and supported and should in the future he need advice about his diet, then he would have no qualms about booking another appointment with a dietitian.
Please also take time to undertake a little self-evalutation and put yourself in the client’s shoes and walk around in them for a week or a day or for just a lunch and try to see their gluten free journey through their eyes.
A Mum of a teenager with coeliac disease
gluten free preparedness clarity REALISTIC
honesty PERCEPTIVENESS coeliac disease
My husband noticed a small article in the “Courier Mail” a couple of weeks ago about Little Box of Yum a gourmet food subscription box, but more importantly, that their August box was going to be a ‘gluten free’ box.
A great way of sampling new products on the market, my box arrived this week with a number of new products I haven’t seen here in Townsville. While not all products are targeted to my teenager’s tastebuds, this would be a great gift for the adult gluten free-er.
I am not sure if there is a cut off date for the August Gluten Free box, but the concept is a great way to sample different products. I do notice a comments box for subscribers to make note of any food allergies, so you might be able put in for a special order box.
Australian Gluten Free Life as well as their magazine subscriptions, also have a “The Box” subscription of gluten free goodies.
I was meeting up with a mum of a teenage daughter who was newly diagnosed with coeliac disease. Before our rendez-vous, I asked my gf son for some words of advice for me to take along, which he gave candidly and quickly:
- You do get used to it
- Baking paper… lots of it
- The mums get more stressed than you do
So there it is in a nutshell. My son’s words of wisdom were spot on and I haven’t taken the third point too much to heart.
While it is now four years since KJ was diagnosed, I totally understood the place this mum was in : overwhelmed and devastated. At the time of diagnosis, I didn’t know what to expect, how to do what we needed to do, who to talk to. Nor did I know how to calmly deal with this change.
Over a cup of coffee, this mum and I chatted: about the lead up to diagnosis; a rather unhelpful visit to the dietitian; how to convert eating patterns and change cooking preparation routines; the best biscuit recipe,store bought bread and pasta brand. I loaned her some recipe books, I took along the packaging of some of our favourites, I bagged up biscuits and snacks for taste testing.
And in a nutshell, it is the mothers (or main care givers) of children with coeliac disease who need support and age specific advice on products, recipes and school lunches. Additionally, as a parent of a teenager, one might be tip toeing through the emotional minefield of the teenage years and then a coeliac disease is like a bombshell that one didn’t see coming.
So today is my blog anniversary. My focus is still the same: to give help and advice to other parents of teenagers with coeliac disease and to make the blog my box full of goodies to share.
Today I received my box full of ….. gluten free Mexican goodies: Totopos (Corn Chips), Tostaditas (Deep Fried Tortillas), White Corn Tortillas, Blue Totopos (Corn Chips). It is almost three years since I launched my blog so upon opening my box full of gluten free Mexican goodies from El Cielo, I reflected back to our first box full of gluten free goodies and my first blog post.
My blog was inspired by my friend Mandy’s gluten free box full of goodies she sent my son when he was first diagnosed. And my blog became my box full of…. gluten free goodies: recipes, experiences, products, travel tips and short cuts.
So today’s share is El Cielo’s range of gluten free Mexican foods.
While we generally make do with supermarket corn chips and tortillas my ‘regular eating son’ recently talked about the Tostaditas I had purchased in Melbourne at Casa Iberica . Cooked in Rice Bran oil, these tostaditas were crisp and crunchy and memorable. I promised that I would ‘look around’ and see what I could find. I contacted Latin Taste the makers of the tostaditas and they referred me to El Cielo and their on-line shop . If you live in Melbourne you can go to their pick up points in Port Melbourne or South Melbourne. Take a look also at their recipes. Mexican lasagne made with tortillas is a great concept and the Mexican Rice recipe took me back to my childhood and my mother’s ‘Garlic Rice’.
With a marinated pork shoulder basted and resting in the fridge to go in the slow cooker for dinner tonight, I know that the stars have been aligned and now we can have not only pulled pork but pulled pork on crisp and crunchy tostaditas.