Deborah and I have always shared a great joy in growing and cooking great things for each other to eat. Food and eating is so much more then just fuel, it can bring joy, delight, comfort, warmth, health. The wrong food, we are now realising to our cost, brings serious ill health. Above all, food and sharing it is about fun, love and caring for each other, your family and friends.
Deborah has had an allotment for over 20 years – her studying to be a nutritionist came from a desire to eat better, with more understanding about the effect of what we put in our mouths. Her earliest cooking experiences were making simple meals for herself and younger brothers whilst her mother taught clarinet lessons after school.
I have always loved creating food for family and friends after the ‘Damascene’ type discovery at 18 that the way to a girl’s heart was to cook her nice food. Cooking is always a way to relax, get away from the stress and tedium of the daily grind, a creative outlet. I was the parent that cooked the children’s tea, dreamt up the dinner parties, prepared the Sunday lunch and one occasion created Christmas dinner for 26 people.
When we started to eat gluten free, we were very disappointed by what we found in the free-from aisles in the supermarkets. It seemed that GF products from the big manufacturers copied the worst of what was available mainstream. Things were often too sweet, nutritionally poor with little to differentiate between brands. It was only when we started going to the coeliac food fairs we discovered the legion of small scale bakers, butchers, brewers and food stockists offering top quality, tasty produce.
In many ways, having to live gluten free has echoes of a time when it was entirely natural to make everything from scratch yourself. It is something that we largely did anyway so it wasn’t a big jump for us to simply ignore the supermarkets and make cakes and bread ourselves.
Requests from Deborah’s Nutritional Therapy clients also drove us towards developing our courses. She had been providing menu tips and recipes to support her advice but was being asked for something more practical. Some typical comments were:
”I feel a stranger in my own kitchen” commenting on her failure to make GF flours work.
“I tried to book a baking course but as soon as I said I couldn’t eat eggs they didn’t want to know”
Our daughters, all 4, were/ are enthusiastic consumers of our new GF lifestyle. The first family Christmas since 2006 to gather the whole tribe together along with the more recently added partners and grandchildren saw a completely gluten free feast of goose with stuffings, sauce and gravies along with GF mince pies, Christmas cake and pudding. You really should run a baking course they said.
It was an idea we had been playing with and discussing. It suddenly seemed to have some legs, we gathered some friends for a practice run through, booked a space at the Leeds Coeliac Society Food Fair at the end of January and launched ourselves on to an unsuspecting public. We ran our 1st course to a small group in February. The Wirral and York Coeliac Food Fairs followed a tiny advert in Crossed Grain and we were off on what felt like a runaway train.