As regular viewers will know, I was diagnosed with coeliac disease as a baby, roughly 27 and a bit years ago. The world of gluten free has come a long way since then.
While there are still hopefully a lot of improvements to come, thinking back to how things were when I was just a tiny superhero in the making gives an enormous sense of perspective.
I’m talking about a time when you couldn’t just wander into a supermarket and pick up a loaf of gluten free bread. A time when if you asked in a restaurant if something was gluten free, chances are you’d be met with at best a blank look, and at worst a sense of panic rivalling Corporal Jones. A time when I had never eaten a doughnut. I know, it’s almost too terrible to imagine.
Thankfully I was extremely lucky to have a mother who not only enjoyed baking, but was very good at it! I grew up on a diet of homemade bread buns, scones and fairy cakes, along with the few gluten free goodies available on prescription. And when I say goodies, I mean plain digestive biscuits, loaves of ‘bread’ (using the loosest possible interpretation of the word), and later on some pasta and pizza bases.
Things like school trips and birthday parties were always a challenge. I often had to sit and eat my own packed lunch while watching everyone else tuck into a variety of treats I couldn’t partake in. Thankfully, having never known any different, it didn’t really phase me. I definitely think I’m lucky in that respect.
When you’ve never been able to eat normal people bread and cakes, you don’t really miss them. Instead, whenever a new gluten free version of something that you’ve never tried before comes out, it’s the best feeling! How many people can remember eating their first ever doughnut, burger in a restaurant or Scotch egg? I have vivid recollections of all of these, to name just a few!
It still blows my mind that I can go into a supermarket and find a whole aisle of free from products. Even when I’m just popping in for a couple of things I always have to swing by the free from aisle just to make sure it’s still there! Having lived through a time when buying gluten free bread in the supermarket was just a pipe dream almost as unimaginable as being called up to the Avengers, I’m not sure the novelty will ever wear off.
Of course, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. There’s still a lot of work to be done in terms of raising awareness of coeliac disease, the dangers of cross contamination, and hopefully ensuring gluten free products become more and more available and affordable. But for now, I’m enjoying this journey that I’ve been on since developing my coeliac super powers. We’ve come a hell of a long way.