Back in September 2013 I was stood in my local Health Food store, staring aimlessly at the small selection of wheat and gluten free options. Trying to find my inspiration for making and baking fun things for my then 6 year old to eat. My energy and enthusiasm for baking had gone awol, I felt deflated at the lack of options available for kids. I picked up a few packets of prepackaged biscuits and went to the counter to pay. A conversation started between myself and the shop owner and before I knew it I was telling him all my frustrations about the lack of wheat and gluten free options available to buy. His response, half laughing, was if I wanted a better selection, I should move to Australia or Canada. Little did he know that we were contemplating moving our family of 5 over to Ontario, Canada. This for me was another sign that the move was meant to be!Move forward 11 months, to August 5th 2014. After a long day of travelling, we arrived at Toronto Pearson International. Here we were ready for our new adventure. The first few days were a whirlwind of buying furniture, collecting the keys to our rental house, purchasing a car and most importantly, working out what the heck we could feed our daughter!Freya suffers from a condition called ‘Food Protein Induced Enterocolitis Syndrome’ or ‘FPIES’. It is a type of food allergy affecting the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Freya has had to be on a strict diet for nearly her whole life but after successfully passing her milk and soya food challenges back in 2011 and 2012, her only restriction now is wheat and gluten. Some may say that’s easy to avoid but the reality is far from it. Our biggest nemesis is cross contamination. Freya reacts to the tiniest amount of food containing wheat and gluten. Her reactions cause profound vomiting and dehydration. She becomes severely lethargic, usually suffers from a change in body temperature and blood pressure. Severe reactions can land Freya in the Emergency Room due to her body going into shock.Understandably, we were incredibly nervous about letting Freya try new brands of food when we arrived in Canada, but we knew we had to do it. The first few weeks took us forever to do the grocery shopping. We had to read every label on everything we bought. We were so shocked and relieved to discover how much Freya could eat! Freya’s worst reactions in England were caused by Maltodextrin. Maltodextrin is in pretty much everything here in Canada but it is mainly derived from corn, so is totally safe or Freya to eat. We quickly discovered how much Freya could eat. Our first trip to Bulk Barn resulted in my crying (literally!) with joy. I could not believe how much variety was on offer. Our joy just kept coming at every store we went to. Everywhere where we went, the wheat and gluten free options were huge compared our shops back home.Our favourite brands here are All But Gluten, Glutino and Udis. Everything we have tried we have liked, with the exception of the tortilla wraps. We are still on the hunt for a tortilla wrap that doesn’t crack, split and fall apart when you try and ‘wrap it’!. Our town has a specific gluten free bakery which offers its own flour mixes, breads and the most delicious cupcakes. As with England, gluten free food here comes at a higher cost compared to the same food containing gluten, but it is definitely money well spent with the taste and variety we get.One thing I really miss from England that we can’t get here, is Doves Farm flour. I really miss being able to take any recipe and substitute the flour with Doves Farm GF flour, without having to make other changes to the recipe. We have tried lots of different brands of GF flour mixes and they just don’t quite taste as expected.Something else we were pleasantly surprised to discover, is how allergy aware the restaurants here are. We have eaten out at many establishments here and felt comfortable with the knowledge that they have been very allergy aware and conscious.
Freya’s best discovery here…………………was finding out that she is not the only kid in her school with a food allergy. Here it is “normal” to have kids in a class with a type of allergy. Here, Freya is not excluded from activities taking place in her classroom, Freya is included in everything and adjustments are made to activities to include Freya. Here, Freya is made to feel the same as her peers. Here, Freya is happy and thriving in her school!
Of course Katherine and her family weren’t gonig to get rid of us that easily! We packed up and went on a trip of a life time to Florida, taking in all the usual sights of Disney and Universal on the way. Secretly, I couldn’t wait to get to the next place on our trip – Canada! We spent 4 days with Katharine and it was lovely, not only was the company wonderful with lots of laughter and trips down memory lane, but eating was a breeze too.
Just like America, Canadian food outlets and restaurants were proud of their gluten free selection. You had your usual Starbucks with their choice of gluten free goodies and Beth particularly liked the Marshmallow Krispie Square and the local Pizzeria had excellent knowledge of gluten and cross-contamination plus there was a wide choice of toppings Bethany could have.
Katharine recommended the Rainforest Cafe as an excellent venue for understanding gluten free and Beth had loads to choose from she opted for the Penne Pasta with tomato sauce, her face lit up when she learnt she could have pasta. If I let her she’d eat plain bowls of pasta or rice for each meal!
I can still vividly remember holidays in the UK wishing I was back at home in our gluten free bubble where I knew I could cater for Bethany but I’ve learnt that our bubble can expand overseas and this holiday has increased my confidence tenfold in travelling. Plus, we get to take in some awesome sights…if only we had larger suitcases I would have brought back half the supermarkets stock too!