What Is It Like To Be Gluten & Dairy Intolerant?

Dear cafes and restaurants,

I am six years old and I am gluten and dairy intolerant. That means I have a big list of things I can’t eat and drink, including bread, pastries, biscuits, cakes, milk, cheese and butter.

When we go to town, my mum brings me some food to eat, because she can never be sure if we will be able to get something while we’re out. We know what most of the places offer now and that the choice is very limited, but still, I always hope that one day there might be something for me.

In Costa, the only thing I can have is a pack of mini cherry Bakewell’s. Sometimes there are gluten free wraps, but they aren’t always dairy free and mum says they taste like cardboard anyway. In Café Nero, I can have a fruit salad, or a raspberry and coconut slice, which is very dry and too sweet and in Malabar, they sometimes have gluten and dairy free cake, which is a nice treat for me, but that’s all.

It’s nice to have sweet things, but that doesn’t count as lunch, my mum says. If we need to eat something proper, we have to go somewhere else. Even then, there isn’t much choice. In Marks & Spencer’s café, they said they had gluten free rolls, but they ran out, so all I could have was a jacket potato and beans (the pre-packed sandwiches, even if gluten free had butter on them). I also had the same thing at Soprano’s café another time, although I could also have had some bacon and maybe a poached egg.

The best places for me to eat when we go out are Zizzi’s and Pizza Express. At Zizzi, I can have gluten free pasta and sometimes they have a yummy chocolate pudding. Mum likes that they have a special menu showing what all their dishes have in them, so we can always check if it’s safe for me. At Pizza Express, I have gluten free pizza and they make it without the cheese, which is fine. They don’t always have any pudding for me, though, unless they have some fruit to offer.

A few restaurants always look after me. One is the King’s Head at Bessels Green, where they make me a special breakfast and they even do some gluten free toast just for me. The other is St Julian’s Bar, where they always have gluten free bread and pasta. Restaurants like these, as well as the Bullfinch at Riverhead and the Rose and Crown at Dunton Green, are always happy to make sure my lunch is safe. That means that they will make me a separate portion of vegetables without butter on them and check if I can have the gravy. Things like this do make a difference and it’s nice that they understand.

I know that not everybody has to avoid the things that I do, but it seems unfair when my sisters can eat things and I can’t. Am I the only one who suffers like this? My mum thinks that there must be many other people who can’t eat dairy and gluten, but they seem to be invisible, especially in coffee shops.

All I want to say is I’m not a fussy eater, I just can’t eat the same as everybody else, so please don’t make me suffer anymore by refusing to acknowledge me and my needs.

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About Nicola Young

Freelance writer and copywriter

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