Low chemical cooking

If you have a food intolerance it can be handy to supply your family and friends with recipes that suit you. “Beware though – well meaning hosts will sometimes be tempted to spice up a meal, mistakenly believing that you’ll enjoy it more if it has some extra flavour,” warns Friendly Food. This book of recipes for the allergic and intolerant does sometimes leave you tempted to do a little spicing up, especially of the low chemical recipes.

The recipe I tested was the Potato Torte. It’s free of gluten, nuts and soy and low in food chemicals that affect the intolerant. And it’s weird. The ingredients list reads a little like a Spanish omelette – featuring potatoes and eggs. It does also contain sugar, and some pear juice, rice flour and citric acid. It’s served with maple-flavoured cream.

Spicing it up is certainly tempting. “Wouldn’t it be nicer with cinnamon, or some pecans on top?” you ask yourself. But turning to the food chemical charts at the front of Friendly Food, it becomes clear that most spices are high in salicylates and nuts are high in both salicylates and amines. These chemicals, along with glutamate, are the most likely to cause food intolerance reactions according to scientists at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital Allergy Unit.

At the Allergy Unit, intolerant patients follow a specially-designed elimination diet. This shows which food chemicals they’re sensitive to, and what levels of these they can tolerate. The early phase of the diet is very strict, and features a lot of pears, potatoes and rice. Considering the restrictions on ingredients, it’s remarkable how normal the low chemical recipes in Friendly Food look.

So how do people on a normal diet respond to a low chemical recipe? “Your cake is delicious!” said one taste-tester, munching on a slice of Potato Torte. Several other taste-testers found the cake too sweet, although the combination with the maple cream was popular. The texture was the best aspect of this cake, which is made very light by beaten eggwhites.

Cooking for someone with an intolerance takes patience and understanding. Dietary restrictions limit the selection of ingredients, and planning for this is an extra effort for the host. To restrain their creativity can be difficult for a cook, so preparing food for someone on a restricted diet is truly thoughtful. You might even say it’s an act of love.

I would like to thank Dr Anne Swain of the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital Allergy Unit for kindly providing me with an information pack on allergies, intolerances and coeliac disease. This pack included a copy of Friendly Food.


5 thoughts on “Low chemical cooking

  1. I feel that – where it is possible to do so – preparing food that is suitable for a person with an allergy or intolerance is just one of those nice, decent things to do as a sign of respect and consideration for a person. Just like calling ahead to enquire about access to a venue for a wheelchair-using friend you’re meeting, or helping a visually impaired person to know when the bus reaches their destination. I hope to get better at it – and the book sounds like a great place to start!

  2. @wonkyj Yes, respect and consideration are really important. I think one reason that food reactions aren’t always respected is that it’s so hard to recognise whether someone is following a lifestyle choice, or even a fad diet, versus having medical condition.

  3. I see there are rises of public opinions about chemical use in food. We don’t want chemicals as much as we can. Having such a non-chemical recipe will help people and make us healther! Fantastic!

  4. @Rabitoh Lots of the chemicals that cause food intolerances occur naturally in food. For example salicylates form in ripening fruit and amines form when food ferments. Glutamate is found naturally in some foods, but is also added as a flavouring agent in savoury snacks.

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