Most parents know the challenge of collecting a kid from nursery on time. With crazy traffic, rarely a parking space and late fees, it's a stressful part of the day. I met someone last night who runs 3 miles from work because it's the only way she can get to nursery on time. Yep. Runs! And most of the way is uphill.
I was simultaneously impressed and staggered. And then I thought about being coeliac.
It's the same principle, isn't it? We carry food in our purses. We phone ahead to every restaurant to check their ability to provide gluten-free. We turn up at birthday parties with special cake for our coeliac children, desperately trying to persuade them getting different food from everyone else doesn't matter (but inwardly knowing it really does, and shedding a tear at their ability to be good about it).
And yet so many people don't see this. We're the awkward ones. The fussy eaters. The people who make cooking a lengthy, ingredient-scanning nightmare.
I was once asked if I could eat rice. "Yes!" I replied. When I arrived, they'd used flavoured rice. The sort with hidden extras like onion powder and spice extract, and put it into stuffed peppers. There was a horrible moment where two hours of careful preparation seemed all for nothing. I'd travelled sixty miles to see my friends. They wanted to make sure my meal wouldn't make me ill. Thankfully, the rice was gluten-free after all.
I'm always grateful allergen laws were introduced. It makes it so much easier when someone else is catering for you.
But whatever happens, it's never enough, is it? There's always going to be a divide between those who have dietary requirements and those who don't. I might be used to it (and after twenty years, you'd think I would be) but the stress, time and money involved in being coeliac often takes its toll.
So I completely understand when I see someone having a mini-meltdown over a meal they can't eat. Out of context, it may look like nothing to get upset about. But it won't be the first time this has happened. It'll be the umpteenth time. And they'll be hungry.
To me, this is just like the problems faced by parents. Things can be difficult, stressful and rushed. There are obstacles and not everyone will understand them.
So here's my plea: if you know someone with coeliac disease (or another dietary restriction) who through no choice of their own has had to adopt a new diet, give them a break. Try and be understanding when they sob at the sight of someone else munching on a kebab. Quite often, it'll be a tiny thing that sets them off, and that's a big indication they need your support.
What was the biggest challenge when you had to go gluten-free? Please share your story below!