Going against the grain

From hymns to wheat ears and going gluten and dairy free.

Going against the grain

The growing realisation in later life that what one has been feeding oneself to date is – to put it mildly – not in one’s best interest, feels as heavy as a gutful of freshly baked croissants.

From one’s earliest recollections at school, when each morning in assembly, one would chant: "Give us this day our daily bread" ... even the most rebellious of young spirits would not have thought to say "our gluten-free bread", as it had yet to be invented ... through to the popular hymn "Bread of heaven, bread of heaven, feed me till I want no more, want no more" ...

... the message was as clear as a prairie of swollen wheat ears, swaying in the breeze and stretching from horizon to horizon.

The birth of Independent television in the UK, with the novelty of advertisements, introduced the idea of the thirty-second narrative. A sepia image of a working lad pushing his bike up a scenic hillside, accompanied by Dvorak's New World Symphony, (more thoughts of prairies here), revealed in 'voice over' that he was on his way home where a feast of home-baked bread awaited him.

The adverts targeted our life-style and thus usually had a domestic theme:

  • The family most presented to us had a mum who cooked and stayed at home to look after the children, who were always getting their clothes dirty and smelling unpleasant, prompting mum to come to the rescue with miracle-performing products designed to restore the domestic status quo. Dad, who went out to work, would always arrive home just in time for some culinary delight to be put on the table
  • The image presented of the family was a mirror of post-war life and today seems rather charming, but dated
  • No domestic stone was left unturned as we were bombarded with remedies for everything from indigestion to piles
  • Even the lavatory paper was made cuddly by the use of a cute puppy, presumably to remind us all that puppies have accidents!

Morning's arrival was always heralded by the sound of milk bottles on the doorstep, (yet another obsolete domestic image). Delivery of this 'life sustaining' product fell to the 'heroic' milkman, who tirelessly kept up with the constant demand for this ‘miracle’ source of vitamins and energy.

Drinka Pinta Milka Day! became such a pervasive mantra, that later on, when it was changed to a simpler 'Have you had your daily Pinta?', everyone automatically knew what it meant.

Everywhere you looked you were being sold the idea that what's good for a young calf is equally good for us – and we swallowed it.

The idea of staple foods with life-sustaining properties has been around a long time:

  • The ancient Greeks worshiped 'Demeter', the goddess of the harvest and grain, who is portrayed in statue form showing abundance as a multi-breasted woman
  • Moses led his people into a land 'flowing with milk and honey'
  • The great god Wheat is worshipped in France where people can be found queuing at the local 'shrine' or bakery on almost any day of the week

French bread is fresh, contains no preservatives and thus must be consumed just as soon as possible. The only problem is that it contains a protein called Gluten.

The word Gluten is Latin, meaning 'Glue'.

Perhaps this explains the oft-quoted advice of, "Choose a diet and stick to it"!

One of the laws of Physics states that every action has an equal and opposite reaction: the reaction against food convention was slow but eventually arrived. Some long established traditions and practices finally reached the end of their shelf lives.

The Arrival of Food Allergies

Early rumblings of change, (from people’s stomachs), started a couple of decades ago, when the word 'allergy' arrived in connection with the food we eat. A whole raft of symptoms from migraine headaches to bloating stomachs appeared in articles in the world's press.

It was a wake-up call as loud as the clinking milk bottles on the doorstep:

What we were eating was making us ill!

My first experience of attending a Universal Medicine course was a couple of years ago – it was called 'The Livingness'.

Serge Benhayon presented the importance of listening to what our bodies are telling us, which generally know best what we should eat and drink.

  • He emphasised that it pays off in greater health and well-being, to respect and cherish our bodies
  • He explained that everything we put into our bodies has an energetic consequence

Going Gluten and Dairy Free

As well as my gluten allergy, I developed intolerance to dairy products in middle age. Severe nasal problems such as rhinitis, blocked sinuses and headaches, which I had gotten used to as 'Normal', all disappeared when I decided to stop consuming butter, milk, cream and cheese. I sorted out my diet and I fairly soon noticed the benefits.

A heightened awareness and a sense of feeling generally 'sharper' arrived quite quickly. The digestive system improved dramatically and so did my whole sense of wellbeing.

If you wish to eat gluten and dairy free food in France, you must prepare yourself for a rather limited menu! While the majority of restaurants are quite accommodating, the end result is often that items simply get left off your plate instead of giving you an alternative, and your meal can end up rather sparse and disappointing!

Many dishes come with a 'sauce' where this sauce is considered by the chef and the staff to 'define' the meal. As this sauce usually contains butter and flour, we are served a 'lesser' experience as a result, and the chef might feel slightly upset that you have sabotaged his 'speciality'.

The French supermarkets also, are not as good with their 'free-from' aisles as their British equivalents, however good dedicated 'bio' shops have what’s needed.

For the moment, going gluten and dairy free is in many places clearly not yet considered a mainstream activity. However, the increasing ripples of greater awareness and demand will eventually form into waves and change in the eating habits of the planet will slowly come about.

Filed under

Coeliac/celiacDairy freeGluten freeNutritionWell-being

  • By Jonathan Cooke, Cameraman, Television film editor, Producer, Editor

    I am now retired and living in France near the Swiss border. When not reading or writing, I am taking care of and supporting my surroundings.

  • Photography: Leonne Sharkey, Bachelor of Communications

    For Leonne photography is about relationships, reflection and light. She is constantly amazed by the way a photo can show us all we need to know.