All my life my body has had an amazing ability to detect milk, my youth spent feeling ill most of the time. I turned to veganism about ten years ago, utilizing what passed for websites in 2003 I gave it my best shot, but back then it was limited. A year and a half ago, now living in the urban utopia of London, I decided it would be easier this time around and really went for it head first.
It worked! No longer was I constantly tired and sick but I then discovered a hidden talent. Cutting out milk completely meant my body could now trace the smallest amounts of milk in any product, it announces itself less regularly but a lot more painfully as time goes on. The smallest drop can lead to me whining and curled up within a matter of a half hour, but these days coeliacs is really where it's at.
It's frustrating having an unfashionable eating requirement. The supermarket free from aisle is a great example, really it's a small section they like to hide, is it near the jams? The baking products? Or amusingly sometimes, opposite the refrigerated ham.
On those four to six shelves there's gluten free pasta, breads, crumpets, all butter cookies (butter?! That's really rubbing it in), and more all claiming to be free from wheat. Meanwhile for the lactose intolerant like me? Here's some alpro soya gloop, it's meant to taste like chocolate.
It tastes like depressed angel delight.
Many resturants and cafés boast of their gluten free products. Pizza Hut have a gluten free pizza base, hummingbird bakery have gluten free cupcakes, most of the products specifically made for vegans have also had gluten free flour shoved in to broaden their market base. Such a shame I'm allergic to gluten free flour, the coeliacs are trying to strangle me with their products, from the inside out.
Tesco boasts their own free from range, as do sainsburys which are void of everything but not egg. It'll trap you that sneaky egg and reminds me of the worst day date I ever had just last summer.
I was still fresh to London and had arranged a day of walking around Hampstead Heath in the lovely heat that summers day. I should have realised when my sheer light summer dress couldn't hide my stomach ballooning to double it's size something was about to go wrong, I lasted as far as Hampstead station before declaring we should really go to a cafe first, right now, this very minute....
I had to rush to the bathroom for an immediate body emergency, I had to stay and see it through to the bitter end, but I had chosen the cafe with only one toilet. Soon French tourists had gathered outside the frosted glass, knocking less and less politely as time passed. They had a child, oh dear god I had to let them in.
I went back to the table where my date had finished his meal and looked very confused. I sat saying nothing and sweated at the table waiting for the tourists to reappear so I could once again take refuge from my body's protests. At last I claimed ownership once again claiming to my date I was a 'bit sick'.
Eventually I decided I had to get my old friend Imodium involved, I ran out of the cafe and eventually found an open corner shop that stocked them. I took them on the way back to the cafe and after 20 minutes of awkward conversation I felt well enough to go walk the Heath.
It was embarrassing yes, but it saved me from trying to make small talk with the guy who's accent I couldn't really follow, this was probably made more clear on the Heath when I started to just ignore whatever he was saying anyway.
That day I learned, my body also detects egg.
You'd be surprised at the things that contain milk, I am. My mother doesn't believe me the amount of times I've had to ask if there's dairy in things claiming that "surely, there won't be dairy in a tomato soup" before the waitress returns saying it was cooked with butter. I've learned the hard hard locked in a cafe toilet hard way to always check and double check.
And to prove my point, here is a list of things you wouldn't expect milk in -
Salt and pepper Pringles, it's salt. And pepper. So what the milk in there for...?
I used to love these, and I check every time I see them just in case but no, there's always milk in there.
Hint of lime? Lies....
You may have gathered by now, I quite like crisps...
Smokey bacon while they are vegetarian nothing gives that bacony essence more than some milk.
The roast chicken don't have any in, but do have dried chicken breast so I don't eat them. Mmm powdered meat.
It's not all bad tho, here's some things that don't...!
Oh yes....they don't work with salsa, or any dipping actually but if you miss the feel and look of orange powder stuck to your finger tips this is the way to go.
Now these, tescos own skips style maize snack.
Real skips? Not vegan.
Fake skips that taste just the same, only come in big bags, and are cheap? Vegan.
Maybe if my diet consisted of less crisps I would find more to eat.
People use these labels these days as a reason that they are now eating healthy, I cut out bread and now I've lost weight! What're you eating instead then? Oh fruit, vegetables...
I combat this by probably being quite unhealthy. Yes I do eat properly but I can also eat a whole bag of those bad boy fake skips in 10 minutes.
I do my best, but with society helping the new in Vouge allergy mine is being overlooked. I spend stupid amounts in holland and Barrett's, I know exactly what I can and can't eat when it comes to crisps and buiscuits (jammy dodgers, bourbons, and some supermarket own brand digestives and rich tea all fine) but my list of allergies, even to things that actually don't come out of animals bits, mean I'm the worst dinner party guest ever.
One day I hope my dietary requirements becomes the new fashionable one to have, we reclaim the free from aisle, cafés and chains pander to us, and the alpro soya gloop cheers up a bit.
Till then I shall barricade myself at home with home cooked meals, for fear more than anything else.