Thoughts

“Thou shalt not have dietary requirements”…

on
2nd July 2016

– A week is a long time. The below is the blog, as written, last week immediately after Saturday Kitchen aired. Since then, I have spoken several times with Matt Tebbutt and he is truly apologetic for his choice of phrase. He very definitely did mean faddy eaters – and they annoy me too, to be honest! Matt has also given Your Gluten Freedom a recipe for our October magazine, and it’s a cracker! So, I can honestly say that I am no longer intolerant to Matt Tebbutt. In fact, he has rather grown on me. With his agreement, I am leaving the below, but I can confirm that he is definitely not a bad guy when it comes to this Delicate Dining world of ours. –

A note before I begin.. I had a beautiful blog planned for today – but watching Saturday Kitchen this morning incensed me, and so the following is in response to that. 

I love Saturday mornings. For me, this day is so much better than a Sunday as a day off. Personally, I prefer to work on a Sunday and find I get so much done in the peace of the office, and that my creativity can be untempered. While the rest of the UK likes to relax on this day, it is Saturday when I take my time in the morning, enjoy poached eggs on gluten-free toast, or boiled egg and marmite soldiers, and I curl up on the sofa, still clad in my dressing gown, cat on my lap, and watch Saturday Kitchen.

A plus side of not working Saturday’s is that I can relax and enjoy my morning. And at the heart of that is Saturday Kitchen, a programme that has been a staple in my life for many years. I love to watch it and be inspired by the recipes demonstrated by the incredible array of chefs that come on the programme. I have found that James Martin’s butter chicken has become a Delicate Diner staple – indeed, I made it just last weekend – and anything by the brilliant Galton Blackiston of Morston Hall, a Norfolk boy through and through, is always noted. New ideas, ways of using seasonal food, wine pairings, the interesting guests; it all adds together to make the perfect Saturday morning foodie experience – and finishes in time so that you can quickly make a list, head to the shops, and be back in time for, as is today’s case, the tennis. #GoMurray

I found this morning’s show to be especially enjoyable. Food writer Jay Rayner  was the guest, talking about his jazz quartet as well as how food inspires him but he is a writer first and foremost. For someone like myself, Jay was a joy to watch and the interaction between he, presenter Matt Tebbutt, and guest chefs Annabel Langbein and our own Galton, was great.

Those familiar with the programme will know that the presenter cooks up a dish while talking to the guest, and today was no exception. Matt was asking Jay about his new book, The Ten (Food) Commandments, and he asked Annabel and Galton what their commandments would be.

Galton – God love him- said: “Thou shalt not eat unseasonal food.” A great answer, and one that not only I, but many across Norfolk, passionately believe in. I picked up my phone to tweet how amazing Galton was, when Matt decided to share his commandment.

“Thou shalt not have dietary requirements.”

A quick camera cut to a very shocked looking Galton, and then Mr Tebbutt expanded on his comment. Along the lines of “if it will kill you, fine, but otherwise, stop complaining about the smell or whatever and eat it.”

I was horrified! I immediately took to Twitter and found some fellow shocked Delicate Diners on there, they too amazed at the, quite frankly, crassness of this man. In one fell swoop, Matt Tebbutt’s comments took us back  to the 1980s, where you didn’t dare to ask for anything that was not as printed in the menu.

So, on Mr Tebbutt’s basis, I shall never bother to go to his restaurant and try to eat there. It’s called Schpoons & Forx in Bournemouth, in case you were wondering. Because while I may or may not die from my allergies and intolerances, I certainly would not feel welcomed there after such comments from their (in his own words) “big cheese”.

I am allergic to orange. I know, I know, most people haven’t heard of this one. Unless they, too, suffer from migraines. Then it is quite common. I accidentally ingested some orange the week before last and it took 25 hours to leave my body. In that time, I had the most horrendous nausea and migraines. So no, I did not die, but I felt incredibly ill.

I am intolerant to wheat. One little bit and I have the mother of all cramps – I always say it is like a year’s worth of period pains in one minute – and then I feel sick, dizzy, cramps,’fuggy’. I won’t go into the rest – you may be eating – but that takes a good day or so to go, too. Again, I will not die, but it is very unpleasant. Like wading through treacle while being unable to stand up and half in a different planet.

I am intolerant to cow lactose. I definitely will not describe the side effects here, but you’d better hope that there is a bathroom nearby! So no, I won’t die. But I won’t be going anywhere for a good few hours.

And finally, I am allergic to mussels. I loved them, had a bad one, and then the next time I had one, I collapsed, lost my vision and was in pretty bad shape. So maybe that is one ‘dietary requirement’ that would kill me but Mr Tebbett, I am really not prepared to find out.

As someone that lives with these Delicate Diner needs, I am very much aware of the prejudice and reaction that my booking a table receives in some quarters. I have heard chefs effing and blinding in the background as another person with dietary requirements wanted to eat there. Not a problem – as if that is your attitude, I will not be parting with my hard-earned cash at your establishment.

Then there are the chefs that feel that there are too many gluten-free people in the world now – Paul Hollywood calling for security when I mentioned gluten-free at the Good Food Show last month was only half joking, I am sure. And to be honest, I really feel that it is chefs like these, the ones the eff and blind, that give the others a bad name.

Take my visit to Benedicts Restaurant. I was lucky enough that Chef Bainbridge popped upstairs after our meal to say hello. I mentioned the whole gluten-free cooking ‘issue’ and he dispelled it immediately. His response was that he likes to cook as naturally as possible, and much of what he cooks is naturally gluten-free. Then there is The Cock at Hemingford, my favourite pit-stop on the A14. All their base sauces, all their sausages, and an array of items are gluten-free anyway. Just to make it easier during service, and also to avoid cross-contamination. Finally, dear Galton. When I dined there a couple of years back, I was delighted to be offered not one gluten-free bread roll at the start of the meal but a second one of a different flavour. Galton and Morston Hall remain the only place ever to have offered me such variety in the no-grain department and for that, they remain food heroes forever.

As Delicate Diners, we all know the issues that we face from friends and family when they cook for us, let alone the hazards of eating out. My friend’s daughter is gluten intolerant and she will only eat salad when she is out, such is her fear of being ‘glutened’. So part of Your Gluten Freedom, which I am so thrilled to be a part of, is raising awareness of just how easy it is to be gluten-free not just for diners, but for chefs too.

Yes, you have to think outside the box sometimes, when a Delicate Diner will book a table at your restaurant. But cornflour is a perfect substitute for sauces, for example, and there are so many easy swaps that can be done. One for another day… But I have always found that those chefs who are confident in their cooking can stand tall without the need for ‘cheat’s wheat’ to be added to thicken, or can create a dessert that is flourless and light and can hold its own – and even be the envy of the table – against its heavy, floury pudding partners.

With so many amazing chefs and restaurants out there, I was – and still am – just horrified and appalled at the comment on national television this morning, made to foodies. It once again labels us as ‘difficult’, ‘demanding’ and ‘trouble’.

So, Mr Matt Tebbut, thank you for putting us back a few more years again. For undoing all the hard work that so many do to make being gluten-free, lactose-free, egg-free, intolerant to chilli/onion/mushrooms easy, for making us feel like dining out is not an issue.

I could go on, but I won’t. I might just go an open a bottle of rose and enjoy a glass with the remainder of the Murray match. #GoMurray

Oh – and I think I have just discovered a whole new food intolerance of my own. Matt Tebbutt.

Samantha xx
Updated: I have since had a Twitter conversation with Matt, and he has clarified that he meant faddy eaters, not those that need to eat a certain way due to allergies/intolerances. 

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5 Comments
  1. Reply

    Alex Gazzola

    2nd July 2016

    He has since been apologetic on Twitter ….

    For me, the issue is not so much what he said, but the fact that he appears to be frustrated about the increase in ‘free from’ diners (of whatever persuasion). I can’t know, but would suspect, that he has become annoyed at those which do make life tricky for knowledgeable and sincere ‘delicate diners’ – eg. the ones who are on a gluten-free diet for starters and main … but let themselves go for dessert when the profiteroles turn up at the table.

    What this does is make chefs defensive – as well as less likely to take the time to learn about all the different kinds of sensitivity there are. Tebbutt had a pop at those who avoid garlic – thus revealing he is unfamiliar with both garlic allergy and FODMAPs sensitivities. Chefs need to know these things. They are not going to go away.

    Alex Gazzola

    • Reply

      The Delicate Diner

      2nd July 2016

      I was not aware of the apology until less than an hour ago. I very much agree though – those that cry ‘allergy’ and then snaffle down a gluten and lactose-laden dessert give us all a bad name. But the true Delicate Diners are not, well – we cannot – go away and chefs do need to be prepared for this. Thanks for the comment Alex.

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