Though one would imagine that raising a gluten free child makes life rather impossible, once you get into the swing of things it is really very manageable. Since Finley was diagnosed at the age of eighteen months we have as a family done our up most to make his diet a part of everyday life he has to aware of, but without, I hope, ever making a song and dance out of it.
As a protective Mother there is the temptation to try to construct an artificial gluten free environment at home. To stop eating gluten ourselves, to offer visiting children only gluten free treats and to develop a real paranoia about cross contamination in the kitchen. However we do not live in a gluten free society and it is my belief that Finley has to grow up accepting Coeliac/Celiac Disease as a part of the special little boy he is, while understanding that the majority of society do not have to endure the same dietary restrictions. Such acceptance occasionally causes relative heartbreak. In some ways it has made Finley old beyond his years as in the process of protecting his special tummy from attack by wheat, he has also become somewhat paranoid about danger in many other forms, his very instinct to avoid pain causing him to be over-cautious in many other given situations entirely unrelated to his diet. But these gentle fears of everything from goats to contaminated water in Africa (and thus the water spilling from our taps), have, while often inconvenient, offered much opportunity for conversations we may not have had were it not for the fact that in order to dilute his little phobias we have to talk them to death....
There has also been the temptation to worry myself into a frenzy. To live in fear of accidental ingestion of gluten and to become one of those Mothers unable to resist becoming an ambassador for her childs’ affliction. Yes of course I want my child to be safe at school, I want to know that whoever is looking after him at any given moment knows what he can and can't eat, and occasionally It is necessary to get a bit mouthy in restaurants in order to guarantee my son's safety, but I don't want the fact that Finley has Coeliacs to define him and I don't want to be known as the Coeliac Mummy- which is why I very rarely write about it here. It is a very small part of our lives. Allowances are made on a daily basis but it isn't a drama. Gluten isn't in everything, there are many, many fabulous alternatives and I certainly don't want Finley to look back on our lives and say my Coeliacs was such a big issue Mummy made a career out of it! I don't want to be that Mummy. I want him to look back and see that Coeliacs didn't matter. That there was never any fuss, no underlying sense of inconvenience and still so many of the scrumptious treats that childhood is really all about that Coeliacs Disease doesn't have to take away...
That said, while bread, crackers, pasta and biscuits haven't been a problem, we have struggled to find a cake recipe that didn't taste like air filled cardboard. The path to acceptable moreish sponge cake has been arduous and compromised by the fact that most gluten free flours create food that is texturally very different to ordinary flour and has properties that alter the way recipes behave. While there are indeed flourless recipes in abundance they are often rich and do not appeal to a five year old boy who wants to be sitting at his best friends party eating a jelly tot sprinkled fairy cake that looks just like the one the little boy next to him is eating. And so in pursuit of cupcake nirvana I have dallied with cakes made with vegetable oil, cakes made with rice flour, almond based cakes and had the frequent pleasure of faffing about with the mystery that remains xanthum gum. But to no avail, until the day I used my own standard fairy cake recipe with Orgran Self Raising Flour (available worldwide) and created a set of teeny little button topped cakes that were infinitely scrumptiously edible, kept their shape, raised just the way you expect cupcakes should and tasted divine warm from the oven with a scoop of butter cream.
4oz (100grams) Orgran Self Raising Flour
4oz (100grams) Caster Sugar
4oz (100grams) Margarine
2 Large Eggs
1 Tsp Pure Vanila Essence
1Tblsp Drinking Chocolate
Cream the sugar with the margarine then beat in the eggs, one at a time with a spoonful of flour. Sift the drinking chocolate into the flour and stir into the mixture slowly. Add the vanilla essence and bake in a medium heat oven for fifteen minutes.
Easy deliciousness. And for the record I have since used the same flour in various other recipes and it works everytime. I couldn't be more thrilled.