Opinions have consequences, as Jay Rayner has discovered. I posted yesterday's Cheese and Lactose about his screed in the British Guardian newspaper, full of uninformed opinions and dubious alleged facts. Commenters continue to eviscerate him for as much how he said it as for what he said, and he's posted a defense which I'll get to.
First, I have to introduce to you Lucinda Bruce-Gardyne. She's a chef and the co-author of the formidable Leiths Techniques Bible, an 800-page "ultimate cookery reference book."
More specifically, however, she's the author of the piece in the Guardian's food section that put Rayner on the high horse that he is in the process of the long fall down from.
The article told of Lucinda's experience as a mother of two sons, the first who had egg and dairy allergies, the second who grew out of those allergies only to face a lifetime with gluten intolerance.
The result was, of course, a book, detailing the recipes she developed for kids with multiple food allergies, How to Cook for Food Allergies: A Guide to Understanding Ingredients, Adapting Recipes and Cooking for an Exciting Allergy-free Diet. You can find the book on Amazon.co.uk. The book is technically available on the American Amazon.com but not deliverable before Christmas. [Added 12/2: It's the British edition of the book that can be ordered through Amazon now. The American edition, from Reader's Digest books, will be launched in January.]
Lucinda listed a number of dairy substitutes in her newspaper article that are sensible, if basic for more experienced readers.
· Use soya or rice milk with cereal and to make white sauce, batters and mashed potato.
· Use olive oil instead of butter for frying, grilling and roasting.
· Use 2 tbsp vegetable oil to replace every 40g butter for making a roux to thicken soups, sauces and stews.
· Use dairy-free hard-baking margarine instead of butter in cakes, dough and crumbles.
· Use soya single cream instead of whipping or double cream in homemade ice cream.
· Use mayonnaise as a base for dips and sauces.
Rayner, meanwhile, is in deepest doo-doo for his infelicitous, not to mention brain-dead, line, "I suspect the vast majority of coeliacs are actually attention-seeking frauds, as with so many of the people claiming food intolerances and allergies," which followed the smarmy "where were all the coeliacs when we were kids? Where were these battalions of people who couldn't eat bread or pasta because it made their tummies hurt? Locked up in their parents' attics?" It's incredibly hard to eliminate gluten from the normal British or American diet. Wheat is in everything. (More so than lactose, but thanks for the thought, Lucy.) I tried a gluten-free diet back in the days when my IBS hadn't been properly diagnosed, let alone mitigated, and it was a trial I was happy not have to endure for more than a few weeks. I imagine that not even the trendiest of food faddists would gladly voluntarily pretend to have coeliac disease just to posture at posh parties.
Rayner has the tiniest smidgen of a point, though. I posted How Sick Are You, Brits? almost a year ago, when Allergy UK reported that more than a third of the population believed itself to have food intolerances. I haven't let up since. (See Brit Docs: It's All In Your Minds and "Rubbish" Says Dr. Miriam and even Doctors: Learn to Diagnose Celiac Disease!)
In a comment on the comments, Rayner tries to distinguish between his disdain for the faddists and for those with genuine illnesses:
I feel for anybody who is genuinely Coeliac or who suffers from a genuine food allergy. Happily I have none of these serious conditions and I can eat anything I like. For food, that most comforting of things, to be the very cause of pain, distress and illness is terrible.
There are people out there regularly claiming food intolerances they don't have. I regularly meet people who tell me they can't eat dairy, or eggs or chocolate or coffee or, sod it, the whole bottom half of most peoples' fridges. ... It is faddism of the worst kind and if I was one of the people who has come on to this site spitting tacks because they are a genuine sufferer I would also hate them.
I feel the same way. Or I would if I thought there existed the number of people making these complaints that Rayner imagines. We must live in worlds even more violently different than I would have taken for granted, however, because I never seem to encounter these fakes. Perhaps my table manners prevent me from getting invited to the sort of parties that Rayner frequents, but here amongst the common folk, people don't avoid major food groups unless they are forced to by genuine suffering.
Can Rayner and I settle our differences, since we seem to agree on the main point?
Not hardly. He also went on to write this magnificent piece of bent wisdom:
(Don't get me started on the lactose in cheese thing; we'll have to agree to disagree).
Pistols at dawn, Rayner!