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The story of GLUTEN-FREE FISH and CHIPS and other wheatlessness.

On being diagnosed as having coeliac disease it was assumed by the doctors that I would be resigned to my fate and put up with abstaining from such luxuries as sausages, fish and chips, Kit-Kat, haslet, and many other things which just by some extraordinary chance happened to contain GLUTEN!

However, gluten is not a particularly natural thing to eat. Gluten is that gooey stretchy glue-like stuff which makes bread dough sticky, like an early forerunner to Blu-Tack. Most creatures are on a gluten-free diet. Tigers, sharks, eagles, cats, dolphins, etc all in their natural environment never eat gluten. It's only a few small critters such as field mice that make a regular habit of eating gluten. Most food in its natural form doesn't contain gluten. Meat, fruit, vegetables, and even most cereal crops, are without gluten. However, in some prehistoric age humans decided to farm such things as wheat, barley, rye, and oats, and as most of the humans did not die from it this was considered ok. This position is being re-evaluated!

Realising that wheat was not part of most food, but was being added artificially because it was cheap, I figured it might be possible to adapt food to make it gluten-free and so to avoid the supposedly essential saintly abstinence which doctors had prescribed.

Gluten-free bread was available, and although a bit flat and unleavened, I quite liked it. Biscuits too, mostly good!

Sausages were one of the first un-coeliac items to be subject to an arrangement. Pork sausages contain mainly PORK which is good, and a small amount of rusk. Not necessarily that biscuit-like stuff given to babies, but a wheaty additive to sausages. On special agreement with Bycrofts pork butchers, it was agreed that they'd make pork sausages and haslet with no rusk provided I bought them in consignments of 14lb (about 6.4kg). No problem, with a deep freezer!

Fish and Chips was another of the things which the coeliac is just supposed to go without. But why? The fish is gluten free, and chips, made from potato, are gluten-free. It's only the batter that's a problem. If the batter could be made with gluten-free flour rather than using wheat flour, then it should be ok? That's how the logic worked. So, by special negotiation with a fish and chip shop, Kings fish and chips, an arrangement was reached where I'd leave a bag of gluten-free prescription flour at the fish shop and whenever I wanted to order some gluten free fish and chips I'd phone up, give ten minutes notice, and collect the fish and chips which had been made using batter made from gluten-free flour.

There are those who would say that this isn't really gluten-free, as the fish was fried in the same fat as normal batter, but I have had no problems with this. If you have coeliac disease you may feel this idea is worth trying, getting an arrangement with a local fish and chip shop, but it's important to realise that different people have different levels of intolerance of gluten. You need to know your own insides to know whether it's ok for you, and at your own risk be it.

I'd guess that in many places there's a fish shop that's willing to give it a go. This is where the small business has a big advantage versus multiple chain outlets. You can personally talk to the proprietor and see if you can get a deal. In most places there are several fish and chip shops, it being a free market economy, so you have several chances to make this work.

So, fish and chips, previously a wheaty problem, was now solved, at least for me. This kind of thing is going on in various places, and there are different levels of purity versus gluten. See gluten-free fish and chips / restaurants. If you decide to try something like this and go along to a fish and chip shop with a bag of flour, please be sensible and understand that you have to take your own risks.

Kit-Kat still remains an unsolved coeliac problem here (2004/02), it being tricky to see how I can get the chocolate company to use gluten-free wafer biscuit inside a proprietary brand of chocolate bar. It is, of course, possible to get gluten-free biscuits, although how to get the right kind of biscuit in a gluten-free variant, that's tricky. Also, just how to embed the right kind of biscuit inside an acceptable form of chocolate is still puzzling. Then again, if enough of us wanted a batch of gluten-free Kit-Kat bars, we might be able to commission a special batch of them to be made. I wonder how many we'd need to order.