When I was diagnosed with coeliac disease 16 years ago the quality and choice of gluten-free (GF) food was much less than it is today.
In those early days of adapting to the diet, I remember giving my niece Mary a taste of a sweet GF biscuit. "That's disgusting," she exclaimed. Compared to gluten-containing biscuits it probably wasn't much good but back then I was just grateful to have something sweet to eat. Breakfast cereals weren't much better and most commercial breads were very crumbly and went stale almost immediately.
Today, it's quite a different story. As I said to my brother and nieces as we travelled home from the GF Expo at Sydney's Homebush last Saturday: "The best thing about the Expo is being able to try all the different types of food and find out which one is the best."
Today, it's not just a case of accepting what's on offer; I am looking for quality GF food.
There were 92 exhibitors at last weekend's Expo, which is an initiative of Coeliac NSW/ACT. You could try four different types of GF beer made by O'Brien Brewing. There were curry and Asian food products from Ayam including red, green, Malaysian and Thai massaman curry paste and fish, teriyaki and oyster sauce.
Rowie's Cakes in Marrickvillle showed off its rocky road, cakes and biscuits. Rowie Dillon, who supplies gourmet products to Qantas and Singapore Airlines, also gave a cooking demonstration and introduced her new cookbook, Indulge which includes savoury as well as sweet recipes.
Callum Hann from Masterchef fame and Rick Grant also gave demonstrations on preparing nutritious and delicious GF meals. Other sessions included advice on being a 'social coeliac', 'label-reading made easy' and what's new in coeliac disease from Dr Jason Tye-Din.
There were numerous bread-making companies and a number selling sweet and savoury pies including ones from Bellyhoo. The St Peters based group offers a range of sweet and savoury fillings including sour cherry, apple, beef burgundy and beef and vegetable.
I am a fan of Country Life bread but it was good to see a few other players in the GF-bread market at the Expo. The Queensland-based Gluten Free Bakery make puff pastry and sweet pastry mixes as well as a range of quiches, pizzas and breads. I particularly liked their French baguette product line.
We all ended up with blue tongues after hoeing into the Blueberry Clouds from Clouds Lollies. After tasting a few pizza bases we thought the ones from Old Time Bakery in Sydney's Yagoona were the best.
And of course it was great to see the team from the Coeliac Society, who were on deck answering queries and welcoming people to the organisation's 7th Gluten Free Expo.
Coeliac Queensland will follow with the 2011 Gluten Free Food Expo on Sunday 30 October 2011 at the Commerce Building RNA Showgrounds, Brisbane from 9.00am to 4.00pm