Here's my story
Updated: Aug 28, 2021
Kia Ora, I'm Emma. Mum to 3 growing boys, wife to Lem and owner and GF creator at FOG Food.
My grandmother had coeliac disease. I remember as a young girl, a while ago now, the packets of rice thins in her cupboard coming out every lunchtime when I would go and stay. She never ate a lot, and I didn't really understand why, until 2015.
What were my signs?
During my 3rd (and last!) pregnancy, I started experiencing hives.....everywhere. It was the most uncomfortable situation I have ever been in. Often using my hairbrush to scratch them, it was painful.
A visit to the dermatologist was deflating. It's a pregnancy rash. Common in 1st pregnancy of young (er) woman. This wasn't my first rodeo! The hugely expensive aqueous cream with menthol (which I could have got from my GP) did help though.
After number 3 arrived, my rash disappeared. It was amazing. This was also the first time i'd been able to feed one of my boys. All in all things were starting to look better. I stopped feeding at 6 months. And back came the rash with bells on!
We'd had a change in GP, and were lucky enough to find one who loved a challenge! It took a while, a lot of blood tests, and trial and error with medicines to support my itch while we got to the bottom of it, but we did!
I was lucky to have private health insurance that covered the specialist and procedure to confirm my diagnosis. I was fairly comfortable with giving up pasta, bread, beer, crumbed fish etc. It will be fine!
Little did I know that pesky gluten is in WAY more than that! Sauces, marinades, packet meals, frozen chips, sausages, potato chips, chocolate (this was just mean!). The list went on!
My first trip to the supermarket post diagnosis was long.......very long. Best part of 2.5 hours. I don't think I've ever spent this long doing the food shop. I read label after label making sure were gluten free (still not really sure what I was looking at)
I ended up buying anything with either crossed grain logo of Australia or New Zealand or products made in New Zealand with "gluten free" on the packet. While this was a good safe option, it wasn't financially sustainable long term, and some of the products just weren't for me.
I was starting to miss the muggle life.........especially baking! I had a go at doing some and failed badly. I could no longer bake with my eyes. What I knew about textures and consistency no longer applied. Guar gum, xanthan gum, a million different grains to make a flour blend, it was all too much! Baking was an outlet, i could switch off from the world and get in the zone. My days of baking were no longer.
My saving grace
I spent hours of scouring the internet looking for a cooking class either online or in person. Trying to find something that was New Zealand (or Australian) based to ensure that a) ingredients were accessible b) no oat flour c) if the course was online it was at a time of day I would actually be awake. I have to say, it was looking impossible. I then fell across a post on Facebook for GFME - Gluten free Made Easy They offer an online recipe club AND a class!!! I was over the moon!! I could feel my mojo coming back. I flew to Auckland to attend one of the classes which was worth every cent. The support from Judy and Neville has changed my life in more ways than one.
After many fails and plenty of phone calls to Judy and Neville for advice, I finally felt I was understanding the science behind gluten free baking. I was understanding what was needed to have a successful bake and I was baking non-stop (much to the delight of my family). I was feeling confident I could experiment in the kitchen and not end up with something that even the birds wouldn't eat. I was back!
Where did FOG Food come from?
After a rather hungry night at the rugby with the family, and grumping all the way home about there be nothing for people with allergies to eat, I was promptly told by Lem (hubby) to stop complaining and do something about it!
The next day as I was walking through the city to work I was trying to come up with something catchy for a business name. FOG (free of gluten) Food was born in 2017. The tag line "Free of Gluten - Made for You" was courtesy of the oldest foodie. I started researching what people were looking for, what I missed, where I could sell products, what I needed to do to set up the business. There was so much to do, but nothing a list couldn't fix (I love a good list!!)
Woohoo FOG Food!
With some taste testing and price point research complete, we started with 3 types of cookies, some savoury crackers and we launched our selves on to the local market scene in 2018. We had some amazing feedback and lots of "thank you's" for giving people with coeliac disease or gluten intolerance an option when out and about. We were also taking orders for gluten free dumplings which have turned out to be one of our favourite products. In 2019, we decided it was time to see where this could go and I left my corporate job to give it a crack. Covid gave us some challenges, a quick pivot and some process changes and we were delivering across wider Christchurch within a week. The warm feeling of being able to make people feel included is so rewarding, and one of the main reasons I'll never stop.
We know coeliac disease will never go away. It's a life long change. There might be a magic pill we can take to reduce the damage if we ingest gluten in the future, but it's no cure. We now offer over 20 products in our range. From outstanding filled muffins to waffles and dry mixes. The selection is always growing, this happens when you ask us for something we don't already offer. We can cater for corporate morning/afternoon teas, birthdays, small events. Nothing is ever impossible, you just need to ask.
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