What’s your food intolerance?

A lot of people I know have an allergy or intolerance to some kind of food. Maybe they can’t eat gluten or eggs or meat or nuts.

For me, it’s dairy. And it’s getting worse as I get older. I manage it with a combination of substitution, abstinence and patience. I understand and accept that I’ll always feel sick after eating in most (non-asian) restaurants, where it is apparently incomprehensible that you can cook without oodles of butter. And I accept that I’ll never be able to eat dessert at most restaurants since ‘dessert’ is apparently a code word for ‘cream’ with the only other option being cheese.

It does frustrate me when I have to pay extra for soy milk in my coffee. With food sensitivities being so widespread, surely a café should allow for all of the soy/skim/rice milk variants when they set their basic prices. 50c extra seems like highway robbery – it’s not like us soy latte wankers are particularly rare.

And while I’m ranting, I went to a restaurant recently that didn’t have a single vegetarian main meal on the menu. And no, waitress, fish is actually meat. As is bacon. And chicken – that’s meat too. I was horrified that a pretty ritzy place wouldn’t even whip up a ‘off the menu’ option. My strict vegetarian friend had just two entrée options to choose from. Lucky she likes raw beetroot and dairy-laden artichokes.

Surely these days, all cafes and restaurants should be creative enough to offer up one allergy free option. Maybe something like this is tapioca dessert. It’s vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free and delicious.

Proof that dairy-free, gluten-free desserts are possible!

Proof that dairy-free, gluten-free desserts are possible!

Coconut & mango tapioca (from Vegie Smugglers 2)

7-8 cups water
2/3 cup tapioca pearls
400ml coconut milk
2–3 tbsp caster sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract

To serve:
Sliced mango and banana

Add the water to a medium saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer.

Add the tapioca pearls to the water and simmer until they are mostly cooked and translucent (this can take up to an hour for large pearls). Check often during cooking; stir to keep them from sticking to the bottom of the pan (if this is happening, add another cup of water). Err on the side of undercooking – a small opaque centre is fine, they will finish cooking in the coconut milk (overcooked tapioca just dissolves into sludge).

Drain and rinse.

Return the tapioca to the pan with the coconut milk, sugar and vanilla. Simmer gently over low heat until warm and thick.
Serve in bowls with the fruit.


21 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Melissa said,

    My husband owns a small cafe in Melbourne, and I’ve discussed the issue of having to pay extra for soy or rice milk in the past, as I am lactose intolerant myself. So I’m not being nasty, just telling what it’s like from a cafe owners perspective 🙂
    The reality is that soy & rice milk cost around double the per litre price that cows milk costs. He only goes through 5lt of soy milk to every 100 or more litres of cows milk (he charges the same for full ceam & skim – some cafes refuse to even carry skim, you get full crram milk regardless of what you ask for!). He sometimes has to throw soy milk out bc he doesn’t get to use it all before it’s used by date – that’s a cost that he has to factor in to his price, just like be does for other product that have wastage. If he was to include the price in his regular pricing, it would put him out of competition with the other cafes near him. We need to pay our bills & put food on the table too!

    • 2

      wendyblume said,

      Melissa, I knew I’d get someone defending cafe owners. Please don’t think I’m picking on you poor souls who work huge hours and don’t make much money. I remember having a big discussion with my local barista one time, breaking down all the costs in a coffee (cardboard, lids etc) and being surprised at how little profit margin there was. I did some maths too, and figure that a surcharge of about 25c more than covers the soy replacement. Afterall, I’m not having the regular milk, and I don’t have sugar either.
      I reckon there’s a nice marketing opportunity for local cafes to be ‘allergy friendly’ and distinguish themselves from the large chains.

      Interesting to know that you do 5ltr for soy per 100 of milk. I’m surprised that it’s that low, soy drinkers seem so prevalent – it’s always good to hear the other perspective!

      • 3

        Wendy said,

        another option is to make a soy ‘thing’ and use excess soy up that way, once or twice a week make a frittata or similar and use milk in that, i do not drink soy, only nut milks but if it had soy in it i would not even know nor mind… better soy than ‘nasties. i say

      • 4

        wendyblume said,

        yes, i tend to keep rice milk for cereal, but happily use soy milk or almond milk in baking. i think the soy adds a really nice flavour to some things. Good in pancakes!

  2. 5

    Wendy, I just love reading your honest posts….I always seem to get a laugh….I like being a soy latte wanker too!

  3. 6

    Sam Hatter said,

    Yes, i totally agree with you about the over the top charging for soy milk. One of the popular chains charges an extra 80c for a small cup, which is ridiculous. I have an intolerance for dairy, but my toddler has a severe cows milk allergy, so his is a lot more serious than mine. I had to laugh recently when we ate out for lunch at a pub, and we mentioned his allergy when ordering his kids burger. The waitress made a big song and dance when she brought it out, saying that there was no butter on the bread roll…thats great, except it had a big whopping slice of cheese on it…hmmmmm. I do get frustrated sometimes when i mention his allergy at restaurants/cafes..i can almost see them internally rolling their eyes at me, thinking i am just being overprotective or fussy. Most kids menus have chicken or fish coated in breadcrumbs, which is out, as commercial breadcrumbs contain milk, so the lack of options is truly irritating, and surprising in this day and age. Gluten free seems to be everywhere, but if you are dairy free, then you still have to struggle to find food to order. I usually end up taking his food with me when we eat out, just to avoid the hassle. And as for dessert, as you mentioned – forget it, the non-dairy options just don’t exist. Truly frustrating!!

    • 7

      wendyblume said,

      What reaction does your child have Sam? You have my sympathies about having to manage to true allergy – people probably aren’t very sympathetic since it’s quite rare. I always find that people forget all the incidental dairy in stuff – like butter. People say to me, “oh it just has a little dairy” which means, “1 cup of sour cream in a cake mix”, which is enough to trigger horrendous symptoms for me. I’ve learned the hard way and now just steer clear of all sweet stuff unless I’ve cooked it!

      • 8

        Sam Hatter said,

        Hi Wendy..he hives up all over his body, especially his face, and then he projectile vomits, so basically it’s not very pleasant for anyone! I am hoping he will outgrow it, so in the meantime we just have to avoid all dairy in things. There are worse things in life, as its just a matter of checking labels when i buy things, but it is frustrating that there are not more dairy free options when eating out. I love your recipes by the way 🙂

  4. 9

    Wendy said,

    i made coconut floured chicken nuggets last night, ridiculously quick and easy, perhaps if they didn’t say what was different the folks without allergies would not know or mind having healthy anyhow, just make an amazing dipping sauce to go with them

  5. 10

    Danya Banya said,

    My daughter is allergic to cashews & pistachios. The local Thai throws cashews on everything as a garnish, which isn’t listed on the menu, something we found out the first time a dish was delivered to our table. Personally I love cashews, but as our daughter was dining with us, we had to send it back and ask them to cook us a new one. Surely cashews are quite expensive for them to use in this fashion? As a side note, gluten free chocolate cake is usually nicer than the normal I’ve found. Almond meal makes such a nice moist cake.

  6. 11

    Lisa Callanan said,

    I have a 22 month old daughter who is allergic to dairy, eggs, peanuts and tree nuts. I have learnt that it is extremely hard to eat out with her. The main food I buy her is hot chips as I presume they are safe for her to eat. I have also found that at some cafe’s I can’t even get soy milk for her. I am also wary of places using the same equipment for dairy and soy milk and not cleaning properly in between. One day I bought my daughter soy milk babycino and she had a reaction. I make most of her desserts, cakes and biscuits myself. The one thing I have found that he can eat are Arnotts NICE biscuits. Sweet William chocolate is also a godsend! I can’t wait to try your tapioca recipe.

  7. 12

    katie said,

    I’m catching up and reading a bunch of your posts (an intense vegie smugglers session!)… i am looking forward to trying this dessert for my son who is allergic to dairy. we have pretty much given up trying to eat out as he also has a peanut allergy and it is just too hard to try and get answers from kitchens in restaurants as to how safe their food prep space might be.

  8. 13

    johegerty said,

    Thanks for the dairy-free dessert recipe, will definitely have to try this one. My husband is dairy-intolerant (and regularly falls off the wagon). When he’s being good,we have many amusing encounters when trying to source dairy-free food for him to eat – at a bakery once, I asked if they had anything dairy free at all. The young girl thought about it and said, “I don’t think so. But the cheesecake is gluten-free, how about that?”
    Please, more dairy-free recipes!

  9. 15

    Tara capewell said,

    food allergies are so hard. my oldest daughter had a gluten and dairy allergy when she was little(til she was 8) and now my 2yr old has an allergy to salicyites.(i totally spelt that wrong i think!) trying to explain that to a shop or even preschool it so hard, i usually say keep away from red stuff and spinach but even then i pick her up from preschool with a red puffed up face 😦

  10. 16

    Katy said,

    I’m citric intolerant – no lemon, lime, orange etc. And it is difficult to not get things without lemon in them. Even water tends to come with a slice of lemon! I have to constantly ask for no lemon in my water. And citric acid is used as a preservative in a lot of foods. Most salad dressings have lemon or lime in them. And trying to get fish without lemon is almost impossible. Because it’s unusual, I get some strange looks, and then people say “How can you live without lemon?” The worst bit is, I adore lemon butter…

    • 17

      wendyblume said,

      Wow! That is an interesting one! Just curious – what symptoms do you get?

      Funny isn’t it, how we’re often drawn to the things that are worst for us – my favourite all time dessert is baked cheesecake!

      • 18

        Katy said,

        Horrific stomach cramps… I thought I had eaten something with citrus in it and lived with the pain of the stomach cramps for about 3 days. Finally went to the doctor, got sent to hospital and it was actually appendicitis and it was about to burst!

      • 19

        wendyblume said,

        Omg! You poor thing! Not fun.

  11. 20

    Cathy said,

    I’ve just found your blog via The Organised Housewife and I’m impressed.
    I am trying to improve our family food this year. My family don’t have allergies but if I eat anything with maize or corn, coconut, or sulphur dioxide (202, 280 or 320), I have trouble breathing and really bad bowel cramps. So, yes, going out to eat (either restaurants, cafes, or even other people’s homes) is quite embarrassing. Also, my husband is pursuing the low-sugar diet that is around on facebook at the moment and it uses a lot of coconut in its recipes and recommendations, so I’m finding it difficult to incorporate a lot of the recipes he’d like me to. So basically, I’m trying to lessen the fats, sugars and added chemicals and incorporate more fresh fruit and vegies, while being careful of portion-sizes.
    I also am on the same track with the way you are doing lunchboxes this year, except that my kids don’t appreciate “dinner food” for lunch (except lasagne!). It’s all a learning experience! (My kids are 12, 8 and 3.)
    Thanks for the time and talent you put in to help parents teach about and provide healthy food for kids – and us!

    • 21

      wendyblume said,

      Hi Cathy,

      I appreciate you taking the time to write and let me know that you’re enjoying the blog. I try to create recipes for everyone – there are so many variations in how people like to eat! xx

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