Chocolate, wheat, lack of education or just plain stupidity
I'll make no apology for it, I'm hopelessly addicted to chocolate. In my younger days (pre 30) I wasn't discriminatory, any chocolate would do, and the greater quantities the better, so more chocolate for my money was always good with me. And of course I didn't have a wheat allergy then, so kit kats, twix, chocolate covered biscuits, you name it, if it had chocolate on it I'd eaten it, or was currently stuffing my face with it. If I didn't eat 3 to 4 bars a day I felt I was missing out.When I entered the 30+ bracket, and wheat allergy, my tastes began to change, gone was the "more bang for your buck" chocolate and my preference became good quality chocolate, Lindt, Green & Black's etc. But still interspersed with some of the lesser quality wheat free chocolate on the market to keep my chocolate budget reasonable.
Post 40 my tastebuds entered a new phase, they only wanted high end chocolate, but still lots of it. I became almost exclusively addicted to Green & Black's organic range. Okay so it wasn't cheap, but I convinced myself that it was good, so it didn't matter. Most of their range is gluten free, although not all, read January's been a tough old wheat free month.
Now in 2006 having relocated lock, stock and business to North America you can imagine the chocolate horrors that exist here. The chocolate sucks, nasty, tasteless, poor quality brown stuff.
Take one famous brand that will remain unnamed in this blog because I don't need them to threaten to sue me for stating the truth. Their famous chocolate flavour comes from the fact that when they first started manufacturing chocolate their milk went off, so they made the chocolate from sour milk rather than waste it. Evidently consumers got used to the flavour and so they've kept the distinctive vomit flavour ever since, I recently tried some and had to throw it away, and I've never been known to throw away chocolate before.
...for a fascinating read try the "The Emperors of Chocolate" by Joël Glenn Brenner (also published as "The Chocolate Wars").
Now where is all this aimless chatter going I can imagine you thinking right now. Well in the very town that I'm now living is a chocolate manufacturer. Aimed at the high end his chocolate is quite pricey, very boringly packaged, but one of the easiest reasonable quality chocolate ranges to access without buying online, although still lacking the quality of high end European chocolate.
Hoping to promote his chocolate on the wheat-free.org website I questioned him at a recent trade show. "Yes" he said, "most of my chocolate is wheat and gluten free with the exception of..." and listed a few items. One of the items that he listed were raspberry truffles because the coating contains wheat. "So" he said, "you can eat any of the other truffles here on display quite safely".
Now you may think this tempting, but his assistant who was selling the truffles was using a plastic gloved hand to put them in bags as people selected them. The thing was that she was using the same plastic gloved hand to pick up the truffles that were wheat and gluten free, and the truffles that were coated in wheat...
Avoiding the truffles I bought some other chocolates that were already pre-wrapped. Simple disks of dark chocolate with a hazelnut, cranberry and piece of crystallised ginger on top and which, I was assured, were completely wheat free.
Wheat free? wheat free? I notched up the worst allergy reaction I've ever had, it even beat the one at Christmas 2005 which was until this point the number one nasty.
The thing that bothers me the most is that he has been saying his products are wheat and gluten free for a long time, not just to me but other people too. How many other people have been caught out? Okay so I don't get anaphylactic shock with a wheat allergy, but if I had a peanut allergy and was told it was nut free would I be worried? You bet I would.
This was the owner of the company, and the man who makes the chocolate. If he doesn't know what's in his chocolate who will? It didn't occur to him while he was looking at his assistant handling wheat coated truffles and in the same breath telling me that I could eat any of the others on display, that some cross contamination was occurring, especially when she moved from truffle type to truffle type using the same plastic gloved hand, bits of wheat coating dropping onto other truffles.
My business partner recently pointed out that the only food I take a chance on is chocolate, and it's the food that I've been caught out the most with. Having confiscated my chocolate stash and I'm told boobytrapped the hiding place, I'm currently at the end of my second chocolate free week.
Now where did I put those wheat free jelly beans?