A life without gluten: Sam Pidoux tells all about her life-changing intolerance

She was a complete foodie. She liked to eat most things and she’d certainly give everything a try. But, at the age of 22, all of that changed. Our readers’ editor Sam Pidoux shares her gluten-free story.

Photo: Stuart Wilde

Sam (right) baking gluten-free goodies with her sister Anna. Photo: Stuart Wilde

Q. When did you first find out about your allergy?

I was about 22 and I just hadn’t been feeling well for a long time. I’d had pains and felt lethargic and my tummy was like a rock.

Q. So, what did you do?

I experimented with myself and took wheat out of my diet just to see what would happen and after a few weeks I actually felt much better. Because of this, my doctor recommended carrying on without it.

Q. What was it like finding out at that age?

It was very hard because I lived away from my parents, so when I visited them having to explain what I can and can’t eat was hard. I know lots of people view it as being difficult or picky, but it isn’t. I don’t want to feel ill afterwards. It’s such a hard thing to adapt to because you’re used to having the freedom to eat whatever you like. Then all of a sudden you’re being told you can’t eat half the food in a supermarket.

Q. What was your diet like before you discovered your intolerance?

I loved everything – I’ve always loved food. My whole life, I’ve loved cooking with it, eating it and experimenting with different flavours. I don’t think there’s anything that I didn’t really like and I always used to try everything because I’ve got such a love of food and I think food expresses who you are.

Q. How did you feel when you found out?

It was the hardest experience of my life. You have to re-learn food groups and what’s in things. It was only after doing some research that I realised wheat is hidden in a lot of things – even things you just don’t expect it to be in. It just took a very, very long time. Even today, ten years on, I’m still learning what I can and can’t eat.

Q. What was the hardest part?

There was one time in a supermarket where I almost gave up. I started crying because it was just taking me so long to do a weekly shop. I had to read all the packets and I just got so fed up. Another big challenge was going to restaurants. I was down to eating jacket potatoes and cheese or beans or chicken salads and I was getting so bored.

Q. When did it start to get easier?

I’ll always remember the time I went to a restaurant and they said they did gluten-free pasta and just for the novelty of it I just had pasta on its own. It was so nice to feel included in the menu again. Ten years on, the restaurant industry has massively changed and I think that’s brilliant because it is scary going out if you don’t know what you can eat.

Who says being in the kitchen can't be great fun? Photo: Stuart Wilde.

Who says being in the kitchen can’t be great fun? Photo: Stuart Wilde.

Q. Do you prefer cooking alone or with others?

I like baking on my own because if I’m experimenting I’ve got the time to think and see what I’m doing and gather my thoughts, but I do like baking with other people. I’ve done a lot of baking with my god son. He’s a great little assistant to have because I can give him all the jobs I don’t like! Children are wonderful people to bake with because they’re so keen.

Q. Tell us about your blog.

I wanted to enter the world of blogging, and I was about ready to share my story. I didn’t know if anyone would be interested but I thought I’d give it a go and somehow people are interested. It’s not a huge community, but it’s a small community of people who like the stuff that I do.

Q. Do you have any inspirations?

One of the things I love doing is going through my Grandma’s recipes – she’s a huge inspiration to me and to my cooking. I’ll never forget the very first time I cooked with her. Her recipes are fabulous. Over the next 40 or 50 years I’d love to adapt some of her recipes, make them gluten free and make them successful – one day I would love to turn this into a cookbook.

Q. What advice would you give to others who suffer from food intolerances?

Take a deep breath, and know that it will be okay. The internet is absolutely fabulous as there’s loads of information out there about it now. Join some social media communities where everybody is in the same boat – it helps reassure you that it’s okay that you’ve had a bad experience because other people have also had those bad experiences. And just know that everything will be okay, stay calm, and just experiment – that’s the best thing you can do. Keep it really simple to start with, and get a little bit creative later on.

You can read more about gluten-free food and Sam’s intolerance by visiting her blog: https://gffoodspot.com/