Since returning from the Allergy Show life has been hectic with work and preparing for a talk at my local library about Food allergies and intolerances (10.30 – 11.30am on Thursday 13th June at Wendover library – more on that later)
Busy? Too busy? How do you manage this?
The show was buzzing and in a larger venue this year but it was still heaving. At one point I had to leave the building to seek the relative calm of the bustling street. Sometimes it was hard to actually get to the stands you really wanted to chat to which was a shame but as the show grows what do you do to manage the ever growing throngs of crowds?
Where to rest my allergic feet?
There was a distinct lack of places to sit down and escape for 5 minutes. There was a small cafe with a handful of tables and chairs but nowhere else. Most people sat on the floor and some took advantage of the chairs in the presentation areas but this made finding a seat for those who truly wanted to learn a bit of a challenge.
What was that you said?
The learning area in the main hall was also VERY noisy being open on all sides as it was. I went to a few talks and could just about hear the presenter but the background noise was pretty unbelievable. With a coffee shop to one side and the cafe at the other it was really very hard to concentrate. The speakers and talks were excellent though and I came away having learnt a great deal. One key tip was to look into the FODMAP diet, something which came up in a recent gluten free tweetup and potentially useful for anyone who has Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). And I have no idea how the presenters managed to focus and ignore all that noise! Despite the noise levels, where else could you go, for free and listen to such excellent professional speakers all on one day?
Huge improvement on previous years
The safety standards on previous years have been questionable but the show organisers and exhibitors have both made lots of big changes to make things safer for those with real life threatening allergies.
Signage was, on the whole, very consise and helpful. I had a rule this year (those of you who know me will know why…) that I would not, under any circumstances, try ANYTHING new, not after last time, and I stuck to that.
I did have a few free tasters at stands where I knew and already ate the product and I made sure I checked even then to make sure everything was safe for me. I did have a few odd looks and peeved experessions from stand holders who seemed offended I was not going to try their food. I was right not to do this. On two occasions a product which was almost foisted on me turned out to contain soya, a fact the person serving seemed unaware of. I won’t name names, I had my rule and I didn’t sway from it. But it just goes to show you must always ask to see the label on the product and not rely on the person serving who may not be aware of all the ingredients on every product. I did see a stand with anchor butter but discovered that the product itself was only gluten free and contained dairy anyway so I can let them off.
But on one stand, for soya milk, I had an odd conversation. There was no chance of making a mistake for me, it was clearly a stand JUST for soya milk. I refused the little sample and said no thanks. “Why not?” he said, “It’s lovely.”
“No thanks.” I replied. “I can’t drink soya milk.”
“You can’t drink it? Why not? It’s good for you.”
“Not if you’re allergic to it!”
Now I’m not complaining, he was doing his job of getting people to try the product but we are at an allergy show after all, was it not beyond the realms of possiblity that he might come across a person with a soya allergy? And perhaps a different response would not have left me feeling a little cross!
But I don’t want to complain this year. I know I just have but despite all these niggles, the show was amazing. I loved it and I had a brilliant time, so much so that I visited on two days, but there is always room for improvement…
Funniest four things
- Buy two! – at the BFree stand I was excited to buy my first sample of their gluten free wraps; the only ones I’ve discovered that are both gluten and dairy free – thank you BFree.
I was making the transaction and calculating that the deal for two, whilst interesting, was slightly too many wraps to consume within the sell-by when I felt a presence behind me.
Then, in my right ear, I heard a deep voice say, “Buy Two!” and felt the hot breath of another excited freefromer warm my cheek.
I turned, confused at first to find £2.50 thrust into my sweaty palm and so, we shared the deal. We both got one pack of wraps and we saved a few pennies!
Thank you whoever you were and apologies for laughing, the situation really tickled my sense of humour and my husband has been sneaking up behind me and whispering, “Buy two…” ever since I told him this.
I especially love the upturned bucket in the background of this photo.
- Meeting Sian Lloyd – Again I was deep in conversation with the very interesting doctor on the Allergy Defence stand getting some really useful advice on hay fever management when I spotted a camera pointing at me.
“Oh no!” I said, moving sideways. “Quick, someone is taking our photo, quick hide!”
This comment had completely the opposite effect and before I knew it I was on the stand having a histerical conversation with the lovely and uber bubbly Sian Lloyd who wanted to know how much I had spent as she eyed my bulging ruck sack and three full bags of goodies.
“Not as much as you’d think.” I told her, what with stand offers and lovely blogger perks, like a few freebies here and there, I amassed quite a stash. You can’t see Sian’s funky Eco shoes in this photo, I had serious shoe envy and if you want to laugh at more photos of Sian and I laughing they are all on the whatallergy Facebook page. She was interested in my blog and promised to tweet the link – she has already so thank you Sian!
- It’s all in a name Nairns – Chatting to the ladies on the Nairns stand near the end of the day when blissfully some of the crowds had died away, I was filling in a form to get on their mailing list when the lady serving me noticed my surname. “Are you really a Holroyd?” she asked… “Well yes, I am.” I replied, only then spotting her badge and she was also a Holroyd! There aren’t many of us about so we bemoaned the trials of having a surname which as almost impossible to communicate over the phone and that few people can spell and I ended up with a WHOLE BAG of delicious goodies including porridge and biscuits and crackers and… and… thank you Lucy and Nairns! (you can see the Nairn’s bag of goodies at my feet in the picture of me and Sian above)
- On being spotted – This must be how celebrities feel, but for me the Allergy Show has become a completely different place to the show I strolled round 4-5 years ago on my own in about an hour or two. Now I can barely move a few stands before either I know someone or someone stops me and recognises me or asks, “Are you Ruth from What allergy?” OK so that only happened a few times but it makes the show so much more fun. So much more welcoming, a place to network, meet up with old freefrom buddies and share favourite finds and stands to visit.
Ones to watch
I met soooo many lovely people from large companies, to new companies from overseas who are launching in the UK to small independent businesses who have come about from a passion to make the most of life with allergies. I cannot mention you all, I would be here all day and night.
But I will just share a list of companies you MUST search out if you haven’t already.
- MozzaRisella which is dairy, gluten and soya free and apparently tasted sublime. Sadly I couldn’t try it because it was on top of the dreaded tomato but watch this post, blog pending a home tasting session very soon.
- ilumi – and their totally freefrom ready meals. Apart from the dreaded tomatoes which are in most of their meals they do two outstanding currys which I love to distraction and would eat every night if I could. If you have to avoid tomatoes too check out the Cardammon chicken curry (coming soon) and the Thai red curry, and they also do a chicken gravy which went down very well with our last roast chicken dinner. Everyone had it and noone could tell the difference.
- Venice Bakery – with another totally freefrom and completely outstanding range of pizza bases, flat breads etc. If you haven’t found them yet I guarantee you will be impressed.
- Gluten free beers – seem to be growing in numbers, too many to mention separately but especially Celia lager, Hopback Brewery, Estrella Daura, Glebe Farm, Schnitzer Brau – if I’ve missed you out I apologise profusely, please feel free to post an indignant comment below.
- Bessant & Drury – totally freefrom coconut ice creams in vanilla, chocolate, lemon and strawberry – I tried them all. So should you! They are really scrummy.
- Sweetcheeks – the best gluten, dairy and soya free doughnuts out there, well I think so. I got there early and bought a bag of four… they were gone by the time I got home (I did share!).
- FreeFrom Skin Care Awards – the winners for these awards were announced at the show by Michelle Berridale-Johnson of Foods Matter and I went along to the presentation. I think it’s great that there are now a growing number of skincare companies catering for those with allergies and truly sensitive skin. We want natural products for our skin, it absorbs a huge amount of what we put on it so it should be just as important as what you eat. More on this later too.
What would I like to see more of next year? More companies who produce products which are totally freefrom or almost totally freefrom like Venice Bakery and ilumi. It’s great that celery is become les used but tomato remains my nemesis… it’s so good to replace that dairy sauce and is in so many things. Grrrr. Those stands that were totally freefrom were mobbed practically all the time so it was obvious that all the visitors agreed. It was refreshing to see that number has increased and I look forward to more companies following suit.
More seats, proper presentation rooms. That is all.
Did you go? Did you enjoy it? What did love best about this year’s London show?