Mother (doesn’t) know best

Mother knows best

So, it’s Coeliac Awareness Week and we’re meant to be spreading the word to the wider public, right? Actually, I’ve found the hardest battles begin at home.

I was diagnosed with coeliac disease seven years ago but my mum is still struggling to get her head around it. She can’t quite believe it is a proper “thing” – a bit like sex addiction. And my sister’s “faddy” vegetarianism (24 years and counting).

She is brilliant in some aspects. She lives enviably close to a Sainsbury’s that has a free-from aisle so vast it should have its own postcode. Whenever she visits, she comes weighed down with brownies, bakewells, macaroons and cookies.

But get her in the kitchen and… intestines, we have a problem.

Mum: “The cooked chicken is fine for you.”

Me: “The label says: contains wheat.”

Mum: “Yes, that will just be in the skin. You can take it off.”


“Don’t be silly – eat it. It is only the stock cubes that had gluten in them.”


“You can scrape the top off the cheesecake and it doesn’t matter.”

Luckily, my dad is a militant label reader, surface wiper and crumb spotter. His eyes are wise to the ingredients in bold.

And there is one family member who keeps on surprising me with how “aware” he is of coeliac disease. My three-year-old son.

Everything he eats, he now asks: “Are these gluten free?”, be it cereal, a banana or crisps. Or the brown button that fell off my coat this morning.

Kay Harrison

Journalist & Director of The Safer Eating Company

Coeliac disease & lactose intolerance