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  • Writer's pictureDaisy Holder

[ARCHIVE] An Almost Unending Ham Frenzy

Updated: Feb 11, 2022

Oh how adorable, back in February 2016 when I wrote this I was only coeliac and lactose intolerant and thought that was tricky.

How times change (although even just 3 years ago being gluten free and lactose free was much more tricky)

Cover picture this time is me with slightly more natural bonde coloured hair and reading Caitlin Moran's column in the paper.


Having food intolerances is tricky. It’s like the man from the Skittles advert, where everything he touches turns to tiny sweets, house-sitting for a rich friend. Everything is so lovely and tempting, but he can’t touch that lovely soft looking blanket on the sofa, or turn on the television, or fondle any of the erotic art that’s okay to have, because it’s from Africa so it definitely doesn’t make him creepy, as going anywhere near anything has dire consequences. (By the way, surely that guy would turn the floor and all his clothes into Skittles as well?)

The consequences for me admittedly wouldn’t involve financial hardship and the loss of a friendship (although if his friend ditches him as a companion over that then frankly, they can go and jump into a drain as they must have known about his affliction before giving him responsibility for their home.) If the consequences were financial I would be at the mercy of a patronisingly cheerily fronted scab-sucking payday loan company, but alas, they are just painful.

I cannot eat lactose or gluten. They make me very ill, the former for a day or two, the latter for a week or two, and ultimately causes a sudden inability to stand upright while my abdomen looks like it’s about to do its own low budget remake of the scene from Alien where she gives birth via the muscles in her stomach, and as I write that I realise I’ve given anyone who wanted to get me temporarily out of the picture a brilliant way of doing so, but I can’t envisage a situation where someone would commit a crime which would need to get me out of the way for just a week. The last time I checked I wasn’t a bodyguard with sole responsibility for a vital witness in the pig vs Mr Cameron case, and even if I was I’m sure they would have an agency for that sort of thing to cover sick leave.

Because of this going out to a restaurant is a nightmare and so I tend to not bother- unless there is some form of situation which makes it unavoidable, like a friend’s birthday. Or a wedding. At which the reception is in an Italian restaurant. Where every single item of food is made of pasta, bread, cheese, milk, cream and a bit of parsley.

It was such a long telephone conversation that I had with the gentleman who owned the restaurant about what non- poisoned food I could eat in his establishment, but unfortunately he didn’t seem to understand what we were having a conversation about and just kept shouting to someone else in the background. I ended up with a starter where half the plate was empty and the other half had 4 prawns in a sauce made of mayonnaise and tomato ketchup in a 1:1 ratio on a bed of shredded lettuce. As far as I’m concerned, prawn cocktail on shredded lettuce should be left in the 80’s where it belongs, along with mullets, shoulder pads, images of Thatcher batting her eyelashes at Ronald Reagan and any respect for Keith Chegwin. There was also a magician at said event, whose job appeared to be sneaking up to people so quietly that they wouldn’t notice how close he was to their faces until it was too late. By that point you were unable to pretend that you were deep in conversation (which I think we can all admit is the method we use for charity fundraisers on the street) and were forced to pick a card so that he could do a trick which involved some form of verbal participation. He tried to make me say the magic words to get the right card. I’m sure you can guess how that ended. Why was it necessary for him to be so close to my face?! It was actually my mother who spotted him first, and the look on her face was the look of someone who had seen a ghost over my shoulder who looked exactly like her father but with the voice of Dale Winton.

But I digress.

One of the main problems with food intolerances currently is that so few people actually believe you when you tell them. In a café they’ll say “are you really” just in case you were making it up to see how much you could piss them off in just one sentence. When I mention that yes, I am really, and if you want some proof you could always feed me some and have a look at the mess I make all over your nice clean floor, they’ll tell me about all the hundreds of millions of people who have gone gluten free because it’s “fashionable” and how they’re totally not really intolerant like you are because they had a sandwich yesterday. If you read the Daily Mail then you’d think that around 50% of all people evade gluten are just bearded cask-ale-drinking cat-café-visiting slightly-fisherman-looking hipsters, but we’re not in the magical imaginary Narnia of the depths of the Daily Mail website, where Britain is great again because we have an empire which we got with no help from anyone. We besieged them with our flags (made in China) our tea (grown in India) and fish and chips (introduced to Britain by Jewish refugees from Spain and Portugal), and everyone was so happy that the British had arrived to solve all their problems that they were more than happy to stand in the queues we taught them of. (Oh and by the way, the earliest record of the concept of queuing attributes it to the French and Americans.)

Due to these issues with my selfish desire to eat and not be ill, I have spent so much of my life looking confused in a supermarket. I went to the ham aisle to, perhaps unsurprisingly, buy some ham and it was remarkably difficult to find a slice of a pig that hadn’t bathed in double cream or had stuffing shoved up its arse. None of the ham contained both gluten and milk, but they all frustratingly seemed to contain one or the other. It must have looked like the final stages of my descent into madness, I was grabbing at a packet, turning it over and putting it back, a process which got ever faster as my pupils dilated, my mouth hung open and the looks of confusion and fear in my eyes grew and grew and grew until I was whipped into an almost unending ham frenzy.

Then I found some ham.

Typically, it was the most expensive packet there, as you have to buy royal organic truffle-fed ham to get ham that is actually just ham, costing £3.50 for five slices. This is fairly typical of trying to buy food. When I was just lactose intolerant (simpler times..) I often liked an egg and mayonnaise sandwich. When, one day, I decided to have a change and buy an egg mayonnaise and ham sandwich and imagine my shock when it appeared that the addition of ham made it essential to add milk to the mayonnaise. WHY? Is there some sandwich based science that’s at work here that I’m unaware of?! Will the entire sandwich crumble to dust with the extra weight of the ham if the mayonnaise has not had an extra bit of milk powder added to it? Or does the milk act as an insulator for the ham to prevent the entire handheld meal from spontaneously combusting as you open the cardboard package? I just can’t understand why that would be done other than to fuck me over!

Despite all this, despite these issues being well known by all of my family and friends for many years, for my birthday this year two of my gifts from my grandmother were Kinder Surprises.

“I know you can’t eat the chocolate, but I thought you might like the toys.”

The worst thing is that this isn’t the first year she’s done that…

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