Meet Ash and Em, two women who started something fresh, helpful and life-changing. After years of trying different elimination and lifestyle diets however still feeling that their bodies were acting against them, both girls found out they are intolerant to gluten, dairy, soy and corn (that last one is a bonus just for Ash), and were walking around with these issues, none the wiser! Instead of holding a pity party (well, there were a few pity parties, they were just short-lived) Ash and Em decided to turn their health challenges into something positive, and in May 2013 on a probably cloudy day in Melbourne, Eatable was born.
I, like you both and a growing number of the Australian population, have a food allergy/intolerance. How did you find out about your mutual intolerance to gluten, dairy, soy and corn (wow!) and how did you deal with the news?
First of all, we feel for ya! Many people are running the gauntlet of food allergies/intolerances, especially in Australia.
We both have a similar story when it comes to intolerances and found out about them around the age of 21 (there’s 6 years between us, which makes it even more curious). We had suffered with varied symptoms throughout our lives; fatigue, bloating, constantly runny nose and groggy head, those sort of general symptoms that can be attributed to so many illnesses.
Through a myriad tests, it turned out we have a bunch of food intolerances and our digestive systems were suffering big time. You may know that much of your immune system is in your large intestine, so it’s no wonder that we were constantly sick; our bodies was crying for help!
As we’d gone so long with symptoms and no diagnosis, it was honestly really relieving to get the news that our body were sensitive to all of these ingredients – at least it gave us something to work with!
The journey towards cleaner, friendlier food choices has not been a direct one. There were many relapses, especially where cake and beer were concerned, but it has gradually become easier and more interesting to eat with these intolerances.
What is the primary aim of your blog, Eatable, and how has is grown/evolved since you started it back in May 2013?
Through Eatable we want to encourage those suffering food intolerances to be kind to themselves, to try not to beat themselves up if they eat a bowl of ice cream or bury their face in a bread roll. It is a gradual process to change the way you eat, and if you turn it into a positive experience then there is much more chance that you’ll feel satisfied with your new lifestyle. Trust us, we’ve done it!
We first thought about opening a restaurant that catered to everyone; those with food intolerances and those without. Through many (many!) discussions about food, intolerances and what we wanted Eatable to stand for, we realised that to have a broader reach and to allow us to travel freely throughout the World, it was important to first create an online community rather than open up shop on the streets of Melbourne.
There are so many things that we didn’t know about website design and setting up a business, so we are very lucky to have a network of friends that support us behind the scenes to bring you Eatable. The evolution of our little baby is constant and the momentum is building, as Eatable grows so do we and vice versa, it’s so connected to our lives and has become really important to both of us.
Our work on Eatable (if you can call it that, it’s a labour of love!) has guided Ash towards studying nutrition in Denmark, where she now lives, and Em has become a yoga teacher and is travelling throughout Europe. We’ve realised that Eatable is about taking care of your health no matter where you live, and we aim to show that to Aussies and the World.
You’re both living overseas currently, how difficult is it to travel and find suitable food?
It’s actually a lot easier than you may think, as long as you do a little preparation and remember to bring snacks for when hunger strikes! The last thing you want to do is bite a waiter’s head off when they don’t understand your dietary requirements.
We’re constantly surprised at how stereotypes about a certain country’s food really get flipped on their head. Think France is all glutenous crepes and creamy sauces? There’s traditional recipes like galettes (buckwheat flour) and socca nicoise (chickpea flour) that are just as French as the crepes and free of gluten, dairy, soy, corn…. the list goes on!
In our opinion, preparation is key! – Ash and Em of Eatable
When ordering food, it’s important to remember that some people will understand what you mean when you say “gluten-free” and some will look blank-faced, “gluten…what?” Our tips are to keep it positive and friendly, try not to get frustrated, and remember to do your homework. If you can learn what some ingredients are in the local language, write them down and take them to the restaurant. It can also help to decipher ingredient lists on packaged food, if you’re okay with technology, then find an app to help you out!
As we said, bring snacks. Some great travel-friendly snacks are dried or fresh fruit and nuts, rice cakes, raw chocolate and raw food bars. All of these will survive well in your backpack and keep hunger at bay while you work through language and culinary barriers on the backstreets of Athens or Florence.
How would you describe your relationship with food?
It’s a love affair, quite literally. There are few things that will keep us away from a good raw cake or kale chips (our boyfriends included). We could continue to feel sad about all the food we can’t eat, but instead we celebrate all the food that we can eat! Having food intolerances actually improved our relationship with food – from not understanding what is in our food at all, to now carefully selecting each ingredient. Food intolerances have caused us to deeply appreciate ingredients, quality produce and a good recipe! Not to mention companies, cafes and restaurants that give as much of a damn about allergy-friendly living as we do!
Once you start becoming aware of what’s in your food from an allergy or intolerance perspective, you also become aware from a health perspective. Just because something is gluten-free does not mean it’s healthy. Our journey with food intolerances has promoted both of us to live a healthier lifestyle – consuming whole foods, cutting out processed junk and being consciously aware of what we are putting into our mouths and the effect that will have on our bodies.
We believe that food is life! Eating should be simple, nourishing and shared with the people you love.
Eatable is the love child of two friends, Ash and Em, who are intolerant to gluten, dairy, soy and corn. It’s their mission to seek out the best eateries around the World that cater to dietary requirements. They share their knowledge on their website along with recipes, articles and tips. They believe eating healthily is not a diet, it’s a lifestyle.