Each year, I hit ‘publish’ on the Fruit is not a Pudding competition with a little trepidation. Will this be the year where free from catering has advanced so much that I don’t get any entries?
Indeed, in 2017 the increasing popularity of vegan diets and awareness of coeliac disease has meant that many high-street restaurants have numerous free from dessert options. Even the laziest of chefs at events can easily pick up ready made dairy free dessert pots, gluten free puff pastry and even cheesecake or profiteroles in the supermarket.
Dear reader, I needn’t have worried. It seems there are still plenty of caterers who lack the imagination to even pop to Sainsbury’s, let alone craft an inclusive, delicious pudding for someone with a special diet. On with the horror show that was Christmas party season 2017!
Let’s start with the extreme end of ‘low effort’. Those that served ‘desserts’ with more in common with toddler snacks than the neighbouring diner’s chocolate cake:
I should point out that these actually required even less effort than toddler snacks, where you at least need to slice grapes for fear of choking. These seems an equally valid concern for tipsy Christmas diners who have missed out on carbs for the rest of their courses too. Poor Nia’s pear (I think it’s pear?) looks as if it has had a thoughtful dousing of balsamic to add intrigue?!
The next batch of entries demonstrated effort in presentation, if not in imagination or quantity. Sadly the effect is not always as intended, such as with Lynne’s dessert, with what look like carefully separated egg yolks on the side:
And Han’s, which came with an elegant swoosh of… gravy? Kudos for making gluten free gravy I suppose. But no amount of fancy lighting is going to hide that meagre portion of fruit for pud.
A thought, also, for those other unfortunate diners who encountered less than satisfactory other courses: plain salads, dry roasts, and in some kind of 70s stress dream of a meal, a glass of fruit juice for starter – the poorest possible interpretation of ‘liquid lunch’. We want a celebratory meal, not a ‘juice cleanse’!
But, as we are a single-issue campaign; let’s stick with the puddings. Even celebrity vicars were getting in on the campaign, with otherwise lovely Kate Bottley of Gogglebox fame inciting a flurry of free from pudding-based tweets in response to her request, complete with unsolicited advice on cross-contamination. If in doubt, buy it in to avoid any slip-ups!
Elsewhere, fellow free-fromers were treated to abstract art constructed from ‘peel it yourself’ melon, and tangram puzzles of geometric pineapple. Poor @realcnl was promised apple crumble, which turned out to be heavy on the apple; but with crumble MIA. At least there was icecream to be had; and we are glad to hear tales of intrepid coeliactivists taking matters into their own hands and demanding more from their caterers. At least let there be icecream, or sorbet at a push. How hard can it be?!
Icecream or chocolate can transform a plate of fruit for the better. Cooking, however, doesn’t seem to; as Gluten Free Mrs D and Sue found out to their dismay. I think I have some ointment somewhere for the accompaniment to that cheese…
And please let’s acknowledge that this poor pear and pineapple combo has actually begun to sweat under the pressure of sitting next to diners with a *proper* pudding.
Because, after all, it’s comparison that is the thief of joy. It’s not that we are ungrateful for fresh, sweet, palette-cleansing fruit; it’s that it’s served apologetically next to chocolate cakes, stick toffee puddings, and – bafflingly – naturally gluten free Eton Messes. We want to feel included, not like an after thought, and take joy in our food at a celebratory occasion. That’s why this image from @GFFamily on Instagram summed things up for me:
and it’s why I have chosen this particular winner (drumroll):
The lady in question explains:
“The others had a choice of Christmas pud, chocolate fudge cake /ice cream or Eton mess cheesecake n cream and I had 1 choice – A fruit salad! A few grapes, apples, orange, kiwi thrown in a bowl. Was nice don’t get me wrong (don’t want to sound ungrateful 🙈) but could of devoured something sweet like the others!”
She is, in fact, following a restricted diet due to breastfeeding a multi-allergic tot; which regular readers of this blog will know is a cause very dear to our hearts. If there’s one thing someone needs in this situation it’s a massive pat on the back, and a whole heap of delicious, chocolatey fuel; which is why I am delighted to award the 2017 title to her, along with a selection of goodies kindly provided by our favourites Pudology in the new year.
Many thanks to everyone who played, especially those who keep the flag flying for FINAP throughout the year by sharing your pudding disasters. Congratulations to those who got their just desserts – may there be more of you with proper puddings in 2018!