Back to basics

I’d been looking forward to doing a proper supermarket shop here for years. How fantastic to have everything I needed finally under one roof! So after we’d survived the first few days on the basics, I snuck away from the family, intent on filling my trolley with absolutely everything on my list, and then some.

But what I didn’t factor in was H’s peanut allergy. Very quickly I discovered that just about everything I touched contained a standard warning of “May be present – peanuts.” With a groan, I realised that the entire freshly-baked section was off-limits, cooking supplies such as chocolate chips, tahini – even the sprinkles to decorate her birthday cake – were a no-go zone.

I tried another supermarket – same result. I tried an independent supermarket. No good. So I wrote to a major supermarket as well as two chocolate manufacturers explaining my predicament. I asked them what, if anything, was available for peanut allergy suffers. The short answer was “nothing.” What did become clear though and quite worrying, was that the companies I contacted didn’t understand the difference between a tree nut and a ground nut (peanut). Peanuts are a legume, not a nut and I thought a chocolate factory would be well-educated on that fact.

But what baffles me is that I could buy the same products from the same manufacturers in Europe and in Singapore without any mention of “traces of peanuts”, but we can’t buy them here? None of the companies contacted could provide an answer and I doubt I’ll ever get one from them.  So, we’re heading back to basics – and my old habits of shopping with iHerb and lots of internet research.

I wondered whether chocolate is hard to make from scratch and to my surprise, it’s not. On the weekend, I discovered a recipe for home-made chocolate chips (or rather, chunks, as they turned out for me) and the crazy thing was, they were really quick and very easy to make. So I went a step further, baked some vanilla muffins and included the choc-chunks in the recipe. I then used the kids as guinea pigs and waited, with interest, for their reaction.

“Could be a bit more chocolate-y,” was H’s only comment.

Easy fixed, I’ll add more cocoa in the next batch. T just asked for another one.

When we were a bit more settled, I’d planned to source local suppliers for fresh fruit and veg, but after losing faith in the major supermarkets, I rather quickly discovered a market close to home. I dealt with an extremely friendly lady who was very sympathetic to my cause and she was more than willing to try and source peanut-free products for me. Fantastic!

So armed with my KitchenAid, new role as a chocolatier and a lot of networking ahead of me, I feel very grateful that we live in a country where fresh produce is abundant and I don’t have to be reliant on supermarkets for all the family’s needs. The dream of a one-stop-shop is gone, but I suspect we’ll all be a lot healthier for it.

If anyone has any tips, tricks or chocolate-y recipes they’d like to share, please contact me. I’d be very happy to hear from you!


Early days

Wow, what a crazy first day. We shivered through breakfast, unaccustomed to life without humidity, and left the warmth of the apartment for a first look at the house.

I used to live in a neighbouring suburb and I’d driven along the streets many times in the long, distant past. But nothing felt familiar anymore. In fact, I really struggled to get my bearings.

The house is fantastic and the kids loved it. Even completely devoid of furniture, they had a great time exploring, plotting and planning about where our things would go. And it was wonderful to see them just simply running out to the backyard – a freedom they haven’t had for the last three years.

We took a drive past their school and decided on the spur of the moment that we would take the kids inside for a look-see. There was still a week of classes to go before the holidays and I thought it would be good for them to have a sneak preview before starting next term. It took a bit of a push to get them over the threshold, but it was worth it.  Sometimes it’s the simple things that count, and particularly important for H, she got to see exactly what, from the uniform list, the other kids were wearing. It’s hard enough being the new kid without turning up wearing something completely different to the others.

We were given a tour of the school and the kids were asked if they’d like to go in for a couple of hours later in the week. We thought that was a terrific idea; the kids begged to differ, but the seed was planted.

Next stop was the supermarket and as I wandered along the aisles, I felt quite overwhelmed. Here I was, in a massive grocery store where the shelves were bulging – something I’ve dreamed of for ages – and I was paralysed by choice. And I’ve noticed that since we’ve been away, the two main supermarkets are selling many of their own brands now. But where does their food come from? Is it local produce or imported? I’ve always tried to support local growers no matter where we’ve been, so no shop will be a quick shop until I figure out where things come from.

So much like a move to another country, coming home to Australia feels new and exciting – and just a bit strange. It’s going to take a while for us all to adjust, but whatever the case, it’s still good to be home.