Hi, I'm Carmel Alifano. I'm a mum to two teenage boys, a landscape designer, a music and dance lover, and the founder of glutenfreek. I'm grateful to live in beautiful subtropical Brisbane, Queensland where my passions include dancing, music,and good food.
Despite the name Glutenfreek, I want everyone to know that a gluten free and sugar free diet is far from freaky...and what better way to start than with cake!
I wasn't always into this way of life though; you see, I used to be totally addicted to sugar and all things gluten, but, at the tender age of 25 my intestine ruptured as a result of undiagnosed Crohn's Disease. It was the darkest time of my life, yet it was also the best thing that ever happened to me. I had two major abdominal surgeries to remove the damaged bowel and form a stoma - where your intestine sits on the outside of your body, through a slit cut through your abdomen, and an ileostomy bag is fitted to collect your waste. This procedure was reversed nine months later once my bowel had healed enough to be stapled back together. Doesn't that sound just wonderful?! The doctors and 'experts' I was seeing at the time gave me drugs and told me I'd be fine as long as I took them every day. Who was I not to trust them? None of them ever mentioned my diet. In fact, when I enquired if I needed to change anything, the response was, "You could try, but I doubt it will make much difference."
Fast forward several years and my move to Queensland. My neighbour in Brisbane happened to be a naturopath. My sister was also studying naturopathy, and fairly soon I began to take notice of this natural approach to health. I kept hearing the advice to cut out gluten, refined sugar, and lactose from my diet. For someone who grew up on Coco Pops, white bread, Nutella, and Milo, there was no way in hell I would consider such a drastic move (the horror). I mean, I have such a sweet tooth, I couldn't imagine going without all the things I loved. So I didn't change anything. For a long time. But there is only so long a girl can be in denial. I just kept finding new information and meeting knowledgeable people who were all saying similar things.
One day, a forward thinking GP put me onto the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) which is specifically for coeliacs, and sufferers of other intestinal conditions. It is no gluten, no grains (including rice and corn), no sugar, and no lactose. It is based on protein, fruit and veges, and nuts. Honey as a sweetener, and homemade 24hr yoghurt. It is full on and I did not follow it thoroughly, but it did open my eyes to another way of eating and caring for my body.
I was starting to understand that I was responsible for my own health and that we really are what we eat. The best part of the SCD cookbook I had ('Healing Foods' by Sandra Ramacher) were the cakes, of course. They were (are) delicious. I no longer felt like I was missing out; in fact, I preferred these moist cakes to normal cakes. I'd make one cake per week for myself and happily made my way through it with copious cups of tea over the next seven days. Soon my friends were asking me to make their kids' birthday cakes and I'd bring cake to any event that was on. The problem was that every time I went to a cafe and ordered the ubiquitous Orange and Almond cake (that's all that was on offer for gf pre 2012), I thought it tasted like cardboard. It was also expensive. I'd always leave thinking, "My cakes at home taste so much better than this." Then, one fateful day in July 2012, I discovered a new cafe/coffee roaster near my home. One taste of their coffee and I knew I would be spending a lot of time there. They'd only recently opened so when I asked if they had anything gf, the answer was no. Now, for some strange reason, my next question was, "Would you like a gluten free cake supplier?". I had no intention of starting a business, nor was I a baker or chef. They were keen, and my very first glutenfreek cakes were on display a week later. The rest, as they say, is history.
LISTEN TO CARMEL'S INTERVIEW ON THE CHIEF LIFE PODCAST!
In this podcast Carmel talks about her personal journey with Crohn's Disease and how her quest to heal herself through diet ultimately lead to the creation of glutenfreek.
We hope you enjoy listening to it as much as Carmel enjoyed making it!
Find the link here.