A Letter to David Cameron – Re. Coeliac’s

Dear Mr Cameron,

I appreciate you are a fairly busy man and may well have bigger fish to fry but I feel the need to write to you about coeliac’s.  Truthfully my knowledge of coeliac’s is minimal, and to be extremely honest the first time I had a conversation about coeliac’s I spent the first half of the conversation thinking they were talking about ‘celeriac’  (the ugly rancid root vegetable), this was both perplexing for me and bemusing for my friend.   I am not a coeliac (as far as I know) but I am currently on a personal quest to consume every branded breakfast cereal box by box, this quest is very long winded (literally in the case of heavily oat based cereals) and I have had some highs and lows over the last couple of years.  Recently I started on the gluten free stage of my cereal quest and it has been very interesting.  I had a pre-conception that all gluten free food would taste like a soggy day old poppadum, this was incorrect, and I apologise.  The first thing I noticed about gluten free cereal was that the box of cereal is half the size of a standard box of ‘normal’ cereal, the second thing I noticed (after a few issues with a self service checkout in Tesco’s that was convinced I was a thief, a thief  who’s sole aim was to steal pasteurised milk) was the crazy price.  Gluten Free cereal costs a lot more than ‘normal’ cereal.  For my quest this is largely irrelevant (apart from a cost per portion graph I am working on) but for my wallet it is annoying, especially considering you get half the quantity of cereal in gluten-free boxes than you get in ‘normal’ cereals.

I personally do not like oats, occasionally they have left me in sweaty state of agony and regret, I make the choice to avoid oat based cereals and foods as best I can (I always make the effort to ask waiting staff at restaurants whether their apple crumble is topped with crumble like it should be or if it has been made by a lazy ‘chef’ who has just chucked some oats on it), but the joy of this is I can choose something else.  There is a multitude of foods I can buy and consume without fear of getting taken to hospital, but for coeliac’s this is different.  Coeliac’s have a particularly limited and at times unexciting diet, I have never met an overweight coeliac.  My big issue is that coeliac’s have no choice, they have to opt for gluten free foods, it’s that or they get very ill, they are diagnosed by doctors and medical professionals as having coeliac disease, it is an official disease, something that is medically serious for them.  Therefore, how can it be allowed that they are just put over a barrel by manufacturers and are forced to pay whatever price the manufacturers think up, they don’t get any subsidies or financial help to deal with the extra expense and are stuck paying more and getting less.  It is wrong.  It is the equivalent of charging a wheelchair user more to get in to an event than a ‘normal’ person because they are taking their wheelchair.  If that started happening there would be uproar, and rightly so.  In the UK about 1 in 100 people have coeliac disease, there is around the same amount of people that use a wheelchair, the major difference is that you can see a wheelchair user is a wheelchair user because they have a wheelchair.  This is not about me and really doesn’t affect me but from a very quick look from the outside even I can see this is wrong and unfair.

A few years back I wrote to the Olympic committee about making ‘Crazy Golf’ an Olympic event, I am still awaiting a reply.  But this matter probably affects more people in the UK than some crazy golfers so I would be so grateful for a reply. I would appreciate your views on this and understand it will likely be low on your list of things to do but a reply from you or the relevant department would be gratefully received.

Best regards,

Phil Botto

The Cereal Quest: Day 164 – Day 173 – Weetabix with Chocolate

Well the more observant of you will have noticed a complete lack of updates for a week or so.  It has been hectic and to be honest 9 days of yapping about Weetabix with Chocolate would be enough to kill anyone off so I figured I would do a bumper edition which (just to whet your appetite) includes a song written and performed by yours truly, a letter to Weetabix and disappointment as well as an observation about cows.  If that doesn’t tempt you to read on I don’t know what will.

So for those of you (like me) who don’t (didn’t) know, Weetabix with Chocolate is normal Weetabix but with Chocolate Chips sporadically positioned in, on and around the Weetabix.  The more foolish of you might think “Great, that sounds tasty”, you would be wrong.  Weetabix with Chocolate is fundamentally floored, for starters it is a lot worse than standard Weetabix when it comes to strength, they have broken in to tiny fragments long before their journey to the bowl has been completed, this effects them in two ways, for starters it just looks rubbish, but most importantly is the frustrating daily occurence of the following process: Put 1 and 5/8ths Weetabix in the bowl – pour on milk – put milk back in fridge – turn to bowl in disbelief, where on earth has all the milk gone?!?  This is frustrating, the problem is caused by all the shards and broken bits of Weetabix, it makes the rest of the bowl a complete soggy mess.  This is long before I have even got to picking up the bowl to consume the Weetabix.  Another big problem with these is that I am a purist, I am a fan of Weetabix, but to me having Weetabix with Chocolate is like growing potatoes with cheese already in them, actually scrap that, that would be brilliant.  It is like an artist buying a canvas that some toddler has already defaced with wax crayons (although in the art world these days that would probably be worth millions and described as a ‘classic’).  To top it all, the chocolate chips in Weetabix with Chocolate are not very nice.  Clearly an attempt to get kids eating ‘healthier cereal’ by bribing them with chocolate the chocolate has not been well thought out, serving after serving over the last 9 days I have dreaded this cereal, if anything sums it up the fact my work collegues banned me from bringing it in as it smelt so horrible shows what people think of it.  I was frustrated and annoyed at Weetabix for defacing a classic breakfast cereal, so in the space of 10 minutes I sat down in my car in the baking hot sun with my ukulele and made up a song to explain my feelings, it has a remarkably catchy chorus but unfortunately I was against a clock, and the clock was how much sweat could my car seat absorb off my back before my car was to be deemed a write off so I bodged the video together terribly, didn’t even double check it and wrote Weetabix the following letter:

“Hi,

I am writing this letter to you today as I am currently on a cereal quest, to try every breakfast cereal in the UK box by box, I have had a few of yours so far and they have in the main been very good so thank you.
I am currently on Weetabix Chocolate which I must say I am struggling with somewhat, I thought I would list my issues in an email but instead have decided that as I had my ukulele in my car I would cobble a quick song together for you which explains my problems I have had with Weetabix Chocolate.
You can see the song here: 

I am not a singer, or a good ukulele player but I thought the ‘catchy’ (not my words….OK, my words) chorus might emphasise my point.
However as they say, you don’t want problems – you want solutions.  This is where I am happy to help.  I have devised a plan/designed a tool that will sort the issues I am having of removal/breakages of the precious Weetabix, I have attached 2 pictures of my drawings, sorry but I only had a permanent marker so it may look basic but the design is in fact really good.  Please don’t be alarmed that one of the drawings makes it look like a feminine hygiene product (my collegue pointed this out), I can assure you the prototype (of which I would be happy to help you make) will not look anything like one.
photo1 (6)
photo1 (7)
Please do let me know what you think and also if you have any more products coming out soon.  Please also feel free to let me know what your current complete cereal range is as I enjoy your work a lot more than the likes of Jordans currently!
Many thanks,
Phil Botto”
I eagerly await their reply, still.  As soon as I get it I will let you know what they think.
Whilst I am awaiting their reply please if anyone knows can you let me know if cows drink?  I am starting to worry about cows?  I was driving home in the heat the other day and saw some cows looking hot and realised I have never seen a cow drink, someone should tell farmers.
Anyway here are the vital statistics for Weetabix with Chocolate:
Cereal Cost: £2.69
Real Servings per Box: 9
Cost per Serving: 29.8p
Pros – Cheap.
Cons – Defacing a classic, like someone taking a marker pen to the Mona Lisa to make it smile more.

The Cereal Quest: Day 146 – Beauty of a Golden Bank Holiday!

So this morning my amazing daughter gave us the perfect bank holiday gift, a lie in, until 8.30am, 8.30! Can you even imagine that, 8.30!  I’m going to type it one more time to get it out my system, 8.30!  I desperately needed a lie in and was so grateful to her for enabling one.  This also meant my mouth had not been abruptly woken up, it had woke up naturally and therefore was ready to have a delicious serving of Golden Grahams, they were good but the problem I am finding is that as I eat them I am imagining they are Curiously Cinnamon, I am wishing them to have a cinnamon coating but alas they haven’t.  I poured the milk in the bowl before the Golden Grahams today this helped massively with sogginess issues!  After breakfast we set out to go shopping and grab a bite to eat courtesy of a Nando’s voucher from Uncle Mike (thank you kind sir).  But before we stepped out the door I had to take on a task more terrifying, more tricky, more complicated than any exam, any mathematical problem, anything NASA have ever had to figure out, I had the impossible task of……putting suncream on a 23 month child.  Somehow, somehow I managed to do it. I would say completing the task was definitely in my top 10 things I have achieved in my life, along with the likes of being World Crazy Golf Personality of the Year in 2009 and my slug deterrent salt maze of 2012.  Eventually we headed out and had a great day, my daughter was simply incredible today, she was so cheerful, cheeky, cute and happy.  Sometimes having children is incredibly tough if they are up all night being sick or crying etc, but days like today make it all worth while.  Happy Bank Holiday people!

The Cereal Quest: Day 144 – Golden Wonder!

Today I started a new cereal, they are the cousin of the already ‘quested’ Curiously Cinnamon, they are of course Golden Grahams.  Golden Grahams look similar to Curiously Cinnamon, they are square tiles but this time instead of being sprinkled with cinnamon they are sprinkled with brown sugar which creates a richly sweet taste, occasionally tastes a bit like burnt sugar but in a good way.  Perhaps that makes sense to you, let me assure you it makes sense to me.  I haven’t had these for a good ten years but it was one of those tastes that you instantly re-familiarise (possibly not an actual word) with, like when you hear a song for the first time in ages but still remember the words.  After eating them I put on an impressive puppet show for my daughter and then we went out for a barbecue, which was delightful, thank you to the hosts, great food, great chat and getting attacked by a 4 year old, happy days.  The true test for todays serving of Golden Grahams was whether they would help give me the energy to tackle a job that has needed to be done for the last year.  At the back of our garden is a gate, that gate leads down a path behind the 3 houses next to us and provides access to our garden without needing to drag dirt and grass etc through the house.  For the past 18 months it has been full of brambles, big sharp brambles, some were massive.  The path is about 3ft wide, and the brambles stretch the width, then go 6ft high and run about 8m deep (change in measurements factor but I get confused on any more than 4ft) my job was to hack them down, cut them up and pull them away to be stuck in the incinerator and for me to then attempt to burn.  10 years ago I would have stared in disbelief at the following sentence, but it is true so I must share.  Today I used some amazing, stunning, perfectly formed, impeccably made……gloves.  They were brilliant, I pulled brambles here, there and in to the incinerator with these gloves on, not a scratch, not a nick, not a prick, these gloves were ‘gauntlets’.  I then removed the aforementioned gloves and set about trying to start a fire with lots of old brambles, some dried out some fresh.  A big box of matches, 3 newspapers, a magazine and 2 cardboard boxes later I had burned 3 newspapers, a magazine and 2 cardboard boxes.  Barely and brambles have been burned but I have stuck the lid on and hope they smoulder.  I showered, put my daughter to bed and then went downstairs for my 2nd bowl of Golden Grahams today, I then went back upstairs promptly to deal with my upset stomach.  I’m out all day tomorrow so I can ill afford to have an upset stomach. I might well hold on having any until tomorrow night, we shall see.

The Cereal Quest: Day 136 – Krave-ing ‘Good Times’

Today I was working from home as I had a couple of doctors appointments scheduled for during the day, I had to have a couple of blood tests and then go back for an ECG.  I hate needles so wanted a sweet glucose filled start to the day and fill me with courage and sugar which was lucky as I was eating Krave Milk Chocolate for breakfast.  I poured on more milk than yesterday because they absorbed like sponges and left me barely any cereal juice left at the bottom of the bowl to analyse.  It was a sensible move, they were still fairly crunchy and the milk I was left with could be bottled and sold to people who really like cereal juice.  After breakfast I cracked on with work until about 11.30 when I had to go to the doctors, I would have thought the Krave cereal might have made me feel alert and sprightly, unfortunately whilst walking to the doctors I got a text, I continued walking in the direction of the doctors as I set about texting back, that was until my head clattered in to a tree, it hurt, it hurt my forehead, it hurt my forehead a lot, unfortunately there were about 5 or 6 other people near so I continued walking, strolling towards the doctors, playing it cool, looking like I hadn’t just headbutted a thick tree, then to clear people who had seen the incident out the way went back to the tree and lent against it until the other people had gone.  This was an unfortunate incident and I feel Krave Milk Chocolate let me down, I don’t see any way that this could have possibly been an error on my part.  I went on in to the doctors for my blood tests, they were with a young nurse who I had not seen before, after navigating the doctors surgery I went in and sat down, “How are you with needles?” she enquired.  ”Terrible” I responded, “I like needles about as much as my driveway likes ‘Weedol’.”  Then in the most casual way I have ever seen a doctor/nurse say anything she just said “good times!”, she was down with the kids, that was ‘fo shizzle’.  Then (and bearing in mind my previous statement in which I clearly distanced myself from the love of needles) she said “I’m seeing you again this afternoon aren’t I?”.  ”Yes, for an ECG.” I replied, she then replied saying “Oh ‘good times’ at least an ECG doesn’t hurt like this.”

Between my appointments, which by the way I was very brave at and didn’t cry, not even a little bit, I enjoyed another bowl of Krave Milk Chocolate, the crispy rice, wheat casing is probably one of the few cereals that taste good even when they get a bit soggy.  The problem with Krave is that you barely get to start enjoying them before it’s over and it looks like tomorrow may be my last serving.

At my 2nd appointment the nurse, who I can confirm is not listed anywhere as a nurse on the doctors surgery website used the ‘S’ swear word 3 times and was livid with the ECG machine not working, she was hilarious, I sat in disbelief as she said “It’s been years since I have done one of these, back where I used to live we gave them to someone to read, I can’t remember at all how to analyse these results, I guess they will be fine.  I’m sure you won’t die soon”.  Now some people might think this is unprofessional and she should be struck of but genuinely she is the best nurse I have ever been to, she was completely down to earth and made you relaxed.  If all nurses were like that the world would be a happier place.  I won’t name her in case it gets her in trouble but she was funny, so if on a very very off chance she ever reads this, thanks.

I’ve been told to ring for results in a week so someone who can read them and analyse them for me.

 

The Cereal Quest: Day 135 – Kellogg’s Milk Chocolate Krave

Some of you may remember I tried Krave Caramel Chocolate earlier in the quest, caramel flavouring isn’t great but chocolate is an excellent addition to a cereal independently.  I was therefore looking forward to a couple of servings today.  Krave Milk Chocolate comes in a bright purple box which stands out on the shelf well, the first impression is somewhat spoilt by the fact the box is minute and the fact Kellogg’s are claiming it contains 12 servings (honestly a scandalous claim which I will be asking Kellogg’s about tomorrow).  The cereal itself is a crunchy cereal pillow with a lovely smooth chocolatey middle they are delicious but if you are a family with kids they are not going to last long at all.  I had two bowls today, one at breakfast and one at lunch and they were both delicious, they seem to absorb milk a tiny bit which means you can get soggy ones near the bottom of the bowl but they are still very much nicer and more exciting than Ready Brek.  They are a cereal that you can enjoy both singularly on the spoon or in multiples but it seems like a waste in multiples, my theory is that I want to make the moment last so one at a time is fine, until my wife reminded me I had to go to work this morning, that is when the multiple Krave per spoon technique was used.  All in all a great start, taste great.

The Cereal Quest: Day 134 – Ready Brek Hat Trick?

This morning I was sure I was entering the last day of Ready Brek, I went down, poured out my beige sawdust mix in to my bowl, I stared at the remainder of the bag in disbelief, I swear Ready Brek reproduces in the packet.  How on earth was there still 2 servings left after this one?  I poured on and then smoothed out with milk, placed daintily in the microwave and rebelliously sprinkled on some sugar, rebellious due to the fact I couldn’t be bothered to move a metre to the other side of the kitchen to get a spoon so sprinkled straight from the bag, it could have been a catastrophe, I could have ended up with a slightly hardened massive sugar clump landing slap bang in the middle of the Ready Brek, luckily for me it didn’t but I was proud of the fact I was a risk taker.  I enjoyed the Ready Brek, again at a slightly lesser temperature than previously consumed, I think Ready Brek has to be flavoured with sugar, golden syrup or if you have no taste or presumably friends, marmite.  Eating with no topping/added flavour is not enjoyable at all.  I took the rest of the box to work and figured I would eat as many bowls as it took to finish the stuff today.  At lunch I quickly downed another bowl, I accidentally got the milk to Ready Brek ratio wrong and could have drank it through a straw, it was like a slightly sweetened bitty soup, but I ate it quickly as work was busy and I was in a rush.  This left me with a bowlful of Ready Brek mixture left, I knew I had football tonight, I didn’t want to have to abort playing with sudden IBS issues, I knew that would be a risk if I opted for a third bowl but I was on day 7 and had the last serving (serving 10) to go so I wanted to finish today.  I figured Ready Brek is meant to give you lots of slow burn carbohydrates so with me playing football maybe a 3rd bowl would be just what I need so I finished off the box, scattering more excess static Ready Brek over my work surfaces and ate a 3rd meal of Ready Brek for today, throughout all 3 meals of the day I was yet to find reason to chew.  I can imagine you are wondering whether it improved my footballing skills for tonight, well I will have to let my fellow players be the judges but I did score 2 goals and nearly got my 2nd hat trick of the day (Ready Brek being the first) the cross came over, whipped in at pace but instead of a glorious headed goal completing the hat trick there was to be one of the most unfortunate own goals I had seen for a long while.  Early on in the game a friend had injured his shoulder, he played on bravely and just ran holding his shoulder for the night, it was clearly sore.  What he probably didn’t need was for someone to whip in a fast cross and the ball smack him on the shoulder, sending him to the ground in pain and bewildering the baffled goalkeeper sending the ball in to the back of the net, quite literally adding insult to injury.  After that a recurring knee injury meant me having to take a turn in goal, I never did get the hat trick, but not bad at all for me and so far no side effects to eating 100% Ready Brek today.

Here is my Ready Brek Review:

Cereal Cost: £2.19
Real Servings per Box: 10
Cost per Serving: 21.9p
Pros – Very cheap per serving.  Adaptable
Cons – Gets tedious fast, strange online serving suggestions.

The Cereal Quest: Day 133 – Still Pinching

The first thing I did when I woke up this morning was to check news on my phone, particularly sports news, had I dreamed yesterday or is it real, did Bournemouth really get promoted to the Championship?  Yes they did.  Simply amazing.

I rushed downstairs still jubilant from the promotion and chucked yet another serving of Ready Brek in to the microwave, I then went to do up the Ready Brek bag inner with a clip when what is the most annoying thing about Ready Brek kicked in to action.  As I looked down and picked up the inner to clip it, tons of sweetened creamy sawdust ploomed in to the air and more specifically my right eye, temporarily blinding me, I am yet to find a way round this annoying static related frustration and after numerous bowls have obviously not learnt my lesson on moving my head away from the back.  It didn’t matter I had another eye.  After what was a better bowl of Ready Brek due to a lower temperature than usual (which I wish I had realised a week ago) I headed out to Messy Church, it was a fun morning with lovely people and I chose the doughnut with the most chocolate chips on, I wonder what age people stop doing that? I don’t plan on stopping any time soon.

The Cereal Quest: Day 131 – Marmite Ready Brek (Yes Really) with Video

Today was to be memorable for me and taught me a valuable lesson, the internet isn’t always right (I appreciate there is some irony in making that statement on a diary which itself is on the internet). The start to my day was different as I had a doctors appointment at 9:05am, this meant I didn’t have to leave until about 30 minutes later than usual so I could enjoy my morning serving of Ready Brek at my own pace, this mornings serving was generously sprinkled with a glaze of granulated sugar, it tasted good and surprisingly didn’t cause me to think about yesterdays vomiting incident, this was pleasing.  I am certainly getting plenty of servings out of this box which is great for their cost per serving stat but not so great for my need to get through this quest.  With that in mind I figured I might try adapting the Ready Brek to make it in to a savoury meal.  Before leaving to the doctors I stumbled upon a website made for Marmite fans where they suggested Marmite Ready Brek would be ‘delightful’.  We shall see.  Off I went to the doctors, then on to work and after doing a lot of work in a short space of time then I was to face what was my biggest challenge so far in the cereal quest.  I was about to serve something I was dreading more than All Bran Golden Crunch, more than Froot Loops and more than anyone who has ever stared at a bush tucker trial.  I was dreading my Marmite Ready Brek, I was 99% sure that I was not going to enjoy it, but there was that 1% of possibility, that 1% that is usually disregarded and ignored like the crusts from a pizza but that 1%, that possibility was driving me to do this, driving me to try Ready Brek with Marmite.  Today I won’t tell you what I thought of it or if I could stomach it and/or finish it, I can show you:

 

 

The Cereal Quest: Day 130 – Ready Brek Sick Whilst Driving

Please don’t read today’s entry if sick makes you sick (this includes my wife).

This morning I was looking forward to my breakfast, excited to try a higher golden syrup to Ready Brek ratio.  I had also been considering trying a controversial savoury marmite Ready Brek at lunch, but this was simply not meant to be today, you will find out why shortly.  The good bit of my day was definitely the golden syrup in the Ready Brek, I gobbled it down quicker than usual (which in hindsight may have been my undoing), it was delicious, I would say so far it is the best way to have Ready Brek.  The bad bit of my day was to follow soon after.  As I was driving to work about 10 minutes before I was to arrive at my destination I had the hiccups, this was frustrating but I could cope, I was going over a series of roundabouts and all was OK, as I slowed my car down to 3rd gear I got a horrible feeling in my stomach, then as I approached a roundabout the pain in my stomach cramped, I felt something climbing my throat at pace, a mixture of sweet syrupy oaty breakfast cereal and the inner workings of my intestines were gushing towards freedom, if freedom was to exit my mouth and head for the windscreen, steering wheel and eventually of course the floor of my car.  Further up my body I could feel this horrible sickly mixture about to make its escape, all this whilst I was trying to get round a roundabout on the A348.  I joined the roundabout, my head was a mess thinking that my car and jeans were about to become likewise.  I couldn’t do it, I couldn’t be sick in my relatively new 11 year old Nissan, could I?  No, I wasn’t going to stand for this, I made the decision to refuse the volatile mixture safe passage out of my mouth and shut my mouth firmly, clamping it down like young kids do when they are told they have “one more chance to stop talking or they will have to go to the headteacher”.  Then the gushing lumpy liquid thrust into the main chamber of my mouth effectively pressure washing my teeth, cheeks and gums at the rapid pace similar to that of a sneeze, none got out, I had won the battle, temporarily.  I got round the roundabout, I was on a dual carriageway but it had no lay bys, no where to stop and release vomit with a high Ready Brek and golden syrup content in to the world, I had to keep driving, now torn between holding a disgraceful taste in my mouth or swallowing.  I had to swallow it, I had to.  I took a deep breath (through my nose) and went for it, gulp…….gulp……..and with a shudder a final gulp, it was down, it made my back shiver, my head was a mess but I was approaching another roundabout so had to concentrate on the road.  It was a horrible 10 minutes but I got to work, spat about 50 times down the toilet and carried on my day.  There was not a chance I was braving Marmite Ready Brek today, not a chance.  Maybe tomorrow.