Once upon a time, there was a princess. She was very sad because the evil Gluten Dragon had cast a spell on her digestive tract that would make it explode if she ever ate gluten. This meant that she had to be very careful about what she ate, and that she couldn't enjoy the foods she truly loved any more. Alone with a packet of rice crackers, she spent all day in her tower pining for her one true love: Donut, and its faithful companion: Beer. Fortunately though, this princess lived in Melbourne, where, for those prepared to look hard enough, there is a cure for most curses. Driven by the power of her love for Donut, she set off on a mystical journey to a main street in the heart of the land of Werribee.
There are quite a few good places to get gluten free groceries
around Melbourne. A lot of these are generic organic/health food stores, which appeal to a wide range of allergies and intolerances. This is fantastic (especially given that allergies and intolerances tend to live communist-style, and often share a digestive tract), but can still leave coeliacs with the time and anxiety-costs associated with having to scour every word on the back of each prospective packet, even in such rare places of gluten-free abundance.
I had heard about Absolutely Gluten Free and the number of allergies and intolerances they cater to and this was the setup I had expected going in; a supermarket with all the currently available basics for a variety of dietary issues and a whole lot of packet-reading. What I found however was a magical coeliac castle out of a gluten free fairytale! I will use the words of the owner himself, as I could not put it better if I tried: "Everything in our store is gluten free first. Nothing is permitted on our shelves unless it meets strict criteria."
This means that a coeliac can walk into this supermarket and
buy and devour- as the shop name suggests- ABSOLUTELY ANYTHING. It's not particularly large, but it has multiple high-shelved aisles stacked with anything you can imagine gluten free, and a row of freezers that will make your eyes water. A quick list of a few impressive things for the coeliacs: Eclairs, apple turnovers, cinnamon doughnuts, innumerous beers, a giant wall of confectionary, pies, pasties, noodles, sauces, crisps, cereals, pastas… everything! It's like a regular supermarket but without all the packet-reading.
Dairy free yoghurt, cheese, and dips, and that's not even the start of it!
On top of this, the store is sensitive to fructose, lactose, and various other intolerants, and all of these products are clearly labelled and often colour-coded on price-tags for quick reference. I'll be honest; I didn't know that many dairy-free cheeses even existed. But somehow, I assume through hard work and tireless searching, Absolutely Gluten Free has managed to hunt them down and put them, and all of these other things in one place, so that you can shop without straining your eyes.
And then, after all the freedom and power has stopped giddying you, leaving you exhausted and grinning, where can you recover before the drive home? Perhaps in a Café. With a coffee. And… a hot jam donut or vanilla slice! The front section of the shop is a small café with a fridge of cakes and slices that is about twice the size of that of the average café. And again, all gluten free. Some are also fructose, dairy, and/or egg free too, and there is a notice on the café menu that says they will happily cater to any dietary requirements if you have a word with them. As an aside, the coffee is pretty good too. I just unfortunately felt that I couldn't give it the focus it deserved with a seductive hot jam donut staring up at me. It tasted exactly like it was from a donut van.
I will make it simple: If you are cooking for a coeliac for the first time and are a little bit nervous, you need to go to here. There is nothing you can buy in this shop that will poison your coeliac.
If you are a new coeliac, still learning the ropes and really just need a safe and loving place to shop, you need to go to here. It is a foster home for people just like you.
If you are a long-standing coeliac and have forgotten the taste of
an éclair or donut or are sick of strained eyes from reading ingredients lists, you definitely need to go to here. You will not want to leave.
I appreciate that Werribee can be quite a hike for some, so if you need to justify the petrol, why not make a day trip of it and visit the beautiful Werribee Mansion or Open Range Zoo while you're there? A gluten free vanilla slice and boot full of safe groceries is the perfect way to top off either activity. Otherwise, if you are happy to forfeit the hot jam donut experience, they will send your gluten free goodies out to you and save you the trip. You can order online at their website.
The owners of Absolutely Gluten Free have done everything they can to make the shopping experience effortless for anyone battling an allergy or intolerance, and they've been doing it for over six years now. They are also usually working onsite and always happy to have a chat to you. If you have a digestive curse that needs curing, go for a road trip to the magical land of Werribee. You will most likely live happily ever after.