The story behind the company
Despite so many products on the market and the growing free-from industry, even in the big city of London, it’s hard to find suitable snacks
My son would react badly to so many different foods and chemicals and became so restricted..
Creating healthy, nourishing food has always been a passion of mine. As a child growing up in the European countryside, I learnt to work sustainably with food, growing vegetables, making the most of using the various fruits and berries growing locally, and eating according to the seasons. I have fond memories as a little girl standing in a big ceramic pot pressing cabbage for sour curd.
Long before any knowledge of functional food became widely available, my mum would put fresh garlic in meals to ‘scare away winter flu’ and daily give us a spoonful of onion syrup to maintain our immune system strength. Everything from bruised knees to tummy upsets and sleep disturbances was treated with a variety of herbs from our countryside surroundings.
'I was immensely inspired to produce something homemade and different.'A Bester
When cooking, nothing was wasted, and everything became part of something else, whether it was a meal made of the previous days’ leftovers or preserves made into delicious jams. Today some of my favourite dishes are made completely from leftovers.
My mum tells me that even as a child I would deviate from the recipes, choosing to follow my own culinary intuition. This way, food became a creative task, a way to bake outside the box and be free of any limitations that come with following recipes. To this day, I never follow any recipe (not even my own).
Cooking also became part of my professional craft as I worked through the catering industry, starting from part-time student jobs in restaurants to the continuous demand for excellence that comes with working in 5-star hotels.
In my teenage years, I favoured the modern city lifestyle of eating, regarding the wholesome upbringing I had as boring and old-fashioned. Since my son was diagnosed with autism, however, I soon realised the importance of local, homemade food to maintain health and wellbeing.
My son would react badly to so many different foods and chemicals and became so restricted in what he would accept that his weight was not unlike someone suffering from anorexia. This demanded a lot of creativity, time and effort in providing him with the nutrients his body needed (any parent of a child with autism will tell of the struggles to feed a 4-year-old who only wants to eat toast). I spent days dreaming of bread made from protein, vitamins, fiber and minerals, but as his condition worsened, giving him a healthy diet no longer mattered – what mattered was getting him to eat at all.
During the same time my own health took a turn for the worse as I learnt I was coeliac, lactose intolerant and anaemic. Together with sleep deprivation, my symptoms of FM and CFS became severe – I could no longer maintain the busy, exciting life as a single mum of a child with autism, running the charity autismforus.org and helping new start-up businesses with branding. I became restricted in bed for days unable to move. Little by little, clients left as I struggled to sit by the computer and look at the tiny letters without fainting.
My life was upside down recruiting carers to help me dress and the desperation of not being fit to look after my son led me to question my existence.
It was in these darkest moments that I thought of my grandfather who was disabled. Despite being an amputee, he was the proudest and most independent person I knew. My grandmother, also disabled, relied on us children to care for her, and lived everyday with depression. The contrasting attitudes of my grandparents made me choose which way I wanted to go – I wasn’t going to let myself be sick. I put my trust in what I knew, and gradually regained a basic sense of wellbeing as I began to walk the dog, play with my son in the woods, and listen to what my body told me.
Suffering builds character, and my breakdown taught me that sacrificing yourself to meet your child needs can only work for a short time. If I was to be his carer for many years to come, I would have to look after myself.
Introducing a gluten-free, plant-based diet, coupled with the elimination of meat, dairy and sugar, proved life-changing for my son and me. We now both share a similar diet, calming our nerve systems so that medication could be significantly reduced, and I have never looked back since.
After years of eliminating and reintroducing food groups based on his gluten, lactose, egg, and sugar intolerances, my son is healthy and enjoys a nutritious diet. Although I am not FM free and still suffer a lot of pain most days, I have made friends with the pain, so to speak, through learning to listen to the needs of my body.
Living between the autism FM, CFS mental health communities I have heard many stories of hardship and pain, especially from parents whose child’s difficulty in eating resulted in being hospitalised. These experiences and stories have been crucial to the development of the functional food ethos.
Despite so many products on the market and the growing free from industry, even in the big city of London, it’s hard to find suitable snacks. Yes, gluten free is increasingly more available, but what about IBS-friendly, low carb and sugar-free snacks to enjoy on-the-go? And what if these were available in every cafe and every shop so that people who do suffer IBS, diabetes or celiac could confidently enjoy without needing to read the small print on every snack bar?
With this background, I was immensely inspired to produce something homemade and different. I took on this initiative by making raw, organic, gluten-free, vegan, high fibre, high protein snacks with minimum natural fat from omega 6 sources and healthy sweeteners.
With the encouragement I’ve received from my family and friends visiting for dinner or for pudding, I am immensely excited to share these bars with the world.
Snacks like these were not available when my son needed it the most, but I hope these bars can be the answer for the other children’s unique dietary needs, as well as for everyone else wanting confidence in knowing that their children’s health is not suffering needlessly due to the hidden sugar content in so many snack brands aimed at children. As my story shows, the bars work for adults too!