As part of the marketing that I undertake for my company Creative Nature, I will on occasion partner up with brand ambassadors who passionately and professionally endorse the products made by myself and my team.
One of those brand ambassadors is Rosie Brandreth, who was a finalist in the Great British Bake Off last year and has become a Creative Nature advocate and fan.
You may have also seen Rosie on Instagram where she currently has more than 300K followers and we’ve done a few baking videos together talking about a shared situation – both of us have anaphylaxis.
Rosie has a severe allergy to nuts and therefore baking has been a big part of her life from a very early age. I recently caught up with Rosie to ask her a few more questions about her life:
What do you do for a living alongside being a social media influencer now?
I’m actually a vet and have recently moved from working in Somerset back to Oxfordshire, which was where I grew up. I love the country life style. My husband and I have a dog and horses so we live a lovely life.
Currently I work as a vet and take a week of night shifts once during the month (when I will be totally incommunicado as I have to devote myself totally to the practice) and then I bake the rest of the time!
When did you find out you were allergic to nuts?
I was about five years old and was at a family party. I ate a cheesecake with hazelnuts in the base which I’d had before and which my mum often baked. I started coughing and coughing. I remember walking away as people there assumed something had gone down the wrong way or I was over excited.
I just couldn’t stop coughing at all and it got worse and worse. I just couldn’t get any air, my face started swelling and my parents rushed me to A&E. Once there they treated me and I remember vomiting into a bin and being utterly mortified by it. I was then diagnosed with a severe nut allergy.
What effect did this have on your parents?
They were terrified, we didn’t go out to restaurants or out to eat for such a long time. There just were not the food options which are available to us now. Everything had to be cooked from scratch, often with fresh ingredients to be sure I was safe. I must have be influenced by this experience and I distinctly remember thinking I wanted to make doughnuts – they always looked so yummy and I wanted to have one which was safe for me.
Can you remember the first thing you baked?
It was a lemon cake based on an easy recipe I had in a book called My First Baking Book. I had a go and it worked! I then went on to bake some cookies and used a whole jar of baking powder which didn’t work as well. However it started something and soon I was making cookies, brownies and then doughnuts.
I made my first doughnut when I was ten and it was lovely! Some years later I tasted another ‘safe’ doughnut made by someone else and I realised mine were really lovely too – it’s hard to measure your own creations when you’ve never been able to eat a so-called ‘normal’ doughnut.
What was school like when it came to eating or treats?
I enjoyed school and had good friends so I was not unhappy. However my allergy to nuts did single me out on several occasions.
I remember once there being a dessert which included almonds for lunch and I got a choc ice instead and all of my friends were insanely jealous!
Pictures of me were also put all around one of my schools when I first started there – in the corridors, classrooms and staff room – telling everyone that I had a nut allergy. That was not great fun when you are new and trying to make friends. Everyone quickly knew me as the ‘allergy’ girl.
We once did a trip to Cadbury World and a giant sign was put around my neck which said ‘Do Not Feed’ which wasn’t very nice and we just wouldn’t do that now.
I remember at the end they gave out little packets of Buttons and I knew I was safe with them, they were sweets I could eat safely. However no one would give me any even though I asked – saying I knew they were safe – no one would take the risk.
How did you cope at university?
At Cambridge University it was great. They were so supportive when it came to foods and eating out. We used to eat in formal halls and the catering staff got to know me and would always ensure I could eat alongside others.
It was sometimes tricky when I was socialising or going to parties. I would often eat before I went and not eat out, usually just hugging my bottle of wine! I got many comments about not eating, and I was very skinny then so I suspect assumptions were made. However it improved when I had the facilities in student accommodation to cook and bake – which I did.
How did GBBO come about?
Like many people, I watched the show and people were always telling me to apply as they know I love baking and I bake often. I finally applied just to shut everyone up and I told the producers about my allergy – to be honest not thinking for one second that I would get beyond application stage. I did get through the initial selection once and then no further and then last year I got selected and I was amazed and thrilled.
During filming I was even interviewed about my allergy and its impact by Paul and Prue however it was never actually broadcast which was a shame. It was an opportunity missed to highlight allergies and anaphylaxis as an issue.
Have you had an anaphylactic shock since that first attack?
No I haven’t. I’ve been very lucky and I’m very very careful. I’m fully aware of the risk to me around nuts and how quickly action needs to be taken if I do have an attack. I do all that I can to keep myself safe.
You will see from Rosie’s answers the similarities – as well as the differences – between her story and my own. Not that it matters. It’s up to people like Rosie and me to raise awareness of anaphylaxis and also to contribute to positive and lasting change. Believe me, I’m ready.
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