White onions send my stomach curling into a ball, bread bloats me out to a balloon and if you give me a scallop or a prawn you may as well reserve a hospital bed at the same time. I love eating, I love reading up about food and looking at pictures of food, and if I know I can sit in my pyjamas afterwards I’ve not learnt to turn away a slice of delicious crusty bread. But my stomach doesn’t like this at all.
Having IBS and a full-on food allergy doesn’t mix well with being a wedding photographer. The erratic timings of the wedding breakfast alone is enough to send my stomach into a bit of a strop that can last for a couple of days. There was a time not long ago where I’d avoid having anything other than an energy-intensive chocolate bar for fear of setting me off. But I was ending up groggy, headachey and clock-watching for the time when I could take off my suit and boil up a hot water bottle.
We don’t request a vendor meal at weddings for various reasons but sometimes our couples are very happy to offer, and turning one away because we’ve “brought our own” seemed silly. Especially as there’s two of us. And it’s definitely not Ian’s fault my stomach is having a strop when he’s starving.
The “don’t worry, we’ve sorted you out with some sandwiches” line was a bit of a conundrum too. Ian will happily munch on a ham and cheese bap, whereas I’m more likely to tentatively nibble on some rescued cheese filling, getting more and more grumbly as I got hungrier and hitting a brick wall long before the First Dance.
Something had to be done about it. Something that solved the solution of my Fuss-Pot Sally stomach, for the times when clients had sorted food that never materialised from the caterer, and the times when we really felt like we needed something hot to keep us going.
I think we have it nailed. I’m sure there are other photographers in a similar predicament to me so I thought I’d put together a little troubleshooter post for inspiration.
Getting together our cool bag has now become as important a step as sorting out our camera kit. It does takes a bit of motivation to sort out the night before and morning of the wedding, but we are so thankful for it every time.
There are a few bits and bobs that have made our picnic hamper a lot more efficient. And we use them out of work too for jollies on our bike or road trips.
- One large coolbag with strap
- One large flat-ice pack
- Thermos Work Series Stainless Steel Flask 1.2L
SO hardcore. Don’t fill it with tea. It will stew and taste rank. Coffee copes better if that’s your thing. Just fill with boiling hot water. But be careful. I have been known to scald myself over 24 hours later as it was still steaming hot.
- Thermos Stainless King Food Flask 0.47 litre
We fill this with leftover soups or other hot loveliness like stews or hot pots. Our rule is, if we’re making something homemade on the days leading up to a wedding then we’ll just up the quantity a bit so we have something left over. That way, all we’re doing in the morning is heating it up again. Easy.
Tupperware is our friend. And not just two lunchboxes. Loads of little’uns. First up you’ll need to fill one with tea bags. And another leak-proof cup for a bit of milk. Voila! Tea, peppermint tea, fruit tea or Lemsip (for really bad days) without having to wait until the venue can serve you.
- 2 Falcon Enamelware Ceramic Mugs
Withstand a bit of battering in the bag, nice to hold and when they’re not being used for weddings I like them to be filled with hot chocolate at home.
- Plastic Cutlery and plastic plate(s)
Just enough for your lunch and to stir your tea. The King Food Flask already comes with its own foldable spoon.
- A couple of napkins
To avoid the inevitable mucky pup spillages on your wedding clothes.
- A spare bag to wrap used plates and cutlery in
The Tapas Approach
Some days for me are better than others and I’m starting to get more in tune with what I can tolerate and when. The key is to keep things small and nibbly – you already have the soup for something warm as soon as the guests sit down for their wedding breakfast, and if you’re mega hungry and are waiting on a meal this can be treated as the starter!
Fretting about whether a venue has forgotten about you does nothing for an already panicking IBS stomach. If we know from the outset that no meal is being provided we can tuck right in. In the summer we have been known to find a quiet grassy spot and treat it as a full-on picnic. If we’re not sure and are holding out for the hope of some hot chicken we can graze as we see fit. If the meal is good for Ian, but not so good for me I have something I know I can eat as back-up and Ian has two mains to enjoy 😉
Things that work well for me are:
- Carrot batons
- Crackers & Cheese
Butter and cheese go in a separate container to keep everything non-soggy.
- Rice Cakes
- Fruit Salad – Melon and whole berries
- Something Sweet
I generally want chocolate. M&S do some amazing marshmallow and rice crispie dinky squares and if you put these on the ice pack they’ll cope well in warmer weather
And if we think we need something a bit more substantial this Moorish Crunch Salad by Jamie Oliver is really hitting the spot at the moment. Just make up the Tahini, oil and Red Wine Vinegar mix separately and mix up later along with a freshly chopped apple (depending or not whether you think your stomach can handle the extra acidity) so nothing goes soggy or brown.
The beauty of the “Tapas Approach” and a good ice pack and cool bag is that everything is still completely edible when you get home – even if you do have to reheat your soup. That way if you did get treated to a slap-up wedding breakfast that your stomach could handle and you just want to crash when you get back you have some supper already sorted!
We also have a “Hobo Approach” for those times in the winter months when you have to stay away from home and nowhere is open to serve you a hot evening meal. But I think I’ll save that for another time for fear of coming across any more of a nutjob than I already do. For now you’ll just have to use your imagination!