Interview: Hazel, whose Family is soon to be Dairy Free

Today’s interview is with Hazel Larkin, a Mum of two and a food blogger. Thanks very much Hazel for taking the time to do this interview.

I believe your family are free from a few different foods. Can you explain which ones and why?

We’re ovo-lacto vegetarians, so we don’t eat meat, fish or seafood. Or derivatives of those (like gelatine etc.). I’ve been vegetarian for about 15 years and gave up eating meat because I literally woke up one morning and thought ‘That’s disgusting. I’m not doing that any more.’ (That’s pretty much how I stopped smoking, as well! Literally overnight.) I don’t eat meat because I believe that animals are sentient beings and that they should be free to live their lives to the fullest. I do believe that when we eat, we absorb not only the material of our food, but it’s energy as well. Ingesting the fear/terror/sadness/pain of a dying animal is not something I want for myself or my children.

When the girls were younger, I made their dietary decisions for them. Since they were 3 or 4, however, I have advised them that certain foods they might like (jellies etc.) have gelatine in them, but they are free to eat them if they want. They always choose not to. At this stage, they are 10 and 12 and I have made it clear to them that I won’t prepare or cook dead animals, but if we are out and they want to eat something meat or fish based, then that is their decision. So far, they have always refused.

You say you are lacto – ovo vegetarians, what does that mean?

Basically, it means that we are not vegan – we eat eggs (but can’t stand runny yolks!) and dairy products. At least am and one of my daughters is. The other will eat eggs, or products (cakes etc.) that have eggs in them but has recently given up dairy.

Can you tell me why you are wheat free already?

I am wheat-free because a friend of mine shared how much giving up the grain had helped her; she’d lost weight, had more energy and was less prone to depression. I reckoned it was a worth a try. Within three weeks, I’d dropped a dress size and had way more energy. Also – and maybe it’s just a co-incidence – the crippling migraines that used to afflict me at least once a month, sometimes lasted 3 days and had seen me hospitalised on a number of occasions almost disappeared. There’s no going back to wheat for me!

When was your daughter first put on a dairy free diet? (feel free to go into details or not here about this)

I first cut dairy and gluten out of Kashmira’s diet when she was 5. She suffered with terrible, crippling pains in her tummy. They were so bad that she sometimes couldn’t walk and would scream in pain. Her pains cleared up when we eliminated those foodstuffs and while we waited (on the public list) to see a consultant. The doctor we saw – Prof.Bourke – was excellent. He ruled out any gluten allergy, indeed any allergy at all! Perplexed, I prepared to leave his rooms, when Prof. Bourke asked me what kind of a child my daughter was. He then proceeded to describe her personality exactly – sensitive, focused, highly intelligent and very hard on herself – before explaining that while adults store their stress in their backs, shoulders and heads, children store theirs in their tummies. To cut a long story short, my daughter was being terribly bullied at school. Once I took her out of school and started home-schooling her, her stress and her tummy aches disappeared. So she started scoffing gluten and dairy products again! :)

What are your daughter’s reasons for going dairy free now?

Just a few weeks ago, Kashmira decided to go dairy-free. She watched a documentary about how dairy cows and their young are treated and decided she wanted no hand, act or part in it. I respect and support her decision and have started buying food for her that is dairy-free, including dark chocolate. She misses yogurt and cheese more than anything else, but we can make alternatives to yogurt using coconut milk. For cheese, there’s sheep’s and goat’s cheese. Of course, in order to get cheese that is cruelty-free means buying from small cheese-makers. This is often more expensive and we’re on a tight budget, but I admire her principles enough to make the effort. 

Will the whole family go dairy free too?

Hmmmm – I’m not sure. I’m a huge cheese lover. There’s quite a bit of dairy in the fridge at the moment. Still, now that Kashmira has brought the plight of these poor cows and their young to my attention, I can’t really ignore it. Also, if I’m to bear my ‘energetic theory’ in mind, then surely the distress of the dairy cow must be transmitted to her milk as well? In that case, I really should stop consuming dairy.

If you are going dairy free with your child what will you miss most? 

Cheese! And yogurt. I eat about half a kilo of Greek yogurt a week. Sometimes more.

I can see from your blog that you spent a lot of time in Asia and cook a lot of Indian dishes, do you find Indian cuisine lends itself more to vegetarian dishes?

Yes. When Kashmira was on her strict diet, I found that a basic Indian vegetarian diet suited her very well – rice, lentils and vegetables. Also, Indian cooks use a lot of non-wheat (and gluten-free) flours for making chapatis etc. so there was plenty of variety. She certainly never suffered nutritionally (I had our diet checked by a dietician in Tallaght hospital).

Do you eat out regularly as a family? 

Not as often as we used to but when we do, we find it easy enough to be accommodated. Most Irish restaurants have vegetarian food on their menus.

Is it difficult to find someplace vegetarian which has wheat free options also?

No. Most places offer gluten-free bread, for example. Once you explain that you have a difficulty with a certain ingredient, staff are usually very understanding and accommodating.

Do you have a favourite place to eat out with your family?

We love Chameleon – a great Indonesian restaurant in Temple Bar – as well as Brother Hubbard’s on Capel Street (both in Dublin city centre).

Do you find it restrictive for social occasions? Birthday parties? Christmas etc,?

Not at all. For gatherings in other people’s homes, I am always more than happy to cook and bring a dish or two with me. The first time I did that, however, I realise I needed to bring more in future; the non-vegetarians inhaled the food I’d brought for my girls and myself and we ended up going hungry!!

Are your family and friends supportive?

I think vegetarianism is pretty main-stream nowadays that people don’t really see it as an issue. Also, because we’re Hindu, I think a lot of people just assume it has something to do with our religion and don’t make a big deal out of it. At least not to my face, anyway!!
Ishthara and Kashmira
Ishthara and Kashmira


Hazel is rearing two daughters on her own and blogs at Austerity Bites and In My Own Write. The family are lacto-ovo vegetarians and she spent half her adult life in Asia, both of these are evident in her lovely recipes. She endeavours to provide delicious, nutritious food for her children and she involves them with the cooking as much as possible. You can read her food blog here: Austerity Bites.



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