Our People: Of a snobby Beagle Norman and battling Crohn’s

Lydia Gliddon, 31 owns Darfield’s The Fat Beagle Cafe. The Kirwee resident spoke to Georgia O’Connor-Harding about what it was like to set up her own business, living with Crohn’s disease and the special dog she named her cafe after.

PAWSOME DOG: Owner of The Fat Beagle Cafe Lydia Gliddon and her mischievous dog Norman.

Tell me about your cafe.

We have been running it for about nine months now. Our theme is wholesome foods. Just real food and no preservatives. We do a lot of our baking on site. We are well-known for our scones and muffins which are baked fresh every day.

What is your top dish?

The pea and halloumi fritters. I spend quite a bit of time mucking around and making all kinds of different food.

Had you done a lot of hospitality before your decided to set up this cafe?

I did a lot when I was younger. I have always been into cooking and hospitality. I was away working in the skiing industry for quite a long time. That was fun but it is nice to do something for yourself and be creative.

What made you think setting up in the Darfield community would make such a successful cafe?

It is a cool community. Everybody knows each other and support from your locals is the key really. I love food so it is a passion of mine to be able to do that. The building the cafe is based in is an old one and has a nice homely feel about it.

Do you get a lot of travellers through?

I would say it is mainly locals but during the week we have rushes of tourists and then through the weekend there a lot of people from Christchurch out travelling or Sunday driving. Our busiest day since we started was on a Saturday with 500 sales.

When did you first become interested in food?

I used to do a lot of baking with my nana as a child and that is probably where it started off. My nana’s baking is pretty funny because she never measures anything. She pours it in a bowl. Somehow it worked for her but the girls at the cafe give me grief because I never measure much. Just chuck it. I also did baking when I went to Darfield High School. I remember representing school at a cooking competition at Westfield Riccarton and making satay chicken when I was about 15. That was my biggest achievement apart from this being my first business. And trying to rebuild a business as well because there was a cafe already here.

Why is wholesome food so important to you?

I have Crohn’s disease. It makes me eat really healthy food or I end up quite sick. The disease is an inflammation of the bowel and basically you have ulcers through your digestive system and you can get pretty sick from it. I find eating good food makes a big change for you. If you are eating things with a lot of preservatives or junk in them they are irritating your tummy. Research has showed there is a massive increase of people with Crohn’s disease in Canterbury. I just want to provide people with eating options to eat even if it is gluten free or dairy free. It is nice to have fresh food. It is nice for people with food allergies that can go out and eat somewhere because it can be pretty hard.

Where did the name The Fat Beagle Cafe come from?

We thought it would be a name everyone would remember. We used to just call it the little cafe on the corner. I wanted to do something everyone remembers. The name comes from our little beagle Norman. People love it when Norman is at the cafe. We are always asked if there is a fat beagle. Our dog is well-fed.

What makes Norman so special?

He is a bit of a character. He is a bit of a snob. People want to pat and cuddle him because he is quite cute but he is just not really that interested unless you have got food. He is extremely naughty. A real rat bag. He is keen on taking food out of the pantry. Opening bags of rice, flour and sugar around the house. He has done the same with rubbish tins – pulled everything out. Licked all the paper and rubbish. No way is he allowed in the kitchen at the cafe.

But your cafe is definitely a place for dogs?

We have a courtyard out the back where they are allowed to run around. One of the girls here even makes dog treats. She makes bone-shaped treats and gives them out to people who brings dogs here. We are more than happy to have dogs here-there is
a bowl of water for them. It is nice if you are out walking your dog and you have a cup of
coffee.

You are definitely a dog person over anything else?

We have a cat too but Norman is pretty special.

Do you have any other Norman highlights to share?

He is quite good at disappearing. He digs out, climbs fences or goes and visits other people then appears back a couple of days later which is quite stressful. He loves hunting and sniffing for rabbits. I remember once we left him inside and he had got into a big pack of toilet paper and just shredded it. It was like it had snowed. Then he just makes out nothing has happened – like he has just been in bed the whole time sleeping. He is eight now but you can’t train beagles – they live in their own world.

What are you interests outside of your job?

I play netball and I have been skiing since I was 13.

Tell me about your skiing career?

I worked overseas in America teaching snowboarding over there. I was at Canyons Resort, Utah, United States. It was awesome. Something that always benefits you when you go overseas is being a Kiwi. People are always really friendly towards Kiwis because we have a reputation for being hard-working and friendly. The Americans are funny – they could never understand what we were talking about because we spoke so fast. I have also worked at Mt Hutt. When I stopped teaching I went and worked for Gnomes Alpine Sports in Darfield and was manager until I bought the business.