I am a kind of “glass half full” person. I am aware of realities but I like to think that there are positive outcomes if you look for them.
So I apply this way of thinking to eating gluten free when you are outside of your comfort zone albeit eating in a foreign country, at a family gathering or eating at a restaurant.
But I am allowed my optimism because I am lucky: I am not the one who MUST eat gluten free.
Eating gluten free really is a tough gig which requires diligence and vigilance and eating outside your gluten free comfort zone is hard work.
On a recent holiday to Spain and France, I tried to see the ‘food’ world through the eyes of a coeliac disease sufferer. The last time I travelled to these countries in 2012, we travelled as a family including a 15 year old coeliac disease suffer and to cater for gluten free meal options we tried to eat breakfast and dinner in our apartment, and packed snacks in a backpack on our way out the door. This time, it was just my husband and I, but I still kept my eyes open for signs of gluten free options.
So what did I discover:*
- Staying in self contained apartments is still the most sensible gluten free option as you have control over your food
- Mainstream supermarkets are now stocking a greater range of gluten free options eg Old El Paso, Pad Thai Rice Noodles, Asian sauces, Barilla pastas and as well the ‘sans gluten’ shelves have a wider variety of products. This was not the case in 2012.
- Local food markets are a treasure trove of fresh produce. If travelling to Barcelona, try Mercat de Santa Caterina which is more local than St Josep Boqueria just off the Ramblas. In Granada, take a visit to Mercardo San Agustin. In Cordoba visit the shops in the arcades of Plaza de la Corredera.
- Shops advertise with window signs that they have gluten free breads for sale whereas in 2012 bio, natural, organic stores were the only places to find gluten free breads
- Sometimes you can get lucky and find gluten free options at railway stations (Passion Food Atocha Madrid) and on planes (Vueling) identify gf on their snack menu
- Sometimes you stumble across a few gems: Amaltea in Cordoba has a separate gluten free menu, Yummy and Guiltfree in Paris has gluten free waffles, Eat Gluten Free is a newly opened gluten free produce shop in Rue Caron, Saint Paul area of Paris, Eat With Andalusian Picnic in the Countryside, Casa Mazal in Cordoba, El Deseo in Granada
- Some Hotel Breakfast Buffets are making an effort to provide gluten free options with an individual wrapped gluten free bread roll or rice cakes. Though yoghurt, fruit, beans in tomato sauce, mushrooms, bacon, meats and cheeses are always on offer.
- Sweet treats might be hard to find especially in Paris where patisserie displays are filled with colourful and elaborate cakes and desserts , but steer yourself toward chocolates in Paris and icecreams (without cone) and turrons in Spain. Turron and icecream stalls on the Ramblas in Barcelona is a good starting point.
- Estrella Damm Daura is a Spanish gluten free beer with a swag of international ‘best gluten free beer’ medals. My husband knows a bit about beers and has given this gluten free beer the thumbs up
- Do your research as there are many bloggers and Trip Advisor reviewers who may be able to help you find gluten free throughout the world. For Paris, have a look at Coeliac on the Road and Our Gluten Free Guide to Paris. And if you really like your pastries, then Helmut Newcake is a place where you can have your cake and eat it too….
11. And for a bit of fun, if you read French, then stumble into a bookshop and you might find a copy of Mon Cahier Sans Gluten. Most certainly helps in expanding one’s French vocabulary relating to products that are gluten free
As we all know, if you stay with grilled fish and steak a la plancha and a basic salad, then the gluten free eater will find something to eat on their travels. But Europe has such a strong food culture, a traveller needs to eat local and be inspired by culinary trends. So I am pleased that in four years, I see positive trends toward catering for gluten free eaters as even the appearance of one extra product in mainstream supermarkets or one cafe making gluten free waffles is most definitely a bonus for coeliac sufferers.
*It goes without saying that you must still do your due diligence when eating out and ask the important questions about gluten free options regardless of recommendations as staff, management, procedures change in a hospitality environment. And always check the ingredient list of packaged products.