Glutenous… not to be confused with gluttonous. J Also, not to be confused with glutinous which simply means starchy or sticky like you find in the delicious Thai dessert, Mango Sticky Rice. Yum!
People of the world love breads, pastas, cakes, cookies, pizzas and beer.
In the UK, they are fairly current and conscious about those who eat gluten free whether it be for general health preferences, allergies or for the autoimmune disease, celiac (coeliac). We affectionately call the UK the “land of white food”. Gluten is rampant on the menus of pubs and street vendors. Fish and chips, Yorkshire pudding, pasties, etc. are gluten-filled traditions in this nation. All are deliciously tempting but not good for us celiacs.
I’m always astounded when I look at labels of some foods to find they have gluten in them. I mean, why does gelato need gluten and why would one need to add wheat flour to corn chips? In most cases, it’s a filler and it’s added to lower the cost.
Eating gluten free can be challenging and expensive, especially when living or traveling abroad.
Most wait staff in the US we’ve encountered go sort of cross-eyed when you ask if a menu item is gluten free. When you visit another country that speaks different language, it’s even more challenging.
My mom, who also has celiac, visited us in Asia and we used all the hand motions with the non-English speaking food stall staff to bring us their packets of flour and sauces to read the labels. All the while hoping they would be in English and the flour would be rice flour. In one particular dining out experience, my mom said desperately, “I want to eat something besides boiled chicken and rice.” For a celiac, getting to eat something that is breaded or bread-like without getting “glutened” is like hitting the jackpot.
Once, in an American chain restaurant in Singapore, I asked for a gluten free menu and the waiter bluntly me, “Nothing here is free.” Haha!! If you know anything about Singapore, you know this is SO true! I did figure out to ask for the allergy menu or the nutritional guide.
When visiting Italy, I ate some of it anyway because… Italy! Seriously, though, I enjoyed nibbles of scrumptious pastas and breads but mostly stuck to Insalata Caprese which is most definitely not a bad alternative. I’m SO thankful cheese doesn’t have gluten. (Some does, however, which is just plain silliness but it’s the cheap stuff, not the good stuff found in Italy.) I discovered, as I eluded to earlier, that most gelatos are not gluten free. Most gnocchi’s aren’t gluten free either even though they are a potato based pasta.
Grocery stores and restaurants are becoming much more educated and accommodating in regards to dietary restrictions. Stores we shopped at in Texas had a decent “health food” section. Most stores here in the UK have a “free from” section. Free from gluten, free from sugar, free from meat for the vegetarians. It’s amazing and a massive leap in the right direction.
It’s been 5 years since our last Italy excursion and our next one is on the horizon. Where I used to not have to be too concerned with cross contamination or traces of gluten, my system is not tolerating gluten at all anymore. The short-term consequences (which are not appropriate to discuss here) and the long-term consequences (which potentially include cancer) are just not worth it to me. Even with all of the awareness and positive changes most countries have implemented, it is still very challenging to eat out and not get accidentally glutened. This is not desirable when you’re on a trip and don’t have ready access to toilets. (Although there is an app for that!)
I found a handy dandy website that offers wonderful information about eating gluten free as a traveler. She offers gluten free cards for several countries. I just bought the card for Italy. I actually have no idea what it says because I don’t speak Italian but it’s supposed to explain that I need gluten free foods and what that is exactly in case they don’t know. I’m picturing the scene from My Big Fat Greek Wedding, though. The one where the Greek family members tell the American boyfriend how to say something in Greek but he ends up saying something quite different. Yeah, that one. It could be interesting.
Here’s to living in a glutenous world and eating all things yummy and gluten free wherever in the world we find ourselves!