Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Celiac Friendly Spain!

Wow! What a trip! I couldn't believe how Celiac friendly Spain was. I arrived Friday morning (10/10/08) and after checking into my hotel I walked a couple of blocks over to Mana, the GF store of the Asociacion de Celiacos de Madrid. There I purchased a loaf of Schar sandwich bread that came in two sealed pouches (so while you are eating one the other doesn't go stale). I figured that would be enough to get me through a week of breakfasts.

Later that day I stopped off in an Irish pub for lunch, as I started to explain my needs to the Irish bartender (in English), and he interrupted to say "oh, you've got Celiacs, ok." It was the first of many times I was shocked that people knew what that was. That evening at dinner, my waiter was Spanish so I braced myself for a struggle to get him to understand. As I started to explain, no dairy, no wheat, he also interrupted "¿Celiaco, no?" I couldn't believe it.

The following day I attended the first of two weddings of distant cousins on Mom's side of the family. I sat with cousins from the village my grandfather was born in, none of whom speak English. While they were helping me work with the waiter on what I could eat, another of our cousins over heard and offered to introduce me to her daughter - who also has Celiacs. She wasn't particularly impressed with Celiac awareness in Spain and was surprised to hear how much worse it is here in the US.

We spent the next two days out touring with no issues (Spaniards don't really cook with dairy or wheat so as long as I avoided the bread on the table I was fine). Finally we arrived in the village my grandfather was from and stayed with one of my mother's cousins. Her two brothers lived next door and across the courtyard respectively. My uncle (who I was traveling with) explained my food concerns to the three of them and combined with having seen my issues at the wedding we were in good shape.

The following morning, I left my loaf of GF bread in the kitchen and headed out sightseeing for the day. Now mind you, one loaf of bread is more than enough for me for a week and the amounts of food my cousins were putting out on the table at dinner could feed me for a two days! When we returned home that evening, I discovered that my cousin had gone out and bought another loaf of GF bread. This time a full loaf (not the half loaves we get here in the US) from a company called Porcelli. She had also bought a bag of GF ziti. Needless to say I ate until I was stuffed at every dinner that week!

Saturday morning I ended up in a supermarket and found a number of other products by Porcelli - baguettes, pitas, croissants and muffins. Since I was leaving Monday morning and mistakenly believing I could get Porcelli here in the US somewhere (I googled and googled but couldn't find them) I didn't buy anything (but would have loved to try the croissants).

Finally, we arrived at the second wedding Saturday night. With the help of one of my cousin's wives (who is a teacher, and teaches part of her class in English) I again discussed my needs with our waiter. He brought out the manager, who assured me that everything would be ok and that he would replace my bread. Since my cousin's wife had walked away at this point (and my Spanish really isn't that great) I wasn't sure I heard him correctly. Sure enough 15 minutes later, he brought out this GF dinner roll. I didn't get a chance to ask if it was dairy free but decided to risk it (we were staying at the hotel, so if I got sick, my room was only two floor away.) It was amazing! Crispy on the outside, soft in the center and delicious! I couldn't believe it! (oh, and best of all, I never did get sick so it must have been dairy free as well!)

So all and all, I was impressed by the level of awareness of Celiacs in Spain. Now, if I could just get them to accept that I can't eat pork . . . .

1 comment:

Jason said...

McDonald's in Spain is now offering gluten free buns which means I'm going to have to plan another trip there soon!

Visitors (Counted on Gluten Free/Dairy Free Waffles!)

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