Sunday, November 21, 2010

Gluten Free in France, Part II (Alsace)

A day or two after arriving in Paris, my friend and I took a trip out to Alsace for a couple days.  I went to France to visit this friend from college, and she is also originally from the Midwest, like me.  I mention that to explain how we came up with the idea of going to Alsace.  We both have ancestral lines that originate in Alsace-Lorriane.  She had never visited Alsace, and we thought it might be fun.  And of course, it was.

Alsace is on the eastern edge of France, bordering Germany.  In fact, Alsace-Lorraine has historically been both part of Germany and France.  Lots of war, fighting for territory, in this area, for thousands of years.  My aunt told me that our ancestors, the Voniers, would be at the dinner table and hear fighting, they'd gather up all the food in the tablecloth and go hide out until it was over.  A young lady in a bar that we talked to said that her Alsatian grandfather had been forced to fight for the Nazis in World War II.  Hard times for these people.  You can start to see the allure of an Ohio farm life...

When we got into Strasbourg, we went out to find dinner.  After a little walking around the square, we found a restaurant.  I got something that is a traditional Alsatian meal, called "Choucroute Alsacienne."  You don't see any resemblance to German food, do you?

I was glad to find something without bread, flour, you know.  But I sort of thought to myself, "where are the vegetables?"

That was the first evening.  The next day we were off to the Route du Vin (Wine Route--it's a country drive through the small winery towns of the region, and it's beautiful!).  But not until we had a big breakfast of an omelette.  You can find omelets most everywhere.  This one was pretty good, if not a little bit salty.

So we picked up our rental car and got going to the Wine Route.  We saw villages, wineries, churches, cathedrals, castles, vineyards, and it was breathtaking.  We stopped in the little village of Barr, and found a home cooking restaurant.  Just one young lady was waiting on the whole restaurant.  It was very popular!  We said our usual, "Mon amie a une allergie au blé" (or, "j'ai une allergie au blé") and we asked if the fish was made without blé.  The kind lady came back and said, it had wheat in the sauce, but they would make sauce without wheat just for me.

Oh my god!  How nice!

Here's a pic of my meal.  I think it might have been my favorite meal of the trip:
After we left the restaurant, delighting in the niceness of the people we were meeting, we stopped at a bakery and I got a big bag of meringues, which I proceeded to eat in the rental car, leaving a white powdery dust all over!  Meringues are made with egg whites and sugar, so there are no gluten ingredients.  It might be possible to be cross-contaminated because they are made at a bakery.  But I am VERY sensitive, and I never had a problem with them.

So, I could find restaurant meals, bakery goods--what more could a hungry celiac want, anyway?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Gluten Free in France, Part I (Bon Appétit!)

I got back from France about a week ago.  It was WONDERFUL!  I had a terrific time.

I said I would let you know about eating gluten free while there, and here's the first installment.  On my first day, I met my friend Sarah at the airport.  Because my suitcase did not arrive with me, we decided to go into the city, rather than go straight home to her place (in a suburb).  My first gluten free meal in Paris was at a cafe across the Seine from Notre Dame.  Here it is:

At the time, I was a little jet-lagged, so it didn't really occur to me that I should eat something substantial.  But that was some good sorbet and wine.

After walking around a bit, we asked some people if they knew where the closest "Bio" (Bee-O) was.  That's what the French call their health food stores.  The people we asked directed us to a regular grocery store (they said it had bio kinds of foods).

I found a small gluten-free section that contained items of the name brand "Gerblé."  I purchased boxes containing Baguettes, Bread, Strawberry Cakes, and some pasta.  I do believe that the French word "Gerblé" translates into English as "Awful."  Sorry, I didn't really like any of these.  The strawberry cakes were somewhat tolerable, the pasta cooked up alright.  But the Baguettes and Bread were horrible.  They made the entire apartment smell funny when I warmed them up in the microwave.  They were pretty hard and bland on their own.

I did finish the baguettes, and half the box of bread.  If you slather anything with goat cheese, it will be edible, which is how I did it.

So that was the first day of gluten free adventures.  Not so hot.  But there are always things, not specifically labeled gluten-free, to eat that are OK, anyway.  (Fruits, Vegetables, Rice, etc).

Sarah has family from the U.S. who have Celiac Disease.  This was so nice, because she knew how to talk to people at restaurants, for me.  My French is OK, but she knew the right words, and that was a pretty big relief for this weary traveler.  She would say, "Mon ami a une allergie au blé" and she would say that "C'est très sèrieux, elle ne peux rien manger la farine de blé."  It was nice that she had been through this before.  She could also advise me on some important details, such as most restaurants mix their own vinaigrettes, so I felt comfortable trusting most salads (because they usually come with the dressing already mixed in).

And for all you purists out there, my friend is also aware that Celiac Disease is not an allergy.  She said, though, that it is so uncommon for people to be diagnosed in France that people normally react like, "Ça n'est pas possible," (it's not possible) that someone can be allergic/intolerant to wheat.  So she simplifies by saying "allergie" rather than going into all that about what Celiac is (which would be a lot harder for those of us not fluent in the language).  You do what you have to do, I think.  And I don't think I was ever glutened on the whole trip, hooray!

Here's a wonderful French salad that I enjoyed (a few days later):

Did I mention that wine is gluten-free?!?  If you go to France, I assure you, you will be able to eat.  That's a start to my story.  I'll post more as I am able.