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.


  1. Yes, please post more. What fun.

  2. This is very encouraging! Thanks for sharing! P.S. I just went to Italy and my hotel cooked me gf pasta and bread every day! Now, I gotta go to France!

  3. Thanks for sharing - awesome trip!