Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Dodging Gluten in Deutschland

The kitchen in our HouseTrip apartment--perfect
for preparing gluten-free breakfasts and lunches.
Summertime travels have kept me away from my blog, but even though Doug and I will still be spending plenty of time on the road this fall, I’m ready to return to a more regular writing routine.

Our most recent—and lengthiest--trip of the summer was to Berlin. In 2001-2002, our family hosted foreign exchange student Caroline Meurer for a year. Through the years we’ve had the opportunity to visit back and forth with her and her family, and we were delighted to return to Germany this summer to celebrate her marriage to Max Helms. (Max had also stayed with us for several weeks in 2011, and we had grown to love him and consider him family as well).

The couple was stunning. The wedding was beautiful. The reception and dinner party afterwards were elegant. And the time we spent with her family and ours—Emily and Bryson and were able to make the trip as well—was truly precious.

I was also pleased with the ease in which I was able to manage my gluten-free diet. I discovered that even if you have celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, spending 17 days in Germany is very doable. 

The gluten-free label on a bag of potato chips.
We found it very simple to find an apartment with a fully functional and well-equipped kitchen where we could eat breakfast and lunch every day. We used HouseTrip to find a place close to the Meurers’ house, making it handy for us to spend time with the family. (VRBO and Airbnb also had multiple listings of places to stay. We’ve had great success with all three of these vacation home rental websites in countries and cities far and wide.) Grocery stores abound in Berlin, so finding gluten-free and whole foods was no problem at all.

To my surprise and delight, the labels on food products in Germany list the major allergens, just as they do in the United States. Most of the grocery stores also carry Schar and Udi’s and other popular gluten-free brands. Hooray!

One of my favorite gluten-free dishes--tunafish
nachos--from a restaurant called La Batea.
We usually ate our evening meals in local restaurants. Even if you haven’t practiced your German for a while (or if you never learned it at all), it is fairly easy to communicate the fact that you can’t eat Gluten (or Mehl).  Most restaurant personnel in Germany speak English as well as we do, anyway—and we found that most are familiar with celiac disease and other gluten issues. (If you are worried about communication, though, carry the handy Gluten Free Restaurant Translation Cards by Gluten Free Passport or download the iEatOut Apple app or the Gluten and Allergy Free Menu Helper Android app for $4.99.)

Although I must admit I suffered the effects of “glutening” on a couple of days during the trip, the symptoms were no worse than I occasionally struggle with at home. (They presented nothing I couldn’t handle by popping a few tablets of Immodium.)  I admit that I could have been (and should be) more careful at times. But it’s a risk that I’m willing to take. While many people determine that such risks aren’t worth it—and they are probably the healthier for it--I refuse to allow celiac disease to stop me from experiencing some of the best times of my life--which this trip was among.