Monday, March 19, 2012

When in Barcelona...

Eating gluten free in Europe is a matter of preparation, flexibility, and asking careful questions.  Just like eating gluten free anywhere else.  I just returned from a two week trip to Europe with 20 high school students and three teachers, visiting France, Spain and Italy.  Breakfast and dinner were pre-arranged affairs, with set menus in local restaurants.  Lunch was open to experimentation, and we ate anything from street food to real sit down meals in restaurants.

When in Spain, there are many local dishes that are gluten free, including many variations of the traditional dish paella.  Paella is a rice dish, typically topped with seafood or a variety of meats and cooked in a special pan over fire.  It takes a while to prepare, but it's worth every minute that it takes.  I ate a great vegetarian paella with peas, artichokes, carrots, onions and various other vegetables for lunch one day and it was delicious.  Of course it's always important to ask questions, especially when there are sauces involved.  There are various dining cards and images that can be used to help in translation if Spanish is not a language you speak.  Learn the words for wheat and other gluten-filled ingredients, and always ask for things "sin gluten" when ordering.

Much Spanish food centers around their meats and sausage, which are delicious and perfect when eaten with fresh vegetables on the side.

If visiting Barcelona, I highly recommend a trip to the Boquería Market, located right off the Ramblas, the main street of the city.  The market's origins date back to the 1200s, and is one of the most amazing locations for food that I've ever seen.  Here, you can everything from fresh fruits and vegetables, dried fruits and nuts, sausages and meat, fish, cheese, prepared foods, and much much more.  We had lunch there one day, but it would also be a great place to stock up on items to ensure that you always have a supply of gluten free items wherever you go in the city.  For 2 Euros, I had a huge fruit salad.  Fresh fruit juice was usually 1 Euro per glass, and tasty tapas bites went for a Euro each.  There are even some eat-in bars, with stools pulled up to the counter for patrons to sit and enjoy their meal.

I highly recommend a visit to this market for anyone interested in seeing some local culture, but particularly for those who are gluten free, because there is such a variety of items to choose from. 

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