As of now, I have been living in Spain for over two months. ¿Cómo está mi español? No es bueno. Yo sé solamente un poco. I thought trying to convey my gluten issues at restaurants would be difficult. I came prepared with my Triumph Dining Cards in Spanish, and studied the food allergy section in my Spanish phrase book. My first day at Alicia Fundacio I realized that was over kill. They showed me all of the gluten free products on the market in Spain, showed my their training manual for restaurants all the gluten free basics and cross contamination risks. Every day, my colleagues would bring in another GF product. Wow. I was overwhelmed. Here I thought that I would be bringing them some knowledge from the USA, where our gluten free / Celiac awareness has grown exponentially over the past couple years. There is even a local Catalan Celiac web site: http://www.celiacscatalunya.org/cas/index.php I figured that I would face difficulty when eating out, especially with the language barrier.
Every place I went to eat I would say in Spanish, "No puedo comar harina de trigo. = I cannot eat wheat." And they would respond, "Eres una celiaca! = You are a Celiac!" Almost happy in their recognition. Spain has proved itself as a safe haven for those with gluten issues. The awareness here is mind blowing. One of my favorite moments was a little cafe/ice cream shop where when I ordered a salad, they brought out toasted gluten free bread for me. So sweet and thoughtful. Deprivation is not a concern here. I can find gluten free bread and baked treats in just about any little grocery store. In the grocery store, they post tags "sin gluten" by featured products. Even Estrella Damm, the largest Spain beer brewery, carries a beer "Para Celiacos." Now that the time is coming to return back to the USA, I wander if I will compare the American response versus the Spaniards. Probably. But I also know that gluten free awareness is growing globally.
The Sensitive Epicure