Dietary Restrictions: 2004
Eating in Europe is sightseeing for your tastebuds. Deciphering the menu is half the fun! But some travelers have special needs when it comes to food: vegan, diabetic, low-salt, gluten-sensitive, lactose-intolerant, nut and other allergies, etc. Any tips for those with special diet concerns in Europe?
I had weight loss surgery in July of 2003. Those of us who have had this surgery must eat a certain amount of protein a day and get in foods rich in vitamins. It's not an option or we get sick. I was very worried about the protein intake and so I took protein bars with me. Glad I did as breakfast offered in Italy was usually rolls, croissants, jams, jellies, coffee, juices and maybe yogurt. Not enough for me but I was able to supplement my diet with the bars. They were a bit heavy in the backpack at first, but as the trip progressed, the bag lightened up.
Any weight loss surgery folks out there who are afraid to risk a lengthy trip to Europe because of dietary restrictions........forget it! Life is out there and Europe travel is a part of it if you want. I came home healthy, happy and ready to go again.
Columbus, OH USA Fri 10/01/2004
Gluten-free food in German-speaking countries
Travellers with gluten sensitivity can find gluten-free food in German-speaking countries by visiting a Reformhaus. This is the generic name for health food stores. I've found gluten-free pasta, cookies, muffins, and breakfast cereals in Reformhauses in Zurich, Heidelberg, Oberstdorf, Innsbruck, and Mayrhofen (Zillertal). If you arrive on a weekend, though, keep in mind that the Reformhaus may not be open until Monday morning, so bring some of your own food with you.
For eating out, the Nordsee chain of seafood restaurants has some unbreaded fish entrees, though for a few of the selections you need to ask for it without sauce.
Princeton, USA Fri 09/17/2004
gluten/caseine intolerant heaven
I want to reassure those with Celiac disease and caseine intolerance that it is blissfully possible to eat well and safely in Italy! We found many gluten-free items in pharmacies and the restaurants seemed very aware and helpful. I was particularly spoiled in Gambacorta's Grocery store in Asissi(with whom we also booked a charming apartment from Rick's book). There was an entire gluten and caseine free *section* for me to peruse.
We were spoiled in Amalfi at Da Gemma restaurant who made not only one our most memorable meal but whipped up a beautiful Polenta tart with pears when they found I was gluten and caseine intolerant. They served it with Amalfi lemon sorbet and I could have cried. Thank You Italy!!!
Rathdrum, ID USA Mon 08/23/2004
I keep kosher. Even though I eat in restaurants, I stick to vegetarian, dairy, and fish. I have found a system that works for me on my many travels. In restaurants, I say I am a vegetarian. It is easier to explain, and possibly safer with anti-semitism on the rise. I make out a card with "I am a vegetarian. I do not eat. . ." in every language I will use. I learn to recognize universally vegetarian dishes, such as pizza margherita in Italy and tortilla espanola in Spain. Larger cities might have kosher restaurants that are definitely worth going to. I've been to a kosher Morrocan restaurant in Prague and a kosher falafel place in Paris (a favorite of Lenny Kravitz!) Of course, Israel was amazing. I had my first McDonald's hamburger there. But still check to see if they have their kashrut certificate, especially in secular cities like Tel-Aviv.
Chicago, IL USA Sun 06/13/2004
Low-carb eating is a problem while travelling. I sometimes buy cheese and ham in Italy. Flunch and similar places have meat and vegetables. Any sandwich can be low-carb by tossing away the bread. In Italy salads are readily available in restaurants. I bought a pre-packed mixed salad in a grocery in Italy. Some veggies can be bought and eaten raw. Chinese restaurants have meat and meat/veg dishes. And France has at least a hundred different kinds of cheese that can be bought in small quantities.
Calistoga, CA USA Thu 05/06/2004
Easy to be Vegetarian in Munich
My vegetarian husband and I just returned from a week in Munich and Salzburg, with no problems fnding food that we could eat! We even stuck to breweries, inns, and the like.
I can recommend highly the Augustiner Braustubel around the corner from the Hofbrauhaus. Great cozy, local atmosphere. We had vegetarian knodel, and spaetzel, and even a salad.
We stopped at Nordsee in Salzburg and had big American style salads, which was a refreshing change from all the pretzels. At the Augustiner monk brewery in Salzburg, it's easy to make a vegetarian meal from the food counters right before you get into the beerhall. Radish salad has become one of our new favorite foods!
MA USA Thu 04/08/2004
Traveling with Allergies
To me, the single biggest hurdle in foreign travel is the language. This is especially true if one has a food allergy. On a 14 day trip, you will eat 42 major meals, and a bunch of ?tastings.? You could be exposing yourself to possibly life threatening situations if you can not clearly explain your food allergy to the people who prepare your food.
I am very allergic to pine nuts. On our first Rick Steves trip, Best of Europe, I took special precautions, or so I thought. I put my allergy on the medical form, told the very competent tour director about the severity of the allergy, and asked the waitperson (most of the time) if there were any pine nuts in the food I was being served.
Even with this precaution I ended up in the hospital in Vernazza. I was done in by a pound cake with pine nuts, (who would have thought?) Everyone was very apologetic, but the bottom line was I had let my guard down. Easy to do.
Over the years of eating outside of my home, I have concluded that there are certain things I can do to prevent my allergy from becoming a tragedy.
1. I must accept the problem is MY problem, not my spouse?s, not the tour director, or is it the waitperson?s. I think this epiphany makes you act more clearly.
2. I needed to develop a series of questions to ask people serving me that will emphasize the importance of the problem. Questions like ?Is there any prepared food that you buy that you do not know what it contains?? Don?t ask them to ?hold the pine nuts? or whatever you are allergic to. That won?t work if you have ever seen how a commercial kitchen works. I must also then of course pick things on the menu that don?t usually contain pine nuts. For me it is no pesto sauce, nothing that might contain pesto, or pine nuts, like Pine Nut gelato.
Finely, found out all of the ways ?pine nuts? are referred to in the various languages of where I was going. I wrote out a description of my allergy, and explained the effects on me. Then I had several friends translate it into the languages of the countries that I was visiting. I printed the English version on one side of a 3 x 5 card, and the foreign language on the other side using my computer. I used 3 x 5 cardstock (Avery 5388). I then had the cards laminated at Kinko?s.
Now, when I go into a restaurant (now even at home) I hand this card to the waitperson (not the water server) and ask him or her to take it to the cook. It almost always has the intended effect of being official, serious, and meaningful. However, I must warn you, it does not always work. I was on a flight from Paris to Copenhagen and I gave it to the Stewardess, who spoke perfect English. She assured me that no pine nuts were served. Not 10 minutes later, our lunch came: Macaroni and cheese with pine nuts. If I had eaten it you probably would not be reading this now. So be aware that it is not foolproof. Many wait people do not understand the importance of a food allergy. Quite often they equate it to ?I don?t like??. But if you can get your card to the chef, or the owner, then you have a pretty good chance of being taken serious.
The exact wording of my card (English side) is:
"I am allergic to PINE NUTS (AKA PINYON, pi?on, "STONE PINE", "PINE KERNELS", PIGNOLI, PIGNOLIAS) -
This is a very serious condition and I can die if I eat PINE NUTS OR if my food is prepared with utensils that may contain PINE NUT oil or PINE NUT residue.
DO NOT GIVE ME ANY FOOD THAT MAY CONTAIN PINE NUTS OR PINE NUT OIL, including FOOD products that you purchase ready-made.
I place the card in front of me, so when the food is served, it can be seen. On our trip to Scandinavia, I had it translated into French, Swedish, Danish, and Norwegian.
This Spring, we are going to Vienna for 10 days on our own before joining the Rick Steves tour of Southern Italy. I have a German version and an Italian version. I should be safe. Incidentally did you know that they make Pine-Nut gelato? Can?t tell you how it tastes, but there are a hundred other versions that I can try. Relax and enjoy your trip, but be prepared!
Los Altos, ca USA Sat 02/28/2004
warning your hosts about your allergies
I am deathly allergic to shellfish, and I thought I'd offer an techique that has worked for me when abroad. Before we leave for our European jaunts I always print up and laminate a small card that states in the local language(s) in no uncertain terms what I am allergic to and what it will do me if I eat it (swelling, general unpleasantness, death.) Then the first thing I do when we go to a restaurant is I hand the waiter this card. They laugh, my wife rolls her eyes and now I can relax and enjoy my meal without worry about a trip to the hospital ruining our trip. Works for me!
milwaukee, WI USA Fri 02/27/2004
Ways to Veg-Out in Europe
This is our biggest travel issue. For vegans, dining in Europe can be challenging but it isn't impossible. Before we leave for trips, we print out a list of vegetarian/vegan restaurants from vegdining.com and dine at as many as we can. We've also taken recommendations from hotels where we've stayed. It has helped us to find some great vegan fare in Spain, France, and Italy, and meet some wonderful people along the way.
As we've traveled, we've also learned to make special dietary requests at restaurants in the native language. Phrasebooks are handy in these situations. This has helped us to "get by," when we couldn't find a vegetarian/vegan restaurant.
San Francisco, CA USA Tue 02/24/2004