Friday, April 8, 2011

Breakfast in Britain Gluten-free

Flowers in Regent's Park are gluten-free
Yawning you wander down to the breakfast room at your B&B or your hotel. Normally at home you have no problem with breakfast. You know eggs are gluten-free. Bacon too. At home you have some awful gluten-free bread, but it’s OK once it’s toasted and perked up with butter and jam. At home you even have some gluten-free cornflakes that cost you a week’s pay.

“The full English breakfast, sir?”

Because you’re sleepy and hungry, you say “Oh yeah, the fuller the better, Jeeves.”
Coffee is gluten-free.

Moments later you’re staring at a plate heaped with beans and mushrooms and sausages and bacon and scrambled eggs. There’s a baked tomato sitting there looking gluten-free, and the bacon smiles at you harmlessly. But what about the beans and the mushrooms that look like they have to have some sort of seasoning all over them? And sausage? Well it has to be all meat, doesn’t it?

Let’s start with that sausage. You can’t eat it. Most British sausages, unless the package specifically claims otherwise, are NOT gluten-free. Trust me, you’re not missing anything. They taste like the main ingredient is paper. Sorry, HRH, British sausages are not your best contribution to the world’s culinary history.
This is a squirrel. He's gluten-free.

Moving along to the baked beans. At least you’re in the right country to eat baked beans. With all the conflicting information about the gluten-free-edness of Heinz baked beans, I wouldn’t blame you for opting for the beanless breakfast. If, however, you really want the beans, you need to ask your host to see the can. “See the can?” he might ask. “Yes, I need to see the can,” you’ll say. If the can says the product is gluten-free, enjoy the beans.

If the bacon looks like a solid piece of meat, it should be gluten-free. And if your host knows you have CD, he shouldn’t put any seasoning on the meat. Likewise for the stewed or baked tomato. If it looks like a lonely, simply cooked tomato half, it should be fine. And scrambled eggs have to be just eggs, right?

Wrong. If the eggs are scrambled they could be anything made to taste like eggs. There are lots of products on the market, and who knows what’s in them. Most of them have “natural flavours” in them, which boggles my tiny mind. What could anyone put into eggs to make them taste any more like, erm, eggs? Unless you have a hotline to producer of said egg-like product, stay away from scrambled eggs while you’re away from home. Always order fried eggs.
The footbridge to St. Paul's is gluten-free.

In Scotland, you’ll be offered porridge or “oatmeal” as we Yanks call it. Ask your host if they offer gluten-free porridge. It never hurts to ask. There are several brands of gluten-free porridge, so your host might have some.

Marmalade and jams are naturally gluten-free (usually), but without gluten-free bread to spread them on, what good are they? I usually make myself a little mixture of butter and marmalade and lick at it like a mad cow, but that’s just me. If you’re not like me, you can find several varieties of gluten-free bread at good supermarkets like Waitrose. You’ll find precious little at awful supermarkets like ASDA.

Last but certainly not least, no British breakfast would be complete without Marmite. I’ve read everything I can find about the gluten-free-edness of Marmite, a gooey brown yeast extract saltier than the Atlantic. Opinions are mixed, but Kym Gardner from Marmite has assured me that Marmite (Oh come on! Click on the link!) is indeed gluten-free. I LOVE Marmite. The Swiss equivalent Cenovis states clearly on the label that it contains gluten, but Marmite loves us enough to be gluten-free. How wonderful(ly salty) is that?

So, what have we learned today? Stay away from those British sausages. Blurgh.

Next week we’re moving on to lunch on the High Street.

I must be off,