Friday, April 1, 2011

Gluten-free on the Road

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Traveling with Celiac Disease (CD) means you have to do a bit more pre-trip homework than people who can shovel any ole thing in their gobs. If you’re a little like me, you normally stick to salad bars and very plain foods that you know are gluten-free. But if you’re a lot like me—an adventureholic with a voracious appetite—you’ll want to try the local food.

The more you know, the more you can enjoy. Over the next few months, I’m going to share my research with you every Friday as I travel to London, Munich, Nice, Paris, Napels, Vancouver and New York City!

So let’s talk England, specifically my part-time home . . . London. Are you planning a trip to London and wondering where the gluten’s hiding? Well, the bad new is LOTS OF PLACES. The good news is you can avoid these hidden sources of gluten easily if you know what to look for.

Today I want to start with the condiments you’re likely to find in a typical British restaurant or pub. Condiments are a messy, gooey mindfield for people with CD or gluten intolerance.

The Tower is gluten free.
The least likely place you’ll find gluten is malt vinegar. In vinegar? Yes. Malt vinegar is made from barley, but according to Coeliac UK malt vinegar poses no problem for a person with CD. Here’s what they have to say:

"Barley malt vinegar is made using a fermentation process. The end product only contains a trace amount of protein (and therefore gluten), which is well below the level which is safe for most people with coeliac disease. In addition, barley malt vinegar is only usually eaten in small amounts, for example, drained pickled vegetables, sauces with a meal, on chips." Coeliac UK

British mustards may contain flour, so make sure you read the label, and you’ll certainly see soya sauce on the table. Soya sauce—unless it screams gluten-free on the label—has wheat in it. Stay well away from condiments that contain “natural flavourings.”

Heinz ketchup—or as the Brits say tomato sauce—contains “spirit vinegar,” which is not made from barley—yay—so you can slather your chips with ketchup and feel great about it. That said, always read the list of ingredients before you slather. Some ketchups contain the dreaded “natural flavourings.” Although some Heinz products list natural flavourings, Heinz says their ketchups are gluten free.

If you’re interested in doing a bit more research, give this list a look.

For the next few Fridays, I’ll be having a look at the typical tourist day in London—from the English breakfast, lunch on the high street, afternoon tea at The Ritz, dinner in the evening and finally landing at the pub. I’ll also be spotlighting a few gluten-free gems—including the award-winning b-tempted cakes from Sarah Hilleary—around London. You’d be surprised how gluten-free London can be.

I must be off,


Christopher Allen is the author of Conversations with S. Teri O'Type (a Satire). His fiction and creative non-fiction have appeared widely both online and in print. Read more HERE