The ups, downs, and runarounds of Celiac Disease and food sensitivities

Archive for the category “Places”

Glutenfrei etc. in Berlin

So, Berlin! Such a great time exploring botanical gardens, graffitied alleyways, cathedral and crypt, festival of cultures (9 hour parade!), coffee shops, independent movie theaters, former Nazi then US Air Force airport… and so much more! Really, I don’t think anyone could go to Berlin and not find at least 1 thing of interest/merit, yet despite its size and cultural offerings, it is full of quiet, suburban pockets merely 5 minutes away from an attraction such as Alexanderplatz. Yes, I could definitely live there (though I’d prefer that the locals at least allow me to practice my shoddy German before automatically switching to fluent English). But, what about that niggling little thing that drives this entire blog?

What about the FOOD???

Well, I am happy to report that the situation is generally much brighter than what I had gleaned from preparatory internet perusal. So let’s get the negative over with first. I ate out twice (which is an anomaly, I don’t eat out in the U.S., unless I know that my 50+ list of problem foods/consistencies can be avoided), and those meals were certainly NOT reason for excitement, as I felt a bit sickly afterwards (one place said everything was gluten-free, but SOY SAUCE was an ingredient). I also idiotically ate the gluten-free airplane meals, which seemed safe enough (plain green beans, quinoa salad, gluten-, dairy-, egg-free cookie, mango chicken), but this is what really propelled me into severe symptoms of glutening on the way home (I was to the point of walking around the airport in search of a clinic- do they have those? In my desperate mind they did, but I didn’t find one). The thought of eating a meal that I did not prepare or supervise is such a luxury, of the pipe dream variety, and I still need to get over it. I did have to chow down on some serious baby food and sardines when on the go (hence the current hiatus from both), but open-air markets allowed for quite the selection of fresh fruit (and vegetables, if you can handle them uncooked).


The truly exciting food news is that Germany has quite a few brands that produce certified gluten-free grains, sauces, and bread-y goods! Ok, so does the U.S., but they have other allergens… In Germany, several brands are hyper-aware of individuals with MULTIPLE FOOD SENSITIVITIES. This seems to be the case across Europe, as many allergen-free products in stores came from Italy, the U.K., France, etc. I could purchase certified (< 20ppm, designated facility) plain gluten-free grains, but I didn’t, because there were so many exciting variants to try! Buckwheat flakes (like corn flakes) with JUST BUCKWHEAT NO SUGAR NO PRESERVATIVES JUST 1 INGREDIENT were my absolute favorite. Puffed millet (1 ingredient) was also quite exciting, as I can’t seem to find a cold cereal in the U.S. that suits. Rice cakes with puffed quinoa, millet, amaranth, etc. made it hard to return to plain old rice-rice cakes. The brand Werz is definitely the forerunner in certified gluten-free and allergen-free goods (one of the few brands that did not use cornstarch in everything); it was always present in organic “Bio” stores and Reformhaus natural shops. They offer several grain, cereal, cookie, and cracker options, with egg-, dairy-, and fructose-free products also (I have never seen a gluten-free product in the U.S. that was labeled as fructose-free, even though this is a rising digestive problem!). Some online reviewers claim that anything from Werz tastes like sand, and yes, I would not recommend their cakes unless you need to be rendered speechless by a palatal coating of dry, dense baked good, but their cereals, whole grains, and cookies were a delight. Learning the names of ingredients is crucial, though, because Werz does produce gluten-containing counterparts with spelt and kamut, but GLUTENFREI is gluten-free, and very clearly stamped on packages, along with the x-ed wheat symbol (official gluten-free symbol in the EU).

I found a most lovely loaf of gluten-free bread with pumpkin seeds from a bakery called “No Gluten”; it was nice and crisp on the outside, soft and bread-y on the inside. This GF vegan bread was in a special wrapper in the bakery section of a Bio Company store, and they offered other varieties. I was initially skeptical of cross contamination, but finally persuaded my German-fluent host to ask a bakery worker, who was incredibly knowledgeable of the bakery’s practices (they deliver fresh loaves to Bio Company, and also make cake, which I sadly was not able to track down) and cross-contamination precautions. We even found gluten-free beers at several natural food stores, though I only tried a tiny bit of each as alcohol doesn’t sit well. But just the presence of gluten-free goods, even if I couldn’t tolerate all of them over some additional digestive issue, was so comforting. My favorite store was Veganz (yes, vegan with a “z”), where we found rice cheese from Italy, certified gluten-free carob powder (AHHH!!! So hard to come by here!), and cashew-based ginger ice cream with FOUR INGREDIENTS (cashews, ginger, agave, vanilla). It seems that preservatives are more of a concern in the EU, as they should be. And now for some eye candy.

Gluten-free beer made from organic millet; gluten-free crumbs on tableIMG_0341

Gluten-free beer from organic rice, and some Euro change


Gluten-free, egg-free, dairy-free, fructose-free whole grain rice dwarvesIMG_0345Gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free buckwheat rounds; kind of like a thicker pita


I would buy stock in this bread: gluten-free, egg-free, dairy-free sourdough bread with teff, millet, and buckwheat flour. Thin slices, regular size, comparable to the sourdough bread that Germans eat all the time (had to double-check package as it tasted like the real deal to both of us!). How I wish I could find you in my country…IMG_0347


Gluten-free News in Virginia!

This is the ONLY gluten-free expo that occurs in Virginia (though we aren’t too far from the upcoming DC biggie). Check out their Facebook page as well, and get ready to attend Saturday, April 13!

And in other Virginia news, Charlottesville has just formed a local branch of the Gluten Intolerance Group! The Website and Facebook list upcoming events. A welcome addition to the Richmond branch!

And in personal news… my dad has tested positive for full-blown Celiac Disease. HE NEVER WOULD HAVE KNOWN if I hadn’t pushed him to get tested, as he never had the crazy-intense onslaught of misery I suddenly contracted last Spring. Now to get the rest of the immediate family tested, though I’d of course prefer they NOT join our ranks, but so much better to know!

this n that

GE DIGITAL CAMERAFirst gluten-free, vegan yeast bread (shouldn’t have opened the oven mid-baking, but very tasty and easy!)

GE DIGITAL CAMERAInstitute of Contemporary Art, Boston




GE DIGITAL CAMERAHarvard Museum of Natural History

Review of Whole Foods Gluten-Free Day

I arrived a bit late to Whole Foods’ Gluten-Free Day, so I missed the talk about gluten-free baking. I wasn’t all that concerned, as one quickly becomes acquainted with flour and baking substitutions, brands, and the major recipe websites from necessity. I was, however, excited to sample some of the speaker’s baked treats spread out on the table. I thank stars that I thought to verify that they were prepared in a designated kitchen, which I thought would be an obvious “yes”. HA! They answer was a resounding “no”- the speaker bakes both gluten and gluten-free goods in the same kitchen, with the same equipment, without waiting for flour to settle. So that meant I saved my treats for my friends who were on their way… I know it’s a common mistake to think that baking with gluten-free flours is all that’s required for a Celiac to eat safely, but I was taken aback that a schedule speaker at an organized event would get it so wrong, particularly as Whole Foods themselves have a designated factory for gluten-free food production (FYI in case you hadn’t heard or dealt with it yourself, gluten-containing flour takes 24 hours to settle. Aluminum bakeware is nearly impossible to cleanse of gluten residue. Mixers harbor flour in their vents. Oven mitts hang on to crumbs unless washed. And the list goes on…)

Next up was sampling, which I knew was perhaps not the best of ideas coming off of a failed elimination diet, but shoot some days my taste buds want gratification regardless of my gut. I tried some chicken nuggets, deliciously moist baked goods, animal crackers, ginger snaps, and damn good beer. I also enjoyed some Whole Foods brand cupcakes and almond scones. I consider these things to be treats ONLY, never regular fare. They contain too many gums and starches and things that land me in the even muckier mess I’m in today. But ahh the taste…

The last portion of the “day” (or 4 hours) was a strange talk by an ayurvedic practitioner. He kept having to refer to a piece of paper to list gluten-free protein sources (and never mentioned quinoa- shocking!) and made claims about the high protein content of seaweed. He did present a compelling argument for healing the inflammation that remains after removing gluten, and treating the whole person. I was a sucker for this sort of talk because I’m in that exact boat of persistent, life-meddling symptoms. After the talk, I spoke with him individually, but he never quite gave me a definitive run-down of what I could do or what exactly he would recommend (“it’s so complicated”). He did recommend gargantuan levels of D3 and neem (which is a little riskier than he made it out to be). I wanted to be sold and hand over $150 for a consultation, but then again I just felt a little doubtful about the whole thing- having my face and tongue “read”, figuring out my dominant energy (I did it online, and the recommendations include wheat and dairy HA!), and talking the nebulous feel-good talk. I looked him up online, and his website lists people he was studied under, but does not list affiliations or specific training. I spoke at length with an acquaintance about seeing a chiropractor/ND who tests for candida overgrowth (she eats only meat and non-starchy vegetables to keep yeast at bay- exciting diet prospect…), but I’m also wary of this because we ALL have yeast in us, tests may not discriminate between good and bad yeast, and the practitioner in question has marketed a dietary supplement which I’m guessing he pushes on all patients. I am, however, seriously considering an integrative medicine clinic with practitioners who are registered dieticians and doctors. Clearly allopathic medicine hasn’t helped me, but I’m not quite ready to fork over big bucks to someone who doesn’t have a certificate or proof of training and who’s just as biased towards supplements as doctors are towards medications of their choosing.

4th and food

I enjoyed an air-conditioned, third story (though back-sided) view of the 4th of July parade with Denise (pictured below) in her lovely office building.

Beforehand, I’d cooked up some grass-fed beef patties with rosemary (my first meat burger in a few years)- pretty easy, just shape and fry (though next time I’ll use a top for the pan):

Today is baking/cooking day in anticipation of an outing with friends tomorrow (and knowing my diet is super restrictive).

Paleo no-bake cookies

  • 1/3 c honey
  • 1 1/2 tbsp cocoa
  • 1/3 c coconut oil
  • 1/3 c almond butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 c unsweetened shredded coconut

Bring honey cocoa and oil to a boil for about 1 minute. Remove from heat and add almond butter and vanilla, stir well. Add coconut and coat thoroughly. Drop spoonfuls onto parchment paper (I laid it on a cutting board) and refrigerate. Consume!

Deviled Eggs

  • 6-7 hard boiled eggs
  • 1/4 c kefir (lactose free)
  • 1 tsp mustard (gluten free)
  • any spices that please (I used garam masala)
  • a dusting of paprika

Remove yolks and mash. Stir in kefir, mustard and spices (I used a fork). Fill egg whites. Sprinkle with paprika.

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