I have to tell you that I really love being in Germany; I really, really do. Maybe I’m a bit biased because part of my ancestry is German but I think it’s so much more than that. The people are so relaxed and down to earth and quite frankly, it’s a beautiful country filled with so much history with a strong movement towards modernization. It’s the food and my ability to eat safely that I have an issue with and have become increasingly frustrated.
It’s a very natural and comfortable thing for me to have casual chats with people in my travels. I almost always have a nice conversation with someone in passing and learn all sorts of new and interesting things. Germany is no different; in fact, I had the cutest conversation with two teenagers on the train just yesterday. They had taken the train one hour from home, into Frankfurt, to go shopping with their hard earned summer income. They were excited to tell me all about their purchases and their whole day.
I shared that little snippet of my life so that you can appreciate that it is not difficult for me to speak up in just about any situation including restaurants. Before choosing a place to eat, I check the menu which is often posted near the door, to see if there are gluten free options but in Germany with their delicious traditional food, this can be very challenging. The trend I’ve seen listed on menus here is the disclaimer for all the additives like colors and preservatives that occur in their menu choices. Oddly, though, finding a menu that lists any of the basic 8 allergens is next to impossible. I have been to many cities in Germany and have found the same thing in just about every restaurant. For those people looking to eat more healthy and natural, that is terrific but not too helpful for this celiac sufferer.
I’ve been spending the week in and around Frankfurt and have tried yet again to find a place to safely eat. After hours of walking around, reading menu after menu and being ravenous, I finally stopped into a place in the busy tourist section to ask if they could accommodate my food allergy. I thought, surely with all the tourists and with such a vast array of restaurants that there would have some sort of accommodation, somewhere, for food allergies. Boy was I ever wrong!
The server in this particular establishment I chose was very kind and understanding about my situation. He happily said they could help me and even brought out a special menu with the “other” allergies listed, aka the basic 8 allergens. I kid you not, I looked through every menu item and not a single one was gluten free! I asked the server if I was mistaken or not reading it correctly and he looked completely puzzled. He said that of course it was correct and yes gluten was in those dishes according to the noted indicators next to each item. Now it was my turn to look puzzled and I said that could not have gluten, reminding him of the conversation I had before being seated. He shrugged his shoulders and had no reply other than to apologize and he was sorry they couldn’t help me after all. I just did not know how to even respond at that point other than to think: really…just, really?!?
After leaving, still ravenous and quite frustrated, it took about an hour to “happen” upon a place I could get something to eat. Funny enough, it was dean & david fresh to eat. I had previously written a review for them in Luxembourg and was very familiar with their menu even though it was only in German here. Relieved, exhausted and ravenous, I ordered a large salad specifying gluten free and a green smoothie for which the guy said it was no problem.
Soon my little buzzer and green lights went off, indicating my food was ready. I walked up to retrieve my salad and what would you know but two slices of bread were lying across the top of my salad. I asked the gal who prepared my food if the bread was gluten free and she looked quite puzzled and said of course it was not and asked if she should just remove it for me. As I wrinkled my face while searching for the proper vocabulary, she began to look a bit concerned and asked if I was alright. Without hesitation and probably from exhaustion, I blurted out that I have celiac disease and even crumbs from the bread sticking to the salad would make me very sick. She looked horrified and immediately offered to make me a new salad for which I was very grateful and expressed as much. But again, I just did not know how to even respond other than to think: really…just, really?!?
I’m not going to give up on visiting Germany, I still love it here. I can see now that I need to improve my knowledge about German food and do more research about the disclaimers on their menus. I will conquer the food allergy hurdles in a country I love so much but I think patience is in order for the long road ahead.