by Diane Craig, © 2022
My husband and I enjoy eating gluten-free in England almost as much as we enjoy visiting our family there. Here are a few of our reasons:
Free-From. Most English groceries make our lives easier because they concentrate many of their gluten-free products in a section that’s usually labeled “Free From.” There are exceptions. Gluten-free crisps (chips), for example, often are mingled with other crisp products.
Peanut butter. When we began traveling to England two decades ago, peanut butter was nowhere to be found. My husband was miserable, because peanut butter for him is a daily staple. I’m not sure if his pleas to store managers back then had anything to do with it, but in this decade peanut butter has become an available staple in all the grocery stores we visited.
Genius Triple Seeded Farmhouse Loaf.1 The Genius sliced loaves available in the United Kingdom are on store shelves, and their ingredients are quite different from the refrigerated-or-frozen Genius breads made by the same company (also called Genius) sold in specialty stores in the United States.2 We prefer England’s Triple Seeded Farmhouse Loaf, which we can enjoy as-is, toasted or french-toasted. We’ve found Genius gluten-free loaves in both small independent groceries and supermarket chains throughout the United Kingdom.
Mackerel. The UK's tinned mackerel is good; fresh tastes even better. Mackerel is a good source of omega 3s plus a nice change for us from the sardines and salmon we can buy at home.
Jacket Potatoes. Instead of french fries, takeout places generally offer these large baked potatoes with cheese and a variety of other toppings. At a theme park recently, I ordered my jacket potato plain with wrapped butter packets on the side - a simple no-worries option for me that’s also filling and always delicious.
Disclosures. On our most recent trip, we loved how we found menus posted outside most dining establishments. The menus identify all the FALCPA allergens (wheat is one) for all the menu options. They usually also included some version of a “gluten-free-options-are-available” offer together with a “we-can’t-guarantee-absolute-gluten-freeness” disclaimer. Depending on the language, we had advance knowledge of what we might want to order, what to expect, and what questions we would need to ask inside.
Staff’s GF Knowledge. In a sandwich shop, I started to explain how I require a 100%-gluten-free-preparation environment for health reasons. Before I could say anything more, the waitress explained the several steps the shop would take to ensure that my needs were met. She added that these steps meant that our party’s meal order would take longer than usual to arrive. She asked if we were okay with that. Nobody objected. I wasn’t just okay — I was thrilled!
Pub food. On our first journeys, I would look through pub windows and see nothing to change my World-War-II-movies’ image of pubs as dimly-lit places filled with rowdy men hefting a pint. Not my thing.
My “thing” is hiking. But when I wondered aloud why there were no port-a-potties or similar structures alongside England’s many walking paths, I was told that the British word for such trailside accommodations is — you guessed it —“pub.”
Today, most pubs also are family friendly, complete with family-friendly food menus and gluten-free possibilities. At one, the pub’s staff all seemed way too busy to be able to accommodate my needs, beyond topping a burger with a gluten-free bun or frying fish-and-chips with gluten-free flour, so we turned away. But at another...
We enjoyed a fabulous 3-course dinner that started with escargot and included some fantastic coated-and-fried gluten-free bread.
Here’s hoping your gluten-free travel experiences prove equally satisfying.
1 There’s an image of the current United Kingdom loaf package and ingredients at https://www.geniusglutenfree.com/en_gb/home.
2 For an image of Genius’ Joy-Full Artisan Loaf package that’s sold in America, see https://geniusfood.com/en-us/product/joy-full-artisan-loaf.