Glutenfree in No Man’s Land

problems with glutenfree food in no man's land

Well, what about the glutenfree diet I keep on hearing about? Since weeks we are getting more and more clients who have coeliac desease – this means they can’t eat anything what includes the protein gluten. Which is basically a lot and this is where the trouble begins.

We are operating in Þórsmörk, Iceland. This is virtually in the middle of nowhere. You have to basically cross at least 12 rivers, manage to drive an Icelandic F-road, which doesn’t means “fucking”-horrible road, but mountain [Icelandic: fjall] road consisting rather of potholes than road and we are located in a natural mountain resort between three glaciers. This gives you an impression how remote we really are located. I mean, we are prepared for vegetarians. I guess, everybody in the food providing service sector needs to be nowadays. But I was totally offhand when the topic came to glutenfree. To be frankly, I was literally clueless the first time I got the request of glutenfree food. I am aware of lactose and fructose intolerance. So, that doesn’t mean I am some sort ignorant to this topic, I simply didn’t get in touch with glutenfree so far. But since 2015 began, I very started to be.

It started with a short spontaneous search for a recipe to prepare a proper lunch for the daily tour guest who couldn’t eat anything with gluten. Our lunch buffet basically includes fresh homemade bread (!), salad, homemade cake (!) and soups which we, more often than not, thicken either with flour (!) or stock (!). But as we got more and more requests for this, I had to dig a bit deeper into this issue, both what this is and what to cook. There’re basically two types of people who have to live glutenfree: People who are suffering from coeliac desease inherently and people who have some sort of temporarily incompability to gluten. They therefore have to keep a glutenfree diet for some weeks or months and then eventually can start eating bread & Co. again. Here I want to stress that I am no doctor, dietiant or whatsoever. That’s just what I’ve read. And I found out that only about 1% of the German population, for example is suffering from coeliac desease.

So this means, it is really a rare disease and I suppose the majority of “glutenfree” people are more or less of the second type. Wikipedia also mentions that some people “believe that there are health benefits to gluten-free eating”. So, if I am some sort of ill or just fancy glutenfree eating, I either prepare myself approriate whilst travelling or would inform the locations in advance, so they can prepare properly for one’s special diet requests. That’s only fair, I assume. Especially, if they are as remote as it could be.

A relative of mine has to live glutenfree and he is a hell of a globetrotter. He is always carrying his special food with him. This special food by the way is quite expensive as it is produced for a niche market (maybe a niche market so far). And not to mention, has to be imported to this chilly island. So, you’ll get some sort of special treatment everywhere you go, which is (economically) not so fair anymore. But as I want every guest to feel welcomed and served at best, I always find some glutenfree cookies or sacrifice our last fruits, to make sure the guest will have a pleasant stay and will not leave starving.

One of my colleague is pescetarian*, so she is familiar to prepare food which accomodates special diets from her own personal experiences. But even she was put to the test to cope with glutenfree cooking in the middle of nowhere. As one of the symptoms of coeliac desease are an aching stomache, cramps as well as diarrhoea I totally can understand why it would be highly recommandable to not eat gluten while on a journey. But on the other hand, I don’t really get it why they don’t prepare more seriously their provision while on travel. I can lively remember those questionnaires which had to be filled out before going on a school trip or holiday camps, where they always asked about any specialties such as diet. So, just because you left school this doesn’t mean to inform your host isn’t necessary anymore or out-of-fashion.

I don’t really mind as I kind of understand how miserable they sometimes must feel. But I really don’t understand when they become a bit reproachful. Have you ever seen a muslim asking for halal or a Jew asking for kosher food in a restaurant? And if the answer was “NO” being slightly upset? You see!

So, please, everybody having a really special diet out there: We know you’re having a hard time and we would really like to support you. But be so fair and give your environment a chance to help you accordingly and face us with as much understanding as we face you!

Sorts of modern diet

  • vegetarian – common sense
  • vegan – intermediate vegetarian level
  • * pescetarian – morally flexible vegetarian, but basically no problem, especially in fisherman nation Iceland
  • frutarian – pretty hard life in Scandinavia

For all of you who are wondering what is shown in the photo – starting from the left: Icelandic barley, spaghetti, homemade bread, obviously lamp stock and not so obviously rye flour.

I want to stress that this blog is solely representing my opinion on this topic!

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