Finding gluten free food in Poland.

Gluten free food in Poland is generally found in specialist stores, health food shops or delicatessens. In larger towns you will find some basics in the supermarkets, and mostly it will be in its own (very small) section. Piotr i Pawel has more then most, Alma usually has a few things, my local Intermarche has TONS, but you can usually find bits and bobs even in Carefour and Real and Auchan. As mentioned previously on this blog, tesco has nothing.

I live in a small town outside of Poznan, and even in this town there is a small delicatessen selling gluten free goods, and unlike other countries, it is NOT super expensive.

– Linda

Cabbage, Potato and ehm….. more cabbage..?

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Perhaps Im spoiled. Having lived in Dubai for 8 years Im used to seeing a huge variety of foods in the supermarkets. I remember shopping in Dubai after I had just arrived, seeing so many different fruits and vegetables, some I had never seen before. Spiky pink things, funny shaped oval yellow things etc etc. It was an adventure learning to cook with some and trying all the ones I was brave enough to try! Dubai supermarkets will have an abundance of things from America, Australia, Europe, Uk, Asia. Yes sure, we complain when things go out of stock, but bottom line, we are spoiled for choice in Dubai. Meat is flown in, great quality lamb, beef, fish, chicken, turkey and even pork in selected shops! The cereal aisle has so many brands you couldnt count them! Even in the smaller shops!

And now, here I am, in Poland. The first few supermarkets I went to I couldnt quiet put my finger on what it was, everything seems the same as anywhere else. Then after a few shops I realised what it was! Even though the shops might be big and the sections are big, its all a repeat of the same stuff over and over. In my local supermarket in Dubai there would be no less then 8 different brands of apples, all from different parts of the world, in my local supermarket here, the apple section may be almost the same size, but its all just one or two kinds of apple. Same thing in the veggie section. Where I used to have a great choice of onions, red, white, brown, organic brown, indian red, American red, shallots etc. Here. There is just one kind. Go to any section, and its similar. Rice section, a handful of brands, cereal section, again, a handful. The fruits and veg are very seasonal. Cabbage, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, onion, leek, potato. Apples, Bananas, clementines. The more high end places have more. You might even find avocado in some. 

Actually….. I started this post with ‘perhaps Im spoiled’, I realise now that I am. You get used to going to the supermarket and picking whatever you like based on what you like, not based on what they have. Meat here is chicken, chicken, more chicken, turkey, pork, pork, more pork, and then sausages and pates in every shape imaginable, most not ok for us as few are gluten free. Beef and lamb is around of course (although so far I have not seen any lamb), but I dont understand the labels and I dont recognise the cuts, obviously this is my problem, not the supermarkets fault.

I find myself not really knowing what to eat. Its strange, because of course there is plenty of food in the shops, but its just not at all what Im used to. I guess I need to try to cook more with whats there instead of walking around looking for what Im used to. Even gluten free is hard to come by, even though this is Europe.  Actually, I shouldn’t say hard, it was hard, for the first few weeks, now that I know the shops and I know where to go, its not so bad, but it wasn’t as readily available as I had expected. 

My week used to be so easy, meal plan wise lamb 1-2 times, seafood 1 time, beef once, pasta once, 1 leftover day and a veggie day. It was rare we had chicken. Now its all chicken. I need to be more prepared I guess. Buy the good stuff in advance and freeze, find myself a local butcher perhaps.

I hope this post doesn’t come across as whiny and depressing, I don’t mean for it to sound that way at all. Im more surprised then anything. Im embracing it, slowly, today we boiled cabbage in chicken stock as a side for dinner, kids loved it! And food here, is cheap! I mean, really really cheap. Tomatoes that we pay over 20dhs per kilo for in Dubai are sold here (same brand, from same country) for 1.80dhs per kilo. Im guessing my carbon footprint is also happy (ecstatic probably). I mean hello, it rained enough in the last week to turn the desert green 4 times over! 

Now, if you’ll all forgive me, I must go and google ‘leftover cabbage recipes’, perhaps you have one to share? Who knew 1dhs worth of cabbage would go that far??

-Linda

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Tesco extra, what is going on???

Having spent half an eternity in the UK before moving to Dubai, there was something I couldn’t wait to do on my arrival in Poland. Go to Tesco! So, 2 weeks passed, and there was finally a day with some spare time. I drove all across town to get to the biggest Tesco in Poznan. Like a child in a sweetshop I entered, full of expectation, eyes open wide and bright. An hour and a half later, having gone up and down every single aisle, I found an employee and asked him for the gluten free section. I even repeated my question in Polish to be on the safe side, Bezglutenowy? Yes yes he said, follow! My hope was renewed, obviously I must have missed it!

I hadnt missed it. On a small shelf with sugar free products, hidden behind some other items there was. one. packet. of. glutenfree. biscuits. ONE. PACKET.

I know, Tesco is low cost, glutenfree is not. But Tesco has a whole range of low cost gluten free produced by them! Tesco, gluten free is not a choice for most, this is not something we do because we want to be cool, we do it because its a medical need, something we must do to LIVE. Given a choice of doing my weekly shop in shop A that is slightly more expensive but has a gluten free section, and shop B that is slightly cheaper but nothing gluten free, I will almost certainly choose shop A! So you are not just losing the revenue on the gluten free stuff, you are in fact loosing the revenue from my weekly shop, and with me, many others! Providing a gluten free section is not just about the profits you may make on gluten free, its about keeping your customers!

Am I going to have to get a cheap flight to the UK to get some Tesco brand gluten free biscuits? Please. Please please. Tesco Poland, give us a gluten free section.

If you are in Poland, or the UK, please share this post, perhaps someone somewhere in the right place will read it. I hope so.

-Linda

(images below showing just part of the Tesco free from range, NOT available in Poland)

 

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2 Weeks and 4 days in Poland!

2 Weeks and 4 days in Poland, and I owe you all a post!

So we left Dubai, flew on some airplanes and arrived in Poland. With a gazillion suitcases and 2 rental cars we made our way to our new house.

Now let me tell you, the thought of moving to a new place and arriving at an empty house – a clean slate – and getting to buy everything new might seem like every woman’s dream, or at least mine. The reality is somewhat different. Not so much a dream at all actually, more like a nightmare. We arrived, the drive had taken longer then anticipated, kids were tired and cranky, me and hubby were tired and cranky after night flights with no sleep. The house which was meant to be clean was not clean (to my standard) in the slightest. All we wanted was a coffee, a shower, and to sit. All we had, was empty and dirt.

The plan we had was pretty much out the window immediately. Hubby went to IKEA and got us 2 mattresses while me and little miss laid down on top of all the coats and slept. Big brother played with his lego (don’t ask where he gets all his energy from!). When hubby came back he took care of everything bless him, I had to take a migraine pill because the tiredness and stress together with the paint fumes in the house had made me vomit.

In the morning we had petrol station coffee and milk and snacks from our hand luggage. We unpacked a few things (on to the floor) and hit the shops. It wasn’t this wonderful shopping experience at all. It was more like something out of a TV gameshow, you know the ones, ‘find everything on a list in 3 minutes or loose’ type thing. Finding everything fast may have been easier if descriptions were in English, but obviously this is not the case. Enough time has passed now that I can smile about it. Not laugh, not yet!

We got a vacuum cleaner and minney mouse single use plates and planes cups. We got coffee and sugar (!!), some cereal, and plastic cutlery. Cleaning products to satisfy my obsessive need to always keep everything super clean (a need that is already sort of not so important now that I don’t have a maid! Either that or Im just choosing not to see the dust).

Then there was the IKEA speed shopping, pretty much the same thing. Half way through hubby says ‘in half an hour we have to be at XXX, so you best hurry’. Hardly the blissful shopping experience I had imagined. Pretty much every shopping experience during the first week was like that. We had to register me in a million places (ok, fine, 2, but it seemed a lot at the time).

Even buying a car was the same thing. With 2 days left of hubbies time with us we drove 2 hours to see the car we wanted…. the car, obviously, had some kind of engine failure during the test drive. Back we came to the house, car less, with an awful lot of cash in my handbag knowing we had to find a car NOW. We found one, took it without a test drive ,with warranty from the dealer in our defence. The Dealer must think we are crazy, we pretty much walked in, looked at two cars, pointed at one, ‘That one’, ‘Where do we sign’ and walked out, lol.

When hubby left all the maddest craziest stuff was done and I got to go to Ikea and buy some candles and other bits. That was the ‘a woman’s touch’ thing people are always talking about, that was the buying I enjoyed. Who knew 4 candles and a vase could mean so much?

Spare grandparents came and helped us put together furniture, helped make our house a home, then kids started school, the dogs arrived safe and sound from Dubai, the week flew by, I was able to get lots done while the kids were in school. So here we are, its Sunday. We have been in Poland for 2 weeks and 4 days. Yesterday was the first time we did stuff just for us. We took a walk and did some driving in our area to explore. We saw cabbage fields being harvested and some amazing nature. Came back to a rich chicken casserole.

In all our speed shopping  something that has stood out to us every where we have been, is the colours! Something as simple as the street outside the bank looks pretty when its all orange and red and yellow!

I have obviously been to almost every food shop in our end of town by now, but I think this will need to be a separate post!

-Linda

The first shop after diagnosis

Originally posted on Gluten Free UAE in Feb 2012.

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I bet you all remember your first time….. I remember mine like it was yesterday.
I had 6 sheets of printouts, words that meant gluten, food additive lists and so on in my bag. The cheat sheets, I didn’t go shopping without them for the first 3 months! I had the youngest in a well wiped trolley (who needs gluten on the handle right?), the oldest walking, and I had brought a helper just to keep the kids entertained so I could concentrate fully on reading labels. Up and down the aisles we went. Products got held, read, and for the most part… put back on the shelf again. In my head was the ‘when in doubt leave it out’, and there was just so much doubt! I mean, exactly what IS thickener? Or Modified starch, or Colouring, or E bla bla bla? At home its so easy, you just google. In the shop, that first time, It was like being dropped in a haystack to find the needle. The needle being the gluten free food.

Off course now I shop differently, I always, without fail have a list. Its much easier to look for specific items then to aimlessly drift up and down aisles looking for anything that may be gluten free. I pass entire sections, because why bother when everything in it has gluten anyway? Skip the pasta sauce section and make your own. Making your own is probably faster then reading all those ingredients anyway 😉

Once you learn to shop smart shopping is faster. Know that Kraft, Oscar Mayer, Heinz and many others will actually declare gluten in a way you can understand- they have as a company policy to not hide it in a fancy word. Learn that starch generally means corn in an American product, could be potato or wheat in a European product (but should be declared if its wheat) and in Australia it could be any of those. Australian products are usually good at declaring gluten. This is all very general, and not a rule as such, but it will help you to know things like this when shopping – even if its general. Get familiar with food labelling laws in different countries. Living in the UAE we really need to know them all, or at the very least, the basics.

Look for whole foods, basically, anything that hasn’t been ‘messed with’. Rice, potatoes, veggies, fruit. Once a fruit or vegetable has been cut, dried or frozen, watch out, things may have been added to it in the process. Frozen French fries for instance may have gluten in them, because they use flour to prevent the fries from sticking together in the freezer.  Cereals are also tricky, because even though cornflakes for instance are made of corn, they may have added malt flavouring in them which contains gluten. The cereal may also have been made in a factory producing tons of wheat / gluten products, in which case your cornflakes may not be very gluten free at all. I now only buy cereal brands that I know are gluten free and that say so on the label.

Stock cubes can also contain gluten, find a brand that doesn’t (KALLO is gluten free) and stick to it. Don’t waste time reading all the ingredients of all the stock cubes every time. Do however check your chosen brand periodically, because recipes can change at any time. I like KALLO because it has a gluten free label and its organic, I would notice if the ‘gluten free’ on the front of the box went missing. Gravy is usually not safe either. Learn to make your own, its really not that hard 🙂

Processed meats can also be tricky, even if the meat you choose has the ‘gluten free’ label, is the deli counter man or lady cleaning the equipment before slicing? If something does not have the gluten free label in the deli counter, don’t rely on the person working there to be able to tell you. They may not even know exactly what gluten is. I rarely ask for help now as I find I end up educating the staff instead. On more then one occasion when I have asked for something gluten free have I been given something that quiet obviously has gluten, something with breadcrumbs, rusk, etc.

You are not safe with drinks either. A kids drink for example may have added colouring, which in turn may contain gluten. Stick to organic when you can and 100% juice. If an orange juice says 73% orange then you really should wonder what the remaining 27% is!
Chocolate milk powder also often contains gluten, there are gluten free alternatives but they can be very expensive. American Garden do a chocolate sauce which is gluten free, we use this for the kids chocolate milk. Many of the other American Garden products are also gluten free. You can go on their website and check for a list easily. Mayo may have starch that could contain gluten, so again, pick your brand and stick with it (we use Heinz).

Even now that I have experience in choosing safe foods, a shop can take a long time, but if I have to and I stick to foods we get all the time, I can do a quick shop too.

My best tip, get a smart phone! At first I would write down things I was unsure of and go home and google (then go back to the shop and buy the product if it was safe), now, I just google there and then in the shop. A network of Celiac friends is also a great help, I often call and ask someone if Im not sure, make sure the person you ask knows their stuff though.

Having to live gluten free is not a hardship, we don’t go without. Our cupboards are full of food, its not all healthy strange ‘hippie food’ either, its normal. We have pasta, bread, biscuits, crisps etc, off course ours are all gluten free, but we are still a ‘normal’ family who eat ‘normal’ food – just ours is gluten free and the shopping took a little longer then usual 🙂

-Linda

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