Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Wheating's Cheating - My Attempt to Avoid Wheat in Italy

I've just come back from Italy: the capital of wheat flour. Pasta, pizza, bread, pannetone, biscoti etc etc. It's also the best Pasta, pizza and bread in the world too. It was a bit like the Adam and Eve situation. "Don't eat the apple! Don't eat it! Noooooooooo! Bad stuff will happen!!". Before you know it, she's chomping away with apple round her mouth.

I couldn't help it! The waiters just kept bringing gorgeous rolls of freshly baked bread and sticks of grissini to the table. They also have amazing, almost drinkable olive oil on the table that cries out to be soaked into a chunk of crusty bread. So. I did the unthinkable. I tore, I dipped, I consumed. And it was HEAVEN. Here comes the backlash...

I have been told by more than one source that flour has less gluten in Italy than the UK or US as they do not process wheat grains as vigorously as we do over here. In other words, they know how to eat and tend to avoid the ready made, vacuum packed crap that us Brits love to guzzle by the bucket load. It was hard to see the real Italy on my trip as I visited Lake Como which is very touristy (but amazing nonetheless) but it seemed that they did put eating good food everyday much higher on their list of priorities than we do.

Italy really tested my willpower. In the end, I decided that if I was going to have a lapse, this was the place to do it. I'm pretty safe though, so I just had little bites here and there. As I was drinking lots of prosecco, my symptoms were masked with a hangover most mornings. I tried bread, grissini (the lesser of the two evils) gnocci and pizza. I got away with it at first but then the cramps, backache and spots around my chin appeared. I didn't push my luck too far so I managed to enjoy my trip without having to stop having fun or lay off the booze.

If you are less reckless than me, there are loads of wheat-free options to keep you happy in Italia. Risotto, Caprese (tomato and mozzarella salad) and Carpaccio (cured beef). All amazing. Much tastier than their wheaty rivals. So don't worry, it is achievable to enjoy a holiday without wheat. You've come this far.

P.S. This is a cautionary tale. I still have spots a week after getting back.
P.P.S. I got engaged while I was over there, hence the carefree attitude and so much booze it hid the symptoms. You only live once.


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