A year and a half ago I found out I was potato- and wheat-intolerant. So when I told people our first Phase Two stop was Central Europe, the land of bread and potatoes, it was always with a laugh... and also a tiny prayer to The Universe that I wouldn't wither away from malnutrition.
Our first few days in Poland I meticulously avoided everything wheat- or potato-related. Armed with a Polish translation food list, we would carefully scan ingredients on grocery store packages and restaurant menus. It wasn't too different from being back home, actually.
Turns out that "no potatoes no wheat" in Central Europe really is a pretty ambitious endeavor. At first this meant a diet of corn flakes or oatmeal or yogurt for breakfast; a salad for lunch (pre-packaged from the grocery store or from a cafe); rice/rice noodles and veggies/canned tuna/kielbasa for dinner; fruit (fresh or dried), carrots, peanut butter, peanuts, and chocolate for snacks.
our intro to Warsaw
hers: chef salad
... sooooo not fair
welcome to Prague!
... now that's fair
Eating the same things over and over again got kinda boring. One day a guy at a hostel made eggs for dinner, and that opened up a lot of new ideas for us. But even that got boring after a while.
"English" breakfasts in foreign lands
I was thrilled to find rice cakes, rice vermicelli, bean noodles, dried soy products, and of course peanut butter in Polish grocery stores. Up until we got to Turkey these items were actually pretty easy to find in all the countries we visited (though for some reason the rice products got more expensive the further south we went, and peanut butter was more scarce in Romania).
sometimes the labels
were even in English -
were even in English -
A chain called Carrefour - kind of like the Safeway of Central Europe, slightly overpriced with a decent variety of food - carried everything I needed and their markets were in all the major cities. Even tiny markets in Bialowieza and Nemcicky had rice snacks and dried soy.
Bialowieza makeshift dinner by tea kettle:
rice noodles, rehydrated soy, mystery spices
Fruit stands were also easy to find; plums and apples during fall harvest season were fantastic.
Krakow fruit stand:
Krakow fruit stand:
pick one, eat one
After a few weeks in Poland I got curious and tried bread. Nothing terrible happened so I continued to experiment. Turns out that for whatever reason, wheat has not been as offensive to my system here.
the first offender:
thanks, little old pastry shop lady
it was all downhill from there
It could be that the wheat strain here is more pure. But my guess is that it's everything *other than* the wheat, yeast, salt, water and sometimes egg that goes into packaged wheat products in the US that caused me the real trouble. (I'm talking to you, potato starch, guar gum, xanthum gum, and everything I can't pronounce!) Here, I can't always read the ingredients but when there are just three or four listed on a package, that's a good sign that the product is not going to have too negative an impact on me. And bread is baked each morning, sold so fast that it's not even individually wrapped, and stale by day three.
we must've eaten 847
of these fresh-baked rolls
in Central Europe
whereas pierogies become
not free lunch...
... so did dumplings
Cheap eats from doner kebap stands became viable snack options.
our first kebap -
thank you, Olomouc!
our 53rd kebap -
thank you, Bucharest!
best when purchased at 6am -
otherwise, for them there birds
... or the healthiest.
as the was the case
But with all that walking it really didn't matter.
Pasta (which I can mostly also eat) became dinner. And garlic bread was often involved too.
Budapest hostel livin'
Lisinia farmstay livin'
Bucharest homemade pasta livin'
And all these lovely cheeses and jams now included bread accompaniment!
homemade cheese: even better
And beer was back on the menu!
... you get the point.
Sometimes I even got to make AND eat bread made from scratch - something I have really missed.
There is still the mysterious yeast/potato connection... But I'm not doing a science fair project, I'm just trying to eat pain-free. So whatevs, we'll just roll with it.
Have not tried potato yet... Not intentionally, anyway. It's hard to avoid in soups and for some reason doner kebaps often include a topping of "chips" ("fries" to you US folks). I definitely know when I have had it and I still suffer afterward. But it's much easier to explain a potato allergy to a new volunteer host or restaurateur than to rattle off the list of things I can and cannot eat.
I shouldn't eat bread with every single meal but I still do. BECAUSE I CAN. But less bread and less sugar (mainly via honey in my yogurt and tea) are in my future - I'm starting to need less weight so that I don't need more pants.
luckily, we are past Krakow's zapiekanki
unluckily we are still in the land of pide
(OK, this is not exactly a bad thing)