Coeliac disease and trips to France bring about a whole new level of event management. If you have travelled there, you will now where I’m coming from. I thought I had the pronunciation of “Mon Fils avais un maladie de coeliaque” – until I realised I’ve probably just said he had a disease, rather than he has! And this sums up my failings in French. I can pick out verbs and nouns from my previous school years (ahem, a few years ago now), but stringing it all together into perfect tenses, and participles is another matter. So I’ll stick to biomedical science now.
Without making too much light of this, it was extremely difficult to eat there, unaware if we were being paid “lip-service” by chef’s and waiters, and waiting to see if our son reacted in anyway to possible hidden traces of gluten.
I had browsed many blogs and websites before travelling to Nice and Cannes, and many results failed at the first hurdle. Still, I wanted to try and take on a challenge with my son, to help him see there are ways and means.
These include, researching where the nearest supermarkets were – and if they stocked gluten free (sans gluten), booking self catering accommodation in order to make as many of our own meals as we could. Packing as much gluten free food as we could, and learning basics french. But to give you an idea of the impact of Coeliac disease, here’s a little story that you might find interesting. When first diagnosed, and for quite a while afterwards, my son was literally frightened to touch any surface that may have come into contact with gluten. At age 8, and having had severe pain and weight loss, nevermind the experience of having a biopsy, he tried to cope with his fears by avoiding lots of places. Including opening car doors, which others had touched – because they had just ate a sandwich! There are other occasions that I won’t mention, but it took us a lot of hard work to encourage him that he would not experience pain unless he ate gluten. Fast forward a few years, a school trip on a residential break (I went with as a volunteer), he panicked when his class mates started throwing toast around at breakfast time, resulting in crumbs all over his food and his freshly squeezed orange juice! Staff, and teachers showed nothing but disdain for my son’s panic, and exclaimed that he was making a fuss about nothing! (super-hero mummy to rescue with that one – and I got no medal for being the most diplomatic person in the room). Being that he also has type 1 diabetes, it is quite important for him to gain substantial long lasting carbs at times where we are planning long hours of exercise, so we like to ensure he has adequate nutrition. Wait! But doesn’t every child? My point exactly. The amount of times he has felt excluded from society because of Coeliac disease is countless, so we try to make the good times happen as frequently as possible (note to self, next blog to discuss failing to maintain a healthy bank balance every month). He is maturing, at quite a fast pace it has to be said, but with a sad understanding that there may be many occasions where he just can’t eat. Friends tottering off to Subway for example, friends birthday parties (will he take a packed lunch now that’s he nearly 13?) and holidays to France? But here’s the secret gem I was hiding, deep within my blog (mysterieux, non?). Choopy’s. Yes. Choopy’s is in Antibes. It is cupcake heaven for us avec coeliaques.
It’s a local cafe, ran and managed by a french lady who has coeliac. The kitchen is 100% sans gluten, the cupcakes, cakes, sandwiches, bagels, baguettes, wraps, smoothies are all healthy gluten free alternatives. I don’t care if this is blatant marketing, I get no fee for this. The place is wonderful. C’est delicieux! When we arrived there were lots of tourists there, and with a huge map on the wall with pins – we got to see where people have travelled from to visit. My son felt a range of emotions, all of which I see in his eyes without him speaking a word. Relief, joy, happiness, relaxation and delight.
Secondly, there was a creperie in Nice (Debin Ur Begad), in the old town which offered gluten free crepes. Thankfully! You have no idea, just how many restaurants we had to avoid, so to find two which we could visit, and feel safe seemed like heaven to be honest!
Just take a moment to think of all the places you can eat, in your local town, if you are out and about and feel hungry – where do you go? Do you buy a quick sandwich (is there a gluten free option there?) Do you head for Greggs the bakers (Do they offer anything for people living with Coeliac? – apart from a piece of fruit?) What about Marks & Spencers? Do you see how many sandwiches they offer – oops, wait, you’re right there is that one option which is gluten free isn’t there. That’ll be the egg option! You guessed it, my son doesn’t like egg sandwiches. Actually, I don’t know who does? (that one is open for discussion if you are really bored today).
You’ll quickly realise, just how much food matters to your life when it suddenly becomes restrictive – and more so for a child. The social impact is huge and one which society doesn’t need to think about, until it comes across it. However, things are improving, all the time – just yesterday I read of research at the University of Alberta, where a study is underway to prevent gliadin from causing gut damage. Not sure what the coeliac community feel about this option, if they feel delayed gut damage would still occur, however at least research is trying to help us all! Discuss?? Coeliac Uk have an annual research conference, which you can read about here also, if you feel you would like more details on current research topics.
We do feel perturbed when we read how amazing Italy is for gluten free food, and the search will continue for the next holiday. However, since it was so expensive in La Sud de France, that won’t be happening this millennium.