Thursday, 14 April 2016

Travelling: Dairy Free


We are going to the land of pastries and I can't eat pastry. 

This was a distressing thought, and the beginning of an underlying nervousness about my first real dairy free holiday. Gradually, over the last 9 months, living a dairy free lifestyle has become easier and easier - from finding more lacto-free substitutes to learning to anticipate what things probably do have dairy in them. However, eating out still remains the hardest bit . Do you know how challenging it is to buy a dairy free sandwich that isn't tuna? It's unnecessarily hard. So when you're on holiday, and you're 3 meals a day out of your house, without your lacto-free substitutes, and you're trying to navigate a foreign language/culture/understanding of whether this sandwich does actually have any butter in it, it can feel slightly daunting. Turns out that it was much less difficult than I had expected, and I was able to have a lovely, stress-free holiday and eat plenty of tasty food. 

These are my top tips: 

Plan before you go
I love a good pre-holiday research, but I never want to be one of those people that feels compelled to plan out all their holiday meals/restaurants in advance, with little scope for flexibility. There's something about excessively planning food that takes all the enjoyment out of it. Before we jetted off I read lots of blogs, and asked friends for recommendations of restaurants/cafes they'd visited whilst in Copenhagen and received lots of great suggestions. There were a couple I checked out online beforehand, just to check what their dairy free selection looked like, which meant we could head straight to ones that looked varied and not worry about those where I'd struggle to eat stuff. My planning extended to hunting down a vegan bakery in Copenhagen, determined to have at least one pastry whilst I was there. It was a tiny little place on the other side of the city which we never would have stumbled upon had I not known about it previously. 

Don't be afraid to ask 
Ok, so it helped that we were in Denmark and everyone speaks English and you can just ask "sorry, does this have butter in it?" - but I felt like everyone was more than happy to help you out. With more and more people suffering from dairy or gluten intolerances, or opting for vegan diets, lots of restaurants are having to get used to cater for different diets - particularly in cities, particularly in the western world. In instances where I wasn't able to eat something, every single restaurant we went to was more than happy to offer an alternative or a substitution - whether that was to swap the sauce on my steak for a big pot of ketchup, or substitute the mozzarella in a sandwich with handfuls of spinach. In other situations I was pleasantly surprised that things were dairy free - such as the pesto on my hotdog - and I was relieved that I'd asked rather than assuming I couldn't eat it, and doing myself out of a tasty meal. Basically, the motto is: you don't ask, you don't get. 

Find ways around it 
There will always be things you can eat, and sometimes it's just about working out which is the best compromise. I didn't know of anywhere in Copenhagen that offered a proper dairy free pizza - by which I mean one with lacto-free or vegan cheese...but I wanted a pizza, so I just ordered one without cheese. It was still great, and I was so glad I hadn't just opted for a salad instead. One brunch-time we went to a porridge cafe where, in order to get something dairy free, I had to opt for some crazy concoction of gluten free oats and quinoa and rice milk and other magical things that I don't really understand what they are. All I wanted was a bowl of porridge with some tasty toppings, but sometimes you've gotta go fancy/plant-based/anti-every allergy ever to find a way around yours. Most other mornings were spent with a bowl of shop-bought cereal in our apartment - both because it was an easy lacto-free breakfast option, and because no one can afford 3 meals out a day in Scandinavia. Sure, it's less luxurious, but we all love a home comfort and it made hungry mornings a billion times easier. 

Go Asian
I mean Asian food. When I say Asian, I also mean Oriental Asian, because curry always has butter/cream in it. We had 2 really tasty Vietnamese meals, and it was so liberating to be able to eat pretty much everything on the menu. Whether it's Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, Korean - your bets are pretty good. Rice is fine, noodles are fine, meat is fine, veg is fine, all the tasty sauces are fine and if you want something creamy, it's often made with rice or coconut milk and that's fine too. Having these 2 really tasty and really easy meals has made me want to learn to cook more Vietnamese or Thai food - things where I don't actually have to worry about substitutes and feel like I can eat like everyone else, like a normal person! 

Sometimes you just gotta suck it up
Sometimes there is no substitute. Sometimes you just can't eat it. Sometimes you just have to get over it. Sometimes that's really sad. My 'suck it up' mentality is saved almost solely for puddings (and pastries). I didn't go anywhere in Copenhagen where I could eat dessert, and I rarely go anywhere in the UK where I can either - unless it's sorbet, or fruit, but those don't really count. My vegan pastry was, in a word, disappointing and the disappointment only grew as I watched Simon munch on chocolatey, cinammony pastries and we walked past bakeries full to the brim with every pastry. But oh well. It's a sad reality, but not being able to enjoy so many sweet treats made me experiment with more drink options. Instead of opting for a lemonade or a beer, I tried lots of different teas, juices and discovered the best juice of my life: Naturfrisk Ginger Juice. Life changing. 

It's not as difficult, stressful or limiting as you think - promise. Whether you're gluten free, dairy free, vegan, or suffer with any other sort of allergy, don't let it limit you when you travel. There are always ways around it, you've just got to find them. 

Happy travels!

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