Gluten-free Madrid

Jake Barba, student blogger

Jake Barba, student blogger

JACOB BARBA- Hey there. How’s it going? That’s great to hear, really. I hope whatever elderly or sick relatives you have are doing well. Do I hear you ask who the person is at the other end of the computer screen making baseless assumptions about you and your loved ones? Let me introduce myself. My name is Jake. I’m twenty years old, and, as I hope you’ve figured out by now considering all the clicking you had to do to get to this page, I’m studying abroad in Spain. Madrid, specifically.
I’m going to level with you here, since we’re getting to know each other: this isn’t my first time studying abroad. I’ve gone to many countries, mostly in Europe, and seen many wonders, all with the excuse that I learned something while I was doing it. London, Paris, Havana, I’ve seen them all. And they all have their own idiosyncrasies. Depending on the place, people can be warm, or cold, or overly touchy, or anything you can imagine. Of course the food is different. I’ll have a separate post, probably several, about the food. There’s politics, which I’ll also try to parse out in the months to come. All of these aspects of society exist in some form or another in every country, in every culture. There is one thing, however, that I’ve found in Madrid that I haven’t seen anywhere else yet. This one characteristic that I can’t wrap my head around.
Gluten. Or, as they call it here… gluten. I thought it would have an accent or something. Make it sound Spanish.
Everything here is gluten-free. Everything. They have gluten-free bread. That’s to be expected, and actually useful to the very small portion of people who can’t eat gluten, and who also like bad-tasting bread. Many restaurants advertise the fact that none of their foods have the slightest hint of gluten in them. I doubt that that’s true, but I’m sure that plenty of trendy restaurants in the United States do that too. I haven’t seen as many where I grew up as I have in one month in Madrid, but maybe I’ve been unobservant. I tried to accept this as part of my study abroad experience, and I succeeded, for a time. Then one day I found myself walking through a Carrefour, a Spanish grocery chain.
I wasn’t there to buy any food. I have a lovely host family who provides my breakfast and dinner as well as a generous stipend for lunch. I just wanted the experience. They have some cool ingredients in Spanish grocery stores, including but not limited to entire pig legs. As I gazed at the shelves, mind wandering, I saw it. I saw a bag of gluten-free rice.
SO IT’S JUST NORMAL RICE THEN, IS IT?
There is no rice with gluten. I don’t think you could genetically engineer rice to have gluten in it. Saying that you have gluten-free rice is like saying your toilet paper comes from organic cotton, or that your pen comes with one hundred percent real ink. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?
Am I crazy? Is it like this everywhere, and I’ve only now just noticed it because I’m observing everything I can in sharp detail? I don’t particularly care what people choose to eat, so long as it’s not children, but charging more for a product just because a lot of people don’t know that rice has no gluten seems wrong to me, and I have the feeling it happens more in Madrid due to how strong the anti-gluten feeling is. Anyway, those are just my thoughts. I’ll be here all semester, so maybe I’ll come to some new revelation about this in the future.
Since most of this post didn’t have a lot to do with Spain specifically, I should leave you with something nice. Here’s a picture I took in Segovia this weekend.
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Wow, that looks pretty. Gothic churches, man. Bet you wished I talked about that instead. Later, I promise.

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