Gluten Sensitivity in Ireland
by Riley Sugarman
Photography courtesy of Emilio Subía Egas
Ireland is commonly known as the home of Niall Horan, Guinness, leprechauns and Gaelic football, but many do not know that it has a massive population suffering from Celiac Disease. The nation is an amazing place to study abroad, but venturing out of the comfort zone to live in a different country is a difficult step into to take, especially when one has dietary restrictions.
Gluten is a tricky restriction to deal with, whether a sensitivity, intolerance, allergy or Celiac Disease. Luckily for travelers, Ireland has an abundant supply of gluten-free options to cater to its large celiac community. Roughly 1% of Irish have Celiac Disease, compared to the 0.75% of Americans and Canadians, giving Ireland one of the largest celiac communities in the world.
The most important step upon arriving in a new country for any foodie is to find good, local cuisine. Situated in the middle of downtown Dublin lays Cornucopia, a casual, wholefood and vegetarian restaurant. It boasts a great atmosphere, catering services and, on weekend evenings, live music.
According to Cornucopia’s website they “cater for special dietary requirements including vegan, dairy-free, [celiac], gluten-free, yeast-free, sugar-free and raw/living.”
Cornucopia’s gluten-free options range from chocolate hazelnut brownies to hash browns, frittatas and more. Anyone can grab a homemade meal because of the many options available for customers with dietary restrictions.
Fish and chips is a staple dish in Ireland, with its own national holiday falling in late May. The dish typically contains gluten, but Beshoff Bros, a fish and chips restaurant in downtown Dublin, also caters to the gluten-free community.
The restaurant prides itself on its inclusive menu, stating, “We also cater to most dietary requirements…which means nobody has to miss out on enjoying our tasty food.”
Finding local cuisine is helpful for visiting foodies, but studying abroad requires cooking and meal planning. Tesco, a European supermarket comparable to Star Market, can make this task easier because of its gluten-free options and affordable prices.
Five BU Study Abroad students were put to the test to see if Tesco’s gluten-free options are worthy of purchase. None eat a gluten-free diet, making their answers completely unbiased.
The first contestant, Free From Penne Pasta, did not disappoint. Haley Pereira (CAS ’18) enjoyed the dish and even preferred it to whole-wheat pasta.
“If my friend was gluten sensitive, I would definitely recommend this pasta,” said Pereira. “It’s a fine substitute, but it’s so similar to regular pasta that I personally have no reason to switch.”
Sueun Hong (SAR ’18) enjoyed the chewy texture and taste, especially because she avoided refined carbs this past summer.
“This was my first time eating pasta in a long time, so this actually tasted like normal pasta since I can’t really remember what it tastes like,” Hong said.
Eileen Nolan (SAR ’19) initially felt unsure about the chewy texture but enjoyed how similar the pasta tasted to brands she typically purchases.
“If I went to the store and couldn’t find the kind of pasta I usually get, I would be fine buying this because it tastes so similar,” Nolan said.
The second competitor, Genius Gluten Free Pancakes, proved to be the fan favorite. Karam Yang (CAS ’18) thought the texture seemed similar to that of cornbread, but enjoyed it nonetheless.
“It tasted really good, even without syrup, so the gluten-free people really aren’t missing out,” Yang said.
“It tasted like a mini cake,” Bridgett Girnus (CAS ’19) said. “It was a little sweet, but I still love it.”
Girnus would recommend the Genius Pancakes to her gluten-free friends and even decided to run to Tesco to grab some herself.
The final contender, Foods of Athenry Flapjack Bites, did not hold up as well as the two previous options. For any confused readers: flapjacks are essentially granola bars in Ireland, not pancakes.
Hong did not dislike the taste but felt the bar fell apart immediately after the first bite, essentially turning into a pile of granola.
“It tastes exactly like what you imagine a gluten-free snack would taste like,” Hong said.
Yang enjoyed the flapjacks, but agreed with the crumbly consistency issue.
“I can tell it’s healthy while it still tastes good,” Yang said. “Healthy doesn’t have to taste bad.”
Though the three options received different reactions, none were disliked on the grounds of taste. Plus, each cost fewer than four euros. Studying abroad in Ireland while gluten-free does not have to be an issue, thanks to the many restaurants and grocery stores that accommodate certain dietary restrictions.