Traveling with Food Allergies in Belgium

No Waffles or Chocolate, BUT a Splendid Trip

“Can you tell me what is in the waffles?” I asked in Brussels at a restaurant where waffles were the ‘specialty.’  The man looked at my list with another waiter, and said, “I know we use margarine.”  I looked at my chef card in French, and realized I wasn’t sure if I was allergic to margarine in Belgium.  My French chef card was translated from my Italian one (where I am allergic because ‘nuts’ are apparently a ‘vegetable’ here).  Since I didn’t know, I said “merci” and continued on my way.

Waffle stands and restaurants were everywhere in Belgium!

That was my first and last attempt to try a waffle in Belgium.  Since margarine was a common ingredient that I assumed was used in all of them, I decided I would need to do some more research about margarine before returning for another trip to Belgium!  I also noticed that both nuts and Nutella (a chocolate nit spread) were used per request to flavor the waffles.  There would certainly be a risk of cross-contamination, and I would have to find a place that would be willing to work with that and my allergies.

Prior to leaving for belgium, I looked at a book that I had bought at a conference I went to for the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN).  It said that Belgium followed the food labeling standards that were set for all EU countries.  It is a helpful book, since I am consistently traveling in Europe.

Chocolate…so much Belgian chocolate everywhere!  It looked delicate and delicious, and COMPLETELY unsafe to even ask about.  Of course there were nuts everywhere, along with beautifully made chocolate truffles, fudges, and most anything chocolate that you can imagine!  I had anticipated this would be the case, but a girl can dream that just maybe somewhere I would find chocolate!  Maybe someday…

The most chocolate I have ever seen!

I didn’t have too much difficulty finding food.  I was trying not to spend too much money on this trip (since I will be traveling most of the summer), so I only ate one meal out.  The rest of the time I went to grocery stores to buy food.  I found bread, cheese, fruit, yogurt, and crackers that I knew and could safely eat.  I also found ice cream (which helped me with my chocolate cravings)!

The one day that I spent in Bruges, I took myself out to lunch.  There was a cute little restaurant on the corner of a cobbled road, that I decided to try.  I was curious to see how they would react to my allergies, and if they would be willing to work with me to make sure the ingredients were safe.

In Bruges, where I ate lunch.

A man came out to wait on me.  I ordered a drink, then asked about the croque-monsieur sandwich.  I showed him my Chef Card and the only question he had to go check on was the butter.  He was wonderful with my allergies, and didn’t look intimidated by the long list of allergens.  He came back and said I was all set.  A salad came on the side, and he and another waiter checked on the dressing (which was all fine).  The meal was delicious and problem-free!

Sandwich and salad.

When I was leaving, I thanked the waiter, and he said, “Yeah, it’s not common here (allergies).  I don’t think people are often very understanding.”  I thought it was an interesting comment and wondered if it was true.

Overall, I had a lovely time, in what I found to be such an exceptional country!  I will definitely go back again (and with margarine knowledge, so I can someday have a real Belgian waffle)!

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2 Comments

  1. Miss Allergic Reactor

    Thanks so much, Linse! I would LOVE to try them.

  2. Hi! I was looking on the internet for interesting blogs about food allergies and found yours! Thanks for doing this!
    I am a 20-year old girl from Belgium(!) with food allergies.
    I wanted to comment on the quote of the waiter, it is so typical for people here in Belgium to say something like that! It is absolutely not true that food allergies are not common here, people just don’t know about them! I, and a lot of others, are trying to change this, but as you know it is difficult and takes a long time to establish it!
    If you’re ever planning on coming to Belgium again, (and I don’t really know which foods you’re all allergic too) but I know some places where you can buy delicious waffles and chocolate, even with peanut/dairy allergies!
    Greetings from Belgium!
    Linse

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