A Bamba Blessing

Before I left for Israel my doctor told me I had a major gluten sensitivity. This is not the news anybody wants to hear before they go off to a country whose 7/11′s carry rolls and pastries on par with some of the best shops in New York. This is also not the news you want to hear if you want to indulge in the unhealthy treats that Israel has to offer: i.e. Shawarma in a lafa, rugelach from Machane Yehuda, malawach, jachnun, schnitzel, and much more. The list of glutenous foods goes on, and tragically, the corner falafel joints I once frequented (and ocasionally still do) don’t offer rice and corn flour alternatives to wheat-flour pita.

For the most part, this new food restriction has actually forced me to eat healthier. Meals in my apartment are rice and quinoa based, and they are made without that delightful greasiness that most falafel joints offer. Snacking has been especially tough, though. I bought packaged roasted almonds and found that they were preserved with gluten. I went to a Mexican restaurant and ordered nachos, naturally expecting gluten-free corn tortillas. Instead, since Israel is not known for its Mexican food, there were wheat pita chips that were deep-fried for a Mexican-like effect. Even most chocolate bars have wafers inside them which are filled with gluten.

Last night I was hungry and craving something both sweet and salty. Desperate, I went into a corner makolet and for the first time during my visit pulled Bamba, my favorite peanut-flavored puffy snack-food—which I naturally assumed would be off limits to me—off the shelf and read the ingredients: peanuts, corn, vegetable oil, salt, vitamins [Vitamin C, Vitamin B3 (Niacin), Vitamin E, Vitamin B1 (Thiamin), Vitamin B6, Vitamin A, folic acid, Vitamin B12], iron. No gluten! No wheat, no gluten used as a preservative, no random gluten bits from other snacks in the package. It was a special moment for me.

Today I spoke with Shmulik, the man who’s room I now occupy in Tel Aviv, after he inquired about my bag full of Bamba and rice cakes. I told him I’m gluten sensitive and he jumped up and slapped me five. He’d been diagnosed with Celiac’s disease 20 years ago and it was a pain he knew all to well. He then sat me down and gave me a run-down of which foods are gluten free in Israel. His last item was Bamba. He asked me if I knew what it was and I could harldy contain my enthusaism about Osem’s inspirational product. “Betach,” I said to him, “of course I know.” Apparently Bamba was created by a man with a son who suffered from Celiac’s disease in the 1960s. I have been unable to verify the story and Shmulik admitted to me that it was the kind of story he heard once and that resonated with him because he himself is a celiac, so he tells it anyway. I also like the story. What’s for certain is that Bamba is gluten-free and it is also the most popular snack food in Israel according to Osem’s website. It’s nice to finally be able to eat what everyone else eats.

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7 Responses to “A Bamba Blessing”

  1. Lexi Says:

    I was wondering if you’d been introduced to this: http://www.glutenfree.co.il yet? They sell EVERYTHING, including gluten free burekas.

  2. Gluten-Free Bay Says:

    Ha – I was just about to write basically the exact same thing as Lexi – But she beat me to it. I wish I lived in Israel so I could go to that store! Their shipping to the US is expensive. They carry all kinds of gluten-free stuff you can’t get in the states. Worse comes to worst you can also order stuff from the US – From glutenfreemall.com or glutenfree.com

  3. Jeff Says:

    Thank you both for the suggestions. I can’t wait to check’em out and move beyond my measly diet of rice, rice cakes, quinoa and Bamba (plus, of course veggies and meats and fish, etc.).

  4. Nikki Says:

    AWESOME!!! What else is on the run-down list of gluten free foods?

  5. Mike Says:

    Anyone still reading this letter should be aware of http://allergyfreekosher.com which sells all kosher gluten free and allergy free foods and more

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