Growing up we had one rule at the dinner table as kids, you must take one bite of everything on your plate, even if you think you don’t like it. My parents both cooked a lot growing up, and I’m pretty confident this rule turned me into a largely non-picky eater. Gross onions, asparagus and seafood at the age of 10, suddenly became mmmm… caramelized onions, roasted asparagus and steamed crab legs at the age of 16. I have a few dislikes to this day that I’ve never grown to like (yoghurt I’m looking at you), but for the most part when traveling or eating out I would be open to trying anything on the menu.
Then 2009 happened. I was planning an extended overseas trip and after years of being sick after I ate, I visited my doctor before I left, looking for anything to help my stomach woes while traveling on long air, train and bus trips. My doctor tested me for celiac disease (which I had never heard of at the time) and it came back positive. Suddenly, I had the answer for decades of pain, but with it came large limitations on what I could eat and even more so where I could eat.
Thankfully, I set off for Australia and New Zealand just a few weeks later and I would be welcomed into a country that was light years ahead of the US. They listed allergy info on their menus and food products, including gluten, not just wheat. Waiters knew exactly what I was talking about when asking what was safe to eat. My typical beers at the bar were replaced with draft ciders.
It’s been over 10 years of navigating this new way of eating, and because of my parents, I also like to cook, and feel very little limitation when cooking at home or visiting family. My family is wonderfully accommodating in altering to cook gluten free, even at Thanksgiving dinner, where everything seems to be a carb! I also love to bake and feel pretty confident that I have perfected the gluten free chocolate chip cookie and chocolate cake!
However, the difficult aspect of dealing with celiac disease is eating out. Menus aren’t listed in the US with allergy info. The restaurants that do post a wheat symbol or “GF” on their menus don’t take into consideration the cooking process and cross contamination. Even though a potato is gluten free, the second it’s cooked in a fryer with an onion ring… I may as well have just eaten the onion ring.
Luckily, I am a planner by nature. When I have a trip planned I scour the internet and my gluten free resources for local restaurants that not only accommodate gluten free, but specifically celiac needs. I am typically well-prepared by the time the trip starts. However, I also don’t like to be a burden, so when plans change and I’m suddenly at a restaurant I don’t know much about, I ask the waiter the best options and hope that I won’t be sick 12 hours later. I often lose that game. So although traveling is and always will be my favorite thing to do, I know it comes with a caveat to it now.
But on occasion, I find a diamond in the rough, and at a bar in New Zealand I find the best homemade pizza I’ve ever had. Or I walk into a bakery in Italy and they tell me that the entire menu is gluten free. Or at the top of a mountain in Austria I find the best loaded gluten free potato with a view to match it. Or at home a new neighborhood restaurant opens and the owners have celiac, so they get it. Those are the days I feel like a kid at Christmas!
Guest writer Carly Stanger lives in Chicago, US, with a love of traveling the world. CEO of Midco International, when not walking her two favourite four legged animals, Mosley and Arlo.
Soul Food September
Throughout September, Soulhub is sharing personal stories from Guest Writers including Nutritionalist (Author of Gut Gastronomy, Broth & Amazing Edible Seeds) Vicki Edgson, Soul Food Live every Tuesday (from early Oct) with Carey Davies-Munro, Oct Q&A’s with nutritional specialists Sue Camp & Melinda McDougall, podcasts with Nicola Moore, and education about our relationship with food.
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