I’m interrupting my South Africa recap posts for a funny story …
The first trip I took after my Celiac diagnosis was almost a year later, in July of 2010. My mom and I spent a long weekend in Portland at a yoga workshop.
For about a week before our trip, I frantically googled and perused the forums on Celiac.com, making sure I’d be able to eat in the strange lands of Portland. I packed a week’s supply of Larabars and Kind bars, almond butter, Udi’s muffins, and gluten free pretzels. And I barely needed any of it.
But that didn’t stop me from doing the same thing six months later, when the fam spent 10 days in Hawaii. I remember asking my gluten-free father “what will we EAT?!?!”
It seems so silly now, but I was terrified of getting sick on my vacation. It turns out, eating gluten free while traveling isn’t too difficult (and getting easier.)
And on my trip to South Africa, the worst happened. I got glutened on vacation.
Tea time at the Kloof
I’m pretty sure the culprit was a cheesy vegetable casserole we had on our first night at Bushman’s Kloof – the house manager said it had been prepared with gluten free flour, but when we had the same thing a few nights later, he said it had gluten in it. Maybe they’d intended to make it gluten free and the chef forgot, maybe they’d talked about making it gluten free but decided it wasn’t as good so they made it with regular flour and the house manager forgot. It doesn’t really matter – they otherwise did a great job of accommodating me and I’m grateful.
And getting sick turned out to not be a big deal. I felt pretty lousy for a couple of days and skipped some of the activities that put me more than running distance from a bathroom, but we were there to relax, and relax I did.
Anyway, I’ve picked up on a few things I’ve learned about eating gluten free away from home. Here they are:
Reserve your gluten free meal when you book your plane ticket. Then confirm a few days before the flight. Then pack snacks anyway. It sucks, but occasionally, the special meal you reserve doesn’t make it on the airplane. I always pack some snacks, just in case (or if the food is inedible. Or if I get hungry between meals.) My favorites are Larabars, packets of GF instant oatmeal, and Justin’s nut butter (in my liquids bag, of course – the TSA classifies peanut butter as a paste.)
P.S. – The Delta flight from Seattle to Amsterdam upgraded their GF meals since I flew in September – instead of half a dozen stale rice cakes, I got a couple of Udi’s dinner rolls, and for breakfast, a chocolate muffin!
If you don’t speak the language, print a half dozen or so gluten free dining cards before your trip. These were so handy to have in Italy the first few days before I’d gotten the hang of ordering in restaurants (I eventually figured out that all I had to do was point at myself and say “Celiaco” and my food would be GF.)
For the most part, restaurant eating in other cities or states or countries is no different than at home. When it comes down to it, there’s the same risk of getting accidentally glutened no matter where I eat – the biggest difference is if I get sick at home, I’ll sit around and feel sorry for myself, but on vacation, I’ll choose low-key activities and try not to feel sorry for myself. It is a vacation, after all.
That said, I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find that every other country I’ve visited (granted, that’s only three) is much, much better at preventing cross contamination. For example, both in Italy and South Africa, a couple of different waiters recommended I order something from the grill because they knew the grilled food was prepared in a separate part of the kitchen from the breads and pastas. I so appreciated that tidbit.
Lastly (and maybe most importantly) stay hydrated. I was just slightly dehydrated when I got glutened in South Africa, and it was an uphill battle to try to get rehydrated while I was sick. I skipped coffee and alcohol for a couple days, but we had an unlimited supply of delicious rooibos tea, so I’m not complaining 🙂
Stay tuned – more gluten free food pics from South Africa next week!