10 days, 3 continents, 8 countries, 1 car, 4 planes, 0 tummy aches! And I have no idea how I did it. :-)
The last time I went on a trip with my husband we left a day late because I was in the emergency room finding out that I was indeed celiac and had completely ruined my intestine and would need some medication and a strict no gluten diet. Thanks and have
a nice day.
I had been told by another doctor the week before that "one of the three tests to confirm celiac is negative therefore you are not celiac. You probably just have a parasite in your intestine from all your travels." What??? All my travels? I'd been
to Berlin once for two days and that was it. Welcome to Italian Health sCare
Regardless, I wanted to spend New Year's in Hong Kong with hubby so I went anyway. I was ill the whole time. I found out when I got back and started researching that gluten is everywhere and not just in bread and pizza. That was 2011.
In the last 3 years I've learned a lot. Eat at home.
School was out in June and the girls were off to grandma's house so hubby and I decided to do his yearly stint in Liege (for work in the office) and then he had a flight LGG-DWC-HKG-DWC-LGG. That is Liege, (Belgium), Dubai, Hong Kong and back. We decided
to go to Belgium by car.
I realised that I would have to pack my food. In fact, I figured my food would be 90% of my suitcase seeing that I was sure it would be impossible to find gluten free meals anywhere. Sure you can find GF bread and other sundries, but GF meals in a restaurant
are risky, very risky and not always available especially at flight level 370.
I packed some stuff and kept my fingers crossed.
In Liege we found a self serve restaurant called Exki that had gluten free (fresh but packaged separately) salads, soups and crackers all organic and absolutely delicious. I ate there twice a day. The breakfast in the hotel offered gluten free bread
on request but it was starchy and horrible when not contaminated. The food at the buffet was useless to me as people had contaminated everything with either dropping bread crumbs on everything, gross!, or they used the same fork to grab the cucumbers and
the salmon. I'm severely allergic to all fish and shellfish and anything else yummy from the sea. :-( I started bringing my own cereal and rolls to breakfast.
My husband is a pilot for the airline taking me from LGG to the rest of the world so we figured there would be no problem for on board catering. He passed by the office one day while at work and his colleague told us "no problem, contact Joe Blow in Catering
and he'll fix you up!". Great. Hmmmm. When something seems to be too good to be true, it usually is.
Be it known that in airline catering you are allowed only 1 food allergy or intolerance. I've been in the airline industry my whole life. My father, brother and sister-in-law all work in aviation. I work in aviation for Pete's sake. My husband is in
aviation and for the life of me I can not get a gluten free seafood free meal. Not even when I or my husband actually work for the airline. Out of about 50 flights (long haul because on short/medium haul no one cares about ANY intolerances-if it is a snack
then forget it) only once did I get a GF/SF meal. It was a return flight with a Lufthansa meal that was gluten and seafood free only after I threatened the company with a lawsuit. I never got to eat it though. The flight attendant gave it to the wrong pax
and I ended up eating a banana from DFW to FRA. To those who know what I'm talking about now you realise why we people travel with food in our bags!
I know a chef for Sky Chefs. I asked what the deal is. He said the software program allows one special meal type. If it is a GF meal then it goes to the chef and is handled in its own way. GF meals typically contain seafood because pasta is out, beef
and chicken mostly all use roux based sauces so fish it is. If you ask for a SF meal you'll get gluten galore. It's a software issue. So, I should have married a catering guy and not the pilot? Evidently.
Hubby works for a cargo airline therefore once on the plane we're free to do what we like. We must also fend for ourselves for catering. I immediately checked the food and all my food was GF but all of it was seafood. At 4:00 a.m. no one cared and I
ate my cereal the whole way to Dubai. The first officer was kind and said that I could eat his chicken but it was covered in a sauce which he kindly scraped off for me. I tried to explain that it would make me ill all the same but he didn't get it. I stuck
to my guns and felt like a raging beach but didn't want to get ill. I'd somehow made it through Switzerland, Germany and France to spend three days in Liege and not felt bad once. I didn't want to break my streak. Hubby explained to him later how sensitive
I am to gluten and apologised and finally FO nice guy got the idea when he opened his fish dinner and I almost passed out. :-( Even the smell of fish makes me ill. Just crazy.
Anyhoo, in Dubai at the hotel we talked to the restaurant and explained my issues. Breakfast was ok as they offered an entire buffet island full of GF treats. I should have taken a photo it was so nice. Cereals, handmade-fresh breads, sweets and muffins;
the works. Evrything was individually wrapped for protection. My food comes in a condom!
We were at the Ibn Battuta Movenpick. Dinner was a bit different. Buffets are hard for me. They are usually full of fish so I steer clear and they don't offer anything GF and SF so that's out. I had to order off the menu and they took a year to clean
the kitchen just for me before even cooking my food. It was nice of them. I ordered the easiest thing I could think of but we decided to do something different the next day because it was too much for me and them.
There was a restaurant called "Sicilia" in the hotel. Typically we don't go to Italian restaurants when traveling because the food is not traditional Italian. There are usually international versions of "Italian" foods like pasta alfredo and pizza with
sauce that has seasonings or pasta with meats in them, etc. Food that we don't typically eat. We looked at the menu anyway thinking I could eat a steak or some cheese. There was something that interested us both: la caponata con la burrata. YUM. Just
like I make at home. In the evening we eat a minestrone or soup then have deli meats and cheese with a side dish of veggies. This would be perfect. We talked with the chef that, if you can believe it, went to grade school where I live now. I live in Podunk
Italy. It is so small that on a map it says PSP because if they wrote the whole name it would take up all the Italian boot. The city is tiny. That is like someone from Grand Prairie, TX finding a chef in Dubai that went to Roquemore Elementary. Nutty.
He made sure we had everything we needed. He even warmed their GF bread rolls for me. Everything was great-he even gave me the recipe which I have in my recipe book for anyone interested.
Day 5 and still ok. Imagine that.
The trip to HKG was better. My meal was GF and SF. No problems. They even put some sandwiches onboard for me. The bread was disgusting but it was food and I could eat it.
In HKG the hotel made me personalised veggie rice and anything else I wanted. They told me that I could find GF bread on the buffet near the regular bread. Near is an understatement. It was milling with the regular bread. The lady who was serving bread
used the same knife to cut my bread and then attempted to put it in the toaster that everyone used. I told her that I couldn't eat it and she thought I was just being difficult so I took the bread and then sat it on my table and it sat there until I left.
They went through all that trouble to make GF bread, why don't you want that we can actually eat it too?
For lunch we went to Outback Steaks where we had gone back in 2011. Way back then, when I ordered a salad and a steak my steak had been seasoned with gluten and my salad had croutons (even though I'd asked for it to be w/o). Then, I'd eaten it anyway
having not known that the steak was seasoned with gluten and thinking it was ok just picking out the croutons. This time I knew better. I ordered my steak and told them I needed it GF and they admitted that the seasoning had gluten this time. I also ordered
cole slaw that I had written the company about months earlier to find out that it is indeed GF.
It seems though that chef's and the cook staff have been briefed in most restaurants but not the wait staff. From Berlin to Hong Kong the wait staff either puts bread on my plate or mixes my bread with that of my hubbies. In Liege at the hotel the waitress
went through all the trouble of ordering GF bread for me only to bring it out in a basket mixed with my hubbies toast. Bummer.
Anyway, the flight back from HKG to DWC was a flop. The catering company wrote a note saying that the fridge on this particular aircraft was broken and food was to be embarked by a local catering service using dry ice. They had done their best to make
sure it was GF and SF. I got food from Cathay Pacific's catering service which was GF as a main dish but they had used the same tray as everyone else.
If you don't know how airline catering works the tray has a side dish, salad and/or fruit and a desert. These are pre-prepared and then on day of flight the tray gets a main dish that was made in a different facility. For our flight, which was extra-ordinary-or
a one time deal- my tray was like everyone else's and evidently one of the Chinese guys was told to grab a "special" meal and grabbed one out of the trash or toilet because it had something in it that smelled like dung. I left it and ate my cereal. :-)
Dubai again for two days. For people who work at UAE airports outside on the tarmac or apron, their contracts state that if the temperature is at or above 50°C they don't have to work outside. Oddly, there is never 50+ degrees celsius registered at the
airport. Hmmmm... interesting fact. Because when we got to the hotel just 30 minutes after, the hotel's thermometer registered a whopping 52°C. Ouch. It hurt to breathe.
We drank smoothies and ate dates that day. Nothing else. Too darn hot. But that that night we ate again at our Sicilia restaurant and Chef Stefano who had gone to Ponte San Pietro's elementary school made me some GF pasta alla Sorrentino. One of my
favourites. I have the recipe on my personal recipes if anyone is interested. It is delicious. Fresh cherry tomatoes, basil mozzarella and some sautéed onion.
The flight back to LGG was ok. It was SF and GF but all curry and Indian flare which I don't like so I kept my mouth shut and rejoiced that I had made it that far without contaminating myself.
In Liege, at a different hotel this time, I ate my own food (during my travels we stopped at every grocery store known to man and bought anything and everything GF: finally got some rice chex!). The next morning I took my cereal to the restaurant and
ate that. They trip home by car I pretty much just ate whatever was in the car. In France, hubby stopped at a Carrefour Express and took some sandwiches for him. We bought some fresh veggies and drank a couple of smoothies and I was good.
On a general note I don't care for European foods. Most French food is smothered in some sort of sauce. Germans put sausage in everything and add too many spices to literally everything. Belgians fry everything or throw mussels on top and side it with
beer. I don't get what the Swiss eat. I've never understood English food. Do the Irish eat or just drink their food? I like Spanish foods though. I prefer to eat simple. Italian food is that. But when travelling I enjoy seeing what other cultures
eat. I would like to taste them and I actually suffer for this. I'm not into Indian food because of the spices but isn't it beautiful to look at? So colourful and rich. I know I'm missing out on a world of yum. My loss.
I digress. Anyway, travelling when on a restricted diet is offensive to others, bothersome as well I dare say. People who don't have these issues don't understand even though some are sympathetic and empathetic to us. But if I am ill, can't think straight,
nor can I walk something's gotta give. This trip I preferred to seem unreasonable or inflexible than to suffer and it paid off.
Summer is here. If you are planning to travel my suggestion is to talk to the cook staff directly. This is serious stuff. Talk to them about the wait staff's handling of the food they worked on so diligently. Explain calmly to those who think you are
being picky or capricious that these issues are trying for them but also for you and they are health related not taste related.
Bring your own food. Attempt to carry with you foods that contain vitamins, minerals and proteins so you can replace entire meals if necessary. Don't let people try to convince you to eat just a bite or scrape off the offending product. You know what
you can and can't eat.
I also owe this to my husband who went out of his way to find places for me. He was tired. When we flew into HKG we had been flying into headwinds (add 1.3 hours to the flight!), through a turbulent sky over India and China where the airplane was bouncing
up and down. We landed in a hail storm, the runway was full of water, the temperature and the dew point were the same. :-0 He had flown the night before into DWC where the temp was 43 and the dew point was 4. The aircraft seemed to float. As heavy as we
were, and as slow as we were physics say we should have been dropping like a stone, yet there we were floating like a ship on water. Nonetheless he walked around a hot city looking for a place for me to eat and feel well too. Can't beat that!
This has turned out to be a long, long post but I feel triumphant that I was able to go to all those places without feeling bad once.
On a stupid note, I got home, kids came back and I made some pasta for them. Didn't I forget and use their spoon to grab something for me and spend all day in bed yesterday? Bugger!! I'm more careful when out and about than at home.
Best to all you who took the time to read this long post. God bless.