some of the lesssons I’ve learned from traveling gluten-free


Casbah, originally uploaded by shaunaforce.

 

When I’m at home, I no longer worry about eating gluten-free. After all, nothing with gluten comes into my house. Ever. When I step through the door of my upstairs apartment, I breathe easy. Here, I just feel alive. Here, I’m just thinking about what’s in season. Should I make millet or quinoa? Seafood or chicken? Soup, spontaneously? Ah, these are the decisions I love.

But traveling gluten-free can be a bit of a trial. After all, every cafe serves muffins, scones, and cookies. Certain restaurants beckon with bread or pizza. And airports are simply a nightmare.

So if you have to eat gluten-free, and you’re planning a trip soon, here are a few lessons I’ve learned lately, to make life a little easier.

Plan ahead.

Before this year, whenever I went traveling, I always packed my suitcases the morning of my trip. I’m not kidding. Even when I was going to London for six months on a 6 am flight, I was packing at midnight. But those days are over now. These days, I have to bring all my own products.

If I forget to pack my own toothpaste (I use Tom’s cinnamon at the moment), I just can’t be sure that the friend I’ll be staying with will have gluten-free paste for my teeth. If I forget my prescription Ibuprofen for my broken foot, which took me forty-five minutes to obtain at the drugstore because they had to call the manufacturer to make sure it didn’t contain gluten, then I have to rummage through my friend’s medicine cabinet. And then find that I can’t take that brand, and have to be in pain instead.

Long before the day I leave, I also go online to some of the celiac forums, and put up a question about traveling. Hey, I’m coming to your town. Where do you eat? What restaurants would you trust? Are there farmers’ markets anywhere near? Anyplace I should definitely avoid? People are enormously helpful at the Delphi forums, the Celiac.com forums, and the Brain Talk forums. I’ve had dozens and dozens of questions answered there. My Los Angeles trip was sprung on me so spontaneously that I didn’t have a chance to ask there, but I will before I go to New York or San Francisco.

(And if anyone is coming to Seattle, let me know.)

Pack your lunch.

I can guarantee you this: if you are going through an airport, there will be nothing there for you to eat. And I do mean nothing. Airports are filled with bad food anyway: greasy, breaded, and overpriced. But you’ll find, fairly quickly, that everything in airport stores and restaurants seems to have gluten in it. There are a few possible exceptions. Smoothie shacks seem to be sprouting up these days, and they probably don’t have gluten. But you never know. And unfortunately, the awareness level about gluten in airport concession stands isn’t high. It probably isn’t worth the risk.

And airplane food? Well, since they seem to have cut down on their meal service in general, it’s nothing but the little bags of pretzels and the roasted peanuts. Pretzels, obviously not. But even the peanuts are suspect. Some roasting methods for nuts involve gluten. And the peanut package I saw this weekend included MSG on the list. So there goes that. [Update from a reader, much appreciated: it’s now increasingly clear that MSG in products produced in the US no longer contain gluten. Whew. But you can’t be sure about the food made outside the US. And besides, I always have that icky reaction to MSG anyway. Why ruin a trip with that?]

But really, you’re not missing much. When was the last time you actually enjoyed food at the airport or while hunched into a narrow airline seat? Instead, pack yourself a beautiful packed lunch for the trip. While everyone else is looking miserable and wishing those packages of peanuts had been bigger, you can pull out pieces of sashimi, a bowl of potato soup, or a smoked salmon salad with quinoa. Or at the least, a Bumble bar and some kiwi fruit.

This weekend, I also packed a bag of food for my time at Sharon’s house. Now, if I know anything, I know that there will always be food at Sharon’s house. However, there was no guarantee that she’d have anything gluten-free simply laying around. Sharon loves cereal, and so do I. But since I’ve only found about five cereals in the world that I can eat (including the humiliating-for-me, but extra-tasty Peanut Butter Panda Puffs), the chances that she’d have any of them on hand was pretty slim. And since I’m used to waking up at 6 am every morning, I was always up for Sharon or Matt. Before our big breakfasts out, at 11 am, I’d feel a little peckish. That apple, or a handful of cashews, or some dried apricots, came in handy for the early morning. I just felt better, knowing that I wouldn’t have to go hours and hours without eating. You’ll have a much better trip if you do the same.

Bring a cell phone.

I can’t believe that I’m advocating cell phones. It took me years to buy one, and then only reluctantly. I dislike the way people talk about the most personal details of their life on a city bus, or shout in the middle of a store. We are becoming more boorishly behaved because of this new technology.

However, if you can’t eat gluten, and you are traveling, they are remarkably handy. How? Well, say you’d like to eat some scrumptious packaged dessert with your friend at the gourmet store. You look at the list of ingredients, and it looks fine. But how do you know? Well, every company seems to have a 1–800 number on the back of the package. Whip out your cell phone and call customer service. Tell them that you are on the verge of purchasing their fine product, but you need to know that you can eat it first. You’d be amazed at the alacrity with which they search for that information for you. If they are reluctant to tell you or ignorant of it, that’s good for you to know as well.

(And if you verify that a product is gluten-free, let me know. I’m starting a definitive list for this site.)

Choose your restaurants well
.

You’re traveling. You’re going to be eating in restaurants. And that means a little bit of risk. Of course, you have to tell your waiter or waitress about your gluten allergy. If you’d like some tips on how to do this, check out the post I wrote on this during the summer. Hopefully, you’ll find a restaurant that already knows what gluten is, based on the recommendations of people online, or friends. And then hope for the best.

Or, you could make life even easier for yourself. I have found two categories of restaurants that deal with gluten-free diners far more easier than others.

1. Choose a small restaurant that truly cares about the quality of its food.

When I went to Angelina Osteria this past weekend, I knew I’d be fine when I saw the place. Warm, well-lit, and about twelve tables. With a small restaurant, renowned for its fresh, seasonal tastes, you’re also going to find chefs and waiters that truly know food, who care about food, deeply. They know what gluten is. They’ll direct you correctly. You may pay a little more than for a fast joint, but it’s worth it. First of all, you’ll have an intelligent waiter who will take time with you to make sure your dining experience is excellent. And secondly, the food will be far better. Don’t you want your eating experience to be memorable?

It helps if you go at a time of day that’s less busy than others. 5:30 for dinner, instead of 7. That way, they have the time to cater to you more carefully.

2. Choose cuisines that are naturally (more) gluten-free.

Don’t be a dummy. Don’t go to a pizza place and ask for anything gluten-free. Don’t go to a cheap pasta place and sulk because you can only eat a salad. Branch out. Try foods you wouldn’t normally eat, in cuisines that don’t use much gluten in the first place.

Indian food is your friend. Indians use lots of “alternative” flours, like chickpea, on a regular basis. And they have for hundreds of years. Avoid the naan, stick to the papadum (traditionally made with chickpea or lentil flour), ask if they use anything like asafoetida that could contain gluten, then dig in.
Thai food, with its constant use of rice and rice noodles, is one of the most illuminating foods in the world, dense with tastes and vibrant in the mouth. Just ask about their use of soy sauce and fish sauce, ask if they can use a clean wok, and then you can eat. [Further update, thanks to resourceful reader Tracy, much appreciated: be sure, as well, to ask if that restaurant uses Maggi sauce in their food. If so, tell them not to use it. For more explanation, check out the comments section on this post.]
Mexican food, especially the more authentic restaurants, use mostly corn tortillas. (Flour tortillas are mostly a gringo invention anyway.) Wheat flour doesn’t appear often. You still have to ask. You can’t assume. But you’re far more likely to find something scrumptious on the menu if you eat Mexican.
Seafood restaurants are likely to have something for us, pretty easily.
Vegetarian and vegan restaurants are much more urgently aware of food issues than traditional restuarants are. In my experience, waiters and chefs in vegetarian restaurants are fairly likely to be aware of what gluten is, and where it lurks. And they’re pretty universally friendly.
And then there’s Vietnamese food, which is one of my favorites. Just today, for lunch, I had an enormous bowl of pho soup with my new friend, Pete. (He’s just extraordinary. The only straight guy I have ever met who loves food, cooking, and kitchen implements as much as I do. We wave our hands in the air as we talk and laugh so hard we nearly choke. He’s an unexpected joy.) And I was struck anew, at how much I love this food, especially now that I’m gluten-free. Rice noodles floating in a beautiful broth, slender slivers of beef, crunchy sprouts, basil leaves, and peppers so hot they made Pete sweat out of his forehead. (Those are optional.) On a cold winter’s day, a bowl of Vietnamese pho is just glorious. There’s no suffering there.

Now, there is no avoiding this: every time you eat in a restaurant, you are taking your chances. This is why I don’t do it often. Gluten is hidden in almost everything, it seems. But if you choose your restaurants well, ask lots of questions, feel free to pester every employee in the place (because it’s your right, and you should), then you should be in pretty good shape.

Involve your friends in the process
.

If my trip to Los Angeles hadn’t been a surprise for Sharon, I would have called her long in advance and asked if she could buy one of my gluten-free cereals for me. I would have asked if she could have some fruit or cheese or fresh vegetables already in the refrigerator. She would have been happy to oblige. (And those of you reading who can eat gluten? Remember this when you are the hostess as well.) We all want to feel welcomed. When someone buys me a gluten-free product, or bakes me gluten-free brownies, or even just says, “Hey, I noticed that PCC has quinoa pasta. Have you tried that yet?”, well, I just feel loved. And your friends should make you want to feel loved.

When Sharon and I went out to eat, I never demanded that she order something without gluten. That would have been rude. But because she loves to order two dishes and share (that way, we each have twice as many options), she simply decided to order dishes that would be gluten-free. Because of this, at every place we ate, I experienced a wealth of pleasure.

Accept your sorrow.

Here’s the deal. I have an amazingly cheerful attitude about this. So many of you mentioned this in your comments and emails, and you seem to be amazed. I can promise you, I’m not faking it. Discovering that I have celiac disease and that I can no longer eat gluten has bloomed into one of the biggest blessings of my life. I’ve never felt healthier. I’ve never eaten better. And I have this beautiful website, and all of you reading, because of it.

But you know what? Sometimes, the fact that I can’t eat gluten? It just sucks.

When Sharon and I walked into tiny bakeries or little cafes, I breathed in the smell of the fresh-baked bread, and I felt a catch in my throat. Silly as it may sound, I felt genuine grieving. Sometimes, it strikes me: my god, I’ll never eat bread again. And a little depression settles in my chest. Or horror. Or disbelief.

Sigh.

I’m never tempted to “cheat,” however, as some of you asked me. Who am I cheating but myself? I know exactly what gluten does to me, and it’s no good. And why would I want to spend my vacation feeling exhausted, cranky, wracked with headaches, and suffering from diarrhea for days? No thanks.

Instead, I simply accepted my sorrow. Instead of berating myself that I was being silly, I simply felt it. There’s a quote from Camus I love, one that informs me every single day: “The only way out is through.” If you truly just allow this sadness to arise, and don’t push it away, it dissipates immediately.

On Friday morning, Sharon and I were crossing the street on Sunset Boulevard. We had just ducked into a little bakery, filled with delicate pastries and beautiful breads. Sharon wanted a little sweet after lunch. I knew I couldn’t partake, but I was happy to go along. She bought two little lemon sugar cookies, crisp and slightly browned. So there we were, on the street, walking slowly to the sidewalk on the other side. And she bit into one of the cookies, and she exulted, “Oh my god, this cookie is so good.” She wasn’t trying to make me feel bad. She just couldn’t help it. Our entire lives of knowing each other, we’ve talked about our food, and how good it is. She just couldn’t stop. I know her voice well. I could tell from her tone just how good those cookies probably were. And for a moment, I felt lonely. Apart from her. And sad. But by the time we reached the curb, I was fine. There was so much goodness in the day. And besides, there I was at Sharon’s side. What was I going to do——sulk the day away and waste the time with her? No thanks. Instead, I felt it, then moved on.

I suggest you do the same.

Give yourself a treat.

All that being said, you deserve a little treat when you’re traveling. I seek out gourmet stores and farmers’ market. And when in doubt, when the money allows, I bought myself tidbits of food I wouldn’t normally eat. A Vietnamese coffee in the middle of the day. And at the Casbah Cafe, a package of dried apricot paste from Syria. I’ve never had it before, but now I’m addicted. This morning, I tried a small square of it with a semi-soft goat cheese rolled in basil. Oh my goodness, that was great. And I have to say, I think that singular taste would probably be far more memorable than the one of those cookies.

Still, I’m working on a gluten-free recipe for lemon-sugar cookies. After all, a little discipline breeds creativity.

So there you go. Just a few tips for gluten-free traveling. Have a good trip! And don’t forget to write.

36 comments on “some of the lesssons I’ve learned from traveling gluten-free

  1. Peggy

    Honestly, Shauna, you should write a book about being gluten-free. Your joy in food and your positive attitude about celiac disease would be an inspiration to anyone who’s newly diagnosed and thinking, “What do I do now?” Can’t wait to hear about your first GF Thanksgiving!

  2. Shaune

    Love your plan to collect people’s gluten-free suggestions. To start, I called Colgate, and they say all their toothpastes are gluten-free. But your Indian food suggestions have me worried. Chapatis aren’t gluten-free, they’re made from wheat! I’ve spent a month in Dubai the past two winters, where I eat a lot of Indian food, so I’ve been compiling a list of what Indian breads are made from what. Generally, north Indian foods tend to be more wheat-based (like chapatis). South Indian is more CD friendly. The three that I know of so far that are okay for us are dosa and appam (both rice flour) and pappadum (chickpea flour). Naan (of course), chapati and paratha are all wheat flour. (I just double checked in case my list was wrong, and by dictionary definition, chapatis are made from wheat.) And there’s one other potentially worrisome thing I discovered about Indian cooking a few months ago from an Indian teenager staying with my brother’s family. Asafetida is a common ingredient, and she had a packaged of powdered asafetida she had brought from home. I took a glance at the ingredients and it contained gluten! I can’t remember if it said wheat or gluten, but it was very clear. (Fortunately the ingredients were in english.) Asafetida comes in lump or powder form, and I don’t know yet if both contain gluten, or if the form of asafetida that a restaurant would use contains gluten, but it’s obviously something that needs looking into. (And if all asafetida contains gluten I’m going to cry. It’s one thing to know what bread you can order from a little Indian fast food place with no english speakers. It’s another to have to determine what is and isn’t made with asafetida.)

    1. Valerie Boutwell

      Very unfortunately, the powdered form of asafetida (LG) contains wheat starch. The compounded or lump form has “edible starches”, which probably means wheat. Asafetida is in the list of ingredients in many of the spice packets, pre portioned for certain recipees, so any curry or masala could have gluten. My husband is from India and a trained chef, he loves to cook. 6 months after going gluten free and realizing that I frequently felt sick after eating his cooking, I went through his spice cabinet and discovered this depressing information. Sorry. Gluten free Asafetida can be mail-ordered from a US company, which does not help with restaurant eating, only with home cooking.

  3. Tracy

    I just want to clarify that MSG does not necessarily contain gluten. While some have reactions to MSG it’s likely because they have and allergy or intolerance to it. For example, my dad has a horrible reaction to MSG while he doesn’t have CD.

    Regarding Thai food, most Thai restaurants use fish sauce or nam pla in place of soy sauce. I’ve seen two popular brands of fish sauce that have wheat listed in the ingredients. In addition, Thais use a myriad of other sauces in their cooking that may or may not be GF. Even if you ask the cook to not use fish sauce cross contamination is likely due to the woks not being cleaned. They’re much like iron skillets in that they’re never washed with soap.

    I have a love/hate relationship with gluten free lists. Much like computers, gluten free status is outdated as soon as we hang up the phone. I just wish we could get everyone in the gluten free community to start calling the manufacturers to find out the gluten free status. Perhaps with more and more calls, manufacturers would then label the appropriate products gluten free.

    By the way, I have a killer lemon cookie recipe that I converted to GF.

  4. Shauna

    Peggy–

    Thank you for saying that about the book. Oh, it’s in the plans. Believe me!

    Shaune–

    Thanks so much for correcting that about the chapatis. Silly tired me when I posted–I meant to write papadums. I’ve corrected it above, along with your tip about asafoetida. (British spelling for you.) I have my favorite Indian restuarants here, and they have all assured me they use garlic instead of that other substitute. But as with everything to do with gluten-free, we have to be pests and ask! And we all learn from each other.

    Tracy–

    Thanks for all the tips. As I said above, thank goodness we can all learn from each other. None of us can know everything. That’s why I love this community.

    As far as MSG goes, it definitely contain gluten. Some are made by microbial fermentation, while others are derived from wheat gluten. For me, it’s just not worth the risk.

    (For more on the process of making MSG, take a look at this page:
    http://www.truthinlabeling.org/HowIsItManufactured.html)

    Fish sauce is definitely a risk. I learned that last week when I participated in Paper Chef. So I always ask for that to not be used now. (And I’ll correct this in the post after putting this up.) I have eaten in many Thai restaurants in Seattle since my diagnosis, and I have never gotten sick. Of course, any time we eat in a restaurant, we’re taking a risk. That’s why I don’t do it often. But when traveling, what are we going to do?

    I’m with you on the GF lists. I trust the calls I make myself, and they do need to be constantly updated. But I’ve had so many requests for one from people that I’m toying with it here.

    And the recipe? Pass it on, if you’d care to do so. I’d love to try it!

  5. Writergirlrants

    Shauna– I just love the site. Your uplifting stories and generally happiness in the face of “No more bread EVER!” is truly inspiring. I’m having a difficult time moving to eating what I truly need to, since I need to go GF, but also, I have a problem with glucose, so sugar is out. It’s great to see the recipes you use (like the lovely spinach chickpeas and tumeric) and your thoughts on the process of finding out what is good and what isn’t.
    Overall, I just wanted to say that I check you out daily to see what glorious and yummy things you’ve found that I can eat. Perhaps one day I can make that final leap to completely GF. (it’s also hard since I live in a VERY small town and there isn’t a health food store)

    Keep up the fabulous work!

  6. Tracy

    I just called the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Program regarding MSG. They did say that it should be gluten free if it is made in the US. The celiac.com site that you referred to also says MSG made in the US should be gluten free, but adds MSG can utilize a gluten-containing grain or by-product in the manufacturing process.

    For what it’s worth some curry pastes and black bean pastes used in Thai cooking are not gluten free. If you choose to stay away from MSG you might even want to run further from Thai food as every Thai kitchen I’ve been in has Maggi sitting on the shelf which contains both MSG and wheat.

    I think we need to be very careful about the information we give to new Celiacs. I’m willing to eat MSG, but am not willing to eat out in a Thai restaurant or other restaurants for that matter where there may be language and other barriers causing me to get gluten. We each have to decide for ourselves what chances we’re willing to take.

  7. Mappy B

    I have been directed to your site by a friend, and I have linked you to mine. I have recently found myself to be needing a GF lifestyle. I have managed to go off of it for two whole months, then I crashed and dove into a pizza, where I have stayed for the following 4 months. I had never felt so good, healthy, or energetic as I did when I was off gluten. I don’t know how to go back on it. I feel like I am addicted to this crappy food I eat daily, boxed stuff, and hate it. I feel miserable, depressed, tired, arthritic (I’m 28), and constipated. And yet, I need to go back off. I want to. I’m travelling to Portugal, Spain, and Morocco though over the holidays, and thought I should go back off of it afterwards. Who knows. Sorry for the rant. I LOVE your site, and it is really inspiring me to make the change again, for the good. Food tasted so much better then too. Life was better then. It’s just hard to jump back on when feeling this low. Thanks for your blog though. It’s great!

  8. Shauna

    Writergirlrants–

    Thank you. I’m so glad the blog is helping you. I really encourage you to take the plunge and go fully GF. I know that it’s hard, but in terms of health and energy, eating GF is worth missing a little bit of bread. You know, there are some really good online sources for shopping. I have some on the links list. Let me know if there’s something I can write about or research that would help you.

    Tracy–

    Thanks for all your research and questions on this. I’m happy to hear the news about MSG from Chicago. The information out there is so dazzlingly contradictory. Some of it is old, but it’s still being disseminated. I’m trying to stay current, but it’s a task. Thanks for helping everyone out here.
    As far as the Thai restaurants go, I definitely don’t believe that anyone newly diagnosed with celiac should eat in a restaurant at all. I didn’t for the first three months. And in fact, I wrote about that pretty extensively when I started the blog. In Seattle, there are so many Thai restaurants that we have a multitude of choices. Here, the waiters and cooks at my favorite Thai places speak excellent English, and I have found them all to be wonderfully helpful. The same is true in LA. Big city centers, it’s a little easier. It is absolutely up to each of us to use our excellent discretion to figure this out.

    MappyB–

    So many of the symptoms you describe were mine before I realized I had celiac. When you can, my dear, dive in. I promise you (as I wrote above) the difference in your health, energy, and mindset will change enormously when you cut gluten out of your diet. Try it for two weeks. Be strenuous about it. Cook all your own meals. Have fun with the food. And see how you feel. No bread or packaged food is worth feeling that bad.

  9. Shaune

    Shauna, I’m so glad to hear that your chapatis were a writing error and not an eating error! I was worried. If you’re ever in a restaurant that makes appam, give them a try. So good. And Tracy, or anyone else, what is Maggi?

  10. Helen

    Hi Shauna,

    What a wonderful post. I don’t even have celiac desease, but I just love reading your writing. Your attitude is so inspiring! I am amazed at your will power. I have a bad habit that I am struggling with (not food related), and I’ve been having a terrible time giving it up. I’ll just try to keep this post in mind to help me in tough moments.

    Cheers,
    –Helen

  11. Mary

    Thanks for the wonderful post. I don’t have celiac, but I do have a wheat sensitivity that causes both physical and emotional problems. I don’t have a problem with my diet because I feel so much better (the only thing I really miss is pizza).
    I was on vacation with my sister and brought a suitcase full of special food. She kept saying that if she couldn’t eat wheat she’d lose so much weight, then proceeded to eat most of my food! Luckily, it’s pretty easy to find health food stores in Scotland and I even found GF cookies in the gas station mini-marts. Beware of gluten-free meals on planes, though, one of my meals came with water crackers.

  12. Tracy

    “Maggi® Seasoning is an extremely versatile sauce made from the natural extract of pure vegetable proteins. Made in China, this sauce features a distinctive flavor and aroma, which adds zest and depth to soups, salads, and vegetables with just a few dashes. An excellent sauce for marinating, stir-frying, and dipping, Maggi® Seasoning is made naturally without any food preservatives.”

    Interesting bit on Maggi from the WA Post…
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/08/16/AR2005081600241.html

  13. Shauna

    Shaune–

    Oh, I would never eat chapatis. I just put the wrong word in when I was tired. We all make mistakes.

    Helen–

    I’m thrilled if this post helped you with your habit. Best of luck to you.

    Mary–

    Thanks so much for coming by. Yes, in the British Isles (and most of Europe), they’re far more aware of celiac disease and glutens than we are here in the US. I’m working toward heightening awareness here, so that more will become available. And I agree with you–I would never eat gluten-free meals on a plane.

    Tracy–

    Thanks for the update and link on Maggi. I love that kind of technical explanation of foods. It makes me feel more aware. I have to say, I have never seen maggi used in Thai restaurants here in Seattle. I don’t know where you live, but I’m certain it varies by region. My favorite Thai place here has an open kitchen, and I can actually watch them cook my food. They use only fresh, authentic spices, which makes everything taste better.

    So everyone should ask when you’re dining out!

  14. Tracy

    I live in Chicago and we have a myriad of Thai restaurants. My mom and I each have good friends that are Thai. They each have and use Maggi in their kitchens all the time.

  15. Renata

    Shauna, I love reading about your GF adventures! I admit to being a little jealous because of the wodnerful resources you have access to on a daily basis, but necessity is the mother etc. so I’ve found — to my delight — that my celiacs has uncovered an absolute love of baking that I never knew I had! Never fear, I will successfully master the first GF croissant and it will be glorious ;D

    For myself, I realise that I don’t really miss the foods I can’t eat — I miss the memory of them. If I think objectively [hard to separate food from emotion, I know!] about a box of donuts, I realise that I don’t particularly want or need to eat one; what I am longing for is the memory of what a donut is, and the associated experiences and emotions linked to it’s fluffy goodness. Besides, just one thought of the horrific consequences of straying for even one little crumb is enough to squash any lingering lusts for gluten ;)

    A friend of mine is facing the reality of going GF and is somewhat devastated, confused and panicked. I sent her straight to you so that she could see that all hope is not lost, in fact, a much better life awaits. Now she is actually excited about the prospect! Just thought you should know, for those days when you wonder if it’s all worth it.

  16. theprofessor

    beautifully written, shauna! and love the pix.

    since going gluten-free, the decade-long ringing in my ears has stopped.

    i travel, too, so your tips are tops. half my suitcase on my trip to South Beach last week was gluten-free bars, nuts, teas and dried fruits.

    you’re doing such a great service for the g-free!

    1. Bruce

      Hi,
      I have tinnitus for 5 years now, I believe it started around the same time i began
      eating wheat bread toasted in the mornings for fiber content. I stopped eating the wheat
      bread for about 2 weeks but it didn’t help the ringing. How long do you think I need to
      go without the wheat bread to see if my ringing quiets or stops?

      Thank You

  17. Anonymous

    There are some bakeries that do gluten free cookies. One of my friends is allergic to wheat proteins, not gluten. She’s finding that the rise in celiac awareness has helped her need for yummy cookies. :)

  18. Dawn

    Shauna, that was a very informative and thoughtful post. I never even knew about celiac disease before I started coming here, and just the thought of it makes me sad! I love the strength, resolve and positive attitude that you exude when you talk about the condition. And you probably already know this, but I just recently was on Claim Jumper’s website and saw that they offer a gluten free menu.

  19. Mags

    Ugh. What I MEANT to say was, “I’ll be expecting to see a nice, well-written, and beautifully photographed blog post on your upcoming teff flatbread adventure.”

    Typos and HTML coding woes suck.

    :-D

  20. Sarafina

    Great post! Was diagnosed in January and your posts have been very helpful over this very short time. If you’d like GF info for Austin or San Antonio, let me know! :) If you write a book, you must let me know!!

  21. Shauna

    Renata:

    Thank you so much for your lovely comment. I adore hearing that this site is helping other people. Sometimes, I just feel like I’m sitting here typing, alone. But most of the time, I feel a joyful responsibility to all of you reading. Thanks for letting me know that it’s working. And yes, I agree with you: it’s the memory of the feelings we had while eating that gluten. Now, I’m just trying to create new emotional experiences.

    LisaSD–

    Thank you, my dear. I’m glad it hit something. I truly do think of that quote every day.

    theprofessor–

    Thank you! I love feeling like I’m helping people. If what I’m learning, by trial and error, can help others, then I’m thrilled. And that’s why I love the internet. We can all reach each other so easily.

    Anonymous–

    I’m glad that your friend is finding some help through our struggle. You know, I think the heightened awareness of celiac is going to help everyone. I’m going to make sure of it!

    Socalfoodie–

    Thank you for what you wrote. You know, I’m hardly ever sad anymore. As I wrote, it happens, and it’s fleeting. But mostly, I feel an enormous sense of health and opening. Food has never tasted so good. As for Claim Jumpers, I’ve never even heard of them! But thanks for the tip.

    Mags–

    Oh, don’t worry about typos. I’m thrilled to see you here. And after Thanksgiving, I’ll try that recipe!

    Sarafina–

    I’m so glad this is helping you. And I am planning a book. I’ll let you know when it happens!

  22. Joan

    Enjoyed reading your page. Found it while searching for GF food in the US. Travelling to California next week. I was diagnosed coeliac 3 years ago. I mirror your view that what appears to be a tragedy can become a blessing. Just think of all the supermarket products we never have to bother about again! All that time spent walking up and dpwn aisles!! Last summer I entered our local show and won 1st prize for my GF loaf. My husband says I can never complain again about GF food!

  23. Jennifer Rafferty

    Hi Shauna,
    I am glad you had good luck with Vietnamese food. I used to eat it religiously in the winter time when I lived in Boston because I lived in a neighborhood with so many Pho places.
    When I was diagnosed with gluten intolerance and I had reached the point of no return with feeling lousy, I stopped eating in restaurants. Before I moved from Boston, I went back to my favorite pho place and I thought I would be safe because they advertised the soup as a wholesome, healthy beef broth. This, I assumed, meant they did not use bouillon cubes. Unfortunately, about 5 minutes after eating the soup, I started to get that very uncomfortable gurgling in my stomach and a headache. Was it a bouillon cube? Or perhaps cross contamination with something else in the kitchen? I guess I will never know. What I do know is that I have lost my taste for pho. It’s kind of sad because I really did enjoy it.

  24. Anonymous

    I am gluten-intolerance and own a restaurant. One correction: not ALL Thai restaurants use Maggi as mine does not. I am Vietnamese so I use non-MSG, non-wheat fish sauce to cook most of my items. When a dish called for GF and vegetarian, I use San-J Tamari Wheat-free soy sauce. I don’t even use vinegar for tangy dishes. I cooked tamarine in water and extract the souring agent from there. It is much more expensive for us to do that but it is worth it as our dishes don’t make our customers sick. As far as Pho is concerned — EVERY PHO’s place uses MSG, Chicken cubes, beef cubes in their broth. I never believed a Pho’s place that says they don’t use MSG of some sort. I am allergic to MSG also so I don’t go out to Pho’s places anymore. I only eat Pho at my own restaurant as we do not have MSG, Chicken/beef cubes, wheat in our environment. I do say that without MSG, the Pho tastes a little ‘harsh’ — not as smooth. But at least it still taste very good and don’t make me sick.
    Love the blogs!

  25. Mamta

    Clarification Regarding Indian Food:
    Asafoetida in its trues state is in rock form and does not contain Gluten. However it is very difficult to use in that form. It is commonly found in powder form(wheat flour is added to make it free-flowing).
    Indian cooking uses Asafoetida (known as hing) in a lot of dishes (more in southern Indian cooking than northern).
    Pappadums (also known as paapad), sambhar, south indian curries and a lot of other dishes have asofoetida. Please ask the chef at the restaurant what dishes do not have asafoetida.
    Hope this helps.

  26. MIKE SCOTT

    I enjoyed reading your website as I have recently had to start a gluten free diet. I am not ‘a celiac’ but I suffer from fructose malabsorbtion which rules out wheat, all the onion family, apples, dried fruit, basically anything containing fruit sugars. Fortunately I can eat meat, fish, cheese eggs, rice and potatoes. Many of your suggestions include fruit as snacks and Asian food can be a nightmare. For me it is very plain food.

  27. Felicity

    Many fish sauces contain “anchovy extract” which I suspect contains wheat, but I don’t know for sure. I speculate that if it’s extracted with alcohol, the alcohol may have been made with wheat (and probably not triple distilled). In any case, I’ve had several reactions to dishes my mom made and restaurant pho.

    By the way, many pho restaurants use MSG, but I highly doubt all of them do. I’m fairly sensitive and think I can tell. Also, I’ve made pho that does not require MSG to lessen the “harsh” taste that Anonymous spoke of. The trick is to make the broth using a lot of beef meat and some chicken bones/meat in addition to beef bones. Also, a touch of sugar and good fish sauce will soften the “harshness.”

  28. Eric

    Trying to decide if a restaurant is safe or not based on a discussion with the waiter is like playing Russian roulette. It is a futile exercise, especially in ethnic restaurants because the waiters and the cooks typically are not fluent in English. Also, gluten is often hidden in places that the cooks can’t suspect (ie the Asafoetida spice (“hing”) in Indian food).

    The only solution is to popularize and promote the use of websites that offer reviews of specific restaurants, with comments from customers. If a chef uses gluten, it will eventually show up in the customer comments, and the restaurant’s reputation will suffer. This in turn will put pressure on restaurants to use good practices.

    One such site I found that looks promising is: http://www.glutenfreerestaurants.org/
    (it’s called the Gluten-Free Restaurant Awareness Program and it’s offered by the GIG group.
    GIG is the organization providing the gluten free certification on products via the GF logo (see http://www.gluten.net/ for more info on that).