While preparing for my current trip to Albuquerque I researched a list of restaurants that offered gluten-free options on their menus. I found one restaurant that was 100% gluten-free, and a couple that were GIG Certified (Certified by the Gluten Intolerance Group for safe practices). Excitedly, I printed out the list to take with me…”I’ll have a rental car so the distance from the hotel won’t be an issue” I thought to myself.
Up at 4:00am the morning of my flight, and knowing full well that airport food is deadly, I snatched a banana, my baggie of non-salted mixed nuts and a bag of pre-prepped fresh veggies from the fridg and away I went! Upon checking in at the Southwest Air curbside station the attendant politely pointed out that my license had expired. “You’ve got to be kidding me!” was my response. He said, “well there won’t be a problem with you flying.” Having gotten only an hour of sleep, the implication of an expired license didn’t occur to me until I got to the Enterprise Car Rental desk where I had reserved a full-size car for the week at an amazing rate of $169.00. After being refused a rental car by the person on duty, and their manager, I took the shuttle back to the airport then took a taxi to the hotel. The cost was $35.00. YIKES! day one of 8 Days$$$
My room at the Sheraton had a refrigerator and my plan was to take the rental car to Trader Joe’s and get some gluten-free options…ha! Now what? Day one I dined with my grandson at Bravo, an Italian restaurant in Uptown Albuquerque just a few blocks from the hotel. The gluten-free pasta was delicious but about an hour later I felt like I had eaten a whole shaker of salt! Is it any wonder Americans have an epidemic of high blood pressure and strokes? But that’s another topic for a different day.
By the fourth day of my stay I was determined to find a good gluten-free breakfast place. LaPeep sounds like a winner. I get directions from the Concierge at the hotel and head out on foot for the .75 mile trek. My waitress was a pleasant young lady who immediately brought me a GF menu. Noticing that the plantation potatoes had an asterik with a side note that they could be replaced with fruit, I asked her
if there was a cross-contamination issue with the potatoes, “are they prepared in the same fryer or on the same griddle where anything with gluten might be prepared?” “Oh no” she replied, “They are completely separate and in a big bin…they just scoop them out and there might be just a little in there but we have other people who are gluten free that order them all the time”. To which I reponded, “But not everyone who orders gluten-free is Celiac.” She shot back, “yes, but even if there’s just a little in there it won’t be a problem…we have people who order them all the time off the GF menu“.
Diagnosed Celiac in 2010, I’ve had six years to perfect what I can put in (and on) my body and what to stay away from. Whether the food itself is gluten-free, even the slightest cross-contamination causes an severe intestinal, respiratory and cardiopulmonary reaction within 30 minutes, along with an inflammation response which attacks my thyroid and heart muscle. Additionally, within 10-12 hours itchy blisters begin popping out on my skin. Not all Celiacs have both the intestinal and skin manifestation but for those who do, it is common for them to suffer for months until the gluten proteins work their way out of our bodies.
So I politely thanked my waitress and let her know that the potatoes won’t work for me…I can’t take any chances. She insists, “but really, there’s only a little bit and I’m sure it won’t…”
Frustrated, I interrupted her, “Please stop…you are not listening to me…I cannot take the chance and trust me, it IS a problem for anyone with Celiac”. The manager happened to be at the table behind us and immediately stepped in to warn me NOT to order the potatoes because they are definitely cross-contaminated (and golly gee… that’s why the notation is on the menu). The manager quickly escorted the waitress to the kitchen where I’m sure he explained how to deal with this type of situation in the future.
But there was a happy ending …in the form of an absolutely mouth-watering, fluffy gluten-free Belgium waffle with strawberries and whipped cream! I added a egg over-easy for protein and was a happy camper.
To wrap it up for this post, here are a few tips:
1.) Celiac or not, at least 3 weeks before traveling always check to be sure your driver’s license has not expired!!
2.) Celiacs must be diligent in probing and asking questions when dining out, as this is an auto-immune, not an allergy. Gluten presents as a foreign object and the body begins to attack itself. Because the body cannot process the gluten proteins, it sometimes takes months for the body to expel them, and until such time the health of the person can be heavily compromised.
3.) In the world of a Celiac “just a little” gluten equates to “just a little” arsenic….it’s truly poison and it doesn’t take much.
Thanks for taking the time to read my blog and if anything you’ve read helps just one person it was worth my precious vacation time to sit down and put it in writing!