When dining at home I really am spoilt for choice with what I can eat in comparison to when I’m travelling. Because I love to cook (and bake) and have access to all the gluten free recipes we have created at Goodness Me I am, on a daily basis, able to enjoy the same types of foods as my gluten consuming counterparts. So I don’t really feel like I “miss out” at all by being gluten free.
But the moment I step outside the house that changes. For a day trip or a road trip, if I am staying somewhere with at least a fridge and a microwave, I still manage to eat well as I can take food with me that makes meal times easier. But overseas travel, boy that’s when the reality of eating gluten free in a “normal food” world really hits me.
I am currently travelling down the west coast of America and I would love to say that finding gluten free food in cafes, restaurants and on trains (I am doing the Coastal Starlight trip from Seattle to Los Angeles stopping off at places of interest along the way) was easy, but I have sadly become disillusioned and disappointed. Only twice have I seen menus with dishes actually marked GF! I am surprised there have not been more. With the attention “the gluten free trend” gets in the media here I thought the hospitality industry would have caught on.
When asking waitstaff in restaurants if a dish is gluten free I have had the following, not really amusing, answers:
This dish looks gluten free but can you please check what’s in your sausages? “It’s just sausage, we have it made fresh for us” – as if that makes it gluten free!
What’s in your bacon? “I’m sure it’s just bacon”
What are the ingredient’s in your cream cheese? “It’s just cream cheese”
Just to complicate matters add to that my intolerance to soy and potatoes and the available options diminish considerably (soy and potato seem to be very common ingredients in gluten free products in America). Though I did notice that the range of options increases exponentially with the amount you are willing to spend per meal – asking a chef to create a dish made from the ingredients on the menu can be done if you want to pay for it! For me though being on a backpacker’s budget having to eat gluten free seems to be a recipe for a crash diet when travelling in America!
How have I managed food wise so far you might wonder?
Fortunately I can eat oats so I always carry instant oats/porridge sachets for breakfast. I make sure I stock up on plenty of snacks to carry during the day when out sightseeing, like dried fruit, nuts, Lara bars or similar, cheese sticks etc. Lunches are most often salads (lucky its almost summer) and for evening meals I alternate between eating lots of Mexican food which is readily available and cheap to spending way more than I would like on evening meals in restaurants often costing between USD$25-45 for a single meal.
It starts to dominate ones day having to begin reading menus, searching for and thinking about what options there are to eat a couple of hours before you actually want to eat, and frankly after a few weeks of travel this has become very tiring. I suppose I could resort to eating the same “safe” things day in and day out but I’m a foodie and I love have variety in my diet.
So I’m curious to hear from others who have travelled in America (or anywhere for that matter). How did you go about finding gluten free food to eat?