This past weekend I went away for the first time. Traveling is something I’ve been worried about since the beginning. Literally. One of my first thoughts after hearing I had celiac disease was, “Well, I guess there’s no point in ever going to Italy again!” This was sort of a test run for travel since I was going somewhere safe – my parents house. It was my niece’s 5th Birthday and I had to be there!
Pre-diagnosis, car-travel eating wasn’t usually the healthiest, typically involving a stop at a fast food restaurant and some gas station snacks along the way. Since I was driving by myself (a 6 hour drive) I knew I needed to plan ahead. The last thing I needed was to end up hungry, tired and foggy headed while driving alone. I prepped a cooler of food the night before leaving: chicken salad & lettuce wraps, sliced chicken breasts, veggies & hummus, berries, granola bars, corn chips. I was set! I stopped a few times along the way to snack and keep my energy up… I knew when I got home I was up for a challenge.
For my niece’s birthday my family was meeting at a local restaurant in our small home town that specializes in traditional Italian family meals. Growing up I didn’t even know there was a menu there, I thought they only served the one thing – the Special! The meal starts with buns and salad. Then platters of spaghetti and bowls of meatballs and sauce come out, served family style, and continues to come until you can eat no more. And when you think you can eat no more, they bring out platters of chicken and potatoes. It’s amazing. It’s my favorite. It’s jam-packed with gluten and 100% off limits in my life. So I knew, before I went inside, I better not be hungry. I pulled up outside the restaurant just in time and gobbled down some food before meeting up with my family inside. I enjoyed a glass of wine and talked with my now 5 year old niece, my grandma, and had one of my first conversations with my painfully shy 2.5 year old niece. I was distracted. I wasn’t hungry. And I didn’t even notice I was missing out. Ok. Maybe I pouted a little for a second over the meatball, but knowing how sick it would make me didn’t make me feel sad for long. I guess what I should have done was call ahead and ask if they could accommodate me at all, but knowing the restaurant and the experience of going to the restaurant, I just didn’t want to risk it. This will be the biggest challenge in traveling somewhere that’s not my parents, but I plan to find kitchenettes or at least a fridge so I can have some food around. But I will also research and call ahead to know I can safely eat.
Luckily, my dad has been going pretty much gluten free so there was lots of food to eat at home. Chicken breast and quinoa salad, steak, potatoes and veggies – and even a gluten-free Udi’s dinner roll which was surprisingly similar to the real thing. I hope to find them somewhere here – that’s the first time I’ve seen them.
Saturday was the Birthday party, with 15 loud, excited, sugar-filled children between the ages of 2.5 and “2 weeks away from 8”. Thank goodness it was only 2 hours cause it was exhausting, but SO amazing to be a part of. I have been getting sick and missing family events for years, so it was amazing to feel well enough and have the energy for a quick trip home for a 5-year-old’s Birthday party.
I knew again that I would need to be prepared. There isn’t a lot of gluten-free food at a children’s Birthday – that must be so hard for celiac children! But I packed my veggies, hummus and chicken slices. I ate a granola bar right before everyone came, and snacked on the veggies when the children were distracted enough to not need me for a minute or two. Haha! I knew having something quick and easy to eat would come in handy. I just kept sneaking back for more when I had a chance. But to be honest, I was paranoid. There was gluten EVERYWHERE! Cake crumbs seemed to be thrown around like confetti. Even the play-dough was made with wheat. I’m not skin-sensitive so I wasn’t too worried about playing with the play-dough, but I did wash my hands over and over as I went back and forth to my snacks. Everything turned out just fine and I’m sure I didn’t need to be that paranoid… but…. better safe then stopping at a gas station bathroom every half hour on my drive home.
Luckily I over-packed for my drive there so I had lots left for my drive home. Mom helped me re-fill a few items for good measure and I was on my way again. I know all trips won’t be this short or simple, but it gives me some ideas, skills and confidence to do it again. Cause this summer…. 2 weeks in the East Coast of Canada. Better start researching restaurants now. 😉