Monday, January 19, 2009

Traveling with Celiac Disease – part 1

Yeah, that's red meat

Quincy hid her worrying about me well. I don’t really worry. I probably should have, and I appreciate that she did.

My plane flight, my first since being diagnosed with celiac disease, was a nonevent thanks to two Think Thin protein bars, a bag of Rice Chex, and four homemade gluten-free M&M cookies. All of that was Q’s idea. Well played.

My first 36 hours in NYC were to be dictated by the ebb and flow of classic hotel conference – 72 degrees and fluorescent and coffee that had me pining for NesCafé. My only escape was my first dinner. But, I arrived at the hotel at 10pm, so my options were limited by how far I could get in 15 minutes. I walked down the street to an Italian place that had a Risotto special.

The Risotto was good, but I didn’t expect muscles around it. The salmon in it, certainly Atlantic, tasted an awful lot like chicken and had a texture similar to balsa wood. Still, the meal was huge, nourishing, and I didn’t have to explain anything since Risotto is nearly always safe. I burned my tongue on the first bite, thank goodness.

After that, I was at the mercy of the event planner’s communication with the hotel kitchen staff. She took up the task vigilantly, finding me before every meal and making sure there was something for me. At breakfast I had some fruit (all the hot food and pastries were off limits) and coffee. At snack time, I had fruit (all the desserts and bagged munchies were unsafe) and coffee. At the buffet lunch the first day I had a dry salad, a shrimp salad (questionable) and raw veggies. And coffee. At lunch the second day, I fared very well with potatoes, a safe shrimp salad, and mozzarella/tomato salad. I ate three full plates. And a cup of coffee.

For the one dinner, which by all accounts was a dreadful arrangement of cafeteria food supplemented with fantastic conversation, I was served a medium-rare steak and steamed vegetables. Obviously, something went wrong. But, I played it cool and tried to eat a little of the cow. Yeah, not so much. The woman sitting next to me was amused. I couldn’t have the dessert, though I was offered fruit after everyone was done. I took the coffee instead. We headed over to a Scotch bar across the street and sampled a few different Scotches until 2am. I ate every gluten-free item in the minibar when I returned (one can of mixed nuts).

I ate, in total, seven Think Thin bars on this three and a half day trip. Fortunately, the pain I endured at the conference was repaid with a treat, a surprise, and a surprise treat.

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