Traveling with Celiac Disease without the suitcase full of food with the help of the NFCA's GREAT Kitchen training and a knowlegable gluten-free community.
I don’t know how many of you are like me but when I travel, I pack most of my food with me so that I know exactly what I am eating at all times. That usually means one suitcase full of food including my handy Magic Bullet for my morning gluten-free shake. But a few weeks ago, I was off to South Florida with the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) team and there was no room for all of my food. This made me a little nervous, but I knew that I could manage this trip because of all the additional knowledge I’ve gained from working with NFCA. Plus, everyone I would be meeting would be gluten-free, so how hard could it be?
The flight down wasn’t too bad since I had armed myself with ThinkThin bars (there’s always 2 in my bag) and bottled water. By the time I checked into the hotel, it was so late there was no need to eat. The next morning, I took another bar and water with me for breakfast and was off to visit a member of our Gluten-Free South Florida Group. We spent time talking and sharing our stories of diagnosis- guess who else travels with food? Isn’t it a great feeling when you realize you are not alone in your pursuit of gluten-free food and desire not to be cross-contaminated? It’s like a big hug from the world telling you it will all be okay.
Dinner worked out well that evening at Seasons 52, a restaurant that had a gluten-free menu. Even though they are a chain restaurant, I went with another member of the South Florida Gluten-Free Group who has eaten there many times and felt safe in her recommendation. Plus, I was starving!
The following day was literally a GREAT day. Alice Bast, NFCA’s Founder, was invited to speak at a country club in Gulfstream, Florida. They were trained by NFCA’s Gluten-Free Resource Education and Awareness Training (GREAT) Kitchens program, so the entire meal was gluten-free and I felt confident the chefs understood safe gluten-free food preparation. If any of you have heard Alice speak, you know that she is dynamic in her presentation and her passion for celiac and gluten-sensitivity radiates from her inner core. The crowd of more than 100 was in tune with gluten-free and more than half knew about celiac disease or are personally affected by this autoimmune disorder. They all had such amazing questions and were engaged throughout the evening. Most of the guests were also shocked at how delicious the gluten-free meal was and the flour-less chocolate torte was exquisite! It was so great to be surrounded by people who understood the need for safe (and tasty!) gluten-free food.
My final day, I visited with a doctor who has non-celiac gluten sensitivity. We met at his home where he made me a fabulous gluten-free grilled cheese on Udi’s bread. Oh, and truth- we split a gluten-free chocolate bar. After talking for three hours about all things gluten-free and NFCA, I had to go or I would have made myself at home for dinner.
Now what is it that I want you to take away from my trip south? I survived and thrived without a full suitcase of food. We have an amazing and inspirational community that I am fortunate to meet on my travels and in the Philadelphia region. All of you teach me something new in our conversations and emails. I leave tonight for overseas…with just 3 bags of gluten-free food. I’m not scared, I’m confident. But I wouldn’t be if I hadn’t found NFCA and the amazing gluten-free community. Thank you for giving me my wings back.