Tag Archives: Travel Writing

How Can Restaurants Best Offer Gluten-free Food?

It’s so hard to travel–whether for business or pleasure–when you have celiac and have to be completely gluten free. The gardener has a pretty bad case of celiac, so he has to be vigilant. Unfortunately, travel and being vigilant don’t mix very well.

A lot of people comment to me that it’s so easy to find gluten free in restaurants today. Well, it’s easy to find restaurants that say they offer gluten free options. But are they really gluten free? Judging by how the gardener reacts, many times they are not.

Then I found an article in the newest issue of Gluten-Free Living called “One-third of labeled gluten-free restaurant food contains gluten” by Van Waffle. (Yup, that’s the byline!)

The title kind of gives away the gist of the article. SO DEPRESSING. And I am so not surprised. Time and again, we have to correct servers about items on the menu. An entree labeled gluten free, but made with regular soy sauce. GONG. Chicken noodle soup listed as gluten free. GONG. French fries made in a fryer that cooks glutenous food. GONG. It goes on and on. Then they lie, too.

The other day I picked up burgers and fries at our favorite local place that has a dedicated fryer, meaning it only fries gluten-free food in it. As usual, the gardener’s burger and fries were in a box. I opened it and looked at it. The lettuce, onion, and tomato were missing. When they gave it to me I said, “This is gluten free, for sure?” Oh yes, yes. Actually I asked two different people! But I had a funny feeling. Our burger place is a brewery, and it’s dark by the bar where you pick up take-out.

When I got to the car I noticed that the box did not say GF on it as it usually did. So I went back in. This time I was very insistent, and the woman who checked it said it wasn’t gluten free. They would make a new one. “They can’t just take it off that bun and put it on another one, you know.” She knew that.

While I waited I wondered why I had given them a nice tip. Three different people had “helped” me, and nobody seemed to care if my husband got sick from their food or not.

What we are doing wrong, for the most part, with gluten free food in restaurants is not taking precautions starting from the menu planning and kitchen design.

One of the places we traveled to this summer was Quebec. There were three restaurants with distinctive ways of handling the situation. As a side note, this issue of Gluten-Free Living has an article about GF food in Quebec!

  1. Ottavio in Gatineau is a very casual Italian restaurant. They don’t serve alcohol, so we picked up some wine at the gas station across the street. The wine was good! but I digress. Ottavio has two separate kitchens–one for gluten and one for no gluten. They also serve the gluten free food on red dishes (P.F. Chang’s also uses separate plates which has got to be so helpful to servers and makes the diner feel more secure).  The food was good, and the gardener did not get sick.
  2. Arepera in Montreal is an extremely casual Venezuelan restaurant that is gluten-free! The food was good, and there was no stress at all. The gardener can’t eat beans either (just one of many food intolerances that have developed as part of celiac disease), but there was plenty of food to eat.
  3. Bistro Le Veravin in Quebec City is supposedly 99% gluten-free. Personally, I think they ought to be 100% because it would make it easier, and I am guessing it is more like 90% gluten free. But the food was delicious, and the gardener did not get sick. He had a wonderful selection of food to choose from. I had the poutine au canard (duck confit poutine) because poutine you see.

So separate kitchens is a wonderful idea for providing gluten-free food for diners. But being 100% gluten free is the best because then the celiac can totally relax and enjoy instead of paying attention to everything so that a mistake doesn’t happen.

Back to poutine: this was a breakfast poutine in Ontario. Wowsa. So good. Sadly, not gluten-free.

Next week we are going to try a gluten-free restaurant that is a little closer to home. Fingers crossed!

Our gas station wine–tasty and gluten-free!

 

 

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Filed under #writerlife, #writerslife, Food & Drink, gluten free, gluten free restaurant, gluten free travel, Sightseeing & Travel, Writing

The End of the River

When I taught children’s lit at the university, I often included a Newbery Honor Book on my book list called To Be a Slave, edited by Julius Lester. The bulk of the material is from stories collected during the Great Depression through the Federal Writers’ Project, part of the Works Progress Administration set up by FDR. These stories were told by ex-slaves about their experiences under American slavery. Of course, by the time they told their stories, it had been decades since the end of slavery, so most of the storytellers had been children during the days of slavery. While the book is aimed at middle school kids, it’s really a book for adults, too. It can be read in brief readings, like poetry, because it is arranged by theme in little anecdotes or partial stories.

In New Orleans we went on a plantation tour, but it wasn’t the typical tour where the focus is on the lives of the plantation owners. Rather, the Whitney Plantation explores the lives of the enslaved. Our guide was very careful to use the word “enslaved” rather than slaves, and while it was sometimes slightly awkward, I really liked how it made us concentrate every time we heard it on the notion of PEOPLE who were enslaved. It doesn’t allow for the distancing that some people might feel using the word slaves, which is an “othering” word–a way to be different from the person being talked about.

New Orleans is important to the history of American slavery. It’s the end point for enslaved people whose situations went from bad to worse. When an enslaved person was sold from an enslaver who lived closer to the Mason-Dixon line, but sold farther south down the Mississippi River it meant that he or she would be worked harder and live in more dangerous conditions. New Orleans had the biggest slave market, so many enslaved people ended up at that market. The swamps and bayous of the area meant disease and more back-breaking work, namely growing and harvesting sugar cane.

Whitney Plantation is really just beginning to record and share the plight of the enslaved people of the south. There is much more work to be done. But I loved how they focused on the children because of the voices of the FWP/WPA storytellers. By the way, the bookstore has a great collection, including the Lester book. 

After the church with the children (sculptures), we toured the property.

 

Whitney has memorials that list the names of the enslaved, as well as a particular memorial for the babies who died by age two, which was very very sad. This is a sample of a memorial wall for the adults.

The main house was almost an afterthought after seeing some of the outbuildings, the kettles for harvesting sugarcane, and reading the memorials.

Wherever we travel, there are big beautiful houses to tour, and although this one was plainer than many, the emphasis here is long overdue. It’s a place to learn about the lives of the people who were bought and sold in order to work these plantations.

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Today would have been my father’s 88th birthday, and it is my uncle’s 88th birthday (Dad’s twin). A week and a half ago, my aunt on my mom’s side (her SIL) entered the ER on the two-year anniversary of the day my father entered (that began his health decline). She was diagnosed with an acute form of leukemia and has already entered hospice. Our family is in shock over this as we didn’t know she was ill. If you’re so inclined, please send up your prayers for Aunt Jean.

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Filed under Children's Literature, History, Nonfiction, Sightseeing & Travel, Writing