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03 June 2013

The Ups and Downs of a Celiac Newbie

This weekend was truly a test. It was my first gluten-free weekend, immediately following the sad news on Thursday evening. It's certainly a challenge when you have to really think about the kind of food you eat not just because you are calorie counting but because what you eat can make you sick. I've been blessed all my life to not have to think about such things when I eat having it in the forefront of my brain every time food passes my lips is a huge adjustment. I didn't really realize how hard this was going to be and how much more I need to prepare and plan ahead. This weekend had a lot of ups and downs and certainly taught me a lot about dealing with this whole situation.

The Ups - 

Friday's school day wasn't as hard as I thought it would be, and JD and I planned to go out to Cowfish for dinner on Friday night. I was excited since we had been wanting to try it out for quite some time now.

When we got there, I was discouraged by the menu. Had I not been gluten-free, I would have eaten myself into a stupor. So many tasty options!! I was seriously almost ready to cry thinking about how limited my options were. JD was really supportive and sweet, but I was still struggling with the adjustment. The waitress kindly pointed me to their Gluten Sensitive options of which there were about 8. Of those 8, at least two included lamb as a central ingredient and I cannot bring myself to eat baby animals. Thankfully I could order my own sushi which proved to be quite tasty. Our waitress was wonderfully kind and understanding.

After our meal, we ordered milkshakes to go. They had about four gluten-free options, and I ordered one of those -- the Grasshopper (mint and chocolate ... yum!). We waited for a few minutes and JD's came out of the kitchen but not mine. The waitress wasn't sure what happened, so she went back into the kitchen to get mine made up again quickly. One of the managers brought it out to us, apologizing like crazy for the wait (which was all of five minutes) and gave us a $5 off coupon for our next visit. Neither JD nor I were upset about the wait, but the staff's attentiveness was nice.

As we walked out of the restaurant, I tasted my milkshake and there was no mint whatsoever. I asked JD to taste it as well to make sure I wasn't going crazy. Nope. No mint. Then I got worried that it wasn't gluten-free. It tasted fine, but I wasn't sure if it was a gluten-free option or not. JD, again being super supportive and kind, went back to the restaurant with me to ask. Of course by now they are slammed busy on a Friday night, and there are a million people around. I approached the manager and explained the situation, reassuring him that I was happy with the milkshake as long as it was gluten-free. I just didn't know what flavor they had made for me. He ran off to the kitchen and returned a few minutes later with another milkshake. He reassured me that the one I had received originally was the right flavor just without the mint and then gave me a coupon for a free appetizer. Again, we were totally impressed with their service. Even though their gluten-free options were limited, we will definitely be heading back in the future.

I can honestly say that asking for gluten-free made me feel uncomfortable and awkward. I feel like I'm trying to be difficult whenever I even mention it. No one has made me feel this way, but I personally don't like the feeling of asking for special treatment ... even if it's something my body needs. Hopefully I'll adjust and it won't feel so weird in the future, but, right now, I hate even mentioning it.

The Downs - 

We left Saturday morning EARLY to drive to Yadkinville with a few friends. There was a large field archery tournament that JD and his two friends -- a married couple -- were shooting it. Since JD and I have never spent a single night away from the dogs, we decided to make a weekend of it. And it prevented me from having to spend the whole weekend alone. And, given the fact that I love this couple and I'm starting to get into archery, I thought it would be fun. I knew that the whole gluten-free thing would be a challenge but I wasn't prepared for how much of one.

As we've done in the past, we stopped at Cracker Barrel for breakfast. I knew in advance that my options there would be limited. But, honestly, any breakfast place is going to be a challenge. I managed to find plain oatmeal with a little brown sugar and some raw pecans with a side of plain hash browns. Seriously, everything on their menu is full of gluten.

For lunch, it was cook out food at the archery range. I expected that. I didn't expect no fruit of any kind. Burgers, hot dogs, buns, coleslaw, chips, cookies. That's it. It was a struggle. I conceded and had a hot dog with ketchup and a few plain potato chips. It was a little rough.

When it came time for dinner, everyone wanted barbecue and I didn't want to be the difficult one. I don't love barbecue and I wasn't sure about the gluten-free options, but it's important for me to make sure that no one treats me special because I can't eat like a normal person. I know some people would just think I'm being difficult because I've thought this in the past as well. All of our friends were real supportive and offered to go somewhere else, but I told them that barbecue was fine because that's what the majority wanted. And I've got to learn to make accommodations no matter where I am. So we went and I had chicken with mashed potatoes and corn. Sadly, the mashed potatoes were instant, so I didn't eat them, not being sure if they had gluten in them or not.

Breakfast in Yadkinville was an adventure. Every small podunk town I've ever been to has had that little diner where all the old timers hang out and drink their coffee. Well, not in Yadkinville. There was one breakfast place in that little town. And it was Bonjangles. I knew immediately that that was going to be a no-go. Thankfully there was a Food Lion next door so I grabbed some juice and a banana and a yogurt. And some pistachios as a snack later. I knew lunch would be rough again, so I wanted to be relatively prepared.

Lunch was the same as the previous, and at that point I decided that we were definitely stopping for Mexican food for dinner. Mexican is one of my most favorite things to eat -- it's pretty much comfort food -- and, thankfully, most Mexican food is corn-based. They don't regularly use flour, so most options are okay for me. Unless a gluten allergy is so sensitive that you are worried about cross-contamination (which I'm only worried about for the next two weeks), Mexican is a great option. So, after two days of no fun food, I finally got to gorge myself on a very tasty meal. And it was certainly worth it.

This whole gluten-free thing will certainly be an adventure, and I've definitely learned a lot this weekend. Most importantly, I've learned that I need to be better prepared for my days. At the advice of a good friend who is also gluten-free, I'm going to start having hearty but gluten-free snacks available all the time. Apparently, oatmeal is a good go-to option when traveling because it is filling and yet gluten-free. And pretty much every place you go has hot water to make it. So I need to start thinking ahead more and considering where I'll be and what I'll be doing. And this too is a big change from just eating what I want when I want.

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