The old saying “When in Rome do as the Romans do” also applies to food. It can be frustrating to find gluten-free products when overseas. I wanted corn flour, but the main wording on the variety of flours looked like semolina. Once I learned that Italians call corn flour, or maize flour, corn starch, I could buy what I wanted. I had a great time buying groceries from a local supermarket. Much can be done with pointing, especially for fruit and vegetables. People with iPads and internet can manage translations. Fortunately a fellow customer obliged. No-one could understand when we wanted “Beer” but when the dictionary showed bottles and everyone’s faces smiled broadly I realized that the spelling is the same, but the pronunciation is quite different! When we wanted mince patties we saw meat being minced with no preservatives, and carefully pressed to hamburger shape. The very well cooked very crusty bread was sheer pleasure as well as being very well tolerated. Local cheeses were great quality, and the quince jam made by relations topped the meal off.
Managing a low chemical diet from food provided on planes is really impossible. My New Year’s resolution is going to be to go to airline websites and see what diet options are available. Singapore Air does have a “bland meal” option, which it describes as excluding “items that cause gastric irritation e.g. black pepper, chilli powder, cocoa and alcohol.” Qantas offer a “child’s meal” which it describes as “foods that are easily identified, ie, pasta, rice, boneless fish or poultry. No highly seasoned foods or rich sauces.”
Then there is finding food at restaurants or hotels in Europe. Before the trip I tested my tolerance of around two serves of dairy per day and one serve of wheat per day with the low chemical diet. On this site I usually write about what my patients report but here you will hear what mattered to me. Breakfast is usually a buffet with the usual options for breakfast. There is usually some potato cakes for those going wheat free, and all the egg varieties you could want, and good quality fruit. We found fish and chips for lunch, but asking for lettuce without dressing was impossible, and it took much effort on both sides to have a drink of plain hot water! Most people in Europe have enough English to manage money. Plain ice cream was easy with much pointing at the one we wanted. We found crusty bread and cheese and fruit for the other meal. I carried gluten-free biscuits and tolerated lollies.
On the cruise we used the buffet. Breakfast of rice cereal, milk and firm bananas were always on the menu. I tried plain rice with scrambled eggs. The soups were always good. They really tasted as if they had been made from scratch. Then I added lots of rice. This improved the over-dry rice and gave a way to keep the total kilojoules up. There was always a main meat such as a roast, and quite a variety of vegetables, especially French fries or a plain potato dish. Food dishes were named but even that was often a problem. The turkey and cashews sounded a good option until one bite revealed the curry also included!
Desserts were frustrating as there were quite a variety but they contained bright colours and flavours, excess dried fruit, exotic flavours or chocolate! So I made the most of plain pancakes with cream, occasional plain cheese cake, and once there was yummy creamed sago. All of this was topped with plain yoghurt or ice cream, with the usual fruit available: honey dew or watermelon, banana and pear, and pineapple, but it was too acidic.