Now that summer is over and the kids are back in school, it's time to get back to the regular routine while daydreaming of summer vacations. My friend Tina recently shared the story of her family and their ability to take a long-awaited cross-country family vacation. It's wonderful that they were able to achieve this dream, and a definite testament to how much advance preparation they had to do to be able to make this trip a reality.
Traveling gluten-free and dairy-free definitely changes what you do and how you do it. Our family has dreamed of a cross-country trip for years. Those dreams were challenged by the fact that my husband is very sensitive to gluten and dairy... even a crumb or drop can leave him with asthma and GI problems for weeks. We decided that the best way to travel would be to take our kitchen with us and do most of our own cooking. With the help of a friend who lent us their RV we were able to do finally make our dream come true and take this trip.
Starting from CT, going across the northern states, down California, then returning via the southern states and up the eastern coast it was a wonderful adventure. We were so happy our dream could become a reality and we had a great time. However we definitely had to consider how we would feed my gluten and dairy-free husband along the way.
Carefully considering our menus we pre-stocked the kitchen with gluten and dairy-free staples we knew we could have a hard time finding on our travels across the country. Not every area of the country offers a wide range of dietary choices and not every store has things like:
gluten-free bread crumbs
dairy-free buttery spread
gluten-free chicken broths
gluten-free, dairy-free cold cuts
gluten-dairy free brownie mix
gluten-dairy free cake mix (we had some birthdays to celebrate along the way)
corned beef without anything added in (in the midwest a lot of stores only sold corned beef with everything already added in and we couldn't trust it)
Our dinner meals were usually a meat (chicken, steak, pork, burger), sometimes breaded with veggies or a stir-fry with brown rice.
One family favorite is a breakfast that we usually have in the winter before spending the day snowmobiling out in the cold. It's tasty, filling, and an easy on-the-road breakfast.
The Berge's Hash and Eggs
Can of corned beef (plain, no potatoes added)
4 potatoes (or as many as you feel is adequate for the # of people you have), diced
3-4 T. olive oil
1 onion, diced
ground pepper, to taste
onion powder (optional)
eggs (1 or 2 per person)
Put the onion in a frying pan with a 1 T. oil until softened.
Add the potatoes, more oil if needed, and cook until potatoes start getting soft.
Add the corned beef and brown it all (no need to add salt since the corned beef has it already)
Season with pepper and more onion powder if needed
When the hash is browned remove from the pan and set aside
Cook the eggs (we like sunny side up)
Place eggs on top of the hash and serve
It's so delicious and for lunch you can get by with just a piece of fruit and some nuts or other light meal... works great when you're travelling around for the day.
My husband's diet influenced us in other ways as well. We ate "out" at a restaurant only twice during the five weeks we were on the road. Before being seated we would ask our server lots of questions about whether they could accomodate us; if they said they could, we would try it. However there was always that feeling of playing "Russian Roulette" with his GI system since you're never really "sure" that the chef and wait person "get it."
While we were on the road we would seek out health food stores and would be in heaven if we found a gluten-free bakery or somewhere with treats (we were on vacation after all!). We were surprised to find that out west people do not know what italian ices are. There's a market to be tapped there, for sure!
We talked a lot about how it would be great if there were some quick, healthy drive-thru type places where gluten and dairy free people could find food. Unfortunately it doesn't exist, even the salads are usually tainted with croutons and/or cheese. It was eye opening how much harder it is to travel when you don't fit into the majority.
Travelling with food allergies can be a great experience if you plan ahead on how to find or make foods that work. Yes, it would be nice to be able to eat out a little more often while on vacation (food is half the fun of vacation!) but we were able to manage. The good news is that the States seem to be getting more aware of food allergies and it is definitely easier to find gluten-free and dairy-free foods than it was 10 years ago.
photo courtesy of: Bill Ward's Brickpile