I just found out about a Really Big Deal. And a really big cake.
The 1 in 133 project aims to get the FDA to complete their assigned task of defining standards for gluten-free food labeling. These efforts will culminate with the Gluten Free Food Labeling Summit, in Washington, D.C. on May 4th, 2011. Most importantly, event sponsors intend to make the world’s largest gluten free cake. Count me in to help with the leftovers.
You. Can. Help.
How you ask?
- Donate some money. In increments of $11.33. Get it?
- Sign the petition.
- Send a letter to the FDA. This is really easy. 1 in 133 has set up the letter for you. All you have to do is fill out your information.
- Help increase awareness by putting a banner on your website or Facebook page. Or promote the project on Twitter.
So get busy and help the cause! There just may be some free cake in it for you.
Although it frequently grosses me out, I like watching Man vs. Wild on the Discovery Channel. It never ceases to amaze me how Bear Grylls is so incredibly resourceful, and more importantly, opportunistic. He’s always taking advantage of something he runs across at the moment, whether he needs it right then or not. Like water in the desert, food from just about anywhere, and shelter even in the most inconvenient of places. Bear is an opportunistic kind of guy.
I’ve learned similar skills, although mine are far less disgusting, about surviving with a strict gluten free diet while traveling. The key to survival is what I refer to as being opportunistic. When you spot food items that are known to be safe, scarf them up. It doesn’t matter if you’re hungry or not. It doesn’t matter whether the food is ‘time appropriate’ or not. If you pass a grocery store that has steamed rice in the deli, and it’s only 7am, grab it! Carpe diem and all that stuff.
Maybe if I share a typical day of being opportunistic from a recent road trip it will help illustrate my point…
- 6:45am – There’s a soda machine 20 feet down the hall from my hotel room. I know because I’ve heard it making noise all night long. Grab a Mountain Dew for now and a Doctor Pepper for later. Stuff the Doctor in my briefcase.
- 7:50am – Bananas on sale at the hotel coffee bar. Grab 2. Store in briefcase. They will age and rot in some sort of briefcase induced accelerated time warp. Later today, I will eat at least one of them regardless. Pick up a 4 shot Latte in case I am not able to find food for a week or so. The caffeine will keep me alive in almost any emergency scenario.
- 7:51am – Pass hotel gift shop and grab a Hershey bar. My briefcase is full of bananas so I have to eat it now. Really, I’m only eating it now because of the banana storage issue. And I need my vitamins.
- 8:05am – The hotel has a breakfast buffet with an omelet station. Made-to-order omelets are one of the safer gluten free restaurant options. I eat 2 bacon and cheese omelets with 19 slices of bacon. I don’t pig out like this because I like it – it’s just an obligation I have to eat opportunistically where and when I have the chance. It could be hours before I find other safe, gluten free food options, so I am filling up now.
- 12:15pm – Out to lunch with clients and co-workers. They choose a restaurant I’m not familiar with – Atlanta Bread Company. Apparently this place is in the business of poisoning Celiac’s or something. Being opportunistic, I order a Coke and get 7 refills. Oh, and I hurl insults at the kitchen. I feel much better after that.
- 1:15pm – Time to retrieve one of the bananas and the Doctor Pepper from my briefcase. The banana is already completely brown. I eat it anyway and am happy about it.
- 3:45pm – I pass out at the conference table. I have not had bacon in hours. My forehead has a semi-permanent imprint of my laptop keyboard.
- 5:55pm – Meetings for the day are over. I’m hungry. And anti-social. I stop at a grocery store on the way to the hotel and get food. By this time, it’s been almost 10 hours since I have had bacon. I am weak and barely able to walk. I stock up on medium sharp cheddar cheese, a package of Hormel Pepperoni, and a large bag of Kettle Fully Loaded Baked Potato chips. This is dinner.
- 10:20pm – I’m hungry. My briefcase still has a banana, but it appears to be growing a new form of penicillin. I pass on that. The hotel gift shop is closed, so no more Hershey bars. I suffer until I pass out from malnutrition.
See? Eating gluten free on the road is all about taking advantage of the opportunities that present themselves. And spare bananas. And bacon.
Go be opportunistic!
I want a doughnut.
But I can’t have one of course.
I’ll settle for rice.
I have celiac.
So Pop Tarts are off limits.
But I am still blessed.
Mike has an interesting post over at Switch2GlutenFree.com that has an even more interesting comment string. The original post is dated August 8th, 2009 but still has active comments going as of today.
Because it hits the nail on the head with respect to the extreme complexity of figuring out whether foods and beverages are, or are not, gluten free. As I wrote about recently, some of the big risks for us celiac and gluten intolerance sufferers are those blanket statements like “wine is gluten free!”
Let’s take a closer look at that one. Is wine in fact gluten free? First and foremost, never rely on blanket statements about a food or beverage category. “Wine” is not gluten free. “Most” wines are gluten free. Could someone make a wine that is not gluten free? Sure. I picked up a bottle of wine looking substance in a very wine-like bottle the other day. This particular one was called Verdi Spumante. Turns out it’s a malt beverage. Ummmm. NO!
OK, so it’s not really wine in the first place, but the point is, you never really know what someone is going to put in a product so you have to check every brand and every variety – every time.
Back to the point of this post. What’s interesting about the thread at Switch2GlutenFree.com are the comments from some users about some vintners using a flour-based paste to seal wooden barrels. Hmmm. I happen to be one of those celiac’s that is extremely sensitive, so if there is a trace of anything, anywhere nearby, I’ll get sick.
I know from my personal experience that I can drink wine and be fine 80-90% of the time. Sometimes I get sick though, and I’ve never been able to pin down the source. Could it be a wine-related gluten poisoning? Maybe. Could it be one of a hundred other things? Maybe.
What say you? Is it time to whine about wine?
Nothing breaks my heart more than to see things like this posted online…
“Chocolate is gluten free!”
“Rum is gluten free!”
“Oatmeal is gluten free!”
“Lunchmeat is gluten free!”
“Margaritas are gluten free!”
“Corn chips are gluten free!”
“Soy sauce is gluten free!”
“Potato chips are gluten free!”
And so on…
Blanket statements like that are kind of like saying “American Idol is full of awesome, face-melting singers!” Well, a few are, but most are not. It just depends on who it is.
I think about all the people out there just getting diagnosed with Celiac disease or some form of gluten intolerance seeing this type of advice and I just cringe, knowing that a whole lot of people are about to get sick and have no idea why.
Just like American Idol, there are all types of (fill in the blank of that broad category of foods that are supposedly gluten free here.) Yes, a lot of lunchmeat (for example) is in fact gluten free. A lot is not. The real answer of course depends on asking many questions:
- Who is the manufacturer?
- When was it made?
- Is there a chance of cross contamination?
- In the case of spirits and distilled things (I just love the ‘Rum is gluten free!” blanket statement) does the maker add any colorings or flavorings after distillation?
- Does the manufacturer even know if their ingredient suppliers use gluten?
- In the case of potato or corn chips, how are the made? Ever watched corn tortilla chips getting made in a Mexican restaurant? Rolled, pounded, and dusted with flour in many cases.
- And so on…
Be careful out there folks, let’s not make people more sick than they already are.
Is It Gluten Free?
___ I’m afraid to find out!
Update:I contacted Captain Morgans (Diageo Distributors) and inquired about the Parrot Bay Coconut Rum specifically. They promptly replied with the following:
Please be advised that Diageo products which have been distilled do not contain glutens or gluten residues. However, as this relates to a medical condition, may we suggest that you consult your own physician concerning the consumption of beverage alcohol products.
The Captain Morgan Parrot Bay Coconut Rum is a distilled product and it is gluten free. However, as this relates to a medical condition we recommend that you consult a physician before consuming the product.
I hate going to restaurants. Especially when I’m traveling on business.
There you are with a bunch of peers from the office, partners, or customers and you get to interrupt the order taking process with a 17 minute grilling of the server.
Are your steaks marinated?
What else do you cook on the grill?
Am I going to die if I eat here?
What else is on the plate? Onion straws, fried items, sauces, condensed gluten dust?
Do you have any reason to want to harm me?
How exactly are your mashed potatoes prepared?
Is any pan coating spray used in preparation?
Are your sauteed vegetables prepared with oil, real butter, or a plastic facsimile of butter?
What seasonings are added to grilled items?
Have you sterilized your hands since last handling bread?
And so on…
Meanwhile, your business associates have either fainted from malnutrition or quietly left via the back door to find another restaurant.
But sometimes I am pleasantly surprised. This evening for instance. My hotel in Salt Lake City is right across the street from a Romano’s Macaroni Grill. Yep, a pasta place. Brilliant Tom. Let’s go try to eat there without getting sick. Maybe for dessert I could hit an Atlanta Bread Company or something.
Anyway, as there were no other choices within easy walking distance, I poked my head in and asked if by chance they had a gluten free menu. And yes, I was embarrassed to ask this question at a pasta place.
As a matter of fact they do – and it’s very well done. Unlike many companies who are more concerned with writing endless disclaimers than useful information, Romano’s offered a factual, current, and quite useful gluten free menu. In fact, their web site offers a PDF guide that covers about 8 different food sensitivity categories. You can find it here.
To make a long story short, I ordered a great meal and felt quite safe doing it. Check this out:
Lightly sauteed spinach.
Roasted garlic cloves.
Fresh rosemary just for fun. And it smelled pretty.
I was impressed.
Kudo’s to Romano’s for doing a great job of communicating useful information about the food they serve and making it easy for us celiacs and other food sensitivity sufferers.
I’ll be back!