Coeliac disease is invisible to any onlooker, but affects those inflicted with the condition on a daily basis, and in manifold ways.
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The Culture of Yorkshire Pudding
Food is such an integral part of culture, and is often where thoughts turn when thinking of travel. Crepes from a street vendor in Paris, baklava in Turkey, scones in England, Naan in India, gumbo in New Orleans and bagels in New York are just some of things that come to mind when thinking of famous places. Each of these examples contain gluten, which of course is off limits to those with Celiac’s.
I developed a passion for traveling in my childhood. My granny was a young English girl swept off her feet during WWII at a civilian dance by an American soldier. She subsequently was flown to America on a Pan Am flight, to marry and create a family in the Deep South. My life was infused by a different time and culture along with the strong Southern roots of my north Florida upbringing. My Granny made traditional British dishes such as cottage pie, tarts, Yorkshire pudding, trifles....while the culture around me believed that everything was better coated in flour and egg and deep fried in oil. Fried chicken and cream gravy, fried fish, fried okra, and even fried Twinkies.
Celiac’s disease was not something well known as I was growing up. I was diagnosed with everything from growth delay to explain my small stature to lactose intolerance to explain my near constant nausea upon consuming food. It didn’t deter me though, as I was always ravenous by the time the nausea quelled down and would eat once again. I went through my entire life not really thinking about the fact I curled up in a fetal position after eating and that I was always bony thin because I had a high metabolism. I didn’t go gluten free until I turned 23, and the change was almost immediate, and life changing. I will always be small, but I have filled out and maintain my weight, not to mention I can really enjoy food now - an amazing thing to someone to whom eating had been more of a obstacle to overcome, than a pleasure!
However, instantly I was aware that I was cut off from the cultural connection I always felt with food. No more scones with fresh unsweetened cream to remind me of England and my Granny. No more fried chicken and cream gravy, a dish I loved as a child. No more Naan to subdue the spiciness of curry. The idea of traveling and not being able to consume the local fare saddened me, and I of course began to investigate alternatives. My love for travel and history is an inherent part of who I am and impacts every aspect of my life and has even led me to the incredible job I hold now that enables me to really immerse myself in all different sorts of cultures and cities around the world.
As the years went on I figured out the ways I could connect to culture through food and found traditional dishes that are naturally gluten free. In Nice, France I can get Socca, which is a savoury crepe made out of chick peas (my one saving grace as a Celiac is that I always preferred savoury over sweet and filling over bread) with a glass of rose. Most places in Great Britain do a gluten free fish and chips night (fish is traditionally battered in corn meal, not wheat flour), and according to the British Coeliac Association malt vinegar is something that can be consumed. It was a taste I craved when I first went gluten free and wrote it off as a never again due to it being made of barley. For my trip to New Orleans I found a traditional favourite restaurant, where all the seafood is GF. Even when I go to Istanbul and Prague this winter I know where I can find Turkish delights (not to mention Turkish coffee...yum) and a completely gluten free restaurant in Prague.
It is also even easier to enjoy traditional gluten free meals at home. I nannied for a family last year that was part Vietnamese and part Indian. Both her Nani and Ba (maternal and paternal grandmothers) made incredible dishes like chicken vindaloos and rice noodle soups that just happened to gluten free. I found a great recipe for GF scones (which I have tweaked further and made them vegan for one of my friends) and on Christmas my mum makes me a gluten free Yorkshire Pudding, roast and gravy. She also makes me fish and chips and always goes out of her way to make sure I can have something to eat.
Experiencing the culture of food while traveling just takes a bit of research. I just have to remember how great it is to be healthy and that I can truly enjoy traveling.
Foto: wonderyort, 2010
This post was written by Megan
Megan (25) lives in Jacksonville Florida. She has been gluten free for 2 years. <3: Travelling, her job, pets, great GF food, family and friends.
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