Thursday, June 28, 2007

Ireland Gluten Free Travel - There and Back Again

This post is going to be very different than I thought it was going to be. I thought I would have all sorts of product information, restaurant suggestions, and just tons of information for the future celiac traveler to Ireland. I do have some great information for the celiac traveler, just not in the format I expected.

Before I went on the trip, I did the research, joined the Irish Celiac Society web group, got the list of accommodating restaurants, and even did web searches for reviews of the products available there. (I still have all these lists, so if perchance you need/want them, drop me a line.) I requested the gluten free meal on the airplane, and was ready to go.

We stayed in the Tralee area with my wonderful in-laws, so we did have a kitchen, and Mom did purchase some gluten free staples with the help of a friendly Irish gluten-free eater. And the meals we had at the cottage were gluten free, so those were all taken care of.

Ireland is what you hear about, almost everyone has heard of celiac disease, although they may need a quick refresher on the details. (I will include here that I am somewhat sensitive, I feel completely hung over if I get "glutened", and it doesn't seem to take much for that to happen, and I never had that while I was in Ireland, so all seemed to work out very well.)

I learned some things on this trip.

I have found that having celiac, and needing "special" attention bothers me. I don't like having to ask my friends and family to do things differently for me, yet I really don't like going to a party/gathering and not fully participating. I hate being out in the world and not feeling free to walk in any restaurant and order off the menu and just relax about the food. Feeling the constant need to watch out for myself, browsing the menu and seeing if the restaurant will be good for my children, and me. Losing that feeling of flexibility with travel.

So, what to do?

I found my answer in something that happened one day in Tralee. The children were hungry, and so were my husband and I. We checked the restaurant list from the Irish Celiac Society. Both were closed, not permanently, just for that day.

I looked around a little desperately, feeling the loss of control, and wondering what to do. we wandered a couple of blocks, looked at menus, nothing promising. I remembered us walking past a 'pizzeria'; I knew I couldn't eat there, but looking at my hungry children, I said,"Let's go there. I won't eat. I'll just get coffee." My husband looked surprised, but we went.

As he took the children to the bathroom, I looked at the menu to order for the children, and I was surprised to see steaks on there. I questioned the waitress. The food was ordered. The food came. The young ones had chicken and chips. Navy Boy had the odd combination of pizza and a baked potato. And I had my favorite meal out in Ireland in this little diner-like restaurant with simple food.

A steak with garlic butter and a half plate full of yummy sauteed mushrooms and onions, with a crispy baked potato in the side. I ate every bite, and enjoyed it thoroughly.

What did I learn? Be. Flexible. In the truest sense of the word.

I am convinced that you can go in almost anywhere in Ireland and have something to eat. It may not be what you want to eat, but you will eat. I was always able to get chicken on top of a salad. And that was at the "recommended" restaurants. Either way, you will eat.

And for me?

Flexibility. And adventure.

Now, some things I would recommend.

In Dingle - Murphy's. It's an ice cream/coffee place. They had a gluten free chocolate cake to have with your coffee. Only place I had a great dessert. Somewhat expensive, but worth it!!

Tralee - Allegro Pizzeria. Great pan fried steak. ;)

The cider in Ireland is gluten free, and usually on tap. Go into a pub, order one, and blend right in. Sean Og's in Tralee was pretty cool with live music every night.


Karina Allrich said...

How fabulous - Ireland! Lucky you. So glad you had a great trip.

I so relate to your emotion surrounding the whole *special/different* aspect of celiac disease. I loathe calling any attention to myself in that way. Ugh.

Even after five and a half years of adjusting to its limitations [especially on the road - away from the safety of your own kitchen] I still get a bit anxious about food. And I miss the spontaneity of trying a new restaurant on the spur of the moment.

You are right - flexibility is good.

I'm working on that, too.



Slacker Mom (aka Mrs. GF) said...

Karina, great to know that other people feel the same way...stinks that it never "goes" away though. :)

Freedom within constraints.

Is it actually possible?

Natalie said...

Ireland is on my list for sure. It sounds fabulous! I also hate feeling "high maintenance." It is the worst thing about the disease. There are conditions you can hide, but celiac is not one of them!

Slacker Mom (aka Mrs. GF) said...

Natalie - I know..and one of these days you have to write up what it is like to be celiac and pregnant for those of us who haven't done it. :)

Karen said...

Ugggh, I can totally relate- I hate having to explain my diet a zillion times and other people making a big deal of what I can/can't eat. I am glad you still enjoyed yout trip though, yay!

Allergic Girl said...

glad you learned an invaluable lesson in ireland and im sure it will translate well once back home.

coming from one with life long food allergies and a lifetime of "no, i cant eat that, not even a little thank you" i hear your frustration. on the rare occaision when dining with friends at a restaurant not of my choosing and impossibly difficult like thai cusine, i will forfeit the dinner and eat before i go. but that is rare.

most often [esp now as i eat meat but even as a lacto-ovo veg] i've always been able to find something. and very often the dish that the kitchen "creates' for me is the evny of my companions.

case in point, at my cousins wedding, baked stuffed fish was the only entree. i had called ahead [as im allergic to fish] and spoken with the caterer and out came steak with baked potato just for me! every single person at my table said "how did you get that?" and ordered an "allergic girl special" for themselves.

Slacker Mom (aka Mrs. GF) said...

Karen - Thanks for commenting..and understanding. It is so great to have people know what you are talking about, how you feel. Makes me not feel alone in this. :)

Allergic Girl - You are right, the lesson did translate well back home. I went to Boston with my family and without a plan...and still ate great. I was too..scared, controlling..I don't know the right term, before. It was casual and relaxed. First time going out and about without fixating on it.

(I never thought Thai food would be difficult..go figure, huh?)

Great idea about calling ahead to caterers, I wouldn't have thought about doing that...steak rocks. That baked stuffed fish..yuck! :)

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