Do a Lot With a Little

Allergen-free eating on the road, europe, family, food, France, geek, Ireland, italy, Travel, United Kingdom

I have never had what I would consider a lot of money or resources. I grew up in my grandparent’s house. My family lived below the poverty line. Since moving out of my childhood home I have been in school and/or working in jobs that don’t pay more than $34,000 a year. I sometimes do some work as a photographer or web designer to make ends meet. It has never been a lot. I have never had excessive means.

However, even with a little, I make it stretch. I take the advantages that have been given to me and make it work. This is, of course, been an immense lot of luck, and stubbornness, and sacrifice. However, it has meant that I have been able to do more than many at 27.

For my first trip to Europe, I lived at home and worked almost seven days a week for $8 an hour, at a crappy little fossil shop with sketchy owners. I did that for eight months, and then cheaply wandered around Europe crashing with friends, old and new, and hosteling when I needed to. I ate apples for lunch, and cooked in dingy kitchens to save cash. I walked instead of taking taxis and buses. I made it work. I took the advantages of free places to sleep and turned it into a longer trip, another museum, a nice meal.

In 2013 on my study abroad I headed to Italy on the most economical program I could find. I ate at the apartment for the most part, picking up in season produce at the markets. Savoring every sweet little strawberry and succulent squash. I bought $2 gelato on my way to classes for my “lunch” and euro store (same as a dollar store) nuts for a snack. I would scour the city for food deals on dinners. €15 three-course meals meant I could eat and drink on the cheap, street vendors served €2 polenta for a real treat. I bartered to cut down on souvenir costs. I stubbornly walked away to save another €5. I took advantage of every meal and treat that the study abroad program offered, knowing it would save me money.

2015 was the start of my M.A. and I hosteled, while others stayed in hotels. I packed lunch or ate cheap soup in the cantina at the college instead of eating a sandwich nearby. I traded books at the hostel and did my laundry in the basement. In an extra three weeks of travel I only stayed three nights in a real hotel, a 3-star Ibis. I was gifted gluten free bread from a fabulous bakery in Dublin. I bought few souvenirs and savored toast and tea and packets of oatmeal.

Don’t get me wrong, I love food. I LOVE food. However, I love seeing the world more. I love diving into museums and cathedrals and tours. I love eating cheap food that locals love, from chippies and markets, and food stalls. I like finding fresh veggies and fruits to suck down locally. I like fancy things, and fine meals, but if it means I can try three restaurants for the price of one, I’ll take more over the one.

I find this philosophy trickles into everything I do. I shop second hand clothing stores so I can afford a better quality item for much less. I shop grocery store sales, and closeout items for a better deal. I coupon and wait for deals to get the items I need. I scour for off-season travel deals and seasonal items to hit the clearance sections. Some find this cheap. I find it a means to live a fuller life.

I don’t hoard this bounty either, I gift to others, and donate like crazy. Monthly I probably get rid of at least one if not more trash bags of stuff. It consists of clothes my stepdaughter has outgrown, shoes we are bored of, and books we have read. I recycle and reuse, I pass it on and upcycle. I take a little and make a lot.

End note: I have been extremely lucky and I am fully aware not everyone can do this.

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Make Sure You’ve Got the Docs

adventure of the week, Allergen-free eating on the road, Caribbean, colorado, Colorado Events, europe, Florida, France, Iowa, Ireland, italy, mexico, Nebraska, new mexico, Scotland, Travel, United Kingdom, United States, wyoming

So many times I hear this classic “I didn’t know I needed a Visa”.

Here is the truth, you ALWAYS need a Visa.

“What?” You ask. Because in London they stamped your book and you were free to go as a US citizen. This is totally true, but that stamp, at customs and border, was your visa. No pre-registration and paperwork needed. Just the stamp.

Here is the thing though, sometimes the stamp doesn’t happen. And a big reason is that your passport may not have at least 6 months left on it for you to enter a specific country. Or more depending on where you are headed. In fact, many airlines won’t even let you board the plane if your passport is low on time. Meaning that week in Paris may be thrown away if you’re not prepared. This happens a lot.

Now for countries where you need advance permission, it’s vital to learn who needs what and what is needed. Meaning: countries like China may take longer and need you to buy plane tickets before you travel. Vietnam only takes a few days to process. Some countries only need a form when you land and a $50 fee. Just make sure you find out and find out at least a month or more in advance so you have time to plan.

Where do you find these details? Embassy websites and through the US state department’s website on travel: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/International-Travel-Country-Information-Pages.html

Don’t forget to also check warnings on places you are traveling to. https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/traveladvisories.html/

Even consider registering with the state department in case you go missing. https://step.state.gov/step/

Other needs? Check with a travel agent or specialist that can at least point you in the right direction. Read a travel guide on your preferred country and ask around to others that have been to such locations.

Most of all, plan ahead, and have fun!

Happy Travels!

Arepa Barn – Gluten Free Heaven

Allergen-free eating on the road, food, musings, Travel, wyoming

note: this restaurant closed in 2018

ArepaBarn

It is rare in this part of the world to find a restaurant that is catered to a specific type of regional food. Though it is increasing and improving with Thai, Ethiopian, Moroccan, Mexican, Chinese, Korean etc. becoming more and more common in Colorado. However, an hour North, into the Wyoming landscape, there is less and less diversity and more and more meat and potatoes.

This diet has served the people of Wyoming well for the last 150 years or so. It meant survival and energy to get through tough summers and tougher winters. Yet, as time marches on, more needs and tastes are requested and the landscape becomes that of new needs and peoples.

My parent’s recently stumbled upon a certain gem of Casper, Wyoming. The Arepa Barn in Casper, Wyoming is a beautiful story of an immigrant family from Venezuela sharing their passion for food in a local eatery. On top of the restaurant being a fantastic reflection of Venezuelan eats the entire place is Gluten Free!

 

Having an entirely Venezuelan restaurant us a great treat in most of the United States, having one that is completely Gluten Free, or any restaurant that is totally Gluten Free, is a divine treat.

I visited this temple to Gluten Free eats last weekend when I was visiting my mom and sidling sibling and I absolutely fell in love. So much so that I had asked my mom to bring me some arepas when she visits on Monday.

All around the dining experience, it ended up being one of the best of my life. I will let my Facebook review do the explanation:

Where does one begin? This was all around one of my favorite dining experiences EVER!
1) The owners were very attentive to our food allergy needs. I have only ever seen that level of care at FINE dining locations in Italy and Mexico!

2) The owners are super sweet and friendly, I felt like I was in someone’s home!

3) The food! OMG the food was so good. Every last morsel was devoured at our table. Arepas are their own treat, but the fried plantains, soup, and rice and beans took everything beyond. I can’t speak highly enough of how good everything was. It was 100% fresh and made to order, making it even better than I good have dreamed of.

4) ALL of their food is Gluten Free! And you would have no idea because it doesn’t taste gluten free! As someone with celiac, this was such a treat, and a rare occasion where I could order anything off the menu.

If you can’t tell, I absolutely loved it and if you head to Casper, Wyoming stop by and have one of the best meals of your lives! They not only cater to celiacs, but they offer vegan, vegetarian, and plenty of meat options for anyone’s preferences.

Location: 1040 N Center St, Casper, WY 82601

Website: click here

Facebook: click here

Happy Eats!

Ditching Disposables When Traveling

Allergen-free eating on the road, Environment, food, musings, Travel

If you have been paying attention to much news, you know our plastic use is becoming a serious problem. Not only is it already a pollutant that doesn’t break down, but its becoming increasingly hard to recycle. For 20 years China has been taking plastics from the United States, and other counties like New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. Yet, starting this year, there is no more plastic being purchased by China, which means there is a fuck ton, literally, of plastic with nowhere to go.

pexels-photo-802221

With plastic not as easy to recycle, our culture and consumerism is facing the reality that we have way more plastic than we can handle. There are several reasons for this, plastic is often more expensive to recycle and reuse, than getting new oil. There is a problem in that we move plastic around the world before turning it into something, which when a main market is closing its doors, means that we’re dealing with trying to find new markets to reuse and produce. Then there is the blame on consumers, where most of the plastic sent to be recycled is dirty, smelly, and problematic. Learn more here. The other big issue is that amount of pollution this waste has created for China, which is part of the reason it has closed its doors.

Whatever the political dynamics are present, we have to cut down on our plastic use. SERIOUSLY CUT DOWN ON OUR PLASTIC USE. That means in every element of our lives, we need to reduce our waste. This very much includes when we travel.

pexels-photo-164287

I am taking a road trip through the weekend, and my goal is to use the least amount of disposable items possible. This means a level of planning ahead so that I have items to reduce my waste. Here are my tips to reduce my mess, and trash, and to do my part on the plastic problem.

  1. Water Bottle
    • Most people don’t know this, but you can usually ask at a restaurant or gas station (with a soda fountain) that also has a water dispenser to refill for no cost.
    • As a back up, look for drinking fountains and as a last resort use a bathroom sink (make sure this is not marked as non-potable).
  2. Coffee Mug
    • You may be able to use a combo water bottle/mug but otherwise having a reusable mug is great for your morning needs.
    • When visiting a Starbucks of Dunkin Donuts, or your local mom and pop, just tell them you have a reusable cup. Even in a drive through I have yet to have a coffee shop bulk, and often they are happy to give you the refill price over a full price.
  3. Reusable Containers
    • Invest in some collapsable ones so that they take up less space! These are great for on the go pastries, full dishes, sandwiches, snacks and anything else you may want. It’s bad enough that most food is in plastic of some sort, why not reduce it’s plastic waste by at least half?
    • This is also a great way to make sure you pack some food so that you reduce eating out and expenses.
  4. Reusable Straws
    • If you feel like you need a straw, or some people just need them, then the more common and popular metal or plastic washable straws are excellent options.

What are your reusable favorites? My next steps are reusable plastic wraps made with beeswax!

Happy Travels!

ditching-disposables

NOTE: In some countries around the world you CANNOT drink the tap water, thus please keep this in mind when traveling.

Road Trip Survival U.S.A.

Allergen-free eating on the road, colorado, family, new mexico, Travel, United States, wyoming

Growing up in the west, we take a lot of what the rest of the world would see as “road trips”. This could mean just a shopping excursion in the biggest city for 300 miles (Denver) or traveling state lines to get to family, friends, or just out of your bubble.

Growing up in a rural environment meant that we had to travel to get anything and anywhere. 30 minutes to the grocery store. 60 minutes to go clothes shopping. 120 minutes to go to a concert…. it took a while to get places. Then of course you had to return, usually the same day.

In some respects I feel like a road warrior, always prepared with a book and wet wipes for whatever may come my way. Yet I always cringe a little bit at the prospect of a five hour drive from where I live to my hometown. Thus, there are always a few things I bring along to make sure I can survive without going batty.

  1. Entertainment
    • This depends on the journey and if I am going solo or with family or friends. If I am solo, I bring out the audio books. Especially longer books I have been struggling to get to with my own eyes…..hello Ulysses. If I am going with a buddy I make sure we have a good song playlist.
    • Remember to download files to your phone or device as cell phone service is often unreliable or totally nonexistent in many parts of the American West.
    • If you aren’t the only driver, bring some physical books, movies, magazines, or anything else to help pass the time.
  2. Comfort Food
    • This doesn’t have to be food that’s bad for you, but rather something you enjoy munching on that fills in the gaps between meals. I personally love chips (crisps to you brits).
    • Don’t go heavy with your snacks, make sure it’s not something that will upset your system or leave you bloated and uncomfortable. I find vegetable based treats and minimal grease make the best combination.
  3. Plan You Meals
    • I often pack a car lunch of tasty meals so we don’t have to make extra stops. This is often breakfast or lunch, with the next meal being one we stop for.
    • This is often a sandwich of some sort such as an egg and bacon for breakfast, hummus and veggies for lunch, or peanut butter and jelly. I always plan for something that won’t sour and that will taste good in a few hours.
  4. Leave Extra Time
    • I feel that it’s better to be stupid early than late. Meaning it makes more sense to show up before you planned than to show up late and make a mess. If you can’t commit to a time, don’t make plans and show when you get there. This leaves frustration behind and makes the journey easier.
  5. Plan for Frustration
    • Life happens, especially when you are on the road. Maybe you’ll hit a traffic jam, or an elk jam (this happens) which means you may take longer to get where you are going. This is just a reality of driving through the U.S. of A.
    • Make sure you have an emergency kit in your car, a AAA membership and other things to make your emergencies less tragic.
  6. Plan Your Routing
    • This seems obvious but a lot of people don’t plan their routing ahead of their journey. Yet, when you look into say traveling Raton Pass in New Mexico, you learn that storms can make the journey a nightmare. Make sure you look into where you are headed, especially using local Department of Transportation Websites and other details to ensure a smoother journey.
  7. Bring Comfy Cozies
    • This means something different for everyone. For me, it’s a few things. I bring my down pillow from home (IKEA brand), a hoodie (maybe a little threadbare), and some favorite leggings. This means I have everything needed for cold morning naps, sleeping in questionable hotels, and for comfort during unexpected discomfort.
  8. Have Fun
    • Regardless of the reasons for road tripping, make sure you add some fun. Maybe it’s stopping at a silly museum, or a famous ice cream shop, but make sure you take time to enjoy the journey. Otherwise, why go?

Happy Travels!

 

roadtripSurvival

Land of Enchantment Part II

Allergen-free eating on the road, new mexico, Travel, United States

The second day was an early start to the day and driving to downtown before the tourists invaded. I also wanted to talk to the Native American artists that sat outside by the Palace to sell their goods to locals and tourists alike. This was a great opportunity to learn how the system worked and how it provided artists the chance to make money directly and control their art.

I ended up buying a small pottery egg from a woman that had a turtle and fish on it, representing life and sustainability. The price was great and it felt awesome to support local and small artists. As an artist and from a family of artists, this direct connection meant a lot.

DSC_0028

I talked to others about their goods and how they made things. There were silver workers, pottery masters, jewelry makers, weavers and everything in between. If you want to REALLY shop native goods, then this is the place and the best way to do it.

I then hit a few more shops looking for a thank you to the neighbors for loving on our cat while we were gone and I found a small place that sold local arts such as tin work and jewelry made from dried corn. All of these made great little souvenirs and it was enjoyable to be shopping so early and away from the crowds and chaos.

Before it was too hot I also walked the few blocks around the center of town, photographing and enjoying the soul of the city. One that dripped with art and culture and history. The entirety of it brought me a sense of peace and joy that I miss living in a newer city. The sensation reminded me of the same sensation I receive when I’m in Europe. Traversing ancient pathways and soaking up centuries of movement.

Late that morning some other relatives arrived for the celebrations, so the afternoon was spent eating, talking and doing some more sightseeing.

We spent a significant part of the afternoon looking at the old and famous churches of Santa Fe, including the Loretto Chapel, known for its staircase. Gothic in style the church has a classic charm to it.

Then we visited the OLDEST church in the United States, San Miguel Chapel. Which not only has the claim to being the oldest, but also is home to a 14th century bell from Spain, and some beautiful old art from the colonial time period.

We finished the day at the OLDEST home in Santa Fe, which was perfectly sized for someone short like myself and was a darling walk in the lifestyle of early Europeans that settled in the area.

Finally, we returned my aunt to the hotel and Ryan and I were able to have a date in Santa Fe. Which, naturally,deserved being full of tacos (American-Mexican) and margaritas. We ate the most amazing fish tacos I have ever had at Bumble Bee’s Baja Grill (that also had an awesome Gluten-Free menu. Then we finished with a quick visit the art museum and a walk around the old part of town.

Part I, Part III

Camping- The Magic Land in the Backyard

Allergen-free eating on the road, colorado, Colorado Events, musings, Travel

First I should say we don’t actually have a backyard. BUT we are only an hour and a half away from one of the most famous and well loved National Parks in the United States, Rocky Mountain National Park.

2015 marked 100 years of Rocky Mtn. being a National Park, and over 100 years of tourists coming to marvel at its glorious mountains, wildlife and plants! It also was the first time I ever explored the park. That is not to say I haven’t spent a fair amount of time outdoors and in National Parks, but I had never actually made it to Rocky. Even though I lived so close!

My first encounter was in August with my parent’s for a quick drive around the park. In summer glory it was just warm enough and everything was very green and vibrant. There was also thousands and thousands of tourists, as the park has grown in popularity over the past few years, with 2015 having over 4 million people! That’s impressive considering just a decade ago they had half as many. If you want to look at more nerdy stats, go here.

2015-08-20 15.48.592015-08-20 15.52.17

This massive amount of people made it hard to see everything and park and get through the gift shop etc. etc. It was still really neat to see and I’m glad we went. This also meant that we came out on the Western side of the state, something I had never done. This means a drive through more mountains and getting home late, but it was well worth the adventure.

Fast-forward two months and the lovely cool of Autumn is upon us. I decided to pack up the family and go camping in Rocky for the last weekend of the camping season at Moraine Park. It was also Elk rutting season!

What is Elk-Rutting you might ask? When all the male elks and their harems get it on and Males fight over females, as big dumb animals do. They are also really elegant animals, that have captivated people for eons. Their mating call also sounds like that of some alien species…the native americans used to think of them as spirits. Regardless, it actually makes for crap sleep, but beautiful photos.

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The camping part was an absolute blast, it was the first time Lily, my 8-year-old stepdaughter had been tent camping. She camps with her grandparent’s frequently but they have a camper on their truck and us mountain girls call that cheating ;).

Lily loves helping set up the tent, and using new camping gear we bought such as little camp pots and a foam mattress pad, queen size, for us to all snuggle onto. We used a combination of a gas camp stove and a fire for marshmallows, hot dog, vegan dogs for me, oatmeal, sandwiches, and a variety of chips and such to snack on.

Lily got the cool honor of getting to fill out a packet and search for animals through the 24-hours we were there. She saw deer, chipmunks, elk, squirrels, some rabbits and plenty of plant life to keep her busy and occupied. The best part was that we had no service so it was an unplugged weekend to talk, laugh, do some photography, and enjoy the little things.

We also drove to the top of the mountain to see all we could see….at the Alpine Visitor Center. Where we hiked up to 12,005 feet and it almost killed us….

The views on the drive were truly spectacular and Lily loved the chance when we stopped to run around and be blown away at the vastness of the world in front of us! Ryan almost had a heartattack. After almost 5 years together, I learned on that trip he had a hatred of heights.

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The biggest struggle was getting the campfire going, because I had a stupid attack and we didn’t pack enough kindling and paper to get it hot. WHOOPS… luckily someone else was there selling wood and kindling so we got to enjoy our fire pit eventually.2015-10-03 19.13.33

For a simple 24-hour getaway we got a lot out of the adventure. We problem solved, we laughed, we had fun, and we learned new things about each other and the world around us. For $50 I bought an annual pass, and we can’t wait to go back. The campground was $18 for the night. A few souvenirs and coffee was another $25 or so, but the photos and memories were priceless.

Get out and explore!

 

Best,

Rebecca Lee Robinson

Celiacs- Fear Not the Adventure

Allergen-free eating on the road, Travel

It sucks having food allergies, and it sucks even worse when you have a travel bug, but the world doesn’t always accommodate your “issues”. However, as I have found in five years of travel, I almost always kind find an option to eat, and never have I gone hungry. At least not yet.

You may have to pay more for a meal, but many times it’s less or the same. You may not get your first menu choice, but you will likely get SOMETHING that is good. You will also likely try something new and exciting that you maybe never though of as an option before.

So here are my tips to surviving on the road:

  • Know your allergy and what you can and cannot eat.
  • Know what recipes commonly have in them that might be an issue.
  • Learn what you need to ask in a language, or find a card to carry about your food issue.
  • Shop and cook for yourself as much as possible. Regardless of everything, you will likely be able to go to a store and buy ingredients to make a rocking meal.
  • Be brave and try new things.
    • Such as Snails (Escargot), Caviar (Fish Eggs), Cheese (often with odd bacteria) and new fruits and vegetables you may have not seen before.
  • Learn about countries and what common foods are. Mostly European and the Americas rely on bread (wheat) as much as they do. That’s not to say that other parts of the world don’t use wheat, but often their diets have a rice or corn base. With other grains mixed in.
  • Experiment with ingredients you find and try to ask questions from locals.
  • Always go for the salad bar when in doubt of everything else. Or just a salad.

But also be realistic that you might get sick and have cross contamination. For that here are tricks that help

  • Probiotics or yogurt to help with digestion
  • Enzymes to help with digestion
  • Mineral Water also can help with stomach issues
  • Coconut Water also can be soothing and for hot summer travel, it replaces electrolytes
  • Finally, if you can find it, Kombucha can also be a quick fix to an upset gut.
  • Look for vitamins to take with you traveling, but always check country-specific regulations on medicine and other pills.

Happy Travels,

Rebecca

Gluten Free Gem of Dublin

Allergen-free eating on the road, Ireland, Travel

note: this bakery closed in 2017

A little over a year ago I reported that in Dublin, Ireland a small group of celiacs would be opening a bakery to serve the Dublin community with gluten free, homemade goods. It was my dream from hearing about them on to visit! And I did!

2015-02-02 08.10.11

In February I took some extra time before going back stateside to get some gluten free treats from Antoinette’s Bakery in Dublin. Oh boy were they amazing! Which has left me feeling there is a void in my life because Antoinette’s is nowhere near Colorado.

Some may have VooDoo Donuts in Portland and Denver, well I have Antoinette’s in Dublin, a treat that is only attainable when I’m passing through. A place that is iconic, delicious, welcoming, full of Irish charm and friendliness and  a total gem of a place for celiacs and non.

2015-02-02 08.10.04

I went not only one afternoon, but the next morning as well for their cinnamon donuts, brownies and other miscellaneous goodies. Not only was the food good, but their array of coffees and lattes were warming in the rainy Dublin February, and the atmosphere of the bakery to die for. Based on a Maria Antoinette, meets punk “Let them eat cake” mash that I wish my own kitchen could compare to.

So if you are in Dublin, or Ireland, or needing an excuse to go there, this is it. You Won’t be disappointed, and make sure to pick up a souvenir or two to remind you to plan a next time.

Gluten Free in the Land of Bread and Pasta

Allergen-free eating on the road, italy, Travel

“Una pizza margarita, senza glutine, por favore.” poured from my tongue, an attempt at accented Italian. The server smiled “one pizza, senza glutine, okay!” in response as she scribbled my order followed by my friends. We sat in a circa 1980’s green back room of a small restaurant only a block away from lines of tourists surrounding Micheangelo’s David.

The smell of mouthwatering plates was overpowering as it drifted from the small kitchen,  while waiting was torture for our hungry and impatient stomachs as a dusty boar’s head stared suspiciously from above the bathroom. Once the food arrived it was no time at all before it was gone, and I was left doing a seated happy dance about how I had just eaten the best pizza of my life. Italy was proving to have the best dining options for my gluten-free life.

Anyone can find eating while traveling hard enough, let alone attempting to do it with food allergies, yet with a little research one can find a world full of edibles that won’t leave your stomach and self, miserable during a well-earned vacation.

I myself have to remember that no, I am not the only person on the planet that is gluten free or dairy free. The reality is that in this day of easier global exploration, the world has become smaller and more connected to different eating concepts. In places like Italy 1 out of 250 people are thought to have celiac disease, and as a result more restaurants in Italy are trying to accommodate for the disease.

In Italy, the government is even aware of the problem and they sell Gluten-Free products at pharmacies, an aid for locals and tourists alike. “Thanks to the public health system my sister can place an order each month to the pharmacy and get all the main food for free.” Enrica Guidato informed me, her twin sister has celiac disease and is doing just fine in her native Lecce, Italy. For the tourist there will be no free pasta, but to know that a country acknowledges the disease is a step in the right direction.

When I was in Florence in 2013 Guidato was a helping hand, she pointed me in the right direction for food, which restaurants were the best, which cared enough to offer gluten free, her list was a mile long of the best gluten free eats. Her experiences with her sister meant she knew great places to eat, and new things to try. It also made me realize just asking others meant a whole hidden knowledge could be opened.

So I asked Roger Elliot, a celiac since his mid-twenties who started a website specifically to share stories of his own eating experiences around the world. He believes that people can go and eat anywhere with celiac disease it just takes a little work. “I think you should take time to properly research the food in the destination you’re travelling to.” Says Roger “That said, there’s always plain meat, fish and veg, and if you have access to self-catering facilities, you should always be able to get by I reckon.”

Roger and his wife also came up with a great idea to overcome language barriers, by making little cards that state exactly what one is allergic to, to show at restaurants. They come in 54 languages and are completely free on his website: celiactravel.com, and are an innovative and easy way to keep one’s digestive system happy.

Another thing about asking, are the pleasant surprises that come with it. I give you one night in Rome.

Since I was studying abroad, we had a side trip to Rome. I was in Rome with my program director, where we had a meal at a place near our hotel and just off the beaten tourist path, Rinaldi al Quirinale. According to its website it served Gluten-Free, but I assumed like most places in the states, there would be a salad or maybe some spaghetti involved and that would be it. I went into the location head held high however, since first of all I was in Rome, and second I was out to dinner with two new friends, and excited at the chance of getting to know both better. Not only did that set the scene for a perfect night, but the restaurant set a standard of excellent dining well beyond anything we could have imagined.

When I asked the server about gluten free he informed me I could have anything I wanted on the menu, and to top that off when real bread was brought for my dinner buddies I got my own, fresh from the oven, gluten free bread roll all to myself. I ended up ordering the mushroom risotto but I swear it was the best I ever had, and with a wait staff willing to bend over backwards for our every need it was a great feeling. It was everything you dream of Italy, a solid and happy relationship with your food, making new friends, and watching the sun set over the eternal city.

In the end, asking for senza glutine proved to be a ticket to winning a great meal and beautiful experience all over Italy. Whether I was eating a pizza, plate of pesto, or a truffle risotto, being celiac opened doors to meeting and understanding people in a new light that I don’t believe would have been there with a normal diet. Maybe I just appreciated having options that I never got at home, or maybe Italy’s food just gives everyone that loving, warm feeling; as if your own grandma poured her love into it.

SURVIVAL- Quick tips

COOKING

As expensive as eating gluten-free in the states can be, expect the same for Europe, but add on an exchange rate, and that rice pasta for €4 becomes about $6. However, if you look around for new ideas you can cook for much less. Risotto, a huge box, will usually only run €1 and make about 10 servings, and fresh veggies in Italy are cheap, delicious, locally grown, and worth the preparation.

DINING OUT

When eating out look around at prices and expect for a Pizza Margarita that is Senza Glutine to be about €11-15 or $15-20 which is pretty normal for eating in the states.  But if you are skipping the pizza, look for risotto specials, salads, and other things especially at restaurants that don’t do a lot gluten-free bread-like products.

GLUTEN FREE FOODS TO TRY
Risotto- rice based and full of endless possibilities, whether it’s mushroom, truffle, vegetable or seafood you will never be disappointed.
Salmon and Arugula- a great plate served with some multi-course meals and perfect for the pescetarian or meat eater
Pizza- many places advertise if they make GF pizza, but don’t be afraid to ask too. Some even have different crust choices!
Pasta- This is the most common bread-like dish you can find, as many places keep a bag of rice pasta on hand, just in case someone like you wanders in. They can usually make it with any sauce you want, or kind. Pesto pasta in Italy is to die for.
Salad- If you have numerous allergies this is a great place to start, no dressing but a little olive oil and lemon juice are the norm, and you can usually get it with no meat but plenty of fresh vegetables, and egg. Tuna is also common if you do fish.
Caprese- cheese and tomatoes, with oil? What’s not to love?
Meat specialties (if you eat meat)- Try some prosciutto with melon, wild boar, steak or just about anything else, never did I hear a complaint.
Polenta- corn based, and delicious. It can come in deep-fried cubes, or under sauce, but all around it’s fantastic.
WINE!- hey you may not be able to get some cheap beer, but you can drink wine, and for a good price. If in Tuscany, you must have some Chianti- you can’t leave the country if you don’t.
How do you say that?
ENGLISH ITALIAN
Gluten- Free Senza Glutine
Dairy / lactose/ milk/ cheese Caseificio/ lattosio/ latte/ formaggio
Wheat/ barley/ rye Grano/ orzo/ segale
Soy soia

red tilesDSC_0091

lady with gelato

Happy Eating!

~Rebecca Lee Robinson