Revised OCT Blog FINAL
On The Road: A Slice of Gluten-Free Life Chicago Style
By Heather Collins
When I travel for work I accidentally overhear conversations from my fellow travelers. Don’t get me wrong, I am not purposefully eavesdropping or pretending to be a gluten-free Bond Girl saving the world with gluten-free bread from Udi’s (but, is has a nice ring to it!)
Delayed at DIA
On a recent trip to the windy city for the University of Chicago celiac testing day, I was delayed at Denver International Airport. And guess what? I was starved and had packed all of the gluten-free bread in my checked luggage. Yes, the gluten free green monster was safely carrying the samples of gluten free baked goods and now I was stuck. I dived into a café on Concourse B and sadly or gladly (not sure which was worse) the man behind the counter recognized me as that “traveling gluten-free girl.” I placed my usual order: “Romaine lettuce, steamed chicken, tomatoes, red peppers, olive oil and balsamic vinegar, no croutons and please make sure the chicken is not breaded nor marinated in soy sauce and yes, I can have parmesan cheese. Please and thank you.”
He nodded, I smiled. I gave a polite apology to the gluten eaters in the line forming behind me and I was off to the land of salad.
The Art of Eavesdropping
Later that night I arrived at my hotel and indulged in the hotel bar/restaurant for a quick snack. Over a platter of hummus and veggies sans flatbread, of course, I heard a young woman to the right of me, “I’d like to order a special salad, please.” The bartender nodded and rolled his eyes. I looked down and was convinced my 20 questions about the hummus ingredients had sent this guy overboard with diners and their “special requests.”
The young woman rattled off her order and it was EXACTLY the same order I had placed earlier that day at DIA. I politely asked her if she had celiac disease or a gluten intolerance and explained I had ordered the same salad at lunch.
She immediately shared with me her story about how she and her sister were diagnosed with celiac disease two years ago. When I told her I worked for Udi’s and offered her some of our gluten free bread with her dinner, my new friend almost fell out of her chair.
By the end of our meals, we had exchanged food horror dining stories and were trading gluten-free recipes like old friends. When the server returned, we explained gluten containing ingredients and the risk of cross contamination, something he had never thought of when people indicated a “gluten-free” meal.
It was satisfying to know that the restaurant cared and went out of their way to accommodate us that night.
Regardless of what part of the country or world you live, celiac disease and gluten intolerance is something that bonds people together. I am having fun meeting new friends of Udi’s throughout the course of my travels.
The next time you travel, there could be a newly diagnosed or a timid gluten-intolerant person sitting next to you. Don’t be shy; help them out! We’re all in this together and who knows, I might be sitting next to you as well, ready to break gluten-free bread together. Udi’s of course.
P.S. If this gluten free gig doesn’t work out, I can always pretend to be a Bond Girl. J