Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Camping: How to do it Gluten-Free Part 2

Well hello again. Back to the pressing topic of how to camp gluten-free. Unless you are allergic to bright stars and clean air, and if so I don't judge, sooner or later you're going to have to figure out how to do this. I would have posted this yesterday, but I had linear and nonlinear curve fitting code to write in MATLAB. So I'm going to assume we can all move on, yes? Yes. So here it is...

How to Continue to Survive a Week of Camping and Hiking Without Major Health Meltdowns:
(keeps getting catchier, I know...)
  1. Check, doublecheck, and triplecheck labels. Tuolomne had a great little general store: they had gear, maps, souvenirs, food, you name it. This was great: if you ran out of something mid-trip, or forgot to pack it, you could grab it there! But I have to warn you: you MUST check labels. Camping is supposed to be low-maintenance, not a banquet catered by specialty grocers. There is no "gluten-free" section. Still check, even if on the off chance the product is labeled gluten-free. I got lucky and found some rice chips that I still really enjoy, labeled and everything, but this is rare. You may look funny examining every ingredient list, but if something is wrong, it is YOUR digestive system in the woods and in the small, enclosed living space. 
    1. Be careful, gluten-free and wheat-free are two different things! Especially beware the word malt. Malt comes from barley, which is not wheat, but contains gluten. Malt is used in CLIF bars, Luna Bars, and a lot of other products. Will wheat always be on the ingredient list? No. Will this fool your digestive system? No. Will you have a very uncomfortable experience? YES. 
  2. Hold the bun. Here's a secret: burgers and sandwiches can be put on lettuce. You can either ask specifically for this, or just ask for no bun. With all the low-carb diets out there & your credit card in your hand, cashiers usually won't ask questions. It's economically sound as well. They don't waste the bun, which means they don't waste the money. 
  3. Just Ask. Restaurants are always tricky. This usually won't be a problem, but if you have a lodge or local hotspot, like the Tioga grill, you have to be smart about it. 
    1. Let them know what you can't eat. I asked a waitress about wild rice one night, saying, "You're going to hate me, but is there any form of wheat, barley, rye, spelt, or kamut in this?" She was a sweetheart: "You mean like, gluten?" Yes, that's exactly what I mean. She didn't hate me at all, and mentioned that a manager had Celiac so they were very aware of their ingredients. Wild rice did in fact have barley, so when she brought out the dish I actually ordered, she told me that she asked the chef and it was gluten-free! Except the two pieces of bread on top, to which she replied, "OH MY! The chef does that out of habit! I'm so sorry!" She went back and told the chef, who was horrified. Waiters and waitresses will  accomodate you if you're polite about it: they don't want a health meltdown any more than you do! And don't skimp on the tip, either.
    2. In the town of Lee Vining, right outside of the park, there is a Mobil Station. Yes, a gas station. In this gas station, there is a restaurant. Not a dingy little hot dog heater, a restaurant. Live music on Thursday nights, I think. When I asked if there was any flour in a certain dish, the cashier said no, but the cook asked me specifically if I was asking about gluten. Affirmative. Nope, can't have those! But he then listed the dishes that were safe for me to eat. Just be nice about your needs, and no one will have a problem accomodating you! I ended up with a salmon salad pictured above. Gorgey, isn't it? And it was devoured...

So there you have it...camping a la Courtney. I think the major lesson learned here is that you can still eat S'mores. Oh yes.

I built a cairn! Glen Aulin High Sierra Camp hike.
Yes, that's my shadow. Photography isn't my major skill...or any skill.

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