(Eaten while in Ecuador: Pan-fried Maggots on a Bed of Wild Onions, Served on Banana Leaf. Come to think of it, this was likely gluten-free…)

In my early days of travelling, eating was one of my favourite things. In Italy, a budget breakfast called for fresh olives from the market washed down with delicious cappuccino. In Ecuador, while trekking in the jungle, I sampled fruit that tasted like ice cream along with maggot-like critters harvested from rotten logs (cooked, mind you). Try everything has long been my motto.

But lately, I’ve discovered that I have a not-so-small problem with gluten. And this sensitivity has eliminated my ability to eat bread, anything breaded, anything thickened with flour or flavoured with some suspicious spice mix probably containing some sort of evil wheat. Eating while on the road is now a bit of a trial. It involves lengthy conversations with the wait staff before being told that my choices are limited to two things and the second has dairy, so, well, um, one.

Don’t get me wrong. That one thing is usually pretty good. Maybe it’s chicken with steamed veggies and rice or some such simple thing. But it isn’t the $1,000 bagel currently selling in New York City. And it isn’t that fresh croissant pulled out of an oven in Paris. And it isn’t that village-brewed beer I swilled a whole lot of during my days in the Czech Republic. Nor is it the chicken paprikash my husband and I packed ourselves with while hiking in Hungary… By now you get the point. Who I am becoming became instantly clear to me the last time I hit a Starbucks in some airport in the U.S. Instead of my usual coffee with cream, I ordered a grande-decaf-latte-with-soy. Oh, dear.

After spending so many years in denial, it makes sense that I am now fully grieving the loss of my former easy-going eating ways. On the other end of this, I’m sure, is acceptance. But part of that acceptance is finding places I can go where the chefs and servers are fully aware of this disease that affects an estimated one in every 133 people in North America.

Without gluten, my body feels like it’s brand new. That’s something to love. But so is eating out with gusto again. Here are a few resources I’ve found so far:

  • 4D Gluten Free: the Durnford family is selling a table full of gluten free pleasure at the Orillia Farmers’ Market every Saturday. I went last week and stocked up on drop-dead delicious chocolate cake, four-berry pie and a bag full of banana-chocolate chip muffins. It’s now Tuesday and it’s all gone.
  • In Traverse City, Michigan, popular riverside 310 Restaurant and Lounge actually has its own gluten-free menu! I wish I’d known that when I was there in September but, then again, I was still in denial (and therefore now have the memory of my last beloved beer).
  • And for our next night out in the big city, I’ll be checking out the Canadian Celiac Association’s Toronto chapter’s whole list of restaurants willing and able to cooperate. Some highlights: Il Fornello Restaurant, where gluten-free pizza is always an option. They also mention the Outback Steakhouse chain because of its thorough listing of ingredients and attention to the issue. Who knew?

If you know of more resources or restaurants, please do comment. After all, enjoyable eating is at steak, er, stake!