Gluten Free Travel
Continuing my posts on gluten free airline meals, I blogged on paper a bit during my first flight. First off, I need to begin by explaining that for the past fifteen years with one exception (Andorra), I’ve only traveled to Spanish- or English-speaking countries. I speak both languages.
Shortly after boarding the plane on my last trip to Italy (flying Alitalia), one of the flight attendants came by and asked me something in totally unintelligible Italian (I say unintelligible because some Italian dialects are pretty easy to understand for a Spanish speaker). All I understood was the word “free.”
So I thought, “duty free.” I held up my duty free bag for him to see.
He laughed. Strike one. Then he repeated the question. I still understood nothing, so I asked: “English? Español?” The flight was departing from Buenos Aires, so surely he spoke some Spanish?
He repeated his question in heavily accented English, and this time I was able to make out the words “gluten free.” I assumed he was reconfirming my request for a gluten free meal, so I repeated “gluten free” and gave him a thumbs up and smile.
Success! My gluten free meal had made it on the plane. Not a small feat, considering my experience flying as a vegetarian years ago on American Airlines. Despite requesting a special meal when booking, reconfirming it by phone 72 hours before the flight, and again at check in, success came only about 50% of the time.
It so turned out that the woman two seats away was celiac. When drinks and (non gluten free) crackers were handed out, I turned down the crackers, even though my stomach was rumbling from humger. A minute later, the woman reached into her bag and offered me a much-appreciated rice cake.
And so I was able to survive until my gluten free meal arrived: salad (lettuce, tomatoes, cooked carrots, grilled eggplant, olive oil), chicken breast with ratatouille and yellow rice, rice cake with spreadable white cheese, arroz con leche for dessert.
I tolerate dairy a bit better than wheat, so I always go for the gluten free rather than the dairy free meal. It was actually an excellent gluten free meal, and it reminded me of the amazing vegetarian meals I had on Alitalia back on my last trip with them in June 1995, which involved bell peppers stuffed with rice and veggies.
Just in case you were wondering, the regular meal consisted of pasta, plus fish or beef, tuna salad, fruit salad, whole wheat roll, crackers, cheese, and butter. Read: a full out wheat fest.
Oops! Sorry, no photos like last time on my LAN flight. Still, I highly recommend Alitalia’s gluten free meals. That is, if you have a wheat allergy or gluten intolerance.