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How To Be A Gracious Guest And Remain Gluten Free?
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I am newly diagnosed and leaving for Ireland in 3 weeks to visit my boyfriend's extended family. His family is large and live on beautiful farm in a rural part of Ireland. The good news is that, as I remember from my last visit, there will be ample potatoes. What I don't know is how they will be prepared or if gluten-containing ingredients will be used. Also, I have become lactose intolerant as well. (I am hoping that it isn't permanent)

His family is so gracious and I don't want to be a burden during this visit. They are feeding a lot of people and I don't want them to buy expensive gluten-free ingredients or change the menu around for me. But truthfully, I am dreading the "tea and toast" breakfast or pasta dinner where I may not be able to eat anything at the table.

Is it more rude to impose dietary restrictions or to bring one's own food and not eat what is provided?

Also, any tips for food that I can pack with me that will make a real meal if I am hungry (rice cakes and nuts aren't going to cut it if we have been hiking all day)

Thanks for any input!

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I think it is just too difficult to fully educate people on gluten-free cooking. And, there's always a problem with cross contamination in other people's kitchens.

I always bring my own food. I warn people ahead of time that I will be doing that. I tell them not to worry about me and my food that I'll take care of it and they don't have to do anything special for me. While most people would be willing to make an effort, they accept this about me and it is not a problem.

Potatoes should be easy to add to your meals if they're baked (wrapped in foil and not handled by anyone but you) in an oven or even a microwave (without foil, of course, but protected with a paper towel). Cold, baked potato travels well, sliced and spread with margarine, salt and pepper - one of my favorites!

I don't know what will be available to you in local grocery stores, but canned green beans and beets can be eaten cold (at least, I like them that way).

If the kitchen contains stainless steel pans, you could scrub one out and use that to warm up a can of baked beans, and even fry up a piece of meat.

If you have room in your luggage, I found that a small electric grill just perfect for cooking a chicken breast (coat with oil and add Italian herbs and sprinkly with lemon juice). It takes less than 10 minutes as the grill cooks both sides at the same time.

Of course, raw veggies and fruit are always good. (a great, quick dip for veggies that is dairy free - slightly watered down mayonnaise, a spash of vinegar, dried dill, salt & pepper, onion powder and sugar to taste).

There are some gluten-free jerky packages available - I saw them at Whole Foods.

I hope you have a good time and a great visit.

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I'd advise talking to the family if at all possible. You'll be absolutely amazed at how aware people in Ireland are of Celiac Disease and staying Gluten-Free. I was there for a week...and everything in the grocery is clearly marked "Celiac Safe" and even the restaurants understood "Celiac Diet" when I was there. We were in Dublin and County Cork. I was able to enjoy my vacation like a real person and didn't get sick once. Shopping for gluten-free food is super easy...even in some of the smaller counties.

As for your airline...call them and ask for a Gluten-Free meal. Here in the states they may say they can't do that...but ask for a manager anyway. They need to become more aware of people who need to stay gluten-free. In Ireland call the airline again and ask again before any flight...they can accomodate you without any problems. And don't forget to check with the Flight Attendent on all flights...they are very helpful.

You can also pack your own sandwiches and snacks too. Just remember no containers of jams/jellies or liquids!! They will serve you drinks and fresh fruit on board if you ask.

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Are you sure that they are completely unaware of the gluten-free diet? I hear from my friendly Irish bartenders that Celiac (Coeliac there) is very common and highly prevalent in Ireland. Then again, it may be a rural/urban thing; like Dubliners know about Celiac, but out in the country they have no idea of what you're talking about.

I still struggle with the being a gracious guest vs. getting sick thing. So far, people who truly care about me and want me to spend time with them, go way out of their way to provide food for me. Those who don't get it have wanted to learn and have done things like buy me fresh fruit, Blue Diamond Nut Thins, and hunk of amazing cheese for snacks. I am assuming that they know that you have Celiac, but you don't really mention that in your post.

Absolutely do bring some of your own food, especially for the hiking. There are fruit and nut bars like Lara Bars (which I hate, honestly) but they provide you with solid nutrition for a day of hiking. Also, dried fruit from Trader Joes is good. As ArtGirl mentioned, there's gluten-free jerky available. Eat a big protein-filled meal in the morning before your hike, that'll help. If you're taking a cooler, roll up a couple of slices of gluten-free deli meat with some avocado or tomato in a big Boston lettuce leaf and munch on that.

Try not to worry too much, but definitely don't be too shy to explain your dietary situation to your boyfriend's family. The good thing is that they live on a farm and you can eat most stuff straight from the farm (plain grilled meats, veggies, etc.) so you just skip the gravy and you might very well not have to deal with it too much.

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Its less rude to bring your own food, I think. Also, gracious guest or not, nobodies feelings are worth getting sick over, as far as I'm concerned. I always bring my own food, and then if cooking is happening, I volunteer to assist in the kitchen and watch everything like a hawk. Even if they go on and on about wanting to make sure I don't feel "left out" or whatever, I don' t cave about not eating something I'm not comfortable with.

In Ireland the produce is absolutely stunning. Fruits and veggies are amazing, and in abundance in the country. I'm sure as long as you offer to help out during all the stages, no one will mind your issues. Walking in and asking them to do special shopping and cooking without lifting a finger... that is ungracious. (Not to say you would, just making my point).

The last time I went to Europe, half my suitcase was food. I took a box of cereal, bread, all the things I felt I needed. I found stuff in the stores to supplement, and ate a lot of fruit and veggies. gluten-free bars were a constant go-to no matter where I went. The thing is, the trips not about the food, its about the trip, and the people. Take some crackers in your bag for the gluten-free tea, or just have cucumber sandwiches the way I like them, putting the filling between slices of cucumber, not bread, etc. If you're creative and show that you're in charge and not "suffering" protests will die down after the first few days if they are there at all.

HTH.

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