Celiac.com 09/01/2009 - I recently passed a milestone, upon reaching the first anniversary,since my celiac disease diagnosis. There was no golden coin or awardceremony, but rather a sense of personal accomplishment. Although itis true that I feel better not eating gluten than I have in years—Istill miss my former diet every single day. I no longer crave glutenfilled meals, nor do I feel sorry for myself, as often as I did,immediately following my diagnosis. Yet, I still find it necessary tojustify my condition whenever I get confused looks at dinner parties orpotlucks. There are also the days when I will pass a pizza shop orhave a craving for a glazed donut with my morning coffee. It is inthose moments when familiar pangs will resurface and make me long forjust an instance that I could put on my gluten shield and indulge.
Walking into the retreatcenter dining hall among the smell of fresh baked bread, pasta salad,and breaded chicken made my mouth water like one of Pavlov’s dogs. Iglanced around the table to see salad drizzled with vinaigrette andrealized that was all I would be eating for the day. My head began toache and tears stung the back of my eyes. I inwardly cursed myself formy lack of preparation. I am the mother of three young children, thewife of a deployed soldier, a responsible and organized woman—yet Icompletely forgot to prepare for a weekend in the mountains, withceliac disease.
I soon learned two of my fellow campers alsosuffered from gluten intolerance and was informed that there wasgluten-free bread and peanut butter, in the kitchen. I breathed a sighof relief as I walked up to the chef and asked him if I could possiblyhave a slice of gluten-free bread. He looked at me and responded,“sure, but this is the only loaf we have, so when it’s gone, it’sgone.” He was completely put off by my request and irritated thatthree celiacs would arrive at his retreat center, simultaneously,forcing him into a position to alter his meals for dietaryrestrictions. I grabbed the smallest slice of bread in the loaf,ensuring that the young boy with celiac would have food to eat, andwalked out of the kitchen, in tears.
That was one year ago, andalthough the date on the calendar has changed, I am still coping withmy condition and learning to travel gluten-free. My husband recentlyreturned from his yearlong deployment to Iraq, and decided it was timeto treat the family to a couple days of fun-filled water adventure;with a trip to Great Wolf Lodge in Grand Mound, Washington. It wouldbe an understatement to say that my children were excited—rather, theywere beyond ecstatic at the prospect of water slides, swimming pools,and the giant bucket of water which spills and drenches everyone in itspath, every few moments.
I packed my morning gluten-freebreakfast bars, alongside of my toddler’s swim diapers, and we hit theroad, ready for an adventure at Great Wolf Lodge. As I prepared formeals of bunless hamburgers and grilled chicken Caesar salads, minusthe croutons, my children began psyching themselves up for the thrillof a rushing waterslide. I wasn’t sure how food allergies would begreeted at this indoor water park, as was I nervous for a reoccurrenceof past experiences. My ultimate hope was that my Celiac Disease wouldbe understood and recognized for its seriousness.
The Loose Moose Cottage
Onthe first evening of our stay, my husband suggested eating at The LooseMoose Cottage, to partake of their dinner buffet. After being seatedin a comfortable booth, we ordered our drinks, before I perused ourselection of food for the evening. The buffet was quite organized witha variety of offerings assembled in different ethnic sections featuringMexican food, Italian food, and Chinese cuisine. There was a selectionof sautéed vegetables, potatoes, and sliced roast beef; a kid’s stationwith macaroni and cheese and mini corndogs, a salad bar, and a dessertstation. After preparing my children’s’ plates, I approached a chef,as she refilled the nacho tray, and asked if the enchiladas were madeusing corn or flour tortillas. She informed me that they were madewith flour before asking if there was something she could help me with.
I told her that I have celiac disease, and expected to explain to herwhat that was; yet was surprised as she began walking down theselection of foods, informing me one-by-one which were safe for me toeat. As I kept up with her, amazed at her accommodating demeanor, sheworked all the way from the Mexican food to the salad bar. She thenwalked back to the kitchen and returned with two pieces of gluten-freegrilled chicken breast. As I was thanking her, she offered to make megluten-free pasta. When I declined, she told me that if I would likethem to make me pasta the following day, to let the kitchen know andthey would be more than happy to prepare it for me.
My personalreview of The Loose Moose Cottage: The food was good, the service wasexceptional, and the atmosphere was accommodating for my family. Theonly thing which would have made dining easier would have been if eachdish’s ingredients were listed on a sign beside the dish itself.
During our afternoon of swimming, we ventured outside where staff wereoffering grilled hamburgers and hotdogs, along with potato chips anddrinks. The smell of the grill was invigorating—after several hours ofswimming, we were starving—so my husband and I decided it was time fora power lunch. I requested a hotdog, without a bun. The chef lookedat me and asked, “Do you have celiac disease?”
I nodded my headand said, “Yes, I do.” Then I watched with astonishment as sheimmediately removed the plastic gloves she had been using, beforereplacing them with new gloves, and sticking my hotdog on a clean partof the grill. When I questioned her about her knowledge of foodallergies, and specifically celiac disease, she explained that GreatWolf Lodge has a lot of guests with food restrictions and the chefsmake every effort to be knowledgeable and helpful.
My personal review of the Poolside Grill: The food was delicious and the staff was informed and respectful.
Bear Paw Café
The smell ofthe Bear Paw Café began wafting through the air the moment I exited theelevator. This small café is not to be taken lightly by the averagedieter, with the aroma of delicious desserts; fudge, ice cream, bakedgoods and popcorn. Typically, this is an area I would avoid; however,I decided that in order to fully assess the food selections of theGreat Wolf Lodge, it would only be fair to visit the bakery. Plus, Ireally wanted a piece of fudge.
When I approached the personat the counter and explained that I was unable to eat anything withwheat in it and wondered if they had any gluten-free offerings, shesmiled and went to find a person more capable of assisting me. A bakercame out from the kitchen and greeted me with a smile, before tellingme that her mom has suffered from Celiac Disease for twenty-years. Shethen pointed out the assortment of gluten-free fudges and offered tomake me gluten-free cookies. Although I was tempted to take her up onthe cookies, I rather, chose a piece of fudge. I can say, without adoubt—it was delicious.
My personal review of the Bear Paw Café:The fudge was delicious and the service was exceptional. I do wishthere was more of a variety of baked goods for those with foodallergies; such as wheat, peanut, and egg-free ingredients.
Forour final meal at the Great Wolf Lodge, we ate at the Camp Critterrestaurant. After a day of swimming, we were all completely famishedand felt at home in the warm atmosphere of this sit down restaurant. The menu had a variety of kids’ meal offerings, as well as adultselections ranging from burgers, to salads, to steaks. I was onceagain met with a server who was knowledgeable and sympathetic to mydietary restrictions. I asked for a cheeseburger, without a bun, andwhen it was delivered, I was informed that my fries were made inseparate oil, to avoid cross contamination. What can I say; it wasAll-American dining, and my entire family enjoyed it.
Mypersonal review of Camp Critter: Although the menu did not have avariety of gluten-free selections; the food I chose was preparedgluten-free, cooked well, and the staff was accommodating and helpful.
After two fun-filled days of water bliss at the Great Wolf Lodge, wedeparted for home, exhausted, and with chlorine seeping out of ourswimming suits. I rate our trip 5 of 5 stars—it was a great get-away,and I didn’t feel hindered by my celiac disease. And on a side note…mykids thought the water park was amazing.