Celiac.com 11/19/2008 - This year my husband and I took in Ida, an exchange student from Norway, who needed a gluten-free home.We couldn’t help but be excited at the prospect to have someone else in the house set an example for my 9-year-old gluten-free daughter.Ida (pronounced EE-dah) has quickly become part of the family. And of course one thing we talk about is food and the differences in gluten-free options here in the United States versus Norway.
Bread, Gluten-Free, Bread
For all of us, bread is troublesome if you’re on the gluten-free diet.Even if it follows your restrictions, there’s no guarantee it is any good. That has been the biggest hurdle for Ida.In Norway, she can get fast food and the hamburgers have gluten-free buns.Can you imagine?“It is more difficult [here],” she told me.“I eat a lot of Burger King, McDonalds, and pizza in Norway.We have a lot of gluten-free options.”She says you never have to worry about French fries either, as they aren’t contaminated in the oil like most are in the United States.
In Norway, not only are the meals more complete (with bread), but they appear to “get” celiac disease.“Everybody understands what you’re saying,” Ida says.We all know here in the United States, getting a gluten-free burger at a restaurant means no bun. Eating pizza out is a rare treat only at certain restaurants that are willing to explore the possibility.Right now in the entire Twin Cities area, I know of about 8 places in a 50 mile radius that have a gluten-free pizza option.And even this is a huge improvement when compared to what was possible just a year ago.
Navigating the New Gluten-Free Culture
When Ida first got here, I explained to her just how ill-equipped most of our restaurants, and many of the people who work there, are regarding specialized diets.While McDonald's has lists of their gluten-free items on line, many of the people taking orders do not understand the first thing about food sensitivities and allergies or even about what their establishment has to offer.
She got a quick guide on the main fast-food places that have gluten-free options, and how to order specialized foods.Also, every time I hear of a place that has a gluten-free pizza option, I make sure Ida gets the information.I figure someday she would like to go out with her friends for pizza.The best experiences dining out have been at restaurants with a specific gluten-free menu (aren’t they all?).
For now her focus here is school, meeting new people and experiencing the American culture instead of food and eating out.She is having a great time learning about American football (her high school team is in the state championships) and heading out to the movies with her friends.I suppose as long as I have gluten-free food she can load up at home–she is doing pretty well.Ultimately she is a typical teenager, no matter what country she’s from.