You might be best to pop the kettle on and pull a chair up, as its a bit of a long blog this month – I have lots to share with you about my recent trip to Australia!
We flew to Australia with Singapore Airlines, when we booked the flight I told them I was coeliac, as soon as we got on the plane they acknowledged I required a gluten free diet. All meals for people with dietary requirements were served first, which was a bonus! The hot meals were great, but I wasn’t keen on the sandwiches they gave me, the gluten free bread had a strange texture, more like a rye bread, so I just ate the filling! Overall I was happy with the food and I was not left hungry whilst on the flight.
When we landed in Australia we were met by my brother and nephew at the airport. It was evening and we had been flying for over 24hrs so they took us straight to our hotel. My thoughtful sister-in-law had made us a welcome bag, which consisted of sandwiches for both me and my husband (GF for me) fruit, nuts and water. After the nerves of flying and the excitement of seeing my family I was starving and tucked into my butties!
Eating with family
Whilst in Australia we were lucky enough to have the majority of our evening meals with my family. My sister in law is a fabulous cook and she has my gluten-free diet completely covered. Each night we ate on the balcony and enjoyed the convenience of having the barbecue set up at the ready! Like me, my family love their food and we had variety of meals, such as chargrilled halloumi, steak, chips and salad, barbecued sausages, homemade salsa and sauté potatoes, pulled pork, roast chicken with quinoa, roasted red onion and butternut squash salad. We quite often had gluten free cake from the local bakery for pud.
On a couple of occasions we went to the local fish and chip shop which was great as the chips were fried separately (ridiculous how giddy you get when you get the green light to be allowed chips!). It seems to be pretty standard in Australia for fish & chip shops to give a choice of coatings and cooking methods. The choice of fish or seafood is pretty extensive – I had grilled squid cooked in chilli & garlic served with fresh lemon with chips – delicious!!
Eating with friends
One evening we were invited out to a friends for a barbecue. Their eldest daughter is also coeliac and she had arranged all the food for the evening so again all sorted and a great night was had by all!! My husband got quite an attachment to the barbecue. This is a picture of him cooking the gluten-free sausages, which were from the local butchers shop.
Eating out and about
Eating out seemed generally good and with lots of choice. Having said that, unfortunately I did have an incident when we ate out when I feel I was offered an unsuitable dish. I had asked for recommendations of what would be suitable and was advised of 2 salad options one of them being teriyaki salmon salad. I started to eat the salad before realising there were noodles in, I went back to check with the staff, who advised me they were fine as gluten free. I continued to eat the salad, but my gut instinct was telling me there was gluten in the meal. Within an hour I felt really nauseas and then was violently sick on several occasions. I told the staff that I felt there may have been gluten within the meal I had eaten, they advised me the noodles were soba noodles. The staff I have to say could not do enough to put things right and refunded my meal money and said they would no longer state this dish was gluten free. The following day I googled soba noodles and found although they are made of buckwheat they are not always gluten free. Although I cannot be 100% sure that this is what caused my sickness I had no other problems once I had stopped being sick. I have previously advised people that I’m not symptomatic but I think having always followed a strict gluten free diet to keep myself fit and healthy, to then eat a large amount of gluten within a meal my body immediately rejected it. It did make me particular cautious and I was grateful to be able to have meals with my family at their home for the next few nights as I knew I would be ok there. I have to say this was the only time I had any problem whilst in Australia and I have no hesitation in eating out at suitable venues in the future, but will always go with my gut instinct and live by my moto… “if in doubt leave it out.”
I felt there was a lot more options of gluten free foods in Australia, for instance bakeries offered gluten free cakes, coffee shops and delis had wraps and cakes on offer and staff were very good to advise you on a gluten free alternative. We had an amazing lunch in a restaurant called Garfish in Manly and had great service, comforted by the manager that they were fully OK with gluten free catering as his mother in law was also coeliac. The supermarkets did appear to have lots of gluten free choices and seemed to have different options from those in the UK.
The only thing that concerned me was the cross contamination issue, as gluten-containing cakes in bakeries for example would be next to gluten-free options. Also, although our Hotel provided gluten free bread for breakfast they did not have a separate toaster, this would be fine for somebody omitting gluten by choice, but is not suitable for a diagnosed coeliac (Don’t be afraid to check that not only is it gluten free, but also that you are also happy with the preparation process). This wasn’t a problem, I just had a lightly boiled egg or cheese sandwich in the morning and they had plenty of fresh fruit and great coffee! Overall it was fabulous to have such a range of choice and I was so grateful for this.
I do think this new card from Coeliac UK, will play a massive part in raising awareness when eating out both home and away. So many places have already got it right and for those places it’s a delight to eat out with confidence… keep up the good work can’t tell you how much it is appreciated.
Our trip was everything and more than I could ever imagine and cannot wait to return… Australia rocks!!
Don’t let being Coeliac stop you from having fun… you can still do everything you did before being diagnosed you just need to do a little bit more planning and preparation before days out and holiday. These are some of the things I would do and consider before planning a day trip or holiday (I’m sure you have lots too!)
Ensure your hotel is familiar with the coeliac condition and your dietary requirements. There are lots of recommended hotels, B&B and restaurants in Crossed Grain magazine, also chat to other coeliacs about their recommendations. It’s fantastic what tips you can pick up!
Research the area and find out local eateries that cater a gluten free diet. Contact them directly to explain about eliminating cross contamination and always go with your instincts.
Take lots of snacks, dried fruit, nuts, biscuits, cake and savoury nibbles. These come in handy when you want something to go with a cuppa (or a chilled glass of wine on the balcony perhaps?!)
If you are self-catering don’t forget to take gluten free bread (long life bread and rolls are perfect due to long shelf life and not requiring freezing) crackers are also useful. If you’re going abroad just double check with your travel agent about any restrictions the particular country may have about bringing food into their country.
Do hope you enjoyed this months blog, please give me a shout on anything you may like me to natter about in future blogs!!