When people think about vacation and eating, I imagine they envision what I used to fantasize about: food porn that makes your mouth water long before the meal reaches the table, scents wafting in from a kitchen while you sip an Argentinian Malbec in anticipation of that medium-rare steak, the flinging of crumbs from your mouth as you bite into freshly baked slices of sourdough bread, and decadent chocolate flowing over a delicate ensemble of wafer, lavender ice cream, and ice berries.
Now, as a person with Autoimmune Disease who experiences medical crisis when the smallest of errors is committed in those same scenes, tales about food on the road read like a horror movie, cued with edge-of-seat moments and relieved sighing when danger is averted.
Was that a green onion hiding under those rice grains?
Did they use corn starch to thicken the sauce?
Is there anyone who can feed me more than berries for dessert?
The big question I’ve been trying to answer is in the title of the book I’m writing — how is food fun again for the millions of people who live a “free from” lifestyle, including scent free hygiene products and smoke-free air? If your food doesn’t look like it’s filled with unicorn sprinkles and Instagram-able ingredients (salt, fat, sugar), is it, by definition, fun?
And when you’re on the road for two weeks, as I was from August 27 to Sept 9 2018 for a vacation with my husband, is that food exciting when it isn’t presented and piled, one ingredient on top of the other, the way everyone else’s food is presented, stuck together with butter, milk, syrup, gluten, beans, or nuts? Is the point of fun food to mimic what we once could eat, such as eating gluten free cereals? Or is the point of fun food something entirely different?
Do we become less grateful when that Wagyu Alberta raised steak comes without a BBQ rub or sauce, or do we become more grateful that the flavor of that same steak comes through an extremely minimalist arrangement, missing the usual dollop of mashed potatoes, butter, or cheese?
Is the food less fun because it looks different on the plate, or more fun when that food produces a feeling of satiation and delight within the person, not just on the plate?
All I know is that when I communicated more clearly that I wasn’t interested in eating processed gluten free food, the focus of my meals were clean, simple, natural foods. And what chef, in a fine restaurant or at home, is opposed to that? None that I met. In fact, everyone seems to relax when I steer clear of anything “gluten friendly”. Instead, we know that berries, rice, and steak are gluten free. No worries there.
And when there are no worries or concerns, that’s when the fun begins.