I went to Disneyland this weekend for the first time since starting on my gluten- and gum-free journey.
It was not easy.
Eating at Disneyland is like eating at a party. Easy until you actually get there.
I actually packed my own lunch – I have for about 10 years, way before going gluten free – and snacks. The only problem was actually eating them. Because I decided to go without a bag (I kept money and my ticket in my pocket). For the first time since I was in the eighth grade, I didn’t have to worry about looping my backpack around my legs on the fast rides, or remember to pick up my purse from the seat pocket. It was nice.
Except when, at 10 am, I was at the far end of California Adventure waiting in line for the Toy Story Mania ride and realized I was hungry. Starving, in fact. And my gluten free protein bar was waiting for me inside the locker on Main Street.
To clarify, I woke up at 4:30. I ate breakfast at 5:00. 10 am was way past a reasonable snack time as far as my body was concerned, especially since I’d already walked almost two miles.
Anyway, with my protein bar inaccessible, I had to find something else to eat. Which proved more difficult than you’d think.
You see, you can get a list of gluten free food/vendors from the Fire Station on Main Street, or by e-mailing the Disney website (they were quite nice by the way). But even if you carry it with you and know the park like the back of your hand, it’s not always easy to get to said vendors. My friends were eating hot dogs and churros. But the hot dog cart only stocked “regular” hot dogs. And the churro cart… Well, that would just be too much to hope for.
After some deliberation I determined that I could either have a bag of potato chips (nutritionally devoid) or a turkey leg (protein). It shouldn’t take much guessing to know that I chose the protein. I spent $9 on a turkey leg as big as my calf.
The worst part was that I didn’t actually want that much turkey. Just a few bites would suffice at that point. But it was so greasy that there was no way I was going to carry it around until I wanted more. It was overwhelmingly smoky and just too big for me. I’m a grazer. I don’t eat that much meat in one sitting, and none of my friends wanted more than a bite. So I threw most of it away.
I hate wasting food like that.
For lunch, we were back inside Disneyland. I got my sandwich – on a gluten free roll (the recipe for which I’m nearly done developing!!!) – and my water bottle, and ordered french fries from the french fry-only frier at the Stage Door Cafe. I hadn’t had fries since at least July, since often restaurants will fry everything in the same frier, and even though fries weren’t a regular staple of my diet anyway before going gluten free, these were amazing.
Later in the afternoon, I had a frozen lemonade from one of the stands. I wanted a Dole Whip, but I know for sure that it’s got gum as an ingredient because I looked it up before we left. Sadness. Still, that frozen lemonade was pretty awesome and very refreshing.
Luckily I wasn’t hungry until dinner (actually not lucky, pretty standard – I’m usually ravenous in the morning and not hungry until late for dinner), but unluckily I was near Toy Story again. I’d campaigned to eat at Fisherman’s Wharf, where I know they have a Mexican restaurant with lots of options for me, but I lost the battle. Honestly I didn’t know how tough it would be, but I stopped into Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta first (since my friend was going in there) and found out that they use bean thread noodles (yum) but only have gluten free marinara (no protein), so that was out. Then I went next door to Paradise Garden Grill. I figured Greek food would be easy to order.
Of course it wasn’t. The first thing I asked when I went to order was about the chimichurri sauce, since I’ve only ever seen it made with cilantro before (and in addition to all my other issues, cilantro makes me gag, to put it nicely). The cashier had to ask. Then I asked if I could get the meal gluten free. She had to check which items had gluten in them. Then I asked if I could get the cucumber salad without dressing. She had to check (I couldn’t, since it was premade). Did they make the dressing there, or did it come pre-made? She didn’t know, and neither did anyone she asked (so I’m guessing it was pre-made and had gum in it). She was clearly annoyed with me, but at this point I was going to be paying $10.99 for a skewer of meat and a pile of plain rice.
“So,” I asked, “can I get the Greek salad as my side? It’s not made with any dressing in it, right?”
“No,” she said, “You’d have to order it separately.”
“But,” I pressed, “I’m paying the same as a regular plate, except that I’m not getting rice pilaf, or cucumber salad, or pita bread.”
“Yes!” she snapped.
“Isn’t that kind of a rip off for me?” I asked.
Luckily at this point she asked the chef’s opinion. Daniel, the chef, came to talk to me. He was my hero, telling me that of course he could make me a side Greek salad, no dressing. I wanted to hug him.
Of course I’m an over-apologizer from way back (my high school boyfriend used to tell me not to talk to waiters, since all I seemed to ever do was say I was sorry!). So I kept telling the cashier I was sorry. I was so uncomfortable. Especially when then she told the lady behind me in line that she was sorry it was taking so long (it’s not like there weren’t other lines, but whatever), and the lady very rudely said that she was just “screwed” waiting there. Luckily a lady in another line waiting for her food stood up for me. “Don’t apologize!” she said. “You’re allergic! You need to be ok with what you’re eating!” It made me feel a little less awful.
Because even though I’m getting used to my own eating needs, apparently I’m not comfortable with them in public.
Bottom line: next time I’m there, I’m asking to talk to the chef before anything else. I re-read my e-mail from Disneyland and that’s what they suggest too. Duh.
I have to admit, though, that I did “cheat.” I ate a churro at the end of the night. I’d spent an hour or more making myself a gluten free churro the night before (using a recipe I found on Gluten Free Betty), and it was gorgeous and crunchy and perfect the night before, but it was soggy and disgusting when my friends were going to get a second churro after the fireworks. I made a conscious decision to take two glutenase pills and eat a churro. The last time I’d been to Disneyland (in the spring) the churro cart had run out of churros before I got one, and I’d been craving a churro ever since. So I ate it.
I have to tell you that it was good. But I was kind of surprised that it wasn’t more amazing. It’s been over a month since I’ve had any wheat at all, and I’d been wanting a churro for months, and it was just good. It was fresh, too, and hot, so it wasn’t that the churro had been sitting for a while or anything. It was just good. Not great.
I have to report that the glutenase worked to an extent. I’d never used it before and I certainly won’t make it a regular occurrence. But I didn’t have major tummy issues or insomnia or nasal allergies. I didn’t escape entirely unscathed, though. I’ve had horrible bloating since yesterday. My pants are tight with it right now. Strange how I never really realized how bad it was before.
Eating gluten isn’t worth this.
I will probably still carry glutenase with me, just in case I accidentally ingest something. And when I go to Italy next year I am probably going to eat a pizza with my husband. That’s just something I need to do. But gluten is very much not good for me. It does me no good to cheat, and a lot of bad. I’m glad all I had was a churro, and I didn’t decide to go wild. But I’m sort of kicking myself for breaking down and eating it.
I’m going to be going back in a few months. Hopefully I can work out a way not to feel deprived (although it looks like I’m going to have to go back to carrying a bag throughout the day) and work within my dietary needs.
The excellent news is that they use Kinnikinnick products. So I can have a hot dog because their buns are gum free (not all of their products are, but most are). Yeah!!!!