Multi-part blog – 29 June 2022 – Part two
A quick chat about being gluten free, and some of the options for dining in Mittagong gluten free. This is not a comprehensive list, by any means. I ate only 3 meals in Bowral and Mittagong, so I did not do much exploring. I did find two good options, however, that I wanted to share.
Why am I gluten free?
I don’t think I’ve posted about this before on my blog, but I was diagnosed in February 2022 as having Coeliac disease (for our American friends – Celiac disease). ANY gluten, no matter how small, does damage to my bodies ability to absorb nutrients from the food I consume. It also causes other side effects. For me the side effects aren’t terribly noticeable. I can eat gluten and not particularly notice it. I have friends who get severe stomach cramps within hours of eating any gluten. It’s serious stuff, and has serious long-term consequences if not managed. How do you manage it? By eliminating ALL gluten from your diet. Always.
For more information on Coeliac disease and what it means for those of us who have it (or if you think you might have it), please see the Coeliac Australia website, or the website of your local coeliac (celiac) society.
Why is this a problem?
Wheat is one of the grains which contain the gluten protein. Rye, barley and possibly oats are the others. And the biggest issue is that wheat in particular is EVERYWHERE. Bread, obviously. Most pastas. Most cakes. The batter used on fish. Some chips are battered too, as are almost all other deep-fried foods. Because we cannot consume ANY gluten without problems, even the small crumbs that come off one deep fried thing and get tangled in the next deep-fried thing using the same oil can cause us issues. Using the same cutting board which has been used to cut bread products is a major issue.
This makes eating out a little bit of a lottery. Unless the restaurant has very careful protocols to prevent contamination, inadvertent gluten is a likelihood. I generally only eat chips where I am confident that the establishment has a deep fryer that is generally used just for chips. It isn’t guaranteed unless it is exclusive, but most places won’t promise that. For all that I dislike McDonalds, their cooking systems mean that the fryers used to cook their fries are almost never used to cook anything else. McDonalds fries are pretty safe for me. Pretty much no other food they produce is, however – only the green salad, drinks and sundaes.
Eating out becomes a lottery
I do like eating out. Over the last few months I have been slowly working out the places around where I live that have a reasonable selection of things on the menu that I can eat. If it’s just meat and vegetables (no sauce), it’s probably safe. That get’s pretty tedious after a while, though.
Beyond that, more information is required. Even if the food does not have bread-like ingredients, wheat is often used in sauces as a thickener. I like Chinese food – but almost all Chinese restaurants seem to use wheat as a thickener. Fortunately for me, I like Indian food even more. Most Indian restaurants I have encountered either don’t thicken their sauces or use rice flour, which is fine. I have found Thai restaurants, another of my major favourites, to be a bit of a lottery. Some have only a small selection of their menu gluten free, and others have almost all their menu gluten free.
How does this relate to Mittagong?
Well, as I mentioned on the EV post, I ate dinner at the Mittagong RSL Club both evenings. Why did I go there two nights in a row? Apart from the fact they had a fast charger in their carpark, anyway… Because a large percentage of their menu was marked as having gluten-free options. Not only that, but they actually took it seriously. The order staff assured me that they cooked their chips in an exclusively gluten free fryer and had a separate preparation area for gluten free food. They guaranteed there would be no cross-contamination with gluten in their food. Not only that, but the chips actually arrived with a little “Gluten Free” flag on them to indicate that they had been cooked in the gluten free fryer. This level of awareness and dedication seems to be rare. I was impressed.
The food was pretty good too.
The other discovery was in Bowral. There is a special organic/vegetarian/… cafe at the back of their organic supermarket place. Not quite the range that the RSL club had, but still multiple choices for me to eat. No nice little flags, but the staff were similarly very much coeliac-aware and reassuring. Being organic produce, it was not cheap. But it was quite tasty.