Basically, travelling with food restrictions sucks. At least that’s how I’m feeling about it today in Montreal. It’s probably an unfair conclusion – I’m sure some restaurants in Montreal have heard of gluten-intolerance and celiac disease. I just haven’t found any yet.
I remember being about 17 or 18 and travelling in the southern US with my parents. I was a vegetarian (no gluten problems yet) and I remember that every restaurant where we stopped, I had salad and fries. Salad and fries. Salad. And fries. For 10 days. I think when we were in larger cities I was able to order pasta, but even that was a stretch, because pasta sauce has meat in it. What do you mean, you want spaghetti with sauce with no meat in it? How is that even edible? (The expressions on the servers faces said.)
Nowadays, I’m both vegetarian (by choice) and gluten-free (by necessity). Throw in a pretty severe intolerance to MSG, and my options for eating out become extremely limited. And while people’s awareness of vegetarianism has grown exponentially in the last 20 years, awareness of gluten-intolerance seems to still be a new phenomenon in some places.
For some reason, I get less angry about this at home. Maybe it’s because if I can’t eat in one restaurant, I always have my go-to places to fall back on, or I can just go home and whip something up. This weekend, I’m working a conference at the Montreal Congress Centre, near Old Montreal. In the touristy area, I’ve found restaurants serving lots of meat and pasta (for lots of money). I’m reduced to my old standbys from 20 years ago: salad and fries. No protein in sight, except when I pay $30 for breakfast at my swanky hotel, because breakfast at all the moderately priced places includes gluten: eggs on bagels, eggs on toast, eggs in a wrap. What’s a glutard to do?
Last night, I didn’t finish work until 7, so I wanted to find something to eat fast. In desperation, I ended up at the local Couche Tard, and ate various processed foods out of plastic packages. My favourite. At least it was inexpensive.
Today, I blew my per diems on breakfast and lunch, so I will likely resort to going to Couche Tard again. I haven’t been able to locate a grocery store within walking distance. Don’t people cook their own food around here? Maybe there are no residential areas in this part of town.
So, this Thanksgiving, I am grateful for my wonderful home, with my fridge and cupboards full of wonderful food that doesn’t make me sick. In the meantime, I have one more day in Montreal. Maybe I’ll stumble onto something yet.