Tuesday, January 29, 2013

A Celiac In Mexico!

We are back!  Just in time for single digit temperatures and freezing rain.... (Someone please tell me...why did I return to the midwest from Mexico again??)  I missed my Penny Su, my Red Roof Inn, my kitties, my friends, my family, and my kids, but this weather I did not miss one bit!  We had a fabulous relaxing vacation and I'm ready to go back already!

How can you be stressed with a view like this?!

I just wanted to share with you guys my experience of being a celiac in Mexico.  I'm not going to lie, I was VERY stressed out before we left because I was so worried about food... and getting stressed is the opposite of what this vacation was supposed to be doing for me.  But nevertheless, I couldn't help it and I was a basket case!   I mean I couldn't just not eat anything for an entire week.  I am a crabby beyotch when I'm hungy... and I'm always hungry so that couldn't go on for a week... talk about a vacation buzzkill! So I focused on being well prepared and once I got there and felt the warm salty air all stress was gone. Don't get me wrong, at first every time it came time to sit down and eat that familiar stress came back, but I made the best of it, got a system down, and it really wasn't an issue.  Here is how I dealt with language barriers (my spanish is not good enough that I trust my intestines to it!), meals, snacks, and of course... drinks!

This whole process started with good packing.  I brought A LOT of snacks.  I figured that I would be good for breakfast becasue the resorts always have a ton of fresh fruit and fresh fruit juices (oh how I miss that watermelon juice!)  They also have hard boiled eggs and lots of fresh veges.  I figured if  I filled up on naturally GF goodness at breakfast I would be ok with just some snacks for lunch.  I was right... sitting in the sun all day sipping cocktails doesn't really work up an appetite, so I was good with small snacks for lunch.  For snacks I brought a variety of GF granola bars, fruit snacks, chocolate chips (because a girl always needs chocolate!), and some almonds and pistachios for some protein.

 I also brought along individual packets of salad dressings, ketchup (but I didn't need that... they had heinz in mexico and it said "nao contem gluten" right on the packets which made me smile), and bbq sauce.  I figured if nothing else I could ask for a plain salad, or plain grilled meat and have my own sauce and dressings.  I found these little packets at http://www.minimus.biz/.  With these snacks and packets in my suitcase I had done the best I could to prepare.  Now it was time to not worry, but just get on the plane and go with the flow... cocktails help with the no worries part!

Drinks are a staple when it comes to all inclusive vacations!  I mean they don't make swim up bars so you can sit and drink plain ol' H2O!  Mexico is VERY proud of Corona... the air traffic control tower at the airport is even painted with the Corona logo!  As soon as we got on the bus to go to the resort from the airport the driver was popping tops on coronas and passing them back to everyone.. yes... all the while driving the bus!  After watching everyone else have welcome cocktails and not being able to participate, I was definitely ready for a drink once we got to the resort.  Luckily, when we arrived in the lobby they offer you a drink! I got a margarita... It was yummy... and definitely not the only one I drank while in Mexico!  I've never gotten sick from any hard liquour even before I got way serious about the gluten.  So I figured that while I was on this trip as long as I wasn't intentionally drinking beer or barley malt I wasn't going to go that hard core about making sure that the alcohol i was drinking wasn't originally wheat.... after all, all that is distilled out anyway.  I try, but I wasn't going to stress my self out too much about it.  Most of the tequila I drank was authentic mexican tequila, so there was no issue there.  I drank a lot of Bacardi... Bacardi & Pineapple, Mojitos, Pina Coladas, Bacardi and Diet, all kinds of daquiris.... ok you get it.. I like rum... moving on! The vodka they used was Absolute... which I won't purchase because I would rather give my money to support a vodka made from corn or potatoes rather than "winter wheat", but I do drink it without problems so when I ordered Sex On The Beach I didn't think too much about it.  Then of course my favorite.... JD... he is made from ingredients that are originally not GF, but the Jack Daniel's Distillery assured me the final product has all gluten distilled right on out of it so it is celiac friendly (check their website for yourself).  I can't bring myself to give it up... so yes... I do drink Jack Daniels without problem... and yes... I do LOVE it!  I'm going into a lot of detail here about GF alcohol.... I guess I should do a whole post just on that.  I drank house red wine with dinner.... and enough about the alcohol... more about dinner....

My biggest issue came when it was time for dinner.  There were four restaurants at our resort, and one was a buffet (not a celiac's bff...cross contamination is yucky!).  The other three had limited menus that were different each night.  You had to make reservations for the three sit down restaurants.  The concierge at the resort was very accomodating when I asked to see the menus in advance.  We made reservations according to what I thought would be my best option on each day.  The concierge even made a note next to our reservation that stated I was a celiac and I needed to have absolutely no gluten.  I was a bit concerned because noone in Mexico seemed to know what celiac was.... in a country where they live on mostly corn it isn't that big of an issue I guess.  However, they were familiar with different guests having different food allergies, so they did take me seriously which made me feel a little better.  But the language barrier still concerned me.  I was having a hard time with knowing that I wasn't going to be able to communicate well with the staff about my food. 

Luckily my friend works with a celiac that travels a lot and she shared with me a link to the Celiac Travel website (by the way...where have you been all my life??).  In addition to having all kids of tips and articles about traveling gluten free style, they have free printable Gluten Free Restaurant Cards in all kinds of different languages.  The Spanish one saved my whole trip!  I printed a few of these, laminated them, and carried them in my purse next to my salad dressing packet...(Yep.. that's what a Celiac carries a purse for).  At dinner I would just show one of the cards to the waiters and they would read it, take it back to the kitchen to show the chef, and then come out and point to what I could eat on the menu.  They were very very nice about it... in fact a hell of a lot nicer than a lot of restuarant staff I have dealt with in my own country!  They went above and beyond to make sure that I was safe!  They made alterations to the meals whenever it was necessary like changing the sides to just vegetables, using corn tortillas in place of flour, or leaving the sauce off of my main course.  And when they felt like they couldn't communicate with me well enough to make me feel comfortable they would go and get another staff member who spoke better english.  They would explain to me what ingredients were in the meals and make sure that I understood that they understood.  They would always bring my meal out and place it in front of me saying "Senorita especial for you"... and then they would always get a good tip from my hubby :) 

By the end of the week the staff knew me by name (and tips!)... and I was no longer stressed at all about my food.  We worked together and had a system down, and it worked.... I never got sick!!  Now that I know Mexico is perfectly safe for a celiac I think it is reasonable that I should return there.... don't you all agree?!? :)


  1. My wife and I just found out that our daughter has celiacs and we also enjoy going to mexico as well. Just knowing that there are options out there for us is very helpful. Thank you for all the info in your post. It is greatly appreciated.

  2. My wife does too Fern; if you guys are in a city you feel safe, a lot of the cooking is naturally without gluten.
    We find out pointing at items saying "es mais? Solo mais? No harina? Esta allergeia. Sin harina poor favor " or any combination has worked great *so far* (still here though