One of the things I am always most nervous about when I travel is if I’ll be able to find gluten-free food and whether or not people will understand me when I ask for it. Going to India has been no different.
During our first week at the hotel I had a pretty difficult time finding food to eat because they were constantly trying to cater to our American cravings. One night they made some sort of mac ‘n cheese. Another morning they tried their hand at french fries for breakfast. And each day I struggled to explain to them that I could not eat anything with wheat or flour in it. I was nervous during that first week that every day in India would be a struggle to find something to eat.
But once we moved out of the hotel into our new homes and began eating out more frequently, my fears were assuaged. Most traditional Indian food is gluten-free naturally. I eat rice and dhal (lentils) at least once a day and there are dozens more starches and grains used here than there are in America so there are even types of bread I can eat.
While the other students eat chapati (a flat tortilla-like pancake you can dip in various side dishes) I have been eating bhakiri (a similar bread made from different starches).
They rarely use flour to thicken their soups and despite my prediction on the first week that I would lose weight during the next three months, I am now certain I won’t be losing any weight from lack of food any time soon.
Since we’ve been traveling with the program director since the beginning of the program she has been helping me to figure out what I can and cannot eat. Before each meal Sucheta finds me to point out what I can eat from the buffet or what I should not take when the waiters bring the tray around. So far, there has been only one gluten-scare a couple of nights ago when I took a bite of potato slices covered in some sort of red sauce.
As soon as I’d taken a bite, I felt someone’s hands on my shoulders and heard Sucheta shout, “Wait, Rachel! Don’t eat that!”
I dropped my fork.
She explained that she thought it was probably safe for me to eat, but didn’t know for sure that there wasn’t soy sauce in it and suggested I skip over the fries tonight.
Since then, things have been pretty easy and I find that I really love the food here. When we have boxed lunches they even make special bhakiri for my lunch and draw a smiley face on the box so I know which one I can eat!