Lunch in Enemy Territory

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by Carol Kicinski on April 23, 2009

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The Chinese do lots of business over meals. It is very usual for the Chinese business person to invite you to lunch or dinner and to treat you to an enormous meal, arranged in advance.

I had figured this would be my biggest challenge in eating gluten-free in China as we are here primarily on business and it is very offensive to not eat what is offered. I, unlike lots of westerners, was not worried about being served chicken feet and cow stomach. I was worried about wheat. Since business was our first priority, I had already decided that I would just have to eat and suffer.

For the most part my worries were delightfully unfounded.

The first dinner we were treated to was at a private dining club in Shanghai and there was surprising little food prepared with wheat and soy sauce. And there was so much food that it was not noticeable if I didn’t take something I was certain contained wheat. This meal was FABULOUS! I can’t even count how many dishes and courses we had but the most memorable was a goose liver lightly sautéed and served with a pink peppercorn sauce. Not at all what I had expected.

The following lunches and dinners were similar. So many dishes and all of them freshly prepared, thus they lacked the pre-made soup stocks (chock full of modified wheat starch and MSG) and again a surprising lack of soy sauce.

Then there was lunch in the land of the enemy!

We were invited to a lavish lunch in a restaurant in Luoyang. My first clue that this might be a gluten free gal’s nightmare was that the restaurant is housed in what used to be a wheat farm! They even had a wheat grinding stone out front.

Turns out Luoyang does not have rice. It has wheat. And lots of it. They are famous for it! Their most traditional dish is made from wheat noodles.

Dish upon dish arrived – all with some form or another of the famous wheat. And I was starving. And this was an important business deal for the hubby so I could not offend our host. OMG!

Oh well. I ate and survived. For the next couple of days I was a little bloated and blotchy, a little headachy but worst of all, I was craving wheat like you wouldn’t believe.

That is the malicious side of this ailment for me. If I have a little gluten, all I want is gluten. Everywhere I looked there were noodles and dumplings calling my name. I noticed croissants, cakes and pastries I hadn’t even seen before. The cravings became unbearable. It hadn’t been that difficult for me in ten years.

My confession? I had a croissant for breakfast the next day. And a roll. AND a donut!!! I know – I turned into a mad gluten-eating glutton! I figured since I was already gluten poisoned why not go all the way and taste the forbidden while I had the chance?

Know what? I realized I haven’t missed a darn thing these past years since going totally gluten-free. Except feeling unwell.

While it has not been so easy eating here in China, I am happy that I am Simply…Gluten-free!


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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

GFE--gluten free easily April 23, 2009 at 3:52 am

Oh, dear, Carol … I would not have done that. Eating a little gluten is like eating a little rat poison. My doctor just told me last week that an accidental ingestion takes 4 – 6 weeks to leave most of one’s body, but 6 MONTHS to leave one’s brain.

No judgment, but would you have eaten peanuts if you were allergic to peanuts or a food that caused anaphylactic shock? Obviously allergies and intolerances are different beasts, but I think we need to think about gluten that way because the damage is still being done whether or not the results are as immediate.

Best to you,


Helene April 23, 2009 at 10:51 am

Oh my, hope you are doing well.


Steph April 23, 2009 at 8:37 pm

I struggled with that when I was first diagnosed. I had the same philosophy…I’m already sick from it, what’s a little more…but I had to learn for myself that it just wasn’t worth it, and feeling better sooner was more important. I’m glad you were able to appease your hosts, and that you were not horribly sick from the experience. I probably would have done the same thing in your place.
I’m so happy that you’re gluten free though! You have shared so many wonderful recipes with the world that have helped me a lot!
I hope the rest of your time out there is exciting and gluten free!


MJ April 23, 2009 at 9:23 pm

I’m a “recovering perfectionist” and sometimes I’m really hard on myself about adhering to a perfectly gluten-free diet. It actually makes me feel better (helps me cope) to know that others fall of the wagon sometimes; we’re human, after all. :) Thanks for sharing your experiences and keeping it real!!


Katrina April 26, 2009 at 6:05 am

I think you are so brave traveling to China with a gluten allergy. I was petrified just going to Cancun! For some reason, the language barrier scares me. Thank God for Triumph Dining Cards! Have fun… and stay away from the udon!


White on Rice Couple April 26, 2009 at 8:08 pm

All week I’ve been anxiously awaiting today when I have time to visit and see what adventures you have in store for us. The accounts of your travels leave me transfixed and hungry for more. You are such a trooper. Your hubby must love you passionately and dearly. Thanks for taking us along on your journeys. T.


Melanie "Gluti Girl" June 8, 2009 at 4:21 pm

I've really enjoyed reading about your China trip. I don't think I'd be brave enough to go there. My husband took his band there a couple years ago for their music festival they have every year. He loved it and would like to go back.

I am so paranoid when I travel just for fear of cc. If I had eaten the noodles you did I would have been so sick. I ate sausage a couple weeks ago that I didn't know it had gluten in it and was up most of the night. I think we all have our own set of symptoms that go with this disease. At least it didn't make you sick enough to ruin your trip!


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