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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