Chow Bella

Fear of (Gluten-Free) Flying -- Or, Rather, of Airport Food

Since going gluten-free, I have developed a fear of flying. Not the flying part, but the eating part.

See also: - Mother's Day in Phoenix: Moms Eat Gluten-Free at Tryst Café (with Bottomless Mimosas) - 10 Cool Things at the Gluten-Free Expo

Frankly, the whole gluten-free thing can make you a little paranoid about knowing where your next safe meal is coming from. Particularly when you're trapped past the security checkpoint with a pitiful assortment of airport "restaurants" and candy stands.

A few of the sit-down places might have a salad on the menu, though your waiter won't know if the dressing is safe. But if you're on the run, you're usually looking at burgers, sandwiches, pizza, or chicken tenders, none of which are gluten-free-friendly.

And a turkey sandwich on gluten-free bread from home will look pretty sad and probably spoiled after a couple of hours without refrigeration.

I've had a couple of trips lately, the most recent to my nephew's wedding in Virginia, connecting through Detroit on the way out and Atlanta on the way back. It was a death march.

Our flight out left at 6 a.m., which meant getting to the airport at 4:30 or so. Then a four-hour flight, change of planes with no time to eat in Detroit, and another two hours to Norfolk, Virginia. Total: Between eight and nine hours in airport food sequestration.

My husband and son grabbed a bagel in Detroit to carry on to Norfolk. But I was looking at a bag of chips or a banana for my eating options.

Luckily, I've got a new trick in my bag: GoPicnic Ready-to-Eat Meals, ( a boxed meal available for about $5 at Target and online, no refrigeration necessary, with vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, and kosher varieties.

Okay. It's a boxed meal. Okay. It's packaged, not fresh. But compared to Cheetos and M&Ms, it's close to gourmet.

The gluten-free options include black bean dip and plantain chips, almond butter and crackers, three-bean dip and rice chips, turkey pepperoni and chips, salmon and crackers, sunbutter and crackers, hummus and crackers, and turkey stick and crunch.

I grabbed one of the hummus and one of sunbutter, throwing one in my carry-on, and one in my suitcase for the flight home.

The hummus selection had a squeezable container of garbanzo-bean spread to eat on the package of multi-seed crackers. You also get a bag of Baja Blend Fruit & Nut Mix, which included habanero almonds, sweet and salty peanuts and mango cranberries. And a packet of roasted edamame, pumpkin seeds, and watermelon kernels. And a piece of dark chocolate with sea salt.

I actually was looking forward to my high-flying meal.

On the way home, I had the sunbutter meal, a sunflower-seed spread with multi-grain crackers, some trail mix with sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, fruit and chocolate chips, a fruit peel and a chocolate cookie.

No more fear. No more begging for an extra little bag of 12 peanuts. No more airplane deprivation. Fly on.

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Judith Nichols