Guck Fluten: a celiac’s survival guide to the RPG con season

Ryan asked about gluten-free eating during con season and here’s the blog entry.

In a perfect world I’d have a hotel room or a house rental with a kitchen or kitchenette, allowing me to cook my own meals but the world just isn’t perfect.

1. The All-Important Mini-Fridge

Hotels will put a mini-fridge in your room for a few more bucks per night.  If the hotel staff hems and haws, I explain that it is a medical issue and I need a place to store my own food.  I bring a few click-n-lock containers of food that could be a one-bowl-meal.  I like chicken, peppers and onions in some kind of tasty marinade and I bring my own click-n-lock bowls and a few utensils.  There are tons of GF blogs with fine recipes if you need them.

I find that I don’t get a whole lot of down-time to re-charge, so if I feel over-whelmed, I can replenish my batteries with my bowl of foods and some sexy new RPG that I just bought, take my meal as alone-time.  If I feel more social, I can invite folks to join me while I eat and if folks go for lunch later, I can just have a drink and hang out.

Lunch is a really social thing at Gen Con, I find that eating my own meals frees me up to go wherever I want to go.

2. Snacks

Don’t forget some snacks.  I go with Think Thin bars.  Yeah, the lady at the grocery store thinks I am watching my girlish figure and some flavors are horrid (I like the peanut butter and the chocolate and strawberry flavors) but when hunger threatens to turn me into a bastard, they get me through to the next meal.  They are between 17 and 20 grams of protein a pop and are sugar free.

Also, fruit.  Oranges, apples, anything that travels well.  Also, offering your gamer-friend a piece of fruit during Gen Con will make you seem like the Messiah of Produce.

3. Know your friendly chains.

Some restaurant chains are friendly to gluten-free issues and some are not.  The big friendly face at Gen Con is PF Chang’s.  Chang’s is great for the first few days but come Friday or so and it get’s really busy during the prime-time lunch hours.

Find out which restaurant chains are within walking distance of the con and find their gluten-free offerings online.

4. Know your battlefield.

Most cities have a gluten-free blog or google group.  Find those folks and ask about places to seek out and places to avoid.  Those are the folks who are going to know about the gluten-free buried treasures in the town where you are getting your geek on.

If you can’t find such a thing, call around to the local restaurants and ask them if they have any gluten-free items on their menus.  You’ll know the danger signs when they say things like, “We don’t cook with the glutens,” or even better, “Free? No, man, everything on the menu costs money.” Yes, I have been told both.

5. Walk away.

Some restaurants won’t have anything GF on the menu but you can talk to the cook and everything’s cool.  Some places are ignorant and don’t know what they are talking about.  Know the danger signs.  If I am worried, I’ll ask if something I know has gluten in it is gluten-free.

“There is no gluten in that bread; it is whole wheat.”

Walk away.  I don’t like to cause a fuss right there.  If I’m really good and pissed, I’ll e-mail the restaurant’s owners later when I’m not on vacation at a con.

6. Temptation

I never willingly cheat.  The physical consequences are just too dire but even so I am tempted every so often when I am on vacation.

Don’t let frustration ruin your con and more importantly mess up your health.

7. Know your allies.

Vegans, vegetarians, diabetics, bodybuilders, professional athletes are some of the folks who are used to watching what they eat and reading labels.  Many of them are food aware and while they might not know the in’s and out’s of celiac’s disease but they might know where the nearest health food store is or where the more aware restaurants are located.  I’m not saying that you should go to the local pro football teams locker room for support but its something to keep in mind should you see someone eating their tofu and noodles at the next table over.

Conclusion:

If nothing else, take a container of food and a few gluten-free snack bars of some kind.  In a pinch you can do the rest of your research at the con.  But you’ll have more time to just relax and have fun if you make a few e-mails and phone calls before the con.

I am not going to be able to attend any conventions this year, so you are going to have to have fun as my proxy.

Have fun and if you need more support, drop me a line.

P.S. (“Judd, I have no idea what you are talking about?  Celiac’s disease? Gluten?”  Here.)

And more:

1) Here’s a handy-dandy walking tour of Gluten-free/Vegan restaurants near Origins.  Thanks, ViolentCarrot.

2) Steve’s Original Paleo kits are good eating too.  They are a little messy but with a damp paper towel, they’re a great way to grab a nice mix of meat, nuts and fruit and all profits go to a great cause – Steve’s Club, a crossfit gym for kids in Camden, N.J.  Check it out.

3) There is a thread about this post over on RPG.net’s Tangency Forum and Tehana brought up some interesting points that I had not considered:

Another thing especially for Gencon, please understand if we’re playing a card game or a role playing game and you’re eating something with gluten in it, its going to make us anxious. Touching something with gluten can cause a skin reaction in many Celiacs or if we touch something and then happen to have that hand touch our mouth’s it can make us sick. So if you see someone at your table using a lot of hand sanitizer, they might not be OCD, they might have CD.

So if you happen to have someone with CD in your group or in your hotel room, please don’t think we’re being anti-social, it just kinda sucks sometimes to have to be the one that can’t come out with you. We still want to game, we still want to browse the dealer’s hall with you and we still are happy to be there! We just really can’t eat with you in most cases.

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11 thoughts on “Guck Fluten: a celiac’s survival guide to the RPG con season

  1. This is actually good advice to anyone with a food issue at any kind of con. A lot of it applies to my diabetes when I’m at sci-fi cons, especially the get your own fridge, bring your own food, and learn whats in the area parts.

    Thanks!

  2. also, the Atkins folk. We tend to be gluten-free as well. Not that we’re as easy to spot as, say, vegans, but still.

  3. Thank you very much for writing this! As another with CD its refreshing to read this. I am linking this over to the Gencon forums with a bit of my own personal experiences. GC is rough as is any Con, glad to see I’m not alone!

  4. Skin reaction? Ye ghods, I’d no idea. (We’re currently merely dealing with a con suite at a very small filking convention that needs to a) have a kosher area (which may be the whole con suite), b) not have hot food (hotel regs), and c) have absolutely no peanut products in it whatsoever. This seems positively simple in comparison with Celiac.)

  5. Pingback: Scotty’s Brewpub: Gaming, Grog, Grub, and Good Times for Gen Con : Critical Hits

  6. Pingback: Your Gen Con Survival Kit: (alt title: Why you should bring a lacrosse ball to the G.C.) « The Githyanki Diaspora

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