Gluten Free Travel: Introduction

I’m no spring chicken as I have 2 girls (now 17 & 19) who I had in my 30’s. Therefore, I was blessed with the opportunity to do some traveling before settling down after marriage. As memories come forth, inspired by current life, I’ll share some of those great adventures, but the ones that come to mind right now are from my childhood growing up on the west coast and visiting the Hawaiian Islands. 

My friends in the mid-west can understand the context of Hawaii, in that they ‘do’ Mexico. On the west coast, you ‘do’ Hawaii if you are able. Acapulco has gotten rather unsavory for families and Cabo San Lucas is expensive. Disneyland is not for everyone, Arizona is freakishly hot and dry. So, if you are able, you go to Hawaii. 

In the mid-west, the popular destination is Mexico, primarily Le Rivera Maya. Having lived in the mid-west now for over a dozen years, we have had fun planning Disney Cruises out of Florida to the Virgin Islands (when the kids were very little), Mexico multiple times in various locations, and the inevitable family visits to relatives in Arizona.(I swear, all old people retire in AZ) 

So, time came to plan our yearly winter get-a-way. You see, I have to get away from the frozen tundra mid-winter or I would perish, or be committed. Winters in the northern Mid-West are not only brutal, but obscenely long. Cabin crazy long. 

Hawaii was not my first thought, but I have a couple of friends on Facebook who live on the islands. Their constant posting of photos, the food they shared and the culture all reminded me of my trips as a youth and inspired me to seriously chat with hubby about a trip to the islands. You see, while as a native from the West Coast, I had grown up going to the islands, none of my family has ever been. So beginning back in the early summer negotiation talks went on with the family and hubby. Hawaii is no breeze to get to from the Mid-West. It’s expensive to fly, it’s a brutally long trip, and it’s expensive once you are there.  However, we had a secret card to play. My hubby has been flying extensively for going on 16+ years, and fortunately a majority has been with one airline. So accrued miles were plentiful enough to get us 4 first class tickets to Hawaii. Oh yes, we burned them ALL up baby!

I have a friend who is a travel agent, and she foubnd us up with some very reasonable (and CLEAN) condos and the plans were set. This however, is the first time since my daughter was diagnosed as gluten intolerant (and we have discovered recently dairy protein or dairy fat sensitive). I can think of worse issues to have, but I will confess, the islands are a challenge. You see, soy and breading are a big part of the food culture here. Many things that are not breaded have soy. Fish dishes you’d expect to be ok, have soy or contain flour.

So this is the introduction to our families journey, gluten free traveling. I hope others can benefit from it. 

 (part 1: coming shortly)

Kalua Pork


While traveling on the island of Maui, we were told to try many dishes and drinks – Moco Loco, Poke, POG, Mai Tai’s, Hawaiian varieties of fish and Kalua Pork, or Kalua Pig which brings me to Hana. Heavenly Hana.

The road to Hana is known not as a destination, but a journey. It is all about the drive along the way. Stops galore with sights that constantly take your breath away. Breathtaking not only for the hair-raising dare-devil, barely two lane road (but mostly one car sized road) drive up perilously treacherous hairpin turns overhanging the ocean hundreds of feet below, but also for the sheer beauty of nature. It’s a journey that should be on everyone’s Bucket List.

We got a late start and hubby took the wheel on the way up. We hugged the hillside so close I swore we were going to take off a side mirror, climbing to over 1400 feet on a road that twisted and turned as it carved in to the hillside on a path, I swear, was made for goats. There were lots of turnouts so there were an abundance of walking and stretching of leg opportunities to take photos, but they handled few cars and one needed to mind where walking, lest you end up bumped off the side!  Up, then back down again, then up even higher, then back down again. Despite the potential for car sickness or other calamities, it was completely and utterly worth the ‘thrill’ of the ride.

We saw painted eucalyptus trees. Trees who’s bark looks like it was painted with an artists watercolor palette. We saw small remote towns who grew Taro in small fields out on a volcanic spits where the waves crash and spray like a steam iron on overload. We saw palm forests that looked like they were out of Jurassic Park, literally. The scenes for the opening of the original Jurassic Park were filmed in one of the valleys on the way to Hana. We saw cattle, bamboo forests, gorgeous plants and flowers one only sees in florist shops, growing wild. We saw Tarzan vines, and roots that looked like the rudders of a ship and were nearly as big. The canopy of the forest was overflowing with beautiful vivid orange tropical flowers, reminiscent of the image in Tolkien’s ‘The Hobbit’ when Bilbo climbs to get his bearings. We saw lots and lots of rain, but then it is a rain forest. That part of the island can an average of 12 feet of rain. There were secluded waterfalls and caverns with their crystal clear blue pools.

We made it all the way to Hana, where the sands are black and the waves are big. It’s a quaint isolated little town, where they were friendly to the tourists. We grabbed a coffee at the local market (which reminded me very much of a Ben Franklin 5&10) and then it was my turn to drive back down. As it was getting late in the day we decided to stop at this teeny tiny little tin covered hut, (which we passed on the way up) that sold Kalua Pork, for an early dinner. It was pouring rain at that moment and it sounded like the heavens above were coming down on us, what with the tin roof and all. A woman standing on a platform behind a counter, with a couple of food steamers and an ice cooler, was serving a nice selection of fish, shrimp and Kalua pork tacos or bowls, ‘homemade’ mac n’cheese, hot dogs and chili. I choose the Kalua Pork bowl. There were giant condiment bottles labeled with masking tape ‘HOT-garlic/chili’, ‘BBQ’, ‘Sweet Chili Sauce’ along with soy, Tapatio, ketchup and mustard. I went for the BBQ, garlic chili and soy. Oh, it was mighty tasty. Sitting there in that forest, hugging the side of the road, with the rain beating down loud enough to make it difficult to talk among each other was absolutely wonderful.

Sometimes in circumstances like that, you wonder if the food was really as good as you thought. Was it? Or was the ambience and scenery so amazing that the food benefits by association? I’ll never know. Kalua Pork on it’s own isn’t all that hard to make based on the recipes I looked up. Maybe it was the atmosphere, or the smell of the rain forest, or the leaves its’ steamed in. Maybe it was the picnic bench covered with a vinyl cloth, or the man next to us in his handmade banana leaf brimmed hat. Maybe it was the chickens pecking about next to us, or the music of the rain on a tin roof. All I know was that it was amazing. It was amazing, and I hope to be back again in my lifetime.

Just because it’s checked off the Bucket List doesn’t mean I can’t repeat it, right?

(The photo up top was taken from my iPhone, during a break in the rain. Quality suffers, but you can find many other professional quality photos online)