I know this is only the beginning. Emma is now in 6th grade and trips are going to happen– but yet again we find ourselves with another gluten-free “first” on our hands. Tonight our oldest daughter leaves for a weekend church retreat four hours away. No mom nearby to ask questions to. So now what? Time for Mom to get the camp prepared and time for Emma to mature a bit in her gluten-free world.
Eating Gluten-Free at Ingham Okoboji Camping Ministry
So it all started at a meeting in September when I heard the words “weekend retreat” and “required”….Okay so it’s true, Emma could bow out and do extra community service or whatever the alternative was if she “absolutely couldn’t make it”. But let’s face it, doing stuff like this is a part of growing up. There are so many positives that could happen: she will get to know the other kids better, make a stronger spiritual connection, and I think she’ll really have fun. The big old “CON” on that list is gluten-free. If I deny her experiences based on the fact that she’s gluten-free, what’s next? — Birthday parties, weekend trips with friends, eventually prom?
So I decide she’s going.
Fast forward 6 weeks, I realize we’re getting close to the weekend so I talk with the catechism leader who wants to make sure her needs are accommodated (thank you!). They put me in touch with the chef at Ingham Okoboji Camping Ministry located in Iowa. A very nice, accommodating person, who is on the fast-track to being gluten-free savvy (after our conversations). He instantly told me he fed a gluten-free person the weekend before so he even had a pizza crust, gluten free pancake mix and some cookies left over. Great!! We start chatting and he talks about these items and I ask if the syrup was confirmed gluten-free, and what about the sauce for the pizza? Nope. (insert screeching record noise here). Okay, time to back up- quite a bit.
My first impression was that he had a good handle on cooking gluten-free, but either the person who received his gluten-free cooking was only doing it for “diet” purposes or they didn’t go to the trouble to educate him on a real gluten-free diet where EVERYTHING is confirmed gluten-free. So we started over with me explaining celiac disease, gluten, and the fact that gluten can be in ANYTHING– Including the sauce for pizza. We talked about cross contamination (no toasters, cutting boards, wooden spoons) as well.
In another call yesterday we spent nearly 45 minutes going over the menu. He is buying fresh chicken, eggs, french fries (or potato chips) for her and I will supply her noodles for pasta night. Emma doesn’t like sauce so that sauce question won’t be an issue here. I am sending along her bread, possibly syrup and a few snacks, otherwise he’s got everything else. In the process of this menu discussion we decided to check on a few products from his distributor: two kinds of sausage, “tri-tators”, cube potatoes and the breakfast syrup. They should be getting back to me today — and I will update this post when I get the information. But for now, we’re planning the menu without them — as we all know those items can be dicey at times.
Based on this information, I will now set out to get this food information organized and printed for everyone. Then I’ll bring Emma to the buses tonight and send her off with her bag of food.
Gaining Gluten-Free Maturity
I struggle with the letting go part of this weekend. I could have offered to be a chaperone, but I think she needs to show some independence here a little bit. She knows her stuff, I am comfortable making her own decisions here. Plus, I have done the research and planning ahead of time to make it go okay. But what I mostly worry about is her not speaking up for herself. If she’s worried about some food on her plate, she just won’t eat it and won’t tell anyone about her concerns– and stay hungry.
I know this because this is what she does at school, no matter how well she knows the cafeteria supervisor, or how much we ask her to speak up. But at some point she has to become gluten-free mature — and that includes better ingredient knowledge, feeling comfortable to ask questions and raise your hand when something isn’t going well. It’s likely that some of this has to do with her being 11 and not wanting to stick out as well. Hopefully this maturity will come with time.
I will update my post when I find out more about these other products, and again next week when she returns safe and sound on Sunday night.