Thanks to the wonder that is modern technology (okay, it was Twitter), I discovered that crime writer BV Lawson is on a gluten-free diet. BV is a former classical musician turned radio announcer turned writer who also worked for the Discovery Channel for over a decade. Now a full-time freelancer based in Arlington, Virginia, she’s penned radio and television scripts, articles for various publications, and won awards for her more than two dozen published stories and poems. (Check out her delightful “Gun Love” in Plots With Guns.) Thanks to the influence of library genes handed down from her mother, she created the blog In Reference to Murder which contains over 3,000 links for mystery readers and writers. She’s currently working on a series of novels set in various locations in and around the mid-Atlantic; be sure to visit her author site.
How long have you been on a gluten-free diet? Unfortunately, I only discovered the problem relatively recently, was in denial for awhile, then finally settled in to the full gluten-free lifestyle about two years ago. It’s been quite an adjustment.
How often do you travel? As often as possible, which isn’t often enough! My husband is a private pilot, so we rent a little Cessna 172 and fly whenever we can.
Where have you traveled since going gluten-free? Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Vermont, West Virginia, the eastern shore on the Delmarva Peninsula, and other areas of Virginia. Would love to go back to Europe or the Caribbean someday soon.
What foods or snacks do you usually pack when traveling? When I was in Florida recently for a night shuttle launch, we had a little mini-kitchen, so I took gluten-free instant oatmeal, instant grits, individual applesauce containers, cereal, juice, nuts, fruit and some chocolate (natch!). Breakfasts are the hardest due to all those “free continental” things they have in hotels these days, which are basically gluten gluts.
What other things do you always bring with you? Laptop computer, books, a little writing pad that fits in my purse for story ideas, a heating pad (can’t live without that – it’s great for emergencies), and unfortunately compression socks, thanks to a couple of rounds with blood clots. That leads me off on a bit of a tangent, but I believe it’s gluten related: because I lived with a gluten problem for so long and didn’t realize it (in hindsight, it was very easy to see), it led to a whole host of health “annoyances.” Gluten problems are often linked with autoimmune disorders like Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (which I have), fibromyalgia (which I have); plus, an acquired autoimmune condition can also lead to blood clots. My unscientific (but valid, I think) hypothesis is that gluten caused all the immune problems, which in turn led to the clots. I wish we could develop a good reliable gluten test to give to young people to prevent things like this later on in life.
Any favorite restaurants you’ve discovered on the road? What about in your town? We ate at a wonderful little hole-in-the wall restaurant in Melbourne, Florida, called the Thai Thai. I love Thai cuisine because they don’t use wheat much at all, except soy sauce, and I ordered some gluten-free soy sauce travel packets off the Internet. I’m also a big sushi fan. We have a wonderful pizza joint in Arlington called the Lost Dog Cafe, which the hubster and I have loved for years. When I went gluten-free, I had to salivate while I watched him eat the pizza, trying to enjoy my salad. Recently, they added gluten-free crusts, and I am in heaven. Another popular area pizza restaurant, Z Pizza, also recently added GF crusts, and I’m looking forward to trying them.
Any favorite hotels? It’s a little silly to choose a hotel due to its breakfast options, but Hampton Inns generally have a larger GF choice in their complimentary breakfast bar. We stayed at the Doubletree in Melbourne and loved it – all rooms are ocean view and we could open the sliding glass door to the patio and let the surf sounds waft through all night. Wonderfully soothing. My secret dream is to stay in one of those ritzy island getaways with your own private infinity-edge pool looking over the ocean.
Favorite city/destination that is not your hometown or current home base? From my childhood/teen years, I still have fond memories of the Bay of Fundy area and Prince Edward Island, as well as Florence, Italy. My husband is a diver, so we’ve enjoyed places like Bonaire together. We took an astronomy trip to Arizona in 2003 and fell in love with the desert southwest, including Tucson, Phoenix/Scottsdale and on up through Sedona to Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon. It’s a beautiful state, that Arizona. And for guilty pleasures that make you feel like a kid again – it’s Disney World.
What’s your dream destination? There are so many places on my list, it’s hard to narrow it to just one. Places in the Caribbean we haven’t been to, Hawaii, Alaska, Ireland, Iceland (yes, I know – volcanoes, but they have lovely views of the aurora borealis, too), Egypt, Australia, New Zealand. The world, basically. And hopefully be like my parents some day and be able to say that we’ve been to all 50 states.
Do you have any other advice for gluten-intolerant travelers? Try to avoid all packaged foods whenever possible (which is just about anything with over 5 ingredients). Definitely don’t be afraid to ask the waiter and/or manager about special food preparations, if you need them. If you have to, stick with chain brands with standardized food choices. Download as many GF restaurant menus as you can from their web sites online and take them with you (or transfer the info to your PDA/phone).