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Traveling trials

August 18, 2009

The dog days of summer are upon us but it was noticeably chilly in the overly air conditioned Newark airport Monday. Ralph and I spent the weekend in Virginia visiting family and friends, and had what we thought would be a two and a half hour layover in Newark on our way back. It was early evening and we were hungry and shivering and definitely worn out from packing too many people and too much wine into a very short weekend. We went in search of dinner. Airports can be a hard place for someone who can’t eat gluten; I know this. But a recent memory of a decent, if pricey, meal at Gallagher’s at that airport several months ago made me less concerned about bringing food with me than I usually might be.

So as we walked up and down the packed halls of the airport, searching out the food options in the C concourse, I felt my mood get darker with the seemingly never-ending pizza, salty Chinese food, pretzels, and sandwiches. Even the tacos at Maui Taco were made with flour tortillas. The chicken and rice I ended up eating at a fake French bistro was distinctly not good. And no doubt full of modified food starch, or just plain flour. It was a bad food decision for a celiac, but I was on the verge of a food-breakdown, nearly in tears, and I bought it anyway.

I realize that this is probably a fruitless rant but, really, why does it have to be so damn difficult to eat safely in an airport if you have an allergy? As I was waiting in line at Maui Taco (and sorry to keep maligning them here, but the experience was really pretty disappointing and the name stuck in my head) to ask about corn vs. flour tacos, the man in front of me asked the cashier whether their beans were vegetarian. The man answered dismissively, “yeah, yeah, yeah.” The customer, noticeably skeptical, asked, “Are you sure?” The cashier again brushed off the question, inspiring something less than confidence in the answer. Do I live in a bubble here or is it fair to say that people who are in the business of selling food should know what they’re serving? And airport or not, I refuse to accept that food can’t be whole and fresh or at the least that there can’t be options that are whole and fresh. For God’s sake, can’t we do better than this?

While that last meal at Gallagher’s was nice enough, it was close to $150, for two people, in an airport. We were on our way back from a trip to Jamaica and reluctant to end the vacation. But we weren’t feeling so extravagant on Monday night. We did sit in their bar and have a drink- and my wine came in a glass with someone else’s lipstick on it. The bartender was extremely apologetic and immediately brought me a new, clean glass. But, hey, Newark? Get your act together. It shouldn’t have to be so bad.

That layover ended up being more than five hours. We were cold and tired and ready to go home and when our plane finally landed in Burlington at 2 in the morning, I was very grateful to be home.

(photo credit to Ralph)

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