Returning Home Gluten-free & Dairy-free

Kobe burger with a side of field greens at Gordon Biersch

One of my worries about my vacation back home was not being able to eat out because of all the locals foods that contain gluten thanks to the love of shoyu (soy sauce).  It’s in almost everything I love back home.  And the things I love that don’t have shoyu, have flour in the form of dough or breading.  Honestly, trips back home included daily indulgences of gluttony.  Plate lunch after plate lunch of Kal-bi, Shoyu Chicken, Chicken Katsu.  Braving flash flooding for Manapua (char siu bao) from Island Manapua and Coco Puffs (chocolate cream puffs) from Liliha Bakery.  Spam Musubi from any convenience store.   The trips to Bubbie’s for their handmade ice cream in a waffle cone.  Zip Pacs or Surf Pac bentos from Zippy’s or some saimin.  mmmmm

Auntie Jude picked up Vanessa Maltin's cookbook at the library and we altered one of the recipes a bit. My auntie also made sure she found gluten-free shoyu, even if we never used it.

I packed a lot of snacks for the trip.  I didn’t know what the food situation would be in the airports and I knew that pretty much anything we could buy on the plane would be off-limits.  The only leg of our trip where we were provided with a meal was on our return from Honolulu to Atlanta.  When Chaz saw all the food I was packing I asked, “Are you eyeing my stash?”  He answered, “Stash?  That looks like a hoard.”  I really had a bit more than I actually needed and I found myself mailing some of it back before we flew from Honolulu to Hilo.  Back to the airline meal.  Delta provided me with a wonderful gluten-free meal and snack on that leg.  Dinner was chicken with veggies, salad with lemon instead of dressing (which was pretty tasty), rice cake instead of bread, and mixed fruit as dessert.

Being gluten and dairy-free saved me from the gluttony.  That was a good thing.  And I found myself not missing everything.  I did nearly make Chaz stop at Bubbie’s.  I was looking longingly at the little shop that I used to frequent.  It was a bit difficult, but I kept my mouth shut.

We were able to eat out with family and friends fairly easily for the most part.  Chaz got

Papaya with a squeeze of Calamansi (like a key lime almost) enjoyed with my daily breakfasts at Auntie Jude's.

his fix of Zippy’s.  Even if it was just running up to get breakfasts.  Spam, eggs and rice anyone?  Mostly, I asked for portuguese sausage, eggs and rice and then cut up fresh fruit to go along with it when he got home.  I took Larabars and some other snacks with me when we’d go out for the day just in case.  They came in handy when we went to the beach, but I found I didn’t need them as much as I thought I would.

Tilapia with Pineapple Mango Salsa from Bubba Gump's. That yellow stuff on the plate looked and tasted like butter, but it was infused oil.

My family and friends were great.  No one pressed me to eat something I couldn’t eat.  A simple, “No, thank you.” sufficed.  One of my friends was cracking me up and kept apologizing when he’d bring up a food I couldn’t have.

The only real challenge presented was my cousin’s (I’ll refer to her as Crazy Cuz) rehearsal dinner and reception.  The caterer was not at the rehearsal dinner so anything that was suspect was off-limits.  Crazy Cuz got concerned when she saw me just eating fruit, veggies, and Lomi Lomi Salmon (looks like salsa, but has smoked salmon in it).  She grabbed Dr. Cuz’s friend and asked him to tell me what was gluten-free

Mochi with strawberries that Chaz found at the Mililani Farmers Market

that I wasn’t eating.  I’m not sure why she thought he would know better than me, but I appreciated her concern and went along with it.  He tried to tell me the Kalua Pig was safe because it’s just smoked.  That’s when I educated him on the fact that some people use shoyu to it and if I don’t know what’s in it.  While I ate a lot of fruits and veggies, I didn’t have enough protein and was hungry again by the time we got back to the hotel.  Thank goodness for all the snacks!

Fresh Coconut!

People from the caterer were at the reception, so the one questionable item, I was able to ask questions.  Again, there was a lot off-limits.  But, there was fresh local mixed salad, fruit, and sushi with real crab and Okinawan sweet potato.  Not enough protein for me, but I also had food with me so I didn’t have to wait until we got back to the hotel.

I did have an issue with the restaurant at the hotel in Hilo where we ate our breakfasts.  They did not have an allergen menu or list, but that

Breakfast I made one morning: bacon, eggs, papaya, raspberries and giant avocado from Wahiawa.

didn’t surprise me.  The guy who seated us said he’d send someone to talk to me, but no one ever came except our server.  Luckily, he was able to answer my questions to my satisfaction.  He also wound up being our server at our next breakfast so he remembered.   The busser kept messing up my coffee though.  I had decaf and she kept refilling my cup with regular before I could stop her so she had to keep bringing me a new cup of decaf.  Aiya.

Seafood "Risotto" from Cafe Pesto. Instead of the risotto, they gave me rice on the side. It was the best seafood I've had since our trip to Savannah years ago.

We were also able to find a restaurant in Hilo very familiar with serving people with food allergies.  If anyone finds themselves in Hilo, Cafe Pesto is a must.  They have a great fresh squeezed lemonade, too.  Onolicious!

All in all, a great trip home.  No accidental glutenings.  No intentional ingestion of gluten or dairy, despite that one thought while passing Bubbie’s.  And no looking at other people’s food longingly.   My next trip home will definitely be easier.  Especially since some restaurants we didn’t go to because of APEC will be accessible next time we are home.



  1. It looks like you ate pretty well, and I’m glad. Traveling anywhere gluten free can be a bit tricky, but as long as you keep your mind and options open then you’ll do fine. Choosing to not take the risk is also the best bet. Just wait if you can to eat when you get back to wherever you’ve got your “stash/hoard” and all will be well. I like to carry a mini larabar in my purse just in case I can’t find anything to eat.

    Aren’t Aunties great? I have a hanai mom here who has wonderful. She takes good care of me. 🙂

    • I did, Amanda! It wasn’t my first time traveling gf. But, it was my first time on a plane gf and my first time going home being gf and df. So I had no idea how trick it would be, thus the “hoard” I took with me! lol I did find the small Sunbutter package to take on the plane, too. Thanks for that reminder! I usually kept at least a Larabar in my camera bag, but for some reason I didn’t for the rehearsal dinner. Probably because we were rushing since we weren’t told what time the dinner was until a few hours before when we were on our way to the volcano. lol

      Aunties are the best and I have a ton of them who also happen to be like sisters and mothers to me all at the same time. I love it. 😀 Hanai moms are great, yeah? I love mine!

  2. Bravo, Debi! You did really, really well. Thanks so much for sharing your travel experience with us all! 🙂 I find that the protein factor is the biggest thing of all. As long as I have enough protein, I feel great … no deprivation, wanting to eat junk (even gf junk!), etc., but the moment I don’t have enough protein, I weaken, literally and figuratively. 😉 So glad you had an amazing trip, dear! You’re home just in time for another opportunity for potential excess–Thanksgiving! LOL You’re totally in control on that one though, so I know there will be no worries. 🙂


    • LOL funny you say that about Thanksgiving, Shirley. Just got back from the grocery store with all my Thanksgiving goodies. Pumpkin in the oven right now. And I plan on attempting gf apple pie for the first time. 😀 That and your Crustless Pumpkin Pie will be my indulgences this weekend. hehehe

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