Think of Me Gluten-Free

Think of Me Gluten-Free: July 2013

23 July 2013

Moments for Chocolat Chaud

I honestly don't mind being by myself for a little while, or for a whole afternoon in fact, if it means I'll have one of these chéries beside me, a little companion to drink and to hold as I sit. 
A delicious hot chocolate, and served with a delicate little heart on top, it's absolutely adorable. A perfect pick-me-up this afternoon as well, as I needed a little time away from the cégep and a bit more comfort. Surrounded by a family chatting in French, who suddenly broke out into a familiar childhood song, Frère Jacques, and two friends chatting over cafés outside, this really is all I need. 

It's lovely to feel comfortable on my own again, to be able to explore the main street of Rivière-du-Loup at my leisure, and to know that as I sit here enjoying a bowl of hot chocolate, I love that its served in this little bowl, there are people around taking their time this afternoon as well. Customers walk in off the street, some ordering breads and pastries to take home, while others sit down beside a drink like my own, or a plate with chocolate croissants. And to think I almost walked right past this boulangerie, tucked in a building lined with flowers along the windows, and tables set out under umbrellas. 

Telling mum of where I was, and sending a photo of the drink in front of me, she replied that she was in fact doing the same thing. A three hour time difference and a five hour flight between us doesn't affect both of our need to enjoy those lovely little coffee shops not yet explored, and taste the delicious treats only noticed when we stop for a moment. Settle down, grab a chair, and take that first, calming, sip. 

It's actually time I put down my phone, and watch the people walking by hand in hand, or listen to the French music playing over the speakers. 
Or admire the menu of delicacies on the wall... Sandwich coco ou coco-fromage. I think I've convinced myself to come back here, at least for this hot chocolate, or with friends who can try for themselves the specialty in a real hot chocolate, and the importance in breaking off from the regular path, the regular timetable, to explore those other experiences hidden in a day. 

Like the layer of rich, melted chocolate at the bottom of my bowl. I couldn't be happier at my corner table by the window, and somewhere across Canada I know mum is set out comfortably at another table with a latte in her hand, and probably marvelling at the view, or thinking of all the things wonderful about Bowen amidst packing for our move to Vancouver Island. But it's time to explore new places mumma, and with it I'll be happy to try an array of new drinks and bites, I just hope there's a cafe with some gluten free treats near where we live. 

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21 July 2013

Spin It Around Again

Do you remember when it was enough to spin in constant circles on a grassy field, the open sky extending forever around you, the trees blurring in a deep green and forming a comforting wall around you? Do you remember those afternoons, or under an expansive array of stars, when you would spin around and around to create your own thrill and enjoyment in having everything around you in complete and utter chaos. Remember how exhilarating it was once you stopped spinning, but everything around remained in constant motion?

That was before our minds began to spin on their own. 

Before things around us moved in their own paths, and before we lost the innocence of being completely unaware of this strange force propelling changes. 

As I begin to learn again that these changes, and this constant movement, is something everyone must learn to live with, and instead of trying to rein it in with control (and a lot of struggle), we learn to make the most out of every situation while enjoying the most of the moment. Even if the glass does fall to the ground as you lean to take a sip, the face of your friend as she leant to grab it only too late, was damn funny. 

Even if the dance they held for us here was no fun, with everyone standing in small groups, we can still spin. Spin to change how we see it, and spin to change our perspective of it. 

And then we also played duck, duck, goose, right there in the middle. Really, it wasn't a bad night. 

The kitchen staff have also began to put their own spin on my gluten free meals as well, becoming a little more creative with ingredients and dishes than the staple of gluten free pasta for meal after meal. It makes other students jealous, when they're served corndogs... And I come out of the kitchen with a breakfast sandwich. Complete with an egg and tomatoes, lettuce, cheese, and in between two slices of slightly toasted gluten free bread. 
I feel bad that I've recieved a little extra care and attention at meals, especially when it comes to the bad cafeteria meals that are sometimes cooked in mass trays and served without delicacy, but I appreciate it all the more. 

À bientôt mes chers amis!

xx S

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15 July 2013

Drinks All Around: None For Gluten

It took almost three hours to drive from Rivière-du-Loup to Quebec City by coach, a ride which we filled with naps in recuperation from the busy week, including late nights and long days. Everyone on the bus had there own set of headphones plugged in, and we leant the chairs back as far as they would go to try and get comfortable for the journey. They tried to play music over the speakers, attempting to entice us to listen to the French radio with a promise of some English hits, but instead, I think a lot of people switched playlists to drown out the slow French songs or poppy English tunes. 

As everyone was given a packed lunch for the ride, I was was asked about mine before we left, to make sure I was okay with their gluten free bread and the little snacks that were added in. It was so thoughtful of the staff to pull me aside and explain what would be in my packed lunch the few days before the trip, as both an assurance and a comfort. The woman from the cafeteria used both short phrases in French and lots of gestures so I would understand, and she showed me a pack of gluten free muffins they had bought for me and then described the sandwich to be prepared. When I opened my brown bagged meal that Saturday, it was filled with gluten free snacks, and this lovely little bar which I saved to munch on later as we walked through the cobbled streets of Quebec City. 

It was so comforting to know they were taking care of me, and remembering at each turn that there were things I couldn't eat. So, when I started feeling tired and began to run out of enthusiasm for adventuring around the city and the shops, or could no longer focus on the french words written around the museum, I was thankful for the kind gesture of this little snack tucked away in my bag. 

The first day in Quebec City we headed out to des Chutes Montmorency, a massive waterfall just outside of the city. By bus, the small group of us travelled a little farther than everyone else, who had already departed their coaches to walk around the city, and we were then given freedom to walk around the falls, hike up the many stairs to the top, and traverse the bridges along the river which fell into the bustling layers of water down the side of the hill. To one side there were stairs, packed with tourists both English and French speaking, while to the left of the falls a cable ran with gondolas, stopping by a large chateau at the top equipped with an icecream window and two restaurants on either side of a small gift shop. 

It was fun walking across the falls, and looking down at the tiny little people scattered around the bottom of the river, some were fishing, some walked along the beach a little farther off, and many more walked the path to the stairs, or were screaming under the sprays of the waterfall, taking photos all the while at every angle. From up on the bridge we had the best view, and could even see out to Quebec City and the tall buildings jutting out above trees and hills in the distance. The sun poured down over us, and so water bottles emptied rapidly as we climbed and crossed the falls. 

By the time we reached the chateau, the top of the falls had heated up so much that most people were rolling shirt sleeves up, and I had my shoes off as we walked along the boardwalk. Ordering a round of waters to begin with, and to cool help off, we sat out on the patio under big umbrellas. I loved being in a relaxed and summery environment, amidst families enjoying the day at the falls, and among friends to laugh and take photos with, and share plates of fries and drinks. 

Although plates of fries and dishes of poutine have been delicious here in Quebec, something I can now say I've enjoyed, both in Rivière-du-Loup and Quebec City, I think I've begun to feel the effects of a pesky bit of gluten. I almost forgot that fries are often cooked with wheat flour to coat, most places (I've been spoilt with health-consious cafes or little vegan restaurants we've found in and around Vancouver, I suppose) have told me that their fries are gluten free. So, with a little summer relaxation and being in a completely new place, I completely forgot about gluten's sneaky little ways of finding its way into our meals, and have begun to feel both tired, a little moody, there have also been headaches these past few days, and a lovely little skin condition, one that never really likes to leave when it's favourite pal gluten is around, has come out again. 

That's lots of water for me, and luckily, I'll be eating from the cafeteria for a while now - something most people here would cringe about, but I've got lovely little dishes made fresh for me personally. Even if it does mean gluten free pasta for more than three nights a week and for lunches often as well, at least I know my energy will be back soon. My skin should clear up, the headaches should go soon too, and I'll have a better mood... For now, being careful probably isn't a bad idea. 

I'd rather have all that back for the last weeks of this camp, and especially for the time that I'm in Montreal after. While activities get more and more exciting, along with more work for our classes, I'd rather be able to keep up, and be able to enjoy everything without needing to take naps or find something to treat something else. It's no fun running around cleaning up after gluten. 

No more parties in this house, you! 

To be able to keep up with the memories being made, and the lasting friendships. Our names engraved at the falls is just one of the reminders of how important it is to have the enthusiasm and appreciation for everything that happens, and to make the most of each situation. Even if I can't have the poutine anymore, even if its something in the gravy or the fries that leaves me uncomfortable and grouchy, I can still munch on a delicious gluten free snack or enjoy a long refreshing drink while sitting around with friends and enjoying a beautiful day.  
And there were more moments during that weekend that we enjoyed drinks together. After a night out at Quebec's music festival, where we saw French singer Zaz perform at one of the street stages, we spent the next day enjoying old Quebec's shops and market stalls, and meeting both French and English speaking residents along the way. The day was hot, and by the time we were meant to depart for Rivière-du-Loup, we were all in need of a little rest, and something ice cold. 
There really wasn't anything better than a refreshing drink on the second storey patio of a restaurant-bar. Tucked away on a side street and overlooking the garden of a little chapel, there weren't many people on the patio, so the four of us found a table underneath an umbrella and quickly ordered some refreshing drinks for the last minutes of our afternoon in Quebec. The waiter madeus something  fruity on our request, mixing together flavours of lemon and lime, and pouring it over ice to serve with a wedge of lemon. It really was the perfect way to end the weekend. 

À bientôt mes chers amis!

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10 July 2013

The Moments This Summer

Being here this summer, among new people, in a new city, but with many of the familiar customs, if not the language, of Canada, is giving me a new perspective of travelling. I want the time to enjoy all the little things, the sunsets each night, and the changes of the clouds or the wind that can have such a drastic effect on the sun's descent.
Or, the music that plays from across the town, bouncing through streets and off of buildings, to echo down to the alleyways and fields where we sit, listening. 

I know that when I take time to travel next year I also want the time to build friendships along the way, because that's what makes the experience memorable and special, and most of all, unique. It's not going to a new location and capturing the store in a photo, or the statue built many years ago to represent a historic moment for the town, but placing yourself and friends in the frame, and filling up the empty space with memories. Those photos then becomes stories, and the stories hold each of you together in some way. 

We went for ice cream this week, at a place called Brûlerie de l'Est on la rue Lafontaine, and just sitting with the maple syrup flavoured dessert, and among both English and French speaking visitors, made me realize how unique and individual each person's travels are, from what they expect out of each day, to the kinds of limits or horizons they set with each new opportunity. It sounds too deep for a moment of icecream with friends, but as we all sat there, the sun just hovering above the horizon and the streets filling with those out for the evening, I enjoyed every moment that had passed even more, and excitement arose for those to come. The best was a man who passed by as we were discussing the pronunciation of "peace" en français, it is pronounced "pay" as we soon learned from laughter when we said "peace." The two have very different meanings. As this discussion took place on the patio of the brûlerie, a man walked by who spoke to us first in French, and then explained himself in English, waving the peace sign in the air and exclaiming his excitement for meeting us and adding a little bit of laughter to both of our evenings as we discovered the humour in miscommunication between the languages. 

After sitting outside with a cold refreshment for some time, the sun had hidden behind the horizon and we could feel the chill in the breeze that past by us. We thought of the warmth in a hot drink and comfortable chairs inside, and so departed the deck just as the staff began to take down the umbrellas and fold up the chairs around us, and left for the coffee shop just down the road. Van Houtte. It reminded me of an oversized Starbucks; there were more places to sit, larger tables, and higher ceilings, and the room had a relaxed and calm atmosphere. There were couples or groups that sat around with coffee mugs and a late night dessert, some chatted while others just enjoyed the company of others around. In the big chairs by the windows we sat, warmed by the room while telling stories and recounting some of the best moments in the past week and half. 
I must mention that although I have a great group around me, I can understand French better with each day, and love being able to explore a part if a province completely new to me, its difficult to be away from home as well. There are times when the rules and the organized activities are just too much, especially after having such freedom when school was finally finished. I'm well fed by my personal chef, but pasta does get repetitive and so I enjoy it less and less despite his twists on the dish each time, including a gluten free cheese sauce with bow-shaped noodles. 
And then there's sleeping, which I can't do much unless I can cover my eyes from the bright sun, which rises up through my window, and can somehow block out the thudder of people up and down the stairs beside by room, or the twitter of students talking in French to the other side of my room in the little kitchenette. It's now that I rely on my tea addiction a little more, the perfect push to wake up in the morning, and now that I've found cups to use, a gentle ease into a better sleep before bed with some chamomile tea. 

À bientôt mes amis! 


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07 July 2013

Sans Gluten à Rivière-du-Loup

It really seems as if we have been at Rivière-du-Loup much longer than a week; time has passed quickly, but at the same time so much has happened that it nearly seems impossible I've only been here for seven days. Patterns and routines have been established, with courses in the mornings of each weekday, activities each afternoon and evening, and during all this there have been groups created among students. Groups have been created among those with rooms near one another, or by their arrival together by plane, train or bus, or others have net each other through their classes and other activities at the residence. 

My teacher is so lovely, as are all of the moniteurs et monatrices that organize and facilitate everything we do, and she speaks French slowly to ensure we understand, while introducing new ways to help us learn, including games and conversations during class. There is homework, and sometimes we envy the kids from this town who ride their bikes by the windows during the day, shouting out to each other, but its also an extremely amazing opportunity to travel somewhere new and spend time with a new culture and language with others in a similar situation. 

As today was Sunday, the only day when activities are not mandatory, it was also a day when we could sleep late, and explore the town at our own leisure without needing to be back at the cégep for a certain time. Today, brunch was served in a room called the Carrefour, a place where many meeting and activities with all the students are held, and among the tables and chairs we met around eleven this morning to enjoy both coffees, soy milk, and an array of fruits, eggs, hashbrowns, and croissants. Breakfast is one of the most relaxing meals, usually our moniteurs have not yet woken, and English ends up being spoken a little more freely. However, when it comes to eating gluten free for breakfast, things are a little more restricted. I've mostly relied on the platters of colourful fruit that's served, and the little packs of peanut butter, but have also recently discovered yoghurt hidden in the drinks fridge. Some days there are eggs as well, and they do have gluten free bread if I were to ask, which would be good to practice my French as well. 

After a long brunch we explored the river on the other side of rue Lafontaine, where a big waterfall, or chute, flows down the rocks. Across the bridge were lots of trails through the woods and along the lower half of the river, but we saw a set of stairs down to a little beach just near where we stood to set out. From there we could paddle our way out to the middle of the river, and with difficulty as the rocks were slippery, we took tons of photos under the sun and swimming in the river. It was so nice to be out of the cégep for the afternoon, and after a swim through the currents, we laid down on a heated rock with the wind a soft breeze with just enough strength to dry us off. I must have began to fall asleep, for the sound of the waterfall lost it's distinctiveness, and I drifted into a new set of sounds that whirled through my head. A dreaming sort of sounds, and without the interruption of other students running through the halls or banging up and down the stairs. 

The rest of the day went with as much relaxation as the afternoon, we walked around the shops, and tried to get enough ingredients to make smoothies back at the residence. Even though the blender was unavailable to be leant out by the kitchen staff, as we later found out, we bought blackberries, strawberries, and yoghurt, to mix together a healthy dessert or snack just like we have been craving. No added preservatives or grease, just regular fruit and yoghurt. It was something we all had been craving, even walking around Saturday night in search for a milkshake-like drink, but there was no blender found, and we've kept the fruit in someone's personal fridge, hopeful. 

When we came back for dinner we were told that pizza was being served, in hopes of getting everyone excited I bet, and it did, except for me. The only thing I was thinking about was last week's pizza dinner, when they had completely forgotten that I couldn't eat the pizza, and had to call a restaurant to order me something. I was completely overwhelmed that time, mostly because everything was quickly spoken in French, but also because I quickly realized they were giving me a choice out of the restaurants and dishes served in the town, one I had only just begun to explore.

However, this time when I walked into the cafeteria, reminding the servers that I wouldn't be able to eat the pizza, she cut me short halfway with a nod, and turned to the back kitchen. A few moments later she returned, and on a plate were my very own little pizzas, sans gluten. 
My own little pizzas on gluten free bread, with tomato sauce, green peppers, mushrooms, red onions, and topped with stringy mozzarella. Sure, I love having gluten free pasta, but I also love changing it up, and trying something different every day. 

I was so excited, I didn't want to sit and wait for another meal to be delivered to the cégep for me, and after a relaxing day just to ourselves, it was nice knowing that I also don't have to worry about what I'm going to be eating, who's cooking what and what is gluten free, for these next few weeks. Obviously, I haven't been cooking here, there's been too much going on, and I've been focusing on the people and the French instead. So there's no recipes to post at the moment. Besides, I think I'd have to bring all my own pots and pans in order to use the kitchens along each floor, and I have no idea how they'd be brought back with me in my tiny suitcase. 

To four more weeks of speaking and learning en Français

Xx S

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