As a junior academic, when you attend conferences, there’s already loads of anxiety-inducing stuff to manage. I’m still awfully nervous about presenting my work in front of a room full of experts in their fields and between the public speaking and the usual dramas of imposter syndrome, I’m always a bundle of nerves. As a celiac, if your conference is somewhere in Asia, this then adds the issues of
1. What will I eat?
2. How much it sucks at conference meals to have to explain to a whole table why you are not eating or getting a plate of steamed vegetables that normally resembles baby food
3. Constantly having to explain why you aren’t trying the cakes at morning tea
4. Dealing with the ‘look’ – you know this one..where wait staff, restaurant managers and conference coordinators get glazed eyes from listening to your plea for some sort of GF food
With my first conference in Hyderabad, where all academics lived and ate on campus, I carried protein shakes and GF bars. Lucky too as the kitchen was a cloud of flour at every meal time. I survived this mostly on afore mentioned protein shakes and chai, but was lucky to have a family friend living in the city who organised GF Hyderabady cuisine at a few restaurants. I’ve been back a few times and my staple list includes:
1. The Radisson Blu where the GM is a friend and all the chefs now totally get my gluten-free needs
2. The Taj Faluknuma Palace – Adaa for amazing Hyderabad cuisine
3. The Olive Bistro
4. Vivanta Taj – Thai Pavillion where the Thai chef made me Amazing adaptations of Thai dishes
5. ITC – for the gluten free Dum biryani
In September, I had a conference in Phuket. I contacted conference organisers, the hotel the conference was at and was hoping it would be easier as so much Thai food is naturally gluten free. Sadly, despite this, it was awful. I received the look at every meal and felt like a total neurotic freak every time I had to explain why I wasn’t eating, why I couldn’t drink beer etc etc etc
Luckily, the GM friend at the Radisson called his counterpart at the Radisson Blu Phuket and I had an amazing dinner plus some take out to last me the rest of the conference.
I’m not sure what the solution is but at least I now have a few places to eat at in these cities. I wonder if anyone else in different fields encounters these problems?