Everyone talks about doing a cooking class in Thailand and I was excited about trying one. I found a few recommendations in Chiang Mai and booked a gluten free cooking class with my husband. Of course, I contacted them prior to make sure they could accommodate a gluten free cooking class. I was assured that they had in the past and could for me.
Looking For A Gluten Free Class
I have talked before about the ‘yes’ culture I had encountered in Thailand and the cooking class operators were no different. Again we talked with the class instructor when we arrived about my needs and I even brought my celiac card and gluten free soy sauce. If you are interested to learn about which soy sauce is gluten free, check out my article on gluten free products in Thailand by clicking the link.
Upon arrival and in the first five minutes I was getting the sense that there were some serious issues with cross contamination and decided early on that I was not going to actually eat anything we made. This gluten free cooking class was not very gluten free.
Red Flags of Gluten Free Classes
The possible cross contamination was every where around me. As you can imagine, a celiac is always assessing the prep areas, all the ingredients and looking for things to be properly cleaned in between meals and dishes. I had red flags everywhere and my husband was also giving me the ‘you can’t eat anything look.’
Red Flag 1:
The class was organized around different people preparing different parts of the meal and nothing was separate.
Red Flag 2:
The cooking instructor and operator thought that if I had a different sauce I would be fine. There was little knowledge about celiac, let alone cross contamination in Thailand in my experience. I had a hope that a cooking school would know a bit more, but I was wrong.
Red Flag 3:
There were wheat products everywhere and laying all over the cooking prep area and cutting boards. The earliest part of the day was spring rolls and it started by everyone putting a wheat spring roll wrapper on the cutting board that they would then use to chop all the rest of the dishes.
Red Flag 4:
The staff at the cooking school were also washing the dishes on the ground so I was not satisfied that there would not be left over gluten all over the pots and dishes.
While I was disappointed to be paying for something that I count not eat, I new that this was going to be a possibility, so I was mentally prepared for it. I ate a big breakfast before we went and I had backup granola bars in my bag as well.
Looking at the Bright Side of the ‘Gluten Free Cooking Class’
Living with an autoimmune disease can really test you. It forces us to work on staying positive at times when we are not happy. A large part of me being successful as a person with celiac and other autoimmune diseases is staying positive and being mentally prepared for crappy scenarios to happen, especially around food and in social settings.
Gluten Free Cooking Classes
I focused on some fun things that I learned in the class:
- Going to the market and having a guide tell us about the different rice and different curry pastes.
- They had an herb garden and we learned what each of them are used for in the traditional Thai cuisine and the medicinal uses.
- I learned some Thai recipes that I can take home and make for my family. I am always trying to expand my cooking knowledge so this was a great opportunity to learn some new recipes.We used the recipe book that we left with and made the mango sticky rice the next opportunity that we had.
- We met a lovely lady from the Czech Republic (where my husband is from) and we had a blast with her during the class.
- My husband ate my share of the cooking. Since he has a big appetite, this was right up his alley.
I was expecting people to ask me why I wasn’t eating, but surprisingly everyone was so hungry that they just filled their mouths. By the time they were done eating, my husband was finished both of our meals. He is known by our friends and family to inhale food. This is an odd advantage to this phenomenon that still makes me giggle.
If you are looking for the Ultimate Celiac Guide: Gluten Free in Thailand, click the link.
Cheers, I hope you enjoyed my lovely trek,
Brett Duncan – The Ultimate Gluten Free Traveller