While walking down the rice and bean aisle in HEB recently, I spotted product I had never noticed before: Del Destino Ready to Eat Quinoa Salad. On the off-chance that it might be gluten-free, I picked up a package and read the label: Quinoa, Hearts of Palm, Artichoke, Water, Sunflower Oil, Piquillo Pepper, Onion, Basil, Jalapeño Pepper, Sugar Cane Vinegar, Garlic, Salt, Ginger, Lactic Acid, Citric Acid, Ascorbic Acid. So far, so good. No gluten. Then I read the allergy warning: Produced in a facility that also uses milk, pine nuts, almonds, chestnuts, nuts, mustard, sulphates, and lysozyme. (I actually had to look up lysozyme, which isenzyme found in tears, leukocytes, mucus, egg albumin, and certain plants. It
The words gluten-free do not show up anywhere on the packaging of these salads, but clearly they are gluten-free. I realize that in the world of Celiac and non-Celiac gluten-intolerant people a range of risk-aversion exists. Some Celiacs and NCGI people are not cautious enough when reading labels and taking care to prevent being glutenized, and some are so overly-cautious as to be a bit annoying. Many of us fall somewhere between these two extremes. I place myself in a moderate position, though closer to the overly-cautious side of moderate. I am willing to try a product that has every indication of being gluten-free, even if it’s neither marketed as gluten-free, nor certified gluten-free. In fact, I’m beginning to question the entire gluten-free certification process. The gluten-free certification seal is exorbitantly expensive for food companies to get and maintain for their products, and it adds a great deal to the cost of the final certified gluten-free product. But I mention this point as an aside; it’s definitely a subject that deserves its own blog post. At any rate, this ready-to-eat quinoa salad is marketed by Atalanta Corp.I checked company’s website, which does note that the quinoa salads are vegetarian, non- gmo, and gluten-free. Additionally, the plastic containers are BPA-free.
I’m excited about this gluten-free find for several reasons, so much so that I’m writing to recommend this product without any prompting from the company, and not having received any free salad in exchange for a review. Yep! I spent my own money and I’m sharing the news because people who have to eat gluten-free need to know about inexpensive commercially manufactured products that actually have healthy natural ingredients without all the added junk that usually appears in commercially produced foods. As far as taste goes, I’ve so far eaten only the salad with the piquillo peppers and it was ok. Pretty good, actually. But here’s the part I think is really cool: the disposable fork. I had no idea it was in the packaging (having totally over-looked the little blue circle on the label, in which appear the words Includes Spoon). The spoon is in two pieces, with a third little piece that when attached, holds the two pieces to gather so that the spoon is quite sturdy. This little salad can go ANYWHERE, even on an airplane! As every Celiac / NCGI person knows, finding gluten-free good while traveling is often difficult to impossible.
This gluten-free traveling problem is ultimately the reason for my excitement. When Phillip and I travel to a race destination, I NEVER eat in a restaurant before a race. One bad experience in which a waiter neglected to tell the kitchen to leave the gluten-containing seasoning off my potatoes the day before I ran the 2008 Chevron Houston Marathon is all I need to prevent me from ever letting my food be out of my control before a race ever again. To this day, that marathon remains my longest time and my worst experience, and that I was up sick all night before I ran it didn’t help matters. It was NOT a pretty race . . . . and I couldn’t eat for three days following it. Phillip tried to talk me out of running it, sick as I was. Sigh. I should have listened to him. But I digress. Most of the time, Phillip and I pick up a cheap ice chest from a discount store when we’ve landed and picked up our rental car, then find the nearest Whole Foods, Sprouts, or other grocery store and stock up on fruit, cheese, and gluten-free lunchmeat to eat before the race. Even if we arrive two or three days before a race, I won’t eat in a restaurant, not even one that has a gluten-free menu. If we have a hotel room with a kitchenette, which we always try, but are not always able, to find, we pick up gluten-free pasta or some other easy to cook gluten-free dinner items to prepare in our room. This Del Destino ready-to-eat quinoa salad will be a PERFECT product to take along with us when we travel to our next out-of-town race (which happens to be the Oregon Coast 50k in October).