Adventures at Musikfest! Part One: The Gluten-Free Dining Experience

For those of you who don’t already know about this amazing thing, every year, for 10 days in August, there is a free music festival in historic Bethlehem, PA.  This is about an hour and a half drive for me, when all goes well, so not a festival I venture to solo, but this year I made plans to go with my mom, and we met up with friends from the area later in the afternoon.

Guys, it was HOT. To explain how hot, let’s talk biology for a second.  I happen to be of the lucky group of people who don’t sweat much. I just don’t.  On a normal day, if I’m flustered and absentminded enough in the morning to forget deodorant (It doesn’t happen often, but full disclosure, it happens.), generally by the end of the work day, I’m still dry and stink free. Of course, that doesn’t mean I’m made of magic and fart pixie dust, but it does mean that when I tell you that I had to use a tissue to wipe the sweat off of my face and neck a few times today, that you get a full and clear understanding of what I mean by hot.  The Devil may have been visiting Bethlehem today, is all I’m saying – with full entourage.

It was the kind of hot that kills your appetite, but I’m going to digress a little in this post from our usual musically scheduled programming, and I do hope you forgive me for that, but this food information was hard to find, and is not provided on Musikfest’s website, so for people in my particular food situation, it’s important and useful.

I may have mentioned this before, but I fall in the NCGS (Non-Celiac Gluten-Sensitive) camp. There are people out there who will tell you this is not a real thing. Those people are flat out wrong. The fact is, science doesn’t really know the mechanism behind NCGS yet,  but science also didn’t know the Earth was round once upon a time. However, having tested negative on every gluten test, and negative for wheat allergy, my health has still done a total 180 since going gluten free (I’ve been gluten free for…I forget. At least 4 years, probably longer.), and I know many other people like this. I even know people advised by their doctors to go gluten-free to improve their thyroid. Others who go gluten-free because gluten just happens to be a trigger for their acid reflux.

I’m not some ‘everyone should go gluten-free’ crackpot: If going gluten-free improves your health and happiness, then go gluten free. If it doesn’t, then don’t. Both my gastro and my GP were thrilled with my decision to go gluten-free; the results speak for themselves. In my gastro’s words, “testing positive for Celiac means you have Celiac. Testing negative for it doesn’t mean that you don’t have it.” The tests are, sadly, unreliable. He also said “You feel better without gluten, so absolutely do not eat gluten.” NCGS is not a medical diagnosis, because the science behind it is a mystery. It can’t be diagnosed, but that doesn’t make it make-believe, and it is only one of several reasons someone might need to go gluten-free for medical reasons. So, I’ve developed a habit over these past several years of carrying a food arsenal with me to every festival and event I attend.  I really didn’t want to carry it today, especially given the hot weather – very little of what I could bring was going to withstand the temperature extremes in a way that would be safe to haul all day long. And all that crap gets cumbersome as the day wears on.

In any case, I’m not as sensitive as some, but I do generally know that I’ve been glutened before I’ve finished eating the offending product.

Now, I am going to talk about the music, but I also wanted to veer a little off topic for this post so my fellow gluten-free music lovers will know: You can absolutely eat gluten free at musikfest without carrying your food with you. Obviously, if you have extreme sensitivities, you always need to be careful, but if you have extreme sensitivities, you already know this.

There are various stands for things like ice cream and smoothies that are perfectly safe, so lets look at actual food. I’m going to break it down by Platz (sections of the festival), but I will tell you straight up that your meal selection will come predominantly from Volksplatz and Handwerk Platz – these two are right next to one another, so look like one large platz, really.  My local friends tell me the place is set up pretty much the same every year. The majority of your food selection is going to be found on the North Side (as opposed to the south side, near the Steel Stacks).

Handwerk Platz: 

Hogar Crea: 

chicken, rice & beans

kebabs (ask for no bread)

Aw Shucks Corn:

Their seasoning is NOT gluten free, but you can get the corn without the seasoning.


Granny’s Kettle Corn

Cactus Blue Walking taco – available with beef, chicken, or veggie – all gluten free, according to the girl at the booth, and she seemed quite confident about that when I asked. I had the chicken, and it didn’t bother me at all.

Sensenig’s Meats: I suspect several options are safe, but to be honest I didn’t wander over there due to it being far too hot for me to consider walking toward a meat stand. The internet tells me their loaded baked potato is definitely safe, and it sounded like something I wanted to eat…or would have if it wasn’t quite so stiflingly hot out.

Wells Fargo Fetzplatz& Main Street:

Take a Taco – starting this year, provides gluten free upon request. They have corn tortillas. The girl at the booth said “they’re small, so you get two of them”, and confirmed that this option is available for any of their tacos.


BBQ – pork is gluten free if you order it without the bun. I suspect other meats probably are as well, but the internet told me the pork is definitely safe. I didn’t spend any time in Liederplatz to confirm, because it was packed so tight you could barely breathe, let alone get to any of the stands.

For myself, I ate a chicken walking taco from Cactus Blue, and a chicken kebab from Hogar Crea. I had a pina colada smoothie, a lemonade, and lots of water.  If the heat hadn’t killed my appetite, I would have eaten more than just that, but the heat was murder. I didn’t touch any of the food I brought with me, and ended up chucking it halfway through the day since i just didn’t want to carry it anymore.  Next year, I will feel totally safe to go to the event without any food on my person, which makes the festivities wonderfully stress-free.

Tomorrow, I will post a bit about the performances I saw, but I’ve had a long day, and I’m very tired.  I hope I’ll be forgiven for diverting off course today to talk about food, but since I didn’t take photos of the food, it was far more likely I would forget that than the music by the time I woke up in the morning.

Until Next Time, dead on my feet. Going to pass out as soon as my head hits the pillow.

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