… And Why the Hell Does It Matter?
Being celiac or having a severe gluten-intolerance is a pain in the butt. Yes, we all (well, most of us) try to put a positive spin on it because it’s the hand we’ve been dealt. I get that. And I agree with that. A positive attitude is everything – especially when it’s a situation that is never going to go away. And that’s what I try to share with you. But some things just need to be said …
I am truly frustrated and torqued as to why the hell it matters to restaurateurs, who claim and advertise they can cater to the gluten-free community, how much they need to pay attention to my gluten-free label .
Don’t ask me these questions!
“Are you celiac and have to be careful? Are you gluten-free by choice? Will a little bit hurt you? Do I need to let the chef know that this order requires special attention?”
I always answer politely, but want to pull my hair out frequently when this situation arises.
So let me address why these questions set me off.
First, it’s hard enough to decide I’m going to eat out and risk getting glutened. I don’t have days available in my schedule to be sick if there is a cross-contamination result.
Secondly, I’ve already done the homework to find and choose a restaurant that says they can accommodate gluten-free needs.
Third, I’ve called ahead and verified that the restaurant still offers a gluten-free menu.
Fourth, I’ve asked for a gluten-free menu when I arrive.
Fifth, I take the time to mention and call particular attention to my gluten-free dietary needs with the wait staff.
Then, BAM, the questions are asked, “Are you celiac and have to be careful? Or are you gluten-free by choice? Will a little bit hurt you? Do I need to let the chef know that this order requires special attention?”
And I want to say right back to the waiter/waitress, “Does it really matter if I am celiac or not?”
If I’m taking all the precautions to make sure that I mention it, does it really matter if I clarify “how much is too much gluten”? Should I have to go the extra mile of giving a dissertation on why the kitchen staff needs to receive special instructions? Am I supposed to carry my medical records with me every time I eat out so that I can prove my dietary needs should be heeded? Come on!!
When a gluten-free menu item is entered into the ordering system, the order should ALWAYS receive special attention – always assuming that the dining guest has the utmost allergen restrictions. If this practice is put in place every time a gluten-free dining guest is present, there would be no need for the questions … AND so much less risk of being glutened by accident in the first place. When variances are allowed, lack of focused attention is a strong possibility.
I completely understand if a restaurant doesn’t have a gluten-free menu. I completely understand if a restaurant doesn’t want to deal with these needs. I completely understand if “it just isn’t possible to assure one’s safety”. Yes, I get it. And to those restaurants who are willing to say honestly they are not equipped, risking that a guest will choose to dine elsewhere for their own safety, I say, “Thank You!” That is admirable. That is honest. That is fair business. And should I choose to stay and take the risk … that is my choice.
But don’t offer a service, advertise a safe dining option, even educate your staff on celiac and gluten-free … then have them ask these ridiculous questions.
Assume – yes, waiters, waitresses, and chefs – go ahead and risk making an ass of you and me. Assume that the need is warranted and the risk of harm is real. Err on the safe side and go the extra mile to prevent cross contamination. Give the benefit of the doubt to the dining guest, so they don’t have to air their personal laundry in public. If you’re overly cautious, if you didn’t need to be that attentive to detail, if the dining guest say’s, “just a little bit of gluten won’t hurt”, then you’ve still done your job. You’ve protected the best interest of all the other gluten-free guests who must be diligent. You’ve established your restaurant as a place of trust and dependability and knowledge.
Everyone knows the old adage, “It’s better to be safe than sorry.” If you’re a dining establishment who offers gluten-free options, please make this your motto. Those of us who need to be gluten-free (for whatever reason, which is really none of your business) will be ever so grateful! And the gluten-free community loves to spread good news just as strongly as we feel the need to share the bad.
On which side of the gluten-free dining plate do you wish to be served?
Safe food is a journey … Thrive!™