Venturing Outside Your Home
Everyone says you shouldn’t be afraid to go out to eat. But let’s face it, it’s scary! You’re putting your health in the hands of some teenager on a grill. Do you really think he’s going to take time out from planning his next World of Warcraft attack strategy to figure out how to keep gluten off your food? And as nice as that waitress may seem, she still doesn’t know the difference between gluten and glucose. Cross-contamination is a huge issue when dining out! But don’t worry, you can still go out and have a good time… you just have to be careful.
The good news is, there are restaurants out there who know how to treat a gluten-free customer!
So far I’ve had great experiences with P.F. Changs, Outback Steakhouse, Pizza Fusion, and Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza. Changs and Outback have actual gluten-free menus that you can hold in your hand! That’s a great start right there. P.F. Changs also prepares your food in a separate area of the kitchen. At Pizza Fusion and Sammy’s, they have a gluten-free pizza crust option, and can tell you which pizza toppings are gluten-free. Just having a waiter understand what you mean when you say “I’ll be dining gluten free tonight” is the best feeling you can get from a restaurant (not to mention the yummy food!).
Now for the not so good news. There are many restaurants who claim to have gluten-free alternatives, but when you get there all you get are blank stares at the mention of a gluten-free meal.
First, be weary of the restaurants claiming to have a “gluten free menu” posted on their website. I got so excited when I saw how many restaurants offered gluten free options! That is, until I got to the restaurant. If all they have is a list of gluten-free modifications on their website, chances are no one at the restaurant even knows what gluten is. You can still eat at these places, just be sure you get a manager involved.
That’s right, I know it’s scary, but you have to be very assertive if you want your meal to come out safe. Explain very carefully and politely what you cannot eat, what cannot touch your food, and what exactly you would like to order. I have also found mentioning you have Celiac Disease helps with the seriousness of the situation (the word “disease” really gets the manager’s attention :-)). If it seems like you’re not getting a good vibe from the servers or the manager, it’s ok to leave. You may feel like a high maintenance customer the first few times, but just remember that you’re dealing with your health, not your preferences.
Friends and Family
So, we’ve got eating out taken care of for the time being. How about when someone invites you over? You can’t hover over their shoulder all night telling them how to cook their meal, and you don’t want to sound rude asking a million and one questions about what’s in the food and how they made it and what serving spoon touched what dish. Unfortunately, this is an area I have not mastered. The only advice I can give for now is that barbecue is the safest, easiest way to trust someone else with cooking your food. Just politely ask for the brands of sauces and spices to check out ahead of time, and voila! You have a safe, friendly gathering.
So, after all this reading, all you have are four safe restaurants, and one way to eat at your friends house. Welcome to the gluten-free life! Don’t worry, it’s not all that bad. And the more I find out about how to eat away from home, the more I will share. Thanks for reading!