A member of our gluten free community sent these comments on choosing a ‘safe’ restaurants. After you read these thoughts, I will comment on them.
“North Americans eat out on average four times per week, which means that the chances of ingesting wheat or gluten if you are not careful can be quite high.
“Many people who are celiacs will avoid restaurants quite often because the experience is just too complicated for themselves and the servers, but it doesn’t have to be this way.
“However as more and more of us get diagnosed with celiac disease and learn that we have gluten intolerance I am finding that many restaurants are starting to offer gluten-free options on the menu as well as doing a better job of teaching their service staff about our special requirements. There’s still a long road ahead of us, because many restaurants are not hip to the gluten-free way of life-so until that happens I want you to be aware that the learning curve can feel straight up for both you and your server.
“Occasionally, you’ll come across a restaurant and server who is up on this situation, but that is the exception and not the rule.
“The reality is with some planning and the right strategies you will feel confident walking into any restaurant and know that you are getting a wheat and gluten-free meal.
“The first rule that I always follow when eating out is to try and learn as much as I can about the restaurant in advance. For example if somebody wants to go to an Italian restaurant I know right away that my options are going to be severely limited because Italian cuisine is based heavily around pasta and breads. But that doesn’t mean I can’t go it just means I’m going to be eating salads, potatoes, and have to order other side dishes like rice and vegetables.
“In addition I want to keep in mind that some of the Italian menu items are often breaded such as veal parmigiana, which is made often with a combination of bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese. If they have a website – usually a quick scan of the appetizers and entrees will reveal if they have enough options to assemble a gluten free meal for me.
“The second rule that I always follow if I am at all unsure my server might mess up is to explain the reasons why I have these special dietary requirements. And I’m going to give you some power phrases in a minute to help get their attention and drive the point home. If you’re thinking that your server isn’t taking your requests seriously I recommend you use sentences and words like I have a severe allergy to wheat and gluten, it is extremely important that I do not eat that in your restaurant tonight. Statements like that always get the point across.
“The reality is celiac disease and gluten intolerance does not produce the same violent reactions that food allergies do with things like shellfish and peanuts. However most restaurant staff understand the ramifications and consequences of an allergic reaction in a restaurant-so I always play on that fear instead of trying to explain the complexities of a food intolerance or celiac disease.”
♦ I agree completely with the idea of not trying to explaining celiac disease to your server. Educating the community is our responsibility but this is not the time and place.
♦ Be sure that the people you are dining with understand your situation. My friends know about my limitations and allow me to choose the restaurant where I am comfortable or at least the opportunity to veto their choice.
♦ The writer is correct in saying that Italian restaurants are not always the best choice. The good news is that you can find out most of what you need to know by asking one simple question: “Do you cook gluten free and wheat based pasta in the same pot of water?”
♦ These comments were written two years ago. The same concerns apply, but our chances of finding an appropriate restaurant have improved dramatically.
♦ I deeply appreciate comments like this — long enough and specific enough for us to react to.
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