If you are a coeliac eating out can be a real pain. There are a myriad of problems that you have to navigate through to get a plate of food you can feel safe eating. From reading waiters' faces like a poker player, to explaining that potatoes don't contain gluten, here are the most annoying things about attempting gluten free dining:
1. When the waiter says: "How allergic ARE you?"
This implies the common misconception that "a little bit won't hurt". Although Coeliac Disease isn't an allergy, it is an autoimmune disease, when communicating with untrained staff the term "allergy" has more of a resonance.
For example, I was in a restaurant recently and was assured by the waiter that the dish I was ordering was gluten free. When it arrived I thought the sauce looked suspiciously glutenous so I asked him to check again with the chef. He returned and asked, "How allergic ARE you?" I looked at him and declared, a little poker faced white lie, "I will start vomiting profusely in the middle of your restaurant" at which point he admitted, "Yes, it's got flour in it". Sometimes you have to push to get the answers you need.
2. When you spend 10 minutes explaining your gluten free requirements and then the waiter asks "Would you like bread?"
There are few things more frustrating than having spent a long time explaining carefully to your waiter what Coeliac is, what gluten is, what you can and can't eat and after you've finally ordered, they say "Would you like some bread?". Or indeed, they simply return with a bread basket and plonk it on the table. Trust is lost immediately. I can see a caesar salad with croutons in my future (see point 8).
3. When the restaurant says "We can't guarantee anything is gluten free."
This is the most unhelpful thing a waiter can say. It's a liability statement, and not helpful when I've asked what I can eat on the menu. You have a steak on the menu. Do you have a frying pan? Can you wash it? Can you have the chef wash their hands? Can you use a clean utensil? Then fry that steak for me in the separate pan please, and take care. Yes there may be flour used in the kitchen somewhere, but I can assume that you aren't throwing it up in the air, having some sort of flour pillow party, and if you are, could you stop for a few minutes?
4. When someone at your table asks you "What happens to you when you eat gluten?"
I really don't want to be explaining this in any situation around food or eating. Do you really want to hear about violent bowel movements in the middle of your meal?
5. When you are told "You can't have that, it's got potatoes in it."
This also goes for rice/meat/cheese. I am not carb free. Nor am I vegetarian or dairy free. And please don't argue with me that potatoes aren't gluten free. Unless they are cooked with gluten, potatoes themselves have always been, and always will be gluten free. Please don't assume you know more than me, who has the disease and has lived gluten free for the last 15 years.
6. When your friend eating with you declares they are on a gluten free diet too! Then they ask the waiter for some soy sauce.
This does not help our cause people. I'm happy that you have casually decided to cut down on gluten in your diet. But please do not undermine my serious lifelong condition by making a fuss about a gluten free main course to the waiter and then ordering a cake for dessert. This only confuses the wait staff and perpetuates the myth that gluten free is a fad diet.
Either eat 100% gluten free, or just keep your desire to lessen your gluten intake to yourself.
7. "Gluten Free, that's the same as vegan right?"
Yes, being gluten free is exactly the same as being vegan. IN NO WAY. This one is really quite terrifying because it implies a fundamental lack of knowledge about food and specialist diets. This falls in the same category as "the vegetarian option is....". It implies also that the diet is purely a fad, and not required for medical reasons. I have been told many times that "All the dishes with a "V" don't have meat in them". Wonderful, thanks for that information. In what way is this relevant to me?
You know what I'm talking about.
9. When they say "You can have a salad with no dressing, boiled rice, and fruit"
Really? Are you telling me that there is nothing that you are capable of cooking apart from these three items in your entire culinary repertoire? Sometimes it is depressingly true, and kitchens using prepackaged food are often in this position. My advice? Leave immediately!
10. When the waiter has a *BLANK STARE*
Nothing beats the blank stare. We all know it, we've all seen it. As though instead of saying "gluten" you'd said "Does that dish have jabberwockamole in it?". Thus begins a good 15 minutes of your time explaining in detail everything that has gluten in it and what coeliac disease and cross contamination are. You hope for a dawn of recognition that some of the information is going in, but you are greeted with nodding and glassy eyes. Usually to be followed by number two, "Would you like some bread?" *face palm*