Traveling with Celiac Disease restrictions is hard enough, particularly with checked bag fees and weight restrictions. Traveling with Celiac Disease and multiple food intolerances is… stressful. Although I’d stocked my checked bag with canned food, microwave rice bowls, juice boxes, applesauce containers, and Larabars, I definitely did not bring enough food.
I thought I’d planned a fail-proof trip. I booked a room with mini-fridge and microwave in a hotel that was supposedly close to a grocery store. But somehow I neglected to factor in the long conference hours, which made a grocery shopping trip impossible (as it turned out, Google maps was a little off on the proximity of a Publix). As a result, I ate out twice at restaurants close to the conference, and compromised, and rendered my insides such.
The first restaurant, Ted’s Montana Grill, has a gluten-free menu posted online. I had salmon with asparagus and broccoli, all of which was tasty. Although the waitstaff and kitchen honored my request (I assume) to exercise cross-contamination caution and to hold the butter and any other dairy, my insides coiled into a constellation of cramps etc. shortly after the meal. I just don’t have to the heart to go to a restaurant and ask for a meal free of my long list of known irritants. As a result, I eat out perhaps once a month, and only stick to gluten- and dairy-free abstinence.
The second restaurant, Dantanna’s, did not have a gluten-free menu online, but a reviewer on the Find Me Gluten Free app claimed that they did in fact have one on location. I called to confirm, and indeed they do. In fact, it’s quite extensive, with appetizers, burgers (on lettuce), entrees, sides and desserts. I heeded the reviewer’s recommendation and steered clear of the french fries listed as gluten-free but apparently containing gluten. The server seemed confused when I ordered a gluten-free burger with lettuce, no bun (the hostess had brought me the gf menu), and said he didn’t think it was safe for me to eat from their kitchen. Thankfully the manager came to our table, asked who was gluten-free, then asked if I had Celiac Disease. She then explained that their gluten-free menu is for individuals who have a slight gluten problem, not for people with Celiac Disease; however, she had notified the chef of my health issue and he had said he could make the dinner I had ordered. Full-blown GI warfare set in shortly thereafter, but again, it could have been any of the food groups I typically avoid in addition to gluten.
I’m not sure how I feel about the whole gluten-free-but-not-for-Celiacs menu deal. I realize how difficult it is to prepare a truly gluten-free meal in a shared kitchen. It’s hard enough for ME to prepare MYSELF a safe meal in a gluten-containing kitchen. On the other hand, what is up with this nonsense of advertising gluten-free products and menus that are not truly gluten-free? “Slightly gluten tainted” is more like it. Take the “-free” out if it does not apply! I don’t expect the layperson to understand that baking me cookies with gluten-free flours but without attention to cross-contamination is unacceptable to people with Celiac Disease. But for a restaurant, particularly with a trained chef, moreover advertizing a gluten-free menu, I do expect fact-checking and an effort to keep my dish separate and to use clean utensils/surfaces/etc. I wouldn’t go so far as to claim that I have a right to eat out. I know it’s a luxury to have someone else prepare my meal. In fact, I sorely miss eating free food at events, participating in potlucks, and sitting back without a care while a host prepares my meal. But, sorry, restaurant world, if you publicize a gluten-free menu, you will get Celiacs in addition to gluten-intolerants, and some of the latter will need complete and absolute freedom from gluten just as much as the former. I should have taken the time to go into these arguments with the manager, but, famished, fatigued and cowardly mess that I was, I meekly accepted a meal that was not intended for me and my kind. It was delicious on one end, but I certainly paid for it on the other. Note to self: BAD HABIT FORMATION.
Oh, and looked what aired tonight! Fox finds Celiac newsworthy!
And finally, on a lighter note, THANKSGIVING RECIPES! SO MANY FREE OF GLUTEN, DAIRY, EGGS, CORN, REFINED SUGAR, ADDITIVES. THANK YOU, FELLOW BLOGGERS! I have a repeat upper GI, a first-time lower GI, and biopsies the day before Thanksgiving, but I will get the recipes and and my reviews up at some point!