When Harry Met Sally: Thank You Meg Ryan
When you go to a restaurant you expect only the best customer service and the best food. After all, you are paying for it. For those who suffer from Celiac disease and are gluten intolerant, eating out can be a major problem because of issues with cross contamination.
I'll admit, I dread going out to eat. I hate being THAT girl who has to has things made "special" for her. It's an uncomfortable feeling being in a group of people and having to ask the waiter a million questions about the menu before you place your order. Unless the restaurant has a gluten free menu (which makes life a whole lot easier), asking the questions you need to ask to avoid being glutened are important. But, often times when you ask questions about food items that contain gluten, you get a "Huh?" or "I don't know" as well as plenty of stares or eye rolls from the group you are eating with (unless you are eating with family or friends who understand your condition).
Plenty of times after I have placed an order at a restaurant, people ask me about gluten, when I knew I was allergic and how I was diagnosed. Long story short, gluten is a protein composite found in foods processed from wheat and related grain species, including barley and rye; I have suffered from being gluten allergic all my life, but the doctor couldn't figure out what was wrong with me; and I was finally diagnosed with Celiac disease in December 2012 via a blood test. Since my diagnosis, I have gone gluten-free and feel better than ever. My life has been changed and I do not experience the once severely uncomfortable symptoms that I did my entire life when I was ingesting gluten.
Last night I went out to eat with my relatives, who are aware of my gluten allergy. When I arrived, they had already ordered some appetizers, including one that was gluten-free, and when I sat down my cousin handed me a special gluten-free menu. Needless to say, I was overjoyed. When the waiter came around to ask for my order, it was easy to decipher what I was getting, and he was more than accommodating to my gluten allergy and concerns.
Another take home note for the Celiac crowd: always tell your waiter that you are gluten allergic. Many people turn up their noses if you say 'I am gluten free' because they think that you are just another one of those people joining the newest fad diet. It is important that you say 'I am gluten allergic' because people will take it more seriously--the group you are with, the waiter and the kitchen staff. Gluten exposure is just as potent to a gluten allergic person as a peanut is to a peanut allergic person. Make sure to make your allergy this known.
Though restaurants are becoming more well-versed and offering gluten-free options, they could be doing better. But, if you know your body well and know exactly what to look for on the menu, you can almost always adjust any order to make it gluten-free.
The gluten-free crowd sends a big thank you to Meg Ryan, in When Harry Met Sally, for making it possible for us to tweak any order to be how we need it.
Yours in raising gluten-allergy awareness,