I have been gluten free for a few months now, there have been a few mishaps here and there but for the most part I have managed to find alternatives and correct my eating habits and lifestyle accordingly.
To say it has changed my life is an understatement, no more constant pain all day every day, no more having to rely on pain killers EVERY day, my migraines have significantly reduced along with so many other things so I can honestly say that the pain I am left with when I have slipped up is just not worth it and we have done everything we can at home to ensure my food is cooked separately and kept separate in order to avoid cross contamination and I will tell you my system is sensitive but I have seen people who have it so much worse so I have to say it makes me incredibly angry when people either choose to not understand or even worse are paid to be aware, to stock a product etc and are not educated as to the issues or reasons behinds certain dietary requirements.
My mom took me out for breakfast yesterday and for the most part I have found that many restaurants are starting to incorporate gluten and dairy free substitutes or options into their menus or are happy to take out certain items if one cannot eat it due to a dietary requirement which is great right?
However having said this;
Are the staff and persons running the kitchen actually aware of the healthy issues that reside behind the need for these products? Are they actually aware that even cross contamination can make many people ill? Are they aware that when many people request these items they are not just being difficult there are more often than not valid health reasons behind their request and even if there weren’t you as a patron are paying (extra) for that product and should not be made to feel bad or that you are being a nuisance with your request…
I do not eat out often due to affordability and my health issues so when I do I consider it to be an absolute treat; I went through the menu yesterday at one of the Mugg and Bean restaurants and I ended up choosing a breakfast that contained items that I could eat, I requested gluten free bread as well which is offered as an option on the menu for an extra R10… gluten free products are expensive I get it so fair enough.
When the food arrived I realised that the corn ‘fritter’ as advertised on the menu did not look like the sort of deconstructed non flour containing ‘fritter’ that appeared in the picture on the menu but it looked like a flap jack and most definitely contained flour, so my mom ended up removing it from my plate and I ate around where it had sat. I wasn’t going to make much of a fuss because in all fairness I should have asked so fine.
Then we had the bread both my mom’s whole-wheat and my gluten free bread were brought together in the same bread basket laid atop one another so my mom requested that the waiter bring me another fresh slice, the waiter was polite but did look slightly irritated or maybe it was that he could just not understand why we had requested a new slice but a few minutes later he apparently brought me a new one. Now the slice they brought back was sloppy and I am pretty sure as was my mom that it was the same slice that had been reheated I unfortunately cannot say for sure but what I can say is that I was in a significant amount of pain for the afternoon and evening after my meal that morning and had to take a double dose of my meds in order to get on with my day, now again I cannot say for sure and I also cannot say whether they toasted the breads within the same toasting unit they may have and it may have been that; but I did not eat anything else so it’s fair to say that it was something that had been served in that meal.
Now many people are going to say well then don’t eat out and I’m sorry I just don’t think that is fair I feel that if you are going to serve an alternative aimed at people with certain allergies and intolerance's then you need to educate yourself and your staff and ensure people are not going to get sick, I am still in pain as I am sitting here typing this and it has just put me off that restaurant completely, I mean if something contains even trace amounts or has a chance of containing trace amounts of peanuts by law the product being sold or the restaurant serving needs to make people/customers aware of this so I don''t see how having a gluten/ dairy/ soy etc intolerance or allergy is anything different, it's not that I simply choose not to eat it, my body cannot process it and it damages my digestive tract when it goes through my body, I have had to make a load of extreme lifestyle changes which have even included ensuring that my vitamins and and medications I consume are gluten free, I mean did you even know that most medications and especially vitamin and mineral supplements contain gluten? If my hubby makes me food it has to be done in a separate pot, if I toast my gluten free bread I have to ensure that the flat bed grill we use is thoroughly cleaned and I cannot use the toaster because it is simply not possible to ensure that a toaster is completely clean inside and that no crumbs from other breads are left behind. EEP!
Now look I am not going to jump on a slam campaign as much as my body is screaming out for me to do so all I am saying is that restaurants and stores that serve gluten free, dairy free, soy free… whatever the allergen or alternative may be need to be aware of the very serious health issues and pain that they can induce should they serve these products incorrectly or cross contaminate them, if you cannot guarantee it then you need to state on your menu that your products are at risk of contamination and the person can then make their choice based on whether their request is a health requirement or just a dietary choice etc there are other places I have eaten at and have had absolutely no issue so it can be done, this is just a request from a paying customer and I think that given more and more people are becoming aware of these issues that places who serve these foods should be aware I don’t think it’s fair to excuse them due to ignorance.
Just educate yourself and your staff and make sure that the claims of what you are serving are clear and true…. It really isn’t much to ask.