WARNING: Ranting Ahead Regarding Restaurants & Gluten Free(ness)
I love it when I tell a server that I have celiac disease and must eat gluten free. Nine times out of ten they look at me as if I’ve just told them that I am from the planet Zorba and only eat turquoise foods. And then I commence the question asking and I almost always discover a source of gluten the server didn’t know about. Meat grilled on the same grill as buns. Soy sauce. Breadcrumbs (duh!). Things fried in oil that also has breaded things fried in it. Salads tossed in the same bowl as pasta salads. It’s enough to drive a gal crazy.
So, happily, we had a sitter last night and hit the town with Heather (who is eating a modified paleo diet now and is, therefore, also eating gluten free), her hubby, and our good friends E & M. The restaurant we hit was not our favorite (though they did have a pretty stellar whiskey selection). When I called ahead to make sure they could accommodate me, they delivered my most favorite celiac/restaurant line. “Oh.” they said, “You’re gluten-free… okay, you can eat the salmon, and the salads, and the burger without the bun, and if it’s not a severe allergy, you can have the mussels.” I stopped her there and said, “it’s not a severe allergy. It’s worse than a severe allergy – it’s a DISEASE. Celiac DISEASE. Genetic autoimmune DISEASE.”
I don’t want to be a jerk and I hate coming across as “that allergy person”. And I hate when people reference Gwyneth Paltrow to me when I say I must eat gluten free (though I actually really like her, am jealous of her hair/body/tshirts/skin, and I’ve heard her new cookbook is pretty great). It’s not a fad, it’s not a diet, it’s a disease. It’s a medical condition people.
So, as I’ve mentioned, Heather and I own a restaurant and try though I might, I fear that even our staff fails to understand gluten issues. Why? They don’t care. That’s not to say they are callous, mean, lazy, or whatnot. It’s just that they don’t have to live with it, can’t understand what the big deal is, and are really, really busy when they are on the floor of a restaurant. Though they’ve all seen me with the angry rash across my face (and I make a point to go into the kitchen and lecture them when I have been contaminated somewhere and have the rash so they can see the visible effects), I think that most people just think that celiac is a fad diet. I blame Gwyneth for that. At the same time, I thank her a little bit because at least now most people know what gluten is. I am so conflicted.
Anyway, last night’s restaurant wasn’t the best (I’d rave about it here if I thought it was good), but the salad I ate was very refreshing in last night’s heat. It was pretty 90s, but the flavors came together well and, hey, some cool things came out of the 90s…. like Harry Connick Jr., Carmen Sandiego, and Before Sunrise.
Watermelon rings layered with goat cheese. Topped with arugula, jalapeños, vinegar + pepper.