The Downside of Eating Out Gluten Free

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Over the past year or so, I have found that a lot of people think that being gluten free is a fad. That by choosing to cut out gluten from my diet, that I am following the latest craze.

I have explained time after time to these people (I hasten to add, these people are not friends or family!) that having coeliac disease means that I have to cut out gluten from my diet or I will be extremely ill. No, I won't go into anaphylactic shock, but it doesn't detract from the seriousness of the disease.

It does make me cross, but is par for the course in day to day life, but recently, I was very shocked when I ate out a restaurant with friends.

The other week I went out a few friends for a meal. I was looking forward to it because I never really eat out as I'm aware that some restaurants offer salad as a gluten free option. Now I don't opt for salad at home, so I'm not going to when I go out!

Both my friend and I checked separately to see if it was safe to eat there. We were told that they have such a wide range of gluten free options, that it would be easier to tell us what wasn't gluten free.  With an answer like that, I couldn't wait to try it out.

I was however, pretty disappointed. This started almost immediately. The atmosphere was lovely, the music really good (who doesn't love a bit of '80s?) but after we had ordered our drinks, I was told that they don't have a gluten free menu 'per se', but they could accommodate my 'special dietary requirement'.

As you can imagine, I was a bit apprehensive, but the waiter came back and confirmed that the chef was very happy with making my order gluten free, so I stayed put.

The fact that the waiter had to return twice after ordering to tell me that meal choices were not safe should've also tipped me off, but sadly not.

Now, you may be wondering why I didn't complain or leave. A big part of the reason I stayed was that we were celebrating a friend's birthday and I didn't want to make a fuss as the rest of the group were having a really good time. I just decided to resign myself to eating a bland meal.

I had decided to treat myself to some ice cream to make up for the rest of the evening and had spied an ice cream sundae. The description read, "layers of ice cream and sauce, topped with cream". Doubling checking for gluten, I was reassured that it was gluten free. That was it, so I chose a caramel sundae and was pretty excited when it arrived. It was enormous!

I couldn't believe it when I got half way through it. The sundae had layers of cake :( All evening, the waiter kept coming to the table to change my order and when it was relevant, nothing was said.

I know I am partially at fault in this story. I kept ordering food and I should've asked about the ingredients etc., but I can't help but feel wronged.

After the meal, for the following two days, I was extremely ill and suffered badly. I am unsure how much gluten food I ate both due to both the sundae and maybe through cross contamination. I was told later that my fries were cooked in the same oil as the breaded starters.

I definitely feel like the chef and to an extent, even the waiter should know what is in their food. I had given them prior notice of my dietary requirements when we booked the meal and again at every stage of the meal.

This experience has really made me question not just this restaurant, but the food industry as a whole. I know that allergies and other dietary requirements can be tricky to manage in restaurants, but are they taking it seriously enough?

I have to say, eating out has again become something I will be avoiding for a while, until I can find a place that will take coeliac disease as seriously as I do.

Okay, rant over!