So what is one to do when you are gluten free and you want to eat out?
A)Abandon your social life!
B)Go out but just don’t eat!
C)Just eat the bad stuff or gluten food anyway, who’s going to know???
D)Make a menu of the foods that you can eat and work with the wait staff to create a meal that is healthy for you.
Hopefully, you still have a social life, go out and actually eat gluten free food at a nice restaurant while having a nice experience with the staff.
I know when I was newly diagnosed with Celiac Disease I didn’t want to eat out because I didn’t want to hassle with all of the “newly imposed rules” that I had to follow. I didn’t want to be one of those fussy high maintenance people like Sally Albright (Meg Ryan) in
“When Harry Met Sally” Restaurant Scene
Harry Burns (Billy Crystal):There are two kinds of women: high maintenance and low maintenance.
Sally Albright: Which one am I?
Harry Burns: You’re the worst kind; you’re high maintenance but you think you’re low maintenance.
Sally Albright: I don’t see that.
Harry Burns: You don’t see that? Waiter, I’ll begin with a house salad, but I don’t want the regular dressing. I’ll have the balsamic vinegar and oil, but on the side. And then the salmon with the mustard sauce, but I want the mustard sauce on the side.
“On the side” is a very big thing for you.
Sally Albright: Well, I just want it the way I want it.
Harry Burns: I know; high maintenance.
Maybe Sally was gluten free and she just didn’t want to talk about it in 1989. Maybe she didn’t know she was gluten intolerant but she knew enough that certain foods were not … “pleasant for her” or like her back so much. What do you think?
Every time I go out to eat, I laugh and think about this scene because it seems like this comical ordeal. I have learned over the years that if you don’t make a “big deal” out of it with the staff at the restaurant then they won’t make a big deal. I also think that it is a great idea to go into a new restaurant ahead of time, maybe not during peak hours and speak to the manager. Explain to them that you have specific dietary needs and that you have a special celebration coming up. Tell them that you would like to celebrate your special night at their restaurant. (I would hope that they would be honored that you want to celebrate with them and that you took the time to meet with them ahead of time.) One idea is to make up a card and leave it with the manager to attach to your reservation that gives the details as to the foods that you can not eat – wheat, barley, oats, malt, rye, soy sauce etc. Maybe you can also work with the chef ahead of time to prepare a pre-arranged gluten free meal. I would hope that they would rather that the details were planned ahead of time then during peak dining hours when all heck is breaking loose in the kitchen. You will probably be doing them a favor by informing them about gluten intolerance and by helping them create a meal that will probably be needed by other gluten intolerant people in the future.
If you haven’t looked at the website http://www.glutenfreerestaurants.org/ created by the Gluten Intolerant Group, check it out. It may also help you if you are traveling and in a bind to find a restaurant. Most chefs that are trained today should be educated on the facts about gluten free meals. It is always wise to talk be kind to the staff and have a pre-made card with the details of your special dietary needs. I would also include emergency contact info, in the event that an emergency happens or a new sudden reaction happens to a food that you are not aware of at that time. The card is also helpful to avoid uncomfortable situations when the menu states “NO Substitutions”. The more that the media covers information about Celiac Disease and Gluten Intolerance the less “high maintenance” scenes we will all have to endure.