See the picture of that yummy looking bread above? That’s the secret of enjoying a night of eating out. It’s all about being prepared and doing everything you can possibly do to minimize the risk and maximize the pleasure.
Let me take a step back and explain.
I received the following email from a fellow celiac who very nicely questioned how I eat out so much. Here is what she had to say…
If you don’t mind my asking…How often do you eat out? I’m asking because for me, I rarely eat food I don’t prepare myself. Even when traveling, I try to bring a decent amount of my own food. I just don’t have trust and I don’t want to be glutened and be unable to go to work, etc. It’s just not worth it to me and I feel like when I eat food I did not prepare myself, I’m letting others control how I’m feeling vs. myself being in control if that makes sense.
When I hear about people who are often getting glutened, what’s in the back of my mind is “Why are you going out to eat then?”
Let me be clear – it’s never your “fault” if you do your due diligence, ask questions, etc and get glutened. Restaurants and others are to blame.
Also, I know there are times when we must and want to go out. who wants to cook their own birthday dinner, who wants to miss the family tradition of going out on x holiday or whatever? I get that. I really do. I’m just wondering about those that just want to eat out on a Tuesday or who don’t feel like cooking (and hey i’m right there with you sometimes).
How do you personally work this out in your life? How do you walk the tight rope of giving up your control on how you will feel the next day to a restaurant vs biting the bullet and cooking for yourself at home or even bringing your own food to a restaurant to join others?
So here’s the deal and I’ll be flat out honest. Eating out can be a huge pain in the butt. There is a risk every single time we eat food that others prepare. It is simply the celiac way of life.
That being said, yes I still eat out. Not as often as I might like and certainly not in restaurants I don’t trust (which is pretty much every chain restaurant). But life is to be enjoyed and that is what I try to do.
Is it worth the risk? Only you can answer that for yourself.
But there are steps you can take to minimize the risk as much as humanly possible, especially if you are going to a restaurant you’ve never been to before.
Step 1: Call the restaurant ahead of time and ask to speak with the manager. Tell him/her you have celiac disease and try to get a sense if they truly understand what “gluten-free” means. If they hem and haw or seem like they can’t be bothered, cross them off your list. If you get the feeling they can accommodate you, then proceed to step 2.
Step 2: Upon entering the restaurant, ask to speak to the manager again. Tell him/her you called earlier and explain your needs again.
Step 3: While everyone else looks at the menu to see what they want, study the menu to see what you cannot have (which is usually about 95% of the menu). It’s a process of elimination that can take some time. If it’s a large menu, sometimes I don’t even bother and I just wait until the waiter comes along.
Step 4: When the waiter comes to the table, stand up and quietly explain your situation to him/her. Note that I said quietly. Personally, I hate the attention that my situation brings and I also don’t want to put the waiter on the spot in front of the whole table. Go over the do’s and don’ts and the can’s and can’ts of eating gluten-free.
Step 5: It’s time to order. The moment of truth. I usually have at least three items that I will ask questions about and will always go with the safest choice, even if it’s not my first choice.
Step 6: This is the most important step. Enjoy yourself. Do not spend the rest of your meal being paranoid you are going to get sick. You’ve taken the necessary precautions. You’ve done what you can. Now it’s time to eat, drink and be merry.
So back to the picture of the bread. Friday night, Mrs. Dude and I had a great night out with Jennifer Esposito and her husband-to-be Louis. Jennifer brought a loaf of her own bread (with permission from the restaurant of course) for all of us to share.
When’s the last time I had bread at the dinner table? I can’t even remember. It was so friggin’ awesome.
What’s my point? That simple gesture added something special to the evening.
It’s up to you to find these small gestures. It’s up to you to do what you need to do to make your night out less stressful and more memorable.
It can be done…I promise. There is no reason for us to live our life in fear.
(Oh…and she also made me a birthday dessert…apple crumb pie. Bless her little heart.)