It ain’t easy being a celiac. And for restaurants, it ain’t easy to feed us. I get that.
And I also get that any time we eat out, unless the restaurant is 100% gluten-free, we take a risk. It’s a risk I’m willing to take, though I err way, way, way on the safe side. For example, you’ll never see me at a fast food joint. One because the food would rot my gut to pieces; two because most of it tastes like crap; and three because there is no way in hell I’m putting my faith in that kind of environment (cross-contamination galore, kids working, etc.)
But I know everyone is not like me.
And I know for lots of reasons (convenience, money, etc.) our community will continue to eat at these joints. No judgment here. Promise. And when the joints do it right, I give them credit and when they do it wrong, I give them hell. Right Dominos and Panera??
All I know is that when a restaurant offers gluten-free, they have a responsibility to DO IT RIGHT. I always say celiacs don’t own gluten-free and I have no problem with ANYBODY going gluten-free. They have their reasons. But as my partner in crime Jennifer Esposito once said:
People need to understand this is a serious disease. And when you ask for gluten-free in a restaurant and you are not gluten-free; the more we have people not being able to decipher if this is an allergy, a fad or a disease, our community is getting sicker and sicker and sicker. I ask you to be responsible about this disease. I am asking that people be responsible and respectful for the people that suffer with this disease. It is not fun. It is not easy. And it is not a fad.
God…I love that.
Right now you’re probably wondering if I’m ever gonna get to the point. I feel your pain. Here we go.
Two chains recently announced they are offering gluten-free items: Papa John’s and Starbucks. I’ll take them one at a time. This time there will be judgment. Promise.
Starbucks Goes Gluten-Free!?
This is actually big. I like Starbucks. I don’t love their coffee, but I like their vibe, their fight for causes I believe in and the fact they pay their people fairly. But their big drawback is, not only have they never offered gluten-free food on their menu, there is absolutely no way to know if there is gluten in any of their drinks (except black coffee). It’s not listed anywhere in the establishment and it’s not on their website. For a company that large, it’s actually surprising it took them this long to jump in.
So did they do it right? It’s time for a little Q & A with myself.
Don’t you and Mrs. Dude play “The Starbucks Game”, when you can see who can spot the most Starbucks when you’re in NYC?
How did you know?
Lucky guess. Ok…what is Starbucks offering?
A Gluten-Free Smoked Canadian Bacon & Egg sandwich
What’s it look like?
Here you go.
What are the ingredients?
The less you know…the better. Let’s just say there are A LOT of them. But no gluten.
How do they keep it safe from cross-contamination?
From their website: It’s all prepared in a certified gluten-free environment and sealed for your safety. We then warm and serve it in its own oven-safe parchment bag to avoid any cross-contamination. And it looks like this:
So it’s totally safe for celiacs?
This is where it gets a bit tricky. Even though they say it’s made in a certified gluten-free environment, on the very same web page it says this: “We cannot guarantee that any of our products are free from allergens (including dairy, eggs, soy, tree nuts, wheat and others) as we use shared equipment to store, prepare and serve them.”
Yeah…I know. Maybe just a CYA statement, but not really sure.
So do you think it’s safe?
Man, you ask a lot of questions.
Sorry, I’m a curious man-child.
That’s ok. Me too. I’ve read other celiacs’ reviews and it mostly seems like they are doing it right. A few times, the counter person erroneously removed the bag or they unsealed the bag before heating it up. But that just comes from proper training and being a smart celiac by keeping an eye on things behind the counter. As for the taste, again from what I’ve read, it’s nothing special but it’s not awful. Others can chime in here.
Last question. Will you try it?
Probably not. Not necessarily because I think it’s unsafe, but 1) it’s got cheese (me no eat dairy) and 2) based on the ingredients, I just have a feeling it would sit in my stomach like a rock. But I’m not condemning Starbucks. They sure as hell did it better than Papa John’s.
Papa John’s Goes Gluten-Free!?
I’m not gonna spend too much time on this one.
It’s a personal size pizza and they say the crust is prepared in a gluten-free environment before going to the stores. But this is directly from their site:
Papa John’s does not recommend pizzas with Papa John’s Ancient Grains Gluten-Free Crust for customers with Celiac Disease. Although Papa John’s Ancient Grains Gluten-Free Crust is gluten-free and Papa John’s employs procedures to prevent contact with gluten, it is possible that a pizza with Papa John’s Ancient Grains Gluten-Free Crust is exposed to gluten during the ordinary preparation process. Please use your best judgment in ordering a pizza with Papa John’s Ancient Grains Gluten-Free Crust if you have a sensitivity to gluten.
They can absolutely make it as they wish. They are in business for profit. And making really awful commercials with Peyton Manning. But what I don’t understand is if it’s not made for people who have sensitivities to gluten, THEN WHO IS IT MADE FOR?
And I know what’s gonna happen. Too many celiacs will see gluten-free at Papa John’s and order a pizza without thinking twice. They’ll get sick and Papa John’s will be none the wiser. And that just sucks.
Like I said, it ain’t easy being a celiac.