Part 4: Out to eat? Play it safe. Really, really safe.
When you’ve got celiac disease, going out to eat sucks. I wish I could sugarcoat it for you a little bit, but there are just no two ways around it.
Why does a normal person go out to eat? To try new foods. To eat in a different atmosphere. To get waited on. To steal from your kid’s plates when they’re not looking.
But almost everything that is fun and spontaneous about eating out can be overshadowed by the anxiety of whether you can get through your ordeal unscathed.
Will your waiter be understanding/patient/human?
Will the kitchen know what you’re talking about when you try to explain what gluten is?
Will they take it as seriously as you need them to take it?
Do they really understand about cross-contamination?
And lastly, will you have your next six months ruined because you just wanted to get out of the house for an evening?
So what’s a poor celiac do to??
Follow these steps…
The Dude went out with the extended family a few night’s back to a restaurant I have never been to. It’s a nerve-wracking experience. Here are the steps I took to (hopefully) ensure my night went as smoothly as humanly possible. Do the same and increase your odds of a healthy, happy evening.
Step 1: A few hours before we left, I called the restaurant and asked to speak with the manager (who sounded about 12…first bit of trepidation.) I explained my situation and I was told they actually had a gluten-free menu. That’s a good sign, but not a guarantee they have their sh*t together.
Step 2: As we entered the restaurant, I again asked to speak with the manager just to say “Hey…I’m the guy who called. Please be my friend tonight.” We went over the menu a bit and I took my seat.
Step 3: While everyone else looks at the menu to see what they want, I study the menu to see what I 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 waitress comes along.
Step 4: The waitress comes over to the table and I stand up and quietly explain my situation to her. Note that I said quietly. I hate the attention that my situation brings and I also don’t want to put the waitress on the spot in front of the whole table. We go over the do’s and don’ts and the can’s and can’ts of making gluten free food.
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. I get the Ahi Tuna with no sauce, veggies and brown rice. A bit nervous about the rice, but she assures me it’s ok. Then she asks if I want the soup with my dinner. Of course I say no, but she says it’s vegetarian chile and it’s totally safe for me to eat. At this point, I had a weak moment. I said ok. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Too many ingredients. Too many things that can go wrong. The risk far outweighed the reward. Mrs. Dude wasn’t a happy camper. And rightfully so. I did not practice what I preach. It’s two days later and I think I’m ok (though it took me four hours to get out of bed this morning), but it was still an idiotic decision.
Is the extra work/worry worth it? Are you better off just staying home? I can’t answer that. From a health perspective, you put yourself at risk anytime you eat food that someone else prepares. But at the same time, we have to live our life, right?
Just don’t order the chile.