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Gluten-free Menus

January 14, 2012

I travel a lot in my job.  That is the aspect of my life that has made following a gluten-free diet most difficult.  Though I will say, in the two years since I was diagnosed the number of eating establishments that at least have some idea of gluten intolerance and make some effort to accommodate it has increased exponentially.  Some places, like P.F. Changs and Outback Steakhouse do a marvelous job of providing a good gluten-free menu and training their staff regarding what it means to serve gluten-free food.

And I can’t say enough about the importance of an educated staff, at least where my patronage is concerned.  When I first began, I hated going out to eat.  First, I hate being “that guy”.  You know him.  “I can’t eat that.  I have to have this.  Don’t you have this?  I need that on the side.  That makes me break out in hives.”  I hate that high-maintenance, whining, gotta-have, look-at-me crap.  And suddenly, through no fault of my own, I was him.  Whenever I would tell the server “I can’t have gluten” and would get that blank stare like cows at a passing train I just wanted to get up and leave.  Because here came all the whining and gotta-haves.  Second, I simply tire of the repetitiveness of it all.  Explaining my situation over and over.  Making sure I cover all the bases.  Cross-contamination doncha know.  At first, I was enthusiastic about telling my story.  It was new to me and I was all involved in research and learning all I could and didn’t mind sharing.  With my server or the lady waiting in line at the grocery with me.  It was interesting to me.  But after a short time it became “I can’t have gluten…that means…sigh…”

So kudos to those places that really try to cater to us g-free pain-in-the-butts.  Now on to those that are not so progressive in that regard.  I don’t mind the places that really do nothing to address the needs of the gluten-free community.  I mean, look, it’s the free market.  You can’t be all things to all people.  I mean, McDonald’s doesn’t have a kiddie play land in front and a bar in the back.  It’s fine.  I’ve always felt that way about all the smoking bans too.  The market takes care of that stuff.  If people want non-smoking establishments and are going to spend their hard-earned dollars there, I assure you there will be places to accommodate them.  If the place down the street from you where you go every Saturday to get your closest-to-mom’s meat loaf is not one of them, then, uhhhh tough.  Find another meat loaf or make your own.  Or eat sushi.  So if I find a place that doesn’t address my issue, I simply don’t go there.  I don’t speak to the manager or go around my neighborhood with a petition or call my city councilman.  It’s fine.  I’ll find somewhere else to spend my money.

No, it’s not the places that, in essence, give me the finger that tick me off.  It’s the places that make a mockery of their attempt to accommodate my needs.  You see, it’s not enough for me to simply have food that is gluten-free.  I want to eat as well as I used to.  In fact I insist on it, and have dedicated myself to it in many ways.  When someone eats my food I don’t want or expect to hear “That’s pretty good for gluten-free”.  I expect “This is gluten-free?”  Or, better yet, “This is the best ____ I’ve every had!”.  And with many dishes that is achievable.  Especially the ones that, you know, never had any gluten to begin with.

But back to the point.  I have been in many places where I have asked for a gluten-free menu and gotten something that wasn’t written by a chef, but a lawyer.  And that, my friends, ticks me off.  If you’re not going to at least try to provide me with a tasty meal that is gluten-free, then just say you don’t have anything.  I’ll cope.  But don’t insult me by bringing me a menu that says I can have a baked potato sans butter, sour cream and cheese.  I mean, seriously?  You can’t go to the trouble to make sure there’s no gluten in your sour cream?  That kind of thing is a sure-fire way to make sure I don’t come back.  Or maybe start a petition.  Or at least bag on you in my blog.  Texas Land & Cattle.


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One Comment
  1. My favorite is…. “you can have a salad with no crutons, no cheese and no dressing… Oh, actually we might have some oil and vinager” Ummm… so no flavor… I’ll have a water…

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