Educate, Not Eviscerate

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Remember when you first went gluten free, either because of a diagnosis from a medical professional or because you decided it was best for your health? Remember how overwhelmed you felt? You may have felt totally clueless at first. It’s possible you’d never even heard the term “gluten” before you had to go gluten free. Or, if you had, it had been in regard to someone else’s need to go gluten free and you’d had a vague idea, but you hadn’t really gotten it. Now fast forward a few weeks after you’d gone gluten free, you go into a grocery store or a restaurant and you start talking to a clerk or a server about gluten free. In return, you get what we Southerners call “the deer in the headlights look” or you get responses like “that bread is okay for you—it’s white bread”; “the cook says we don’t serve gluten anymore”; and “there’s no glucose in that dish.” You may feel your blood pressure rise and you may get huffy or raise your voice with the staff annoyed with their ignorance. Next thing you know you may be marching out of the establishment, you’re calling all your friends going on and on about what idiots these people are, you’re blogging about the horrid experience, tweeting about it, posting a little rant on Facebook about the “stupid” waitress who served you, and the like—basically, indicating that you’d like to rip this ignorant person to shreds. Hmmm. Now remember just a short while earlier you didn’t know what gluten was yourself. You had no idea what cross contamination meant. You may have even been one who thought that only wheat bread contained wheat, that white bread was … well, white bread was something else. But now maybe you’re an expert and/or a victim, and … maybe one an attitude.

The fact is that many people eat the Standard American Diet (SAD—great mnemonic there for sure), which is heavenly laden with processed foods. Most are not taught to even consider what is in their “food.” The fact that you are reading this probably means that’s not the case now, but it could have been at one time. Most folks just look at labels for calories and fat grams, if that, and nothing else. And, as a society, we’ve gone so far over on that processed food spectrum, that it’s unbelievable really. (If you want to read more on these topics and the impact to our health, I suggest reading Michael Pollan’s book, In Defense of Food. It’s on my Books page. Pollan covers these topics very well.) Frequently, new readers find their way to gfe from online searches to find out if food items like bananas, brown sugar, mushrooms, and honey are gluten free. Of course, they are gluten free (no wheat, rye, barley, on contaminated oats in those foods), but the point is many of us don’t know what’s what when it comes to our food any more. The products that are generally being consumed are so far removed from actual food. I mean we have a plethora of food scientists now for goodness sake. They work for major food corporations creating new products daily that will make you want to consume more and more. Read the gobbledy gook on some packaging and you’ll see how far we’ve come from what I always refer to as “real” food, most call “whole food,” and what Michael Pollan defines as what your great-grandmother would recognize as food. Think back on that one for a moment. How many things in your pantry, refrigerator, or freezer would great-grandma recognize? What she would recognize as food is what we want to be eating, but, really people in general have come to accept terms like carageenan, maltodextrin, polysorbate 60, disodium EDTA (preservative), monosodium glutamate, and the ubiquitous high fructose corn syrup.  They probably have no idea what those terms constitute, but they don’t give them a second thought. So, your food staff personnel really might not have a clue on “what’s what” when it comes to the food they are serving. I’m not saying that’s a good thing at all, but it is often reality.

But, my point is why do some of us choose to vilify folks rather than educate them and work with them? Oh, I get the frustration part. All of us who are gluten free (and many perhaps eating a more restrictive diet than that for health reasons) deal with the frustration of dealing with uninformed food service personnel and sometimes you do want to bang your head against a wall for a few moments—particularly if you’ve had several bad experiences back to back. And, of course, I get the concern for our safety. If you’re like me, you will not knowingly, intentionally eat gluten. You know the ramifications and they are not pretty, whether you have immediate, outward symptoms or not. (Remember:  If you have a gluten issue, any gluten ingested damages your body. And, please don’t tell me that you still eat gluten in small amounts occasionally and your follow-up testing is normal. Studies and clinical casework have shown that it can take a long time for the blood testing to show that damage is being done. But, that’s a subject for another day.) And, I get that you want to pass the word on to others to help them know which establishments understand the gluten-free diet and which ones don’t. But, isn’t there some middle ground here? Will treating uneducated personnel badly, berating them, and making demands cause establishments to be more gluten savvy and serve you better? I don’t think so. And, what do our attacks or ugliness do to the individual they are directed at? Would you want to help someone who has treated you that way? These are human beings we’re dealing with … folks just like you and me, but just not “up” on their gluten knowledge … yet.

The fact is that we’re all ignorant (i.e., uninformed) on different subjects. You may know all about the Paleolithic Era; the closest I might get to knowledge of that time period is seeing the cavemen on the Geico commercials. I may know how to converse in five languages … you may bungle your way through ordering off the menu at the Mexican restaurant. The urbanite travels via subway like breathing, but may not know how to actually drive a car. Conversely, the country dweller might have no knowledge of the subway, but could certainly take the urbanite on a fine Sunday drive pointing out local landmarks in the family sedan. We all have our areas of expertise and our areas of ignorance. That’s life. We just can’t know it all and we just don’t have an interest in all subjects (or at least not all the time). I like to think it’s a good thing because there’s always something to learn and always a new connection or interest that leads us on the next quest for knowledge. And, with 97% of individuals with celiac still undiagnosed, it’s clear that physicians who’ve had years of medical training don’t “get” this condition, why on earth would we everyone else to “know”? Many times when patients are diagnosed with celiac/gluten intolerance, they are sent out the door with a referral to a nutritionist/dietitian. While that can be a perfectly fine practice, it indicates these doctors don’t know about eating gluten free either. Yet, we expect the restaurant personnel to be “up” on gluten. It doesn’t quite seem reasonable in that light, does it? Yes, I know that there are restaurants that participate in gluten-free awareness and safe eating programs. They advertise as gluten free and their personnel must go through mandatory training on their gluten-free menu and safe practices. I get that. But, even if we encounter problems with eating gluten free safely at those particular establishments (and I have several times), which approach best serves our purpose? Education or evisceration? How will you feel after you’ve stamped your feet, huffed out the door, and later raked the personnel and the establishment over the coals? Behaving this way is not empowerment, and I really don’t think that your server or manager will rush to come up to speed on gluten after you left … they’ll just be immensely relieved you’re gone. Follow-on negative publicity is not likely to inspire positive action either. Unfortunately, it is very likely that the individual and the management will have a very wary, if not very negative, reaction to the next person who walks through the door and mentions gluten. The outcome may be that they just state that they can’t serve you safely (we see this a lot with products I believe), even though they may have some perfectly safe gluten-free options. We don’t serve ourselves well by being “put upon” victims in these scenarios and we are not encouraging gluten education and improvement of the overall situation.

Now, to be clear, I have been very frustrated myself at dining situations, but for me, it’s not a lack of knowledge that gets me riled up. It’s when folks dismiss my needs or don’t want to learn the basics to help me eat safely. I started feeling ill after eating my appetizer in a very fine restaurant once (after doing my usual amount of quizzing with the server and the chef on dishes that looked safe). The chef came out and was clearly annoyed that I had been re-questioning the server about the gluten-free status of my dish. He stated there was no gluten in my dish (looking at me like I was one of those people). Then he suggested that I have the crab cakes instead because they were made from Panko breadcrumbs. I was shocked because this information was incorrect, and I’m sure it showed on my face (I am one of those people—no poker face here), but I still managed to tell him politely that Panko breadcrumbs were not gluten free. He told me they were gluten free because the restaurant’s consulting nutritionist had told him they were. By this time he was clearly irritated with me and very curt and dismissive, and I was vexed. No, I was more than vexed, and it was clear he was not interested in being educated. He was already certain he (and the consulting nutritionist) knew it all. I think for just a moment or two as I talked to him I could imagine my head spinning around like Linda Blair’s character in The Exorcist. Really, I was appalled at his lack of knowledge and his very poor attitude. I expect chefs with professional training to know not only how to make food, but to know what’s in each dish they’ve prepared and which ingredients constitute allergens (including gluten). I maintained my cool; however, I did not eat another mouthful of food there because I had no confidence anything was safe. I would have far preferred an educational exchange, but it just was not happening that time. Unfortunately, I did not feel that any further attempts at education would be welcomed or heeded.

However, an experience on our recent trip is the type of situation I have in mind when I recommend educating, not eviscerating. At one B&B we stayed at, we were the only couple who had stayed overnight. The young lady cooking breakfast said she’d cook anything we’d liked. She was not a trained chef or even the regular cook; she was just a member of the staff who’d been asked to pull kitchen duty. She told us she could make French toast for us if we’d like. Then I reminded her that I could not eat gluten: wheat, rye, barley, and oats. Then she said “I’ll use white bread.” I told her nicely that white bread is still made from flour, which is all ground from wheat, unless it’s special, gluten-free flour like rice flour. She was very surprised. Finally after some discussion (during which she seemed genuinely interested in learning about gluten and feeding me safely), we decided that she could make scrambled eggs and bacon for me. (Mr. GFE ordered the same to eliminate the cross-contamination concern between our two dishes.) We talked about using a clean pan, clean utensils, keeping other gluten-containing foods away from the prep area, etc. But, then she came back with a bowl of fruit with lovely, but gluten-containing muffins positioned all around the edge. I informed her, again nicely, that with celiac/gluten intolerance one couldn’t eat anything that has been touched by food containing gluten. She was very apologetic and still interested in learning more about the diet and how one knows one should be eating gluten free. Because she didn’t have any other guests to wait on, she chatted with us for quite some time about the ins and outs of eating gluten free and the symptoms of gluten issues.

The fact that the B&B’s stand-in cook/server made a mistake placing the muffins on the fruit did not upset me terribly. Certainly, I didn’t eat any of that food, but if you could “get” the gluten-free diet that quickly, well, we wouldn’t have gone through the learning curves we all did, right? But, talking to folks in food service and answering their questions is the type of education that I am talking about. Maybe you’re thinking why would anyone want to do that or who has the time? Well, first, why wouldn’t you want to do it? What harm is it to talk to people and educate them and, thereby, help the next gluten-free person down the road, or perhaps help your server see that they or a friend/family member could have gluten issues? And, frankly, life is nothing if not about connections with people … even the usually brief exchange that takes place between the guest and the server. And, what else were you doing anyway? This is important stuff. Personally I believe that all of us who have gluten issues have a responsibility to educate and help others in regard to determining if they have gluten issues and showing food service personnel how to serve food gluten free and how to eat gluten free. It really doesn’t have to take very long to implement this approach—numerous kind, patient conversations here and there. We learn better in short spurts anyway … who can take it all in at once? If you’re one who is a bit shy about this type of thing, gluten-free dining cards like the ones Triumph makes can be helpful.

The gfe thinking comes into play here, too. If you show establishments and their staff members how to feed you safely with resources on hand or without having to buy tons of specialty products that are costly or may go bad quickly, they will be much more willing to do so. Sometimes you might be the one who lets them know that a particular dish of theirs is gluten free if you confirm with them that the ingredients are gluten free and it’s free of cross contamination. Suggesting that they keep a gluten-free flour mix or almond flour in their freezer as a breading option, reminding them that safe brands of cornmeal can be used in many dishes, suggesting having corn tortillas on hand as an alternative to flour tortillas, talking to them about cross contamination, etc., can all go a long way in giving them and the gluten-free customer more options. You can also recommend existing training programs designed to teach them how to serve gluten-free food and attract customers, such as the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA)  Gluten-free Resource Education and Awareness Training (GREAT) program  or the Gluten Intolerance Group’s Gluten Free Restaurant Awareness Program (GFRAP). (I’ve actually printed out information on these programs and shared them with food service management and chefs before. They have been appreciative—especially when they realized that being labeled a gluten-free restaurant through reputable sources will bring them additional customers and revenue. Gluten-free diners who have eaten safely will return to the establishment—in fact, we are a very loyal bunch.)

There are really very few occasions when we can’t follow the education approach. Pete of No Gluten, No Problem just did a post the other day on the “teachable moment“  for sharing this type of information. As he pointed out, sometimes, the moment presented is not a teachable one due to situational circumstances. Then, we just do the best we can to get safe gluten-free food without teaching a gluten lesson. But, there are actually many, many times when we can educate staff members on helping us eat gluten free safely and very well. Not only has this approach ensured that I have eaten safely at many places over the years, but sometimes it’s helped food service personnel see their own issues regarding gluten and inspire them to get tested. It’s also brought me new friends and new readers, and for that as well, I am very grateful!

Shirley
Not just gf, but gfe!

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Comments

21 Responses to “Educate, Not Eviscerate”

  1. Lauren on September 5th, 2009 9:51 am

    Lovely Post! I find that I am usually surprised about how much the staff at certain restaurants do know. More importantly, when they are informed, I come back. I think that if they’re in a good mood (kind of like that teachable moment) they’re looking to feed you and make you happy. Sometimes it’s just telling them that the barley salad isn’t gluten free, and then they’ll come up with the rest. At one cafe, they had these things like giant wraps, that they grilled like paninis, and the chef happened to be behind the counter, so she offered to give me the filling of my choice, heated up. I think it was one of the best meals I’ve had in a long time, even though it wasn’t a complicated one, just roasted vegetables in pesto with goat cheese on top.

    • Shirley on September 7th, 2009 11:44 pm

      Lauren–Thanks so much for your feedback and special thanks for sharing your own positive experiences. “They’re looking to feed you and make you happy.” That is indeed true of any good restaurant … one that wants its customers to return. Your point aboiut enjoying a simple meal so much is also a great one. Simply prepared, quality food that is naturally gluten free makes for a fabulous, safe meal. :-)

      Shirley

  2. Pam on September 5th, 2009 2:26 pm

    Great post and enjoy the holiday!

    • Shirley on September 7th, 2009 11:45 pm

      Hi, Pam–Thanks for popping in and your feedback–I really appreciate it! Hope you had a great holiday! We did have a lovely one. I still can’t believe we’re now in the post-Labor day phase though. ;-)

      Shirley

  3. Kathryn on September 5th, 2009 6:21 pm

    This is such an intelligent article & you state it so well & clearly.

    I don’t get upset with folks in restaurants, tho sometimes i’m surprised. The only time i was rather irritated was the fall of 2005 when i was inpatient at a hospital & they didn’t know how to put a gluten-free diet in the computer. All they could manage was “diabetic” & so i was sent diet jello, processed junk, etc. i WAS disgusted with that.

    Thank you for sharing.

    • Shirley on September 8th, 2009 12:53 am

      Hey there, Kathryn–Good to see you here at gfe again! I understand the surprise factor … sometimes I am, too, like the panko breadcrumbs moment. Thanks for sharing your hospital experience. Although I wasn’t thinking of hospital experiences, I had my one of my own last year. In that case, I was put on a cardiac diet due to my symptoms (thankfully unwarranted) and my choices were very limited. I wasn’t given much junk though … I think pudding was the worst thing I was given and that was pretty healthy compared to many choices. The hospital tales I hear are pretty woeful, especially considering they often have dietitians on their staff. We have members of our support group who volunteer at our local hospital and they just can’t eat there safely. I think they should start educating the hospitals on feeding folks gluten free naturally/easily … no need to buy gf specialty items, just some real foods dishes that are safe would be a big plus.

      Thanks so much for stopping by gfe and commenting!
      Shirley

  4. Katrina (gluten free gidget) on September 6th, 2009 8:05 am

    That was a beautiful, educational, open minded, amazing post. Thank you! It’s true, most people are just ignorant to what a gluten free diet entails. It is not their fault they have not been educated on the intricacies of a GF diet. I think my favorite waiter comment was, “She has a glutton allergy.” hahaha Yes, I am allergic to fat people! Priceless! All you can do is laugh and forge on to educate those you come in contact with.

    • Shirley on September 8th, 2009 1:02 am

      Katrina–Hi, and thanks so much! I just think we have to put ourselves in others’ shoes. We want them to understand our position so we need to work with them. The gluten-free diet is not a snap to learn as we know. Ironically, a lot of folks are gluttons for gluten whether or not they are overweight, just because of its opioid effects … it makes you want more, more, more. I think it’s fine, and understandable, to vent and laugh about our experiences a bit among ourselves, but yes, let’s help folks understand what we need—in the nicest, possible way. :-)

      Shirley

  5. Ellen Bayens on September 6th, 2009 12:49 pm

    Thank you for saying what I have been hearing many restaurateurs tell me. I have been the liaison between our Celiac Chapter in Victoria Canada and local restaurants for over 5 years. I helped to maintain the list of recommended celiac friendly restaurants. For the most part, this made for a great relationship between seller and buyer.

    However several restaurants have asked to be removed from our list because they find that certain celiac diners are so “demanding” and even “patronizing” that it is too challenging for the staff to accommodate them and assure their other diners of a pleasant evening.

    My theory about celiacs berating waitstaff, chefs, restaurant managers doing their best to serve them? I suspect that they have not come to terms with the emotions of being diagnosed with a disease that demands they change their relationship with one of the most intimate things in our lives – what they eat.

    It is not the fault of the hospitality industry that one gets CD; that our food industry applies gluten any and every where. In fact, it is no one’s fault. But it is our responsibility to deal with it and work in cooperation with those interested in serving us. Moreover, it is also our responsibility, as so many others have done before us, to educate our world, one waiter, one manufacturer, one bakery at a time so that the next celiac who comes along is greeted with interest, understanding and even enthusiasm.

    So step up. Be an ambassador for CD and help to make the world a better place by communicating what you need and showing kindness to those interested in helping us.

    • Shirley on September 8th, 2009 1:13 am

      Hi, Ellen, and welcome to gfe! You definitely have a critical role where you are seeing how we are viewed by restaurant personnel and what we can do to change any negativity with which we are viewed. It is indeed sad that some restaurants asked to be taken off the list. That’s a big loss for all of us. And, I believe your perceptions are very much on target. In fact, I’ve had folks tell me they haven’t “come to terms” yet with being gluten free. While I do understand that initial shock, I think grieving and feeling like the victim too long will only keep one unhealthy … whether or not one is eating gf. The mental aspect plays a large role, too. It’s like being faced with any loss or difficult situation, one has to take control and make it work best for them. Hear, hear on the last two paragraphs of your comments! Be an ambassador for CD and the gf lifestyle indeed. :-)

      Thanks so very much for taking the time to comment! I hope that folks will read what you have to say and see what an impact they can have on the restaurants for all of us needing to eat gf.
      Shirley

    • Andrea on February 6th, 2010 6:10 pm

      I am the new CDF Facilitator for our county and I am always looking for new ideas to help fellow celiacs. I am also new to this website and so far I find it helpful and interesting. I’m grateful to find information confirming the importance of having a positive attitude when dealing with restaurant staff. I have been working with our local Perkins Restaurant manager to develop a gluten-free menu. Corporate headquarters liked our idea so much that they considered using it nationwide, which we were very excited about. That was, until they heard horror stories about McDonald’s and other restaurants having problems with sue-happy people. They’ve had a change of heart and no longer wish to pursue the idea. I have personally found “that you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar” and being positive and patient has created a rapport and a win-win situation when I dine out. I try to impress upon fellow celiacs in my support group the importance of being positive, but one individual insists on threatening to sue if her dietary needs are not accommodated. Yikes! These people are the ones that jeopardize our possibilities of eating out because they scare restaurant managers and corporations away and make all of us look bad! Any ideas to help encourage restaurant managers to pursue creating GF menus in spite of the negative publicity from these types of individuals??? Also, are there any articles dealing with this subject that I can run off to hand out at a meeting?
      P.S. I love cooking with coconut flour because it is high in fiber and low in carbs!

      • Shirley on February 7th, 2010 7:02 pm

        Hi Andrea–First, I just want to say that I am so impressed that your county has such a position—that’s fantastic! Thank you so much for serving in that role! I appreciate the kind words on my site, too. You’ve probably already seen my gfe approach of focusing on foods that are naturally gluten free, whether they are real foods (my favorite) or mainstream processed foods that are safe. Then I add in just a few gluten-free specialty items. It’s a much more manageable and enjoyable way to live gluten free, plus it’s healthier and less expensive. I’m sorry that all your work with Perkins has gone to naught because of their fear of lawsuits. I certainly understand their position though. I have no patience with folks like the individual you mentioned who threatens to sue. That was certainly part of the point of my article. I think if she put herself in their shoes, she’d feel differently. How would she feel if someone came to her home for dinner and had another food intolerance (one she wasn’t familiar with) and threatened to sue if she didn’t feed them safely? I suspect she wouldn’t serve them at all and would be outraged at their behavior. I also suspect she was pretty clueless about food intolerances before she found out she had some herself. It’s truly a shame when folks can’t take a step back and see how they are causing much more harm than good. You really have a very tough job and that’s unfortunate.

        I don’t know of any other articles that are willing to address this subject. Certainly, feel free to print out my post and share it. Perhaps it will give your group food for thought. You might just print it out and distribute it without offering your own opinion first … perhaps to prevent folks from getting defensive.

        As far as restaurants, there are two great programs for restaurants owners to learn how to serve their patrons gluten free safely. The first is from the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA). It’s called GREAT. You can go here to read about it and download a brochure to share with restaurant owners. You can also see and print out a listing of restaurants that take part in the program. The other program is under the Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG) and is Gluten-Free Restaurant Awareness Program (GFRAP). It has varying levels of “certification” to show how savvy a restaurant is (how much training they’ve had, etc.) on serving gluten-free meals. You can read about that here. Both programs do have a cost (I believe GFRAP’s varies according to how far the restaurant wants to go with its “certification”) and you’ll have to read their materials and contact them to find out what that is. I realize that restaurant owners are like anyone else in our current economy, trying to cut costs, but it can be a worthwhile investment. Gluten-free patrons who find they can eat safely at establishments will return again and again. A loyal clientele is what every restauranteur wants for sure.

        That said, I’m sure some restaurants won’t be willing to pursue these programs. In that case, the best thing to do is to work with them to teach them what you can eat safely (and how they can prepare it safely for you), with the knowledge the burden is on you. I have done this time and time again. I find that restaurant owners and staff do want to feed me safely. More and more, I find that they have someone in their family or know someone who is gluten free, so they are particularly sympathetic. I’ve traveled many, many places and eaten safely without the benefit of a gluten-free menu.

        Again, I applaud you for your efforts! Please email me if you’d like to chat more or if I can help in any way. :-)

        Best,
        Shirley

  6. Jennifer on September 6th, 2009 7:06 pm

    I love this post! And, thank you for the reminder.

    And, I had a similar experience in a hospital as Kathryn… When I asked to see the hospital nutrititionist after I turned away much of the food they kept trying to give me, she brought several options to me that she thought might be gluten-free… They weren’t. And, what surprised me most was that much of the food was from a box or packet (add hot water and serve). When, I mentioned to her not only the gluten, but the amount of chemicals and added sugars, etc… and she started actually looking at ingredients with me, I think she was a little surprised by what was in the food they were serving.

    • Shirley on September 8th, 2009 1:24 am

      Hi Jennifer–It’s good to see you! :-) Thanks so much for your very kind words and sharing your own experience. The poor experiences at the hospitals are echoed often. We are reading them here, I’ve read them on other blogs (like the Gluten-Free Girl), and I see them often on the ICORS celiac listserv. One thing you mentioned that I see often and it’s why I think eating gfe is so important … i.e., when people hear gluten free, they almost always go to those packaged products that are (or should be in the case you mention) “gluten free.” They completely forget how much real food is gluten free of its own merit. And, back to my post … maybe they don’t even know what’s what any more … even the hospital nutritionist sadly. And, like you said, even if the packaged products are gluten free, they are loaded up with other horrid stuff that we definitely don’t want to eat. IMO, it’s not much different from the horrid stuff that’s routinely being served in our school cafeterias these days—gf or not. There’s so much to be done in both those areas. Maybe each of us can make at least a tiny bit of a difference (I’m sure you did by working with that nutritionist!), and all of us taking this approach can make a much larger impact. :-)

      Shirley

  7. Nance on September 7th, 2009 2:06 pm

    I would think one of the biggest challenges a gluten-intolerant person faces is that some people might think of it as a dietary choice rather than a condition requiring these food limitations. Not being a sufferer myself, I had no idea that actual “damage” could occur to you; I thought it just caused discomfort and pain.

    What a minefield eating out represents! It’s to your credit that you still enjoy and even try to dine in restaurants. I’d just give up and stay home or eat at the tables of friends and family who were knowledgeable and sympathetic.

    • Shirley on September 8th, 2009 1:43 am

      Hey, Nance–Yes, that is a concern at times … the folks not understanding that it’s not a fad. In fact, that’s a pet peeve of most of us who are gf, because quite a few articles have been written in regard to the latest gf fad or craze. Of course, it’s not a fad, but even if it were, I find the whole uproar and irritation from the journalists’ perspectives to be more than irksome. Nobody seems to give vegetarians/vegans a hard time like those of who are gf. It baffles me frankly.

      The damage continues even with a very small amount of gluten ingested. The ongoing damage (especially when one is not gf, but has celiac/gi) is what causes symptoms, development of other autoimmune diseases and conditions, and so on. In many cases, those issues cannot be reversed. For example, a person who has celiac from childhood may not ever reverse the short stature or developmental delays experienced. So, it’s important to get diagnosed early and stay gf.

      Until I learned to eat the gfe method, I was very overwhelmed at eating out safely. And, while I do have bad experiences occasionally, they are few and far between. I love traveling and eating out and I’m teaching while doing so. It’s important to me.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment … I appreciate it. It’s always good to hear from someone who is not in the gf fold to get another perspective and to see that you are learning from gfe.
      Shirley

  8. Kim, The Food Allergy Coach on September 8th, 2009 9:57 am

    Well said! I loved reading In Defense of Food. Very eye-opening. There is so much knowledge about real food that we as a society have lost. It’s scary actually. I’m encouraged to see more publications like his raising our awareness level.

    When I visited the plant of a GF foods manufacturer, I began to gain a better understanding and appreciation for those that are trying to serve our GF community. There is a lot to think about! Our reaction to when a mistake occurs is crucial – we don’t want restaurants and manufacturers to stop trying!

    Thanks again!

    • Shirley on September 9th, 2009 6:33 am

      Hi, Kim–Thanks! In Defense of Food should be on everyone’s list. I think I need to read it again to remind myself of certain facts. There are other similar books on my reading list, too. His is a quick, easy read though (surprising for all the info conveyed there).

      “There is a lot to think about!” … you are right. We think about all of that at the beginning … replacing cookware that could still contain gluten, learning how to prevent cross contamination in so many ways (like replacing toasters), but then we quicly become so accustomed to it all, we forget that it’s not a snap to accomplish. Working with businesses is the best approach. For example, some friends of mine frequent an Indian restaurant and they have worked with the owner and chef to ensure safe food is served there. While much Indian food is naturally gf, not all of it is, so education and safe practices had to take place.

      Thanks so much for stopping by and offerering your feedback!
      Shirley

  9. christina on February 6th, 2010 8:41 pm

    Shauna Ahern’s book “Gluten-Free Girl” has some good advice in restaurants as well. When we traveled last October for my Father-in-law’s funeral we were gone 2 weeks and ate out several times. I made sure to talk to the waiter before anything was ordered and they were all so happy to make a special plate up for my little Emily. I made sure to pour on the thanks for all their efforts as well. That along with looking out for “real” gf food and the treats I brought with us made for smooth sailing during travels and no gluten mishaps.

    • Shirley on February 7th, 2010 7:39 pm

      Hi christina–Thanks for mentioning Shauna’s book, Gluten-Free Girl. It is an excellent one. Shauna has long shared the guidance to be kind to and reasonable with folks at restaurants and that kindness will come back to you. She’s said as I have that folks want to feed you and make you happy. I’m so glad that you had such wonderful experiences, especially during difficult times (my sincere condolences to you and your family). I love your comment on “smooth sailing.” It’s truly the real gf food that makes the most sense.

      Thanks so much, christina—I really appreciate you taking the time to comment and share your positive experience. :-)

      Shirley

  10. Louis on December 29th, 2011 12:29 pm

    Hi, I’m a French guy and I just discovered your blog :)
    I read your article on the education of staff restaurants. I understand that there are some very patient team, but here in France it is almost impossible mission: (

    Because even if you can ask the chief a dish gluten-free foods (rice, meat, vegetables) you will not necessarily have the time to explain all the constraints of cross-contamination: pots, pans, wooden spoons, cutting boards, etc … It’s already rare to find a restaurant that is willing to serve you a meal your desires then ask them in addition 20 minutes of their time it seems to me very difficult.

    The reason is simple: why would they do it when they have little to gain financially? They have already full of customers.

    Here only a few restaurants totally gluten-free offer this type of service.

    The alternative is for us to book the whole restaurant or a room to serve all the gluten-free. But we can not do this every day and especially it must be programmed.

    Nevermind, I admire your positivism. Go on! :)

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