Unsuccessfully Attempting To Eat Gluten Free In Restaurants….

I do not know about other people who have a gluten intolerance, but for me it is a real issue.  Not only do I have a gluten intolerance, there are other sensitivities as well and that makes it a real challenge.  There is not much that I can eat without feeling some sort of swelling and various other painful issues that I will not go into.  Even though they are coming out with tons of gluten free foods, that does not mean that I can eat them due to my other issues.  Sometimes, I think it would be nice to be gluten intolerant only, as there would be more that I could eat.

Eating in a restaurant is a real issue for me.   You also have to take care to not have cross contamination. You cannot have any fried foods, such as french fries because they fry them in grease with other foods that do contain gluten.  I cannot have salicylates or night shades which leaves about everything else out, even down to spices and sauces on foods.  One final complication is diverticulitis.  This means no seeds, nuts or items with skins.  I do not want this to sound complaining here, it has been this way for 6 years or more and I am use to it.  An even worse part is that I feel like sometimes just the smells or the particles in the air can cause a reaction for me as well as the dishes and silverware.  Some people may disagree with this, but everyone knows their own bodies.

However, I will complain about people.  Some say things like they think they have decided to go gluten free or that they are thinking about trying gluten free or they say they have tried that once.  Sadly, it is not a fad.  It is a REAL issue.  I feel like, at least in my opinion, that it is not taken seriously by some people, particularly the servers at restaurants.  I am not including everyone here as we have had some absolutely wonderful servers.  I was a server as well many times when I was younger and later in life, too, so I have great respect for servers.  I do understand that you do not know people’s situations and that they may have had a tragedy in their life or a bad day.  Any given circumstance could also affect your personality.  I understand that completely, so do not get me wrong, I know that it is hard. It is hard dealing with the public in any field. Mostly, the general public can change a server’s attitude as the public can be cruel at times as well.

You can, however, watch servers and see that their entire face and attitudes change when you have to ask questions.  I always apologize first for my issues and then ask questions so that I can order what is right for me.  I think I have come to realize that a person with allergies should just stay home but it is so hard when your family wants to go out for someone’s birthday or other reason.  You do not really want to say well you guys go on I will just stay here.  You can try to eat beforehand and then go with them and just sit there, which is hard to do.  Eating has more and more become a social event. I try to order the simplest of things so there will not be much of a problem for the server or anyone.  I need to add that there are so many servers who really care and go out of their way to  help you.  They even, at times, think of things you didn’t think of and make suggestions.  Mostly, though, there are the ones that just feel that you are a pain to them.

I will have to add here without sounding like boasting, but we consider ourselves nice customers.  (You are thinking the key words here are that “we consider ourselves” but we can tell when they reciprocate the kindness. Haha.  Believe it or not, people actually  do like us.) When the server comes to our table and gives his/her name, we make conversation with them and ask them questions about themselves. We actually have them laughing and smiling. We are friendly and when we leave, we always know things about our server as in where they are from, if they are in school and other tidbits.  We actually take the time to show that we care about them.

So ,,, our daughter wanted to take us out for her father’s upcoming birthday.  We went to a well known steakhouse in Champaign, Illinois, one that we have been to several times since we can get the specific foods for me.  Sadly, that restaurant is off of our list of favorites.  From the minute I told the server I had a gluten issue along with other problems, we never received another smile from her and her visits to our table were infrequent. I ordered a salad and a baked potato.  I told her I could only have lettuce and cheese for the salad and just a plain baked potato with sour cream and butter on the side.  The salad came out first with the appetizer the others ordered.

I guess I just sort of knew the minute that she sat the salad down that something was wrong.  I seem to be the one that no matter what I order, the order comes out wrong.  I just could tell by looking that something was not right with the salad. I did not want to say anything. I did ask the server when she came back around if there were croutons and other items (such as tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, etc) on the salad and that they just removed them.  She all too quickly made a strange face and said nervously, “NO!”  I had barely finished the sentence before she responded.  That, in itself, was concerning. Her disappearance was sudden. Sometimes I feel like I am a pain to my family as well, so I decided to keep quiet.  I know my family loves me and they probably feel just as concerned, but it seems to take away from the celebration so I kept quiet … but just for awhile.  It was becoming more obvious that there were croutons on the salad and that someone in the kitchen just “picked” picked them off.  There were crumbs and bits and pieces throughout the salad.  I had to stop eating it and was praying that what I had eaten would not cause a problem.  I gave it to my daughter’s fiance, Jerry, and he said they definitely were crouton bits.  They seemed to adhere mostly to the cheese so he wondered if the cheese was near the croutons and there was the cross contamination. We did actually feel pretty confident that they did in fact, just pick them off of the salad. Everyone at the table then wanted to look and we were all in agreement.  I do not think they realize the serious implications an allergy can cause a person or they would not have been so negligent.

Jerry explained the situation to the server and explained that if they did not in fact just remove the items off of the salad then the cheese must be cross-contaminated with the croutons.  She really had nothing to say in return and actually made faces.  We opted to just have her return it and not replace it.  I had only had a few bites anyway.   This only made her attitude worse even though we were all being as polite and kind as we could when we were not in the wrong.  The entrees were delivered much later along with my baked potato.  The entire top of the potato was covered with sour cream. In addition, there was a side of butter and a side of sour cream.  This is unbelievable, but in the middle of the scoop of butter was some cheese!

The butter I was served with the cheese in the middle of the scoop.  

It was so very obviously situated in the middle of the scoop, that we all laughed and said it looked like it was purposely placed as to “get back at us”.  I know people say that that does not happen, but how in the world did that cheese get into the middle of a scoop of butter?  Maybe you have read the book, The Help, or have seen the movie…. There was a “special pie”.  Minny made the best chocolate-custard pies and everyone loved her cooking.  Miss Hilly jeopardized Minny’s chances of finding work so Minny made a chocolate pie including a “special ingredient” of her own.  Minny would only let Miss Hilly eat the pie.  After and only after Miss Hilly ate the pie, did Minny tell her what the secret ingredient was and what she had just consumed!   Anyway, it would be so easy to accidentally spit or something and it go totally unnoticed.  We all have heard stories and I have actually witnessed some things similar (dropping something on the floor and picking it up and using it, wiping a wrong ingredient off of a bun, taking pickles off of a sandwich and serving it, tasting from a spoon used to stir food and stirring again, people carrying items to your table with their thumb or finger in your food, so many other wrong and gross things). Therefore, it does make you wonder.

Jerry reached for the butter from me and waited for the server to come back.  There was quite awhile before she even came near so they started looking for her as the potato was getting cold.  Jerry very politely and thoroughly explained to her that we were initially concerned with the cheese to begin with and now it is in our butter.  She just angrily and sort of rudely snatched it away and came back with another.  There was never an, “I am sorry” or any type of acknowledgment to us of a mistake or anything.  A simple, “I am sorry” or “Oh no” or “Here, let me fix that” would have made things immensely better.  Instead, she was angry with us for the mistakes the restaurant made.  Shelby, incidentally, had ordered the loaded mashed potatoes but only received plain mashed potatoes.  She did not say anything either because she thought maybe she did not actually order it.  However, when the ticket came, we were charged for loaded mashed potatoes.  Shelby politely informed the server of this and she had happened to take a picture of her plate in case it was needed.  The server took the ticket rapidly from her and made a point to stand and crumble up/wad the ticket in front of us with great effect and stormed off.  We eventually received our corrected ticket, without comment from her, we paid and left.

We understand that she may have had a horrible day and may have been bothered by who knows what in her life.  We also noticed the kind and attentive service that she gave to her other booths right beside us and across from us.  I am in no means knocking servers, but her conduct was out of line, very out of line.   As I said, I have “been there done that” on her side of the table and I understand how hard her job is.  People on the other side, the customer, have hard jobs too. I should be able to go out and eat just like everyone else does.  I should not be mistreated because I have issues.

The result, we will not eat there again and just the thought of eating out makes me think twice.  I have repeatedly been rudely treated and there is just no point in trying any longer.  That is the part that is sad.



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