If you follow my ramblings, and have a fantastic memory, you know that I eat wheat-free, soy-free, egg-free, dairy-free, yeast-free, banana-free, and amaranth-free. This month is Celiac awareness month, so I will try to follow all the great posts and share my favorites here.
In my short time of trying to eat this way (I say try because of things outside either my control or my education), I have found stories, mostly through direct friends and acquaintances as well as my own experiences, of misunderstandings, lack of education, and completely obvious cross-contamination. For example, a friend was at La Grande Orange and they had gluten-free cookies. They were stacked with the non-gluten-free cookies. The employee said they only touched for a second, like gluten is sloooow to contaminate the non-gluten cookies. I think it is important to have local resources to keep these things in the forefront of our minds when we're eating out.
I recently started recording and watching a show on PBS, Check Please!, a show where the host and 3 Arizona locals eat at and discuss the restaurant that each of the locals recommended. I just watched an episode that included The Grind, a burger place that I've been to with coworkers, but not since I stopped eating wheat. I thought I could go there, but now I'm not as sure. I definitely cannot have a burger--they cover the burger in butter and cook it on an iron plate. So the burger is inedible (for me) and the iron plates are contaminated. I wouldn't know to ask about butter for that situation, but now I know that I should be asking about butter and cooking oil (to make sure it's not soybean oil) each time I ask about food preparation.
I haven't felt great for a couple days and I think I'm hitting the painful part today. I was trying to think about what I ate both days that I may not have eaten previously, or if it was just something I ate once that is lingering, and I realized that I had brewed and drank some loose tea that someone gave me, and I had chocolate hazelnut butter with my apples. I can wait and try the hazelnut butter again later, but I only thought about the tea because of this great post about hidden and overlooked gluten. My husband (and others--I know because I've had the comments and the shitty attitudes, thank you very much) thinks I'm a little paranoid, but hear this (bold emphasis mine):
It’s unrealistic to think that the members of your household who eat gluten will know or remember not to contaminate the mayo jar when they stick a knife inside the jar, spread mayo on bread, and then realize that they need more mayo. That same knife will go back in the mayo jar and the jar suddenly become cross contaminated and a source of gluten. Similarly, there are many who will touch the ketchup container right to the gluten-containing bun, bread, seasoned fries, etc. and the ketchup container then becomes a source of hidden gluten.
Good thing I can't eat mayo and no one wants my weird mayo!
...old pans and baking sheets, cutting boards, baking stones, and wooden utensils can all be sources of hidden gluten. (A black light that would show gluten would be so very handy, don’t you think?)
That gluten can be present in tea also surprises folks. Barley is the usual source.
Why yes, thank you, that was a surprise!
...many restaurants will make salad in a humongous bowl and then the wait staff will serve individual salads from that bowl. If the restaurant uses croutons in that bowl, you must ask for your salad to be made fresh, separately without croutons. (Note: If ever you receive a salad with croutons, or say a bread stick on top, hold on to it until the server replaces it, as restaurant staff have been known to simply pick out croutons or remove the bread stick.)
W. T. F. And worse, why is that NOT a surprise.
Be sure the restaurant doesn’t use the same water that it has used to boil its pasta in to also steam its veggies. ...you must ask if the chef will steam your seafood in plain water in a separate, clean pot.
I have been becoming more aware of the non-food sources she talks about as well. Am I being paranoid? Or realistically trying to care for my health? I've learned that I can't eat soup that someone else makes (yeast in the broth or gluten in the bouillion) or anything marinated if I can't confirm the ingredients (soy sauce or not-gluten-free Worcestershire sauce in everything) or trust that something is gluten-free just because it's on the g/f menu (more times than not, it means it can be modified to be g/f).
And if you think I'm paranoid, check out Gluten Free Watchdog Product Alerts, which was posted on Gluten Free Dietitian. Of special note, they are currently testing quinoa products that have been labeled gluten-free. (But not, as far as I can, the ones that aren't labeled gluten-free?) Fortunately, it appears they are coming back with good results; I'll be following this on FB.
...special diet customers don’t really want to be special. They want to know that their food is safe and that their needs are understood. They just want to enjoy their lunch with a friend.