For Easter, I got together with a few friends, and we had reservations to a local restaurant here in the Twin Cities. Being a dutiful Celiac, I called ahead and spoke with the manager, who ensured me they have practices in place in their kitchen to prevent cross-contamination for those who have food allergies (or for peeps like me, who have Celiac Disease). They also provide a full, gluten-free menu.
When we arrived, I advised our server about my gluten allergy (NOTE: although Celiac Disease is not an allergy; for all intensive purposes that is how we Celiacs explain it to the wait staff at restaurants, as it's more understandable than trying to explain that we have an autoimmune disease, and that ingesting even trace amounts of gluten- wheat, rye, barley or oats- will cause immediate damage to both our immune systems and our small intestinesand cause inflammation throughout our organs). Our server brought out a gluten free menu for me, and my friends are awesome and supportive and also ordered off the gluten free menu, just to help prevent confusion or cross contamination at our table. Being diabetic, I tried to order something lower carb, so I steered clear of the gluten free pasta offerings. I decided on a ribeye with steamed broccoli and a side salad sans croutons and the house gluten free italian dressing.
Sounds safe enough, right?
Fast forward a few hours, when the stomach ache I had experienced immediately after dinner turned into vomiting. Vomiting throughout the night, and into the morning, along with severe stomach bloating and cramping. Yep, I had been glutened.
Being glutened spins my entire body out of control; my blood sugar went uncontrollably high as my body was trying to rid itself of the gluten. Unfortunately, gluten is absorbed into my tissues and the damage can take years to be reversed.
Was it the sunflower seeds? I had wondered if they were purchased in bulk by the restaurant (bulk items are a no-no for Celiacs, as many bulk items have a gluten anti-caking agent added to them). Was it the seasoning on my steak? Had someone with glutened hands handled my plates? I just wasn't sure.
I called the restaurant the following day and advised the manager of the situation (not because I wanted a gift card, because trust me, I won't be eating out again anytime soon. I see why Celiacs tend to avoid eating out). The manager did some research and called me back. We think we found the offender, and it was NOT what I expected. Turns out, the kitchen had steamed my broccoli using water that had previously been used to boil regular (gluten) pasta. Gah!
The one food that I thought for sure was the SAFE food, steamed broccoli, turned out to be the culprit.
The manager was extremely apologetic and advised he was sending me a gift card for my next meal. It was pretty presumptuous of him to think I'd come back. Once that fear is in your mind, it's hard to get it out. The gift card will be re-gifted to someone else.
When it comes to food allergies, it just takes one person in a large restaurant staff to make a mistake. As a diner, I do my best to talk to the manager ahead of time when the reservations are made, and call again the morning of the reservations, and to eat at off-peak hours so the kitchen and wait staff don't feel rushed and make a mistake with handling my food. But no matter how careful you are, it can still happen. And because gluten has no taste, there's no way for me to know until AFTER I've eaten it and the internal damage is already done.
I almost can't believe it, but it's true - I hate having Celiac Disease more than I hate having T1 diabetes.