Adventures in Gluten (and Sugar) Freedom from a southern blogger chick!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Please don't jump on the gluten-free bandwagon til you know what it means to be gluten free!

I hope everyone had a great Christmas, Hannukah, Solstice, and early Kwanzaa. Santa was better to me than I deserved. So was the Hard Rock Cafe Casino today. But I digress.

Today's post is a cautionary tale fueled by three episodes in the last month (OK, since the day after Thanksgiving). It's a sign of the gluten-free times. And I'm in a bit of a tither about it.

As I write this, my head is throbbing with a migraine headache, and my stomach is bloated and aching. My wrists are creaking, my knees are swollen...I won't tell you about the gastric symptoms....

For tonight I was glutened by an item on a gluten-free menu at a restaurant that advertises its gluten-free menu. Yeah, yeah, I know. eating out is risky. And know what? It's getting worse.

I warn you. This isn't a nice post at all. The names have been held to protect the criminals involved -- trust me when I say I have contacted each one...

I've seen this coming for a while now. Someone famous wrote a book about celiac disease and made the term "gluten free" a status symbol. Suddenly, people all over the WORLD are going gluten free (or some alphabet-soup variation of it) and boasting about it because they're going to get back in bikini size by eating gluten free.

Yeah. Right. I find folks on Twitter all the time saying, "I'm starting my gluten free diet tomorrow....but first I'm going to finish this bag of Oreos." Right, snowflake.

IMHO there are four groups of people who need a gluten-free diet. 1. People with celiac disease. 2. People with ANY FORM of gluten or wheat intolerance or the symptoms that accompany this. 3. People who have anaphylactic responses to wheat and gluten. 4. People who believe it lessens the results of autism on a child.

Because these are the people who go on a gluten-free diet strictly and STICK TO IT AND DO NOT CHEAT.

It is not a fad, and dag-nabbit, society has started treating it that way.

OK, so here's my rant du jour. This interest in gluten-free eating has sparked a sea of restaurants and products labeling themselves gluten free WHEN THEY DON'T EVEN KNOW WHAT IT MEANS. And for those of us who suffer from the symptoms of an accidental glutening (as I do, with a vengeance,) this is UNFAIR! And I want you to stop.


Situation one: Day after Thanksgiving, we lunch at a BBQ place in the south with a big sign up about a gluten-free menu. I am happy. I order off same menu stressing NO BREAD SHALL TOUCH THE MEAT IN ANY WAY! Plate comes out with bread, which, when I protest, is plucked from the plate by waitress and handed to me. I explain the problem with this removal. She returns to the kitchen, and I'm pretty sure some guy on the line rinses it off and dunks it in sauce. Within 20 minutes of leaving, symptoms begin. I email twice, only to be told, "We just can't figure out how to notify the folks in back that it's gluten free." WTF? 2


2. I am at a wholesale outlet with a table of a vendor selling holiday candy and treats. BIG SIGN says gluten free on it. I look at one stack of products and it appears to be chocolate covered cookies. I walk around table and find a large package of CHOCOLATE COVERED PRETZELS in the mix. Are these all gluten free? I ask. Yes, said demure woman trying to sell stuff. It can't be, I say, there is WHEAT FLOUR in this product right here. WELL, says demure woman, now getting testy with me, They're gluten free because that's what the sign says. Do you know what gluten free means? I ask. No, she said, I'm just telling you what they told me. Fine, says I, what is the phone number. And to them I shout,


Cuz unless those pretzels are home made by me and hand dipped, there's no way....

3. Tonight. Been to this lovely Tampa establishment before. Jeffrey does not want beans with his tacos, so I ask for them on the side. They are clearly listed on GF menu I was presented. I have asked a million questions, our lovely server (really, it wasn't her fault at all) brings me beans and I eat three big bites. I TASTE BEER! I ask, do these pinto beans have beer in them? She says yes and removes them and we get a manager. He is VERY polite and lovely, and he understands the whole thing. But someone on his food line in the back DOES NOT get it, and he is the person I want to hurt right now (or make him hurt like I do). And I tell the very kind manager,


OK, seriously. Most people like to start new diets around the first of the year. On Jan. 1, or maybe Jan. 2, I bet hundreds of folks will decide for one reason or another to start a gluten-free diet. Please caution them all,

PLEASE DON'T JUMP ON THE GLUTEN-FREE BANDWAGON TIL YOU KNOW WHAT IT MEANS TO BE GLUTEN FREE! And I mean REALLY all the time, 24/7, no cheating, no testing, no I'll start this tomorrow....

This ain't a casual fad. Please stop treating it that way. I'll love a restaurant and product much more for being HONEST. And for goodness sake, let's all say it together...


(stepping off soapbox).
Much love,


marylandceliac said...

Great post! You write really well even when feeling so bad! It seems like almost daily on twitter someone is tweeting about being glutened. Safety really is the most important thing when offering a gluten-free menu. Hope 2010 brings more educated establishments jumping on the gluten-free bandwagon and throwing the others off!

celticjig said...


Carol said...

I'm sorry to hear you had 3 bad experiences in such a short time. Eating out would be so much safer if more restaurants were a part of the GFRAP restaurant certification program, then they would understand gluten-free.

Lori said...

From one gf HAVE to that's been lied to, rolled their eyes at and deer in the head lights looked at- to another, preach it sista :-)

Carrie said...

Ginger -- well, well said and I couldn't agree with you more. The longer I have been GF, the faster my symptoms begin once I have been glutened and it ain't pretty. Add soy, and dairy to that and you get one sick girl. I SO understand what you are saying here. It's gotten to the point we RARELY eat out anymore unless I can get a salad or some vegetable and plain rice because I end up getting sick nearly EVERWHERE we go out to eat... arrgghhh... And those migraine headaches are the WORST thing in the world. I had a whole string of them after getting glutened last month at Thanksgiving and I can tell ya I don't want to do it again... I feel for ya girl!! I wish everyone even contemplating the GF diet would read your post!!

Kim and Megan said...

I am so sorry this happened to you. I had a similar experience with a milk exposure when I was nursing my milk-allergic baby. Although the caterer had promised and written in bold on the order that certain items would be dairy free, the cook thought that "adding a little bit of cheese wouldn't hurt." After staying away from my little guy, pumping and dumping (and I only had a few bites) and then nursing the next morning, my son had an immediate reaction. So, I'll join you in saying, if you don't know what you're talking about ... don't say it! Thank you for reminding everyone how important thoroughness is to the millions of people who live with food intolerances and allergies.

Keep up the good fight!

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for your post. Honestly, my first reaction when I "gave up" and realized it's gluten intolerance was almost a breakdown. I wanted to be able to eat all of the things I'd once loved so much. But I'm taking comfort in realizing that I can recreate a lot of the items (thank god for the internet) at home. I haven't tried eating out as of yet, I'm almost too afraid. Guess it'll be salad w/olive oil and lemon on the side for me! Because you're right, even though we read labels, and understand what it means..doesn't mean anyone else does!

Gluten Free Steve said...

Good posting, sis! One thing I vow to do in 2010 is when I get something served to me that shouldn't be, is to request a new one be made, and leave the current one on the table so I know (hope) they get it on the 2nd chance and I can have the bad one with me so I know they don't just remove the bread. Wishing you and your guys a happy, safe, prosperous 2010!

Gluten Free Sourdough Baker said...

excellent post, sorry you had so much trouble. It's hard to trust because we're not all speaking the same language. Gluten free is a new language and some people only speak a few words...

gfe--gluten free easily said...

Ginger, I'm so sorry that you got glutened. It can definitely wipe you out. Like you, my symptoms start immediately. And, I react differently to barley it seems than I do to wheat. Hope you are feeling better soon. But, wonderful job on this post! I've found that I fare much better at restaurants that DO NOT have a gluten-free menu than those that do. Those gluten-free menus can give a false sense of security. It only takes one weak link to allow one to end up getting glutenend. In most restaurants (with experience I've gained over time), I know which foods should be safe and order those, drilling the server and often the manager/chef if possible, along the way. We just had an interesting experience at a restaurant in Key West. The manager told us that very few things on the menu at this Brazilian steakhouse contained gluten. He named several items like their cheese bread, rice, etc. There are roving servers who offer various meats and right as my son (who is also gf) was getting ready to take a piece of chicken, the manager literally appeared out of nowhere and said No, you can't eat that, before it could be placed on my son's plate. Now, while we could have been upset with the possible very close call, in this case, we were amazed at the manager's attention and concern for us.

Thanks for sharing all your great points. I have to tell you I have been very discouraged lately by folks on FB, Twitter, etc. who label themselves as gf and then will admit they eat gluten occasionally. I've read that 60% of folks who are gf cheat. I just don't get that on ANY level. IMO, these folks are not only hurting themselves, but they are doing us all a huge disservice.



Maggie in Cherokee said...

I was in a coffee shop and I told the owner I could not eat any of their baked goods because of the gluten. She proceeded to sell me a gourmet packaged cookie with the declaration that it was vegan and gluten free. Sat down to eat it and started reading the label---it had barley flour in it! Gave it to my daughter.

Kate said...

I LOVE you.
Thank you for posting this.