An Allergic Foodie Admits Mistakes

An Allergic Foodie Admits Mistakes

At the risk of losing a few readers who rely on me for gluten-free and allergy-friendly wisdom, today I’m coming clean.

Ready?

An Allergic Foodie has made some mistakes. Some really, really bad mistakes.

To my defense, that little piece of paper the allergist handed me listing twenty foods that may contain gluten was a joke. Please also keep in mind that in addition to having to eliminate gluten from my diet due to celiac disease, I am also allergic to soy, dairy, corn and a host of other foods and spices. (Like vanilla and nutmeg. Who’s allergic to vanilla and nutmeg?)

Eliminating multiple foods from one’s diet is NOT easy. Especially when you don’t have any nutritional science background (unless you count several attempts at Weight Watchers) and your cooking skills involve opening a box and adding water.

Here are a few of my favorite blunders (I find it fun to sing this line to the tune of “Here are a few of my favorite things”):

I thought “Wheat Free” meant “Gluten Free.”

Yes, I ate several packages of Newman’s Figs before realizing they were full of gluten. I mean if you can’t trust Paul Newman, who can you trust?

An Allergic Foodie Admits Mistakes

I followed the three-second rule: “Those croutons were only on the salad for three seconds!”

Doesn’t matter!  A nanosecond of cross-contamination will make me sprint to the restroom as if my feet were on fire.  By the way, at Outback Steakhouse “Sheilas” means ladies’ restroom–found that out the hard way.

Didn’t know that spelt was gluten.

Spelt Bread is NOT gluten FreeThe week I found out I had celiac disease I bought a big loaf of spelt bread.  After all,  it wasn’t “Wheat Bread” so it must be gluten free.  And it tasted like cardboard,  so it must be gluten free.  Spelt caused me to crawl under my bed for seven days. Not exaggerating.

Didn’t know barley was gluten.

Put this soup on your MOST NOT-WANTED LIST. Do it now.

People with celiac disease should stay away from barley!

I skimmed ingredient lists.

This was back in the days when I thought I could buy foods that contained more than five ingredients. I also hadn’t yet accepted that I needed reading glasses (now I keep a magnifying glass in my pantry!).  I also hadn’t gotten my PhD in nutritional studies. Okay, I still don’t have a PhD, but I think I’m pretty darn smart about food allergies and celiac disease. Read my post What Is This in My Food?Maltodextrin.  Smart, huh?

I was shy in restaurants.

I’m an introvert. I don’t like to make a fuss. I don’ t like to draw attention to myself. These are not good characteristics for someone who eats out a lot and has many special dietary requirements. Here’s how I ordered the first few times I ate out after diagnosis:

“Just bring me a vegetable salad with olive oil and lemon, no bread, no croutons.”

Here’s how I order now:

“I have allergies and celiac disease. So no gluten, wheat, soy, dairy, or corn.  Did you write that down?  Let’s see, I’ll have the burger with no bun, no cheese, and please don’t cook the meat in butter, and use a piece of foil on the grill. And can you make sure the fries aren’t cooked with other fried foods, or in corn or soy oil.  If it says vegetable oil, it may be soy oil.  Read the label. Do you make your catsup in-house? I can’t have corn syrup . . .”  You get the drift.

I paid a “Wellness Coach” $500.

C’mon, who wouldn’t pay $500 to rid themselves of multiple food allergies and celiac disease? After my first appointment, I got home and checked the ingredients of the Miracle Shake that was going to cure my leaky gut.  Contained gluten and vanilla!  I’d been scammed! Any one out there interested in buying a case of  a Miracle Shake that will cure your celiac disease and/or food allergies?  I’ll throw in the box of Magnetic Clay Detox Bath Beads that will also rid your body of evil toxins.  (Note: There are some good wellness coaches out there: just make absolutely sure she/he is qualified and has a background in food allergies and celiac disease.)

I stopped drinking vodka.

Stupid, stupid mistake. People who I called friends told me vodka was made from wheat, not from potatoes as I’d always thought, so I tearfully said goodbye to martinis. But then I read on a reputable website that distilled liquor was okay for celiacs. Hooray! I celebrated with a Cosmo or two or three (I know, Cosmos are so outdated, but I just can’t find a martini I like better. Suggestions?)

People with celiac disease can drink distilled liquor.

A side note: Chopin Vodka is made entirely from potatoes and has become my vodka of choice.  (Okay, so maybe I didn’t give up ALL vodka in those early days).

I’ll stop here because the experts say blog posts should be kept short to retain reader interest. The point to my admitting these early-diagnosis mistakes is this: Learning to live with celiac disease and food allergies takes practice, patience, perseverance and maybe a pair of reading glasses.  But in time, you will become a pro–and you will start feeling good!

If you liked An Allergic Foodie Admits Mistakes, you may like  To Eaters of Everything and  What Restaurants Did Wrong in 2013.

An Allergic Foodie Admits Mistakes originally appeared at Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.

People Who Don’t Have Eating Issues Should Butt Out

On New Year’s Eve, Ox Restaurant, an Argentina steakhouse in Portland, posted an Instagram photo of myriad sticky notes with dietary restrictions. Eater published the photo under the headline This Is Just a Nightmare of Restaurant Customer Allergies.  

Photo from  Ox Restaurant in Portland on Instagram, 12/31/2013

Photo from Ox Restaurant in Portland on Instagram, 12/31/2013

I was all ready to read yet another negative review of customers with food allergies, but that wasn’t the case. What Ox owners Greg and Gabrielle Quiñónez Denton wrote on their Instagram post, and Eater reported, was that the special orders were “nothin’ special.”

Nothin’ special!

Keep in mind, this was a ridiculously busy night–New Year’s Eve! And the restaurant was offering a prix-free menu. Personally, with my myriad allergies and celiac disease, I would never ever expect a restaurant to “redo” a prix-free menu for me on one of the busiest nights of the year. In fact, I called five restaurants weeks before New Year’s Eve to find one that was offering a full menu and then I asked if they could accommodate me.

I’m nice that way. Evidently not everyone in Portland with food issues feels the same way I do. Again I say, Bravo Ox!

Here’s the part that’s gonna make you mad  . . . the comments that followed Eater’s brief article.

Oh where should I start?  Maybe with this one . . .

Comment #1: The percentage of gluten allergies here is about 20%, the reality is about 1.5% in the country. So most of them must be a choice. Next time choose to stay home.

Not sure where this guy got his numbers, but I’ll go to the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness for mine: “One out of every 133 Americans has celiac disease. That’s equivalent to nearly 1% of the U.S. population. However, 95% of people with celiac disease remain undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. This means that up to three million Americans have celiac disease and only about 200,000 know they have the condition.”

Wow. No matter how many times I hear those statistics I’m still astounded, and I’m always left thinking how many people are suffering and not knowing why.  Maybe they’ve figured out they should eliminate gluten from their diet before a doctor told them to.  They made a choice not to eat gluten. Therefore, according to the guy above, they should not dine out.

For so many of us eating gluten is not a choice but a medical necessity. I would like to think many restaurants are glad I choose to spend my hard-earned cash at their establishments.

Comment #2: They should go to the hospital not a restaurant. People that haven’t worked in a restaurant should not eat in one.

I worked at Friendly’s in high school so I guess I’m qualified to eat in a restaurant. What a weird way to think. I haven’t worked in a clothing store, so I guess I shouldn’t shop in one. I haven’t worked in a grocery store, so I guess I shouldn’t buy groceries. I’m just going to stop here.

Comment #3: What’s the most annoying is that most of these are preferences, not allergies.

Huh? More than 170 foods are known to cause allergic reactions. People can be allergic to odd foods like lemon and pepper and lentils; I know people who are allergic to all of these. I happen to be allergic to asparagus and capers and nutmeg. I usually don’t list all my allergies when I order at a restaurant (we’d never get to eat!), but I do request no asparagus because it’s such a common side. I’m sure waitstaff think I just don’t like asparagus, but the reality is asparagus makes me really, really sick.

Comment #4: [They’re] just begging to have their food spit on. The entitlement mentality of modern US diners is just out of control. Stay at home if you have so many stupid allergies, no one really cares.

This person is just heartless and mean. Obviously he/she has never met someone who has gone into anaphylaxis, or had a child double up in pain because he ingested wheat. According to the Centers for Disease Control, there has been a 50% increase in food allergies since the 1990s. If everyone stays home, how will restaurants survive?

Comment #5: I waited tables in the early nineties with a tyrant of a chef; he would not do special orders and if we asked, he would go berserk. I totally understand the side of the customer saying, we’re paying we should get what we want. But then there is the side of the restaurant, one special order per server upsets the whole flow of the kitchen. People take their demands too far these days.

Did you hear that people? You are taking your  food allergies and celiac disease demands too far!  You are upsetting the flow of the kitchen. How dare you!

Final comment from an allergic foodie: People who don’t have eating issues should butt out.

People Who Don’t Have Eating Issues Should Butt Out” originally appeared at Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.