Thursday, March 25, 2010

Proceed with Caution

A few weeks ago I received an email from someone named Paul Jackson, who is a fellow celiac and writer living in California. He had happened upon my blog and informed me that in my recent post about Old Spaghetti Factory I may be leading some of you astray. Paul actually wrote an article (which is posted on a Yahoo! group site, so you will have to log in with your Yahoo! account if you want to read the entire article; it's much too long to post here.) about the Old Spaghetti Factory and how it may not technically be a gluten free environment. He brings up a good point. One of the hardest parts of being a celiac, as we all know, is eating somewhere where we don't prepare our own food. When we can't see the kitchen and see the pots and pans they are using, we all take a risk. Paul gives some evidence making a case for the Old Spaghetti Factory not being reliable in their commitment to gluten free food. He reminded me to pass on to you all that if you choose to eat at the Old Spaghetti Factory, that you ask for them to cook your (albeit gross) DeBoles pasta in clean water in a clean triple-washed pot. I must admit, the thought had never crossed my mind that there may be a chance that a restaurant would use the same water for two types of pasta, however, it's our responsibility to ask for these types of accomodations when we eat out. We can't ever assume that a server or a chef knows the ins and outs of cross contamination with wheat and we have to be vigilant. (That reminds me of Mad Eye Moody in Harry Potter, "Constant vigilance!")

He also asserts that because he lives in the fast-paced California world and I live in the quiet, rural world of Utah (did you watch the 2002 Olympics? I'm just wondering...) that we have more reliable staff who are hometown types that try harder to help out us celiacs and stay at their jobs longer and get to know the clientele. To that, I say this: Good for me!. That's one of the reasons why I like living here. However, I think he's got his logic a little off. The problem isn't with the servers. I wouldn't necessarily say that waitstaff in Salt Lake City are any less transient than those folks in California, but I would say that being kind and friendly to your server is tantamount to any bit of experience they may have with gluten free food. A good server should be able to educate you about the food in their restaurant and also be able to communicate with the kitchen to get you what you need. I've eaten in restaurants all over the West, and every time I step into a restaurant, whether I've eaten there before or not, I pull my server aside at the beginning of the meal and ask them about the food. Why? Because that's my responsiblilty as a celiac. Some places have a gluten free menu and even have a gluten free part of their kitchen to make food. It never hurts to communicate with your server in an approachable, nice way. I've even consulted with a restaurant on how they can organize their kitchen to make more of their dishes gluten free and given ideas of simple things they can offer their patrons. Restaurants want our business, and sometimes something as simple as speaking up and asking questions is enough to get them to include gluten free eating in their offerings. As I tell all of them, gluten free customers are the most loyal customers in the world. If they feel safe eating there, they will come back again and again.
Happy (and careful) eating!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this post! Who knew restaurants would boil pasta in the same pot twice!


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