Eating out is oh such fun...

Added on 19 Apr, 2006 . There are .

I am of course being facetious. Eating out 99% of the time on a wheat free diet sucks!

Visiting friends just before Christmas we went to a local hostelry for lunch. The menu consisted of fried, battered or breaded foods, burgers, fries & lasagne. Even the salads came ready made with the croutons on, and a "well we could pick them off for you". I don't think so.

So as all too often my lunch consisted of a packet of ready salted potato chips and a small bag of salted peanuts. A less than satisfying meal and enough salt to keep me preserved until 2010.

The head of the restaurant, I'm using the term restaurant loosely because its use usually implies that real cooking goes on, said she was allergic to peanuts, and was therefore very aware of food allergies. Oh yeah? So why isn't there anything on the menu for someone with a food allergy?

But there are some restaurants that really will take the time and trouble to understand your needs, and of course there are other restaurants that think "another faddy celebrity copycat diet", and make no effort to serve you a wheat free meal, then expect a tip at the end of it. My tip is "listen to your customers health needs because the next person you poison just might sue".

Of course there is also the education factor about food allergies. A few months ago I was staying in a well known hotel near Lake Louise in Alberta, Canada. At breakfast I explained to the waitress that I had a wheat allergy, which she took in her stride and said:

"We know all about wheat allergies as one of our servers was diagnosed yesterday as a celiac, and we've just been discussing it in the kitchen... instead of the hash browns would you like toast with your omelette as you can't eat glucose?"

Glucose? Glucose? Did I at any time mention a problem with sugar? And no of course I don't want toast!

But I have eaten in some wonderful restaurants, and been able to eat real gourmet meals, rather than being forced to have steamed fish, vegetables and boiled rice because they use wheat in all the sauces and meals, and won't work around your food allergy.

On one occasion in Vancouver Airport the eatery even cooked me rice to go with the chicken instead of the fries that it came with. Now you can't beat that sort of customer service.

I think that the most important thing when eating out is to be very polite and quiet but firm when you tell the restaurant staff that you have a food allergy. Yelling, rudeness and general bad manners (believe me I've seen people acting this way too often), isn't necessary or nice.

With few exceptions I've always found that restaurant staff will go the extra mile when treated courteously, and that goes for any issues not just food allergies. And of course the thought of a good tip at the end of the meal always concentrates their mind too.

Just be wary of the ones that think you have to avoid sugar...