We’ve all felt it; that apprehension when we think about going out to eat and if that will compromise our health through cross contamination. Even eating at a friend’s house can be fraught with not only the possibility of being ‘glutined’, but also risking offending them by not eating their cooking.
Restaurant dining. If you’re going to be dining in a restaurant or café, you need to do your homework. Most restaurants have websites showing their menus and what allergies the different dishes cater to. I tend not to choose restaurants that only have one ‘token’ gluten free item such as steak and salad and fruit salad for dessert. In this day it’s not that hard to be a bit more imaginative. If in doubt, call the restaurant ahead of time and talk through not only their menu options, but their cross-contamination elimination practices. Ask if they have a separate fryer, separate preparation areas and equipment, most restaurants are only too happy to answer your questions. I have a couple of places where I feel perfectly safe eating, and I tend to choose those places when friends suggest all getting together for a meal. Be the friend who volunteers to choose the restaurant for group dinners. Your friends will appreciate your saving them from having to make the decision, and you’ll know that you can just relax and not worry about the safety of your meal. Our local take away shop (Dayboro Café) is somewhere I know I can get great gluten free fish and chips, a beautiful burger or even lasagne on nights that I just don’t feel like cooking. I know they have a separate fryer and preparation space, and the staff have been trained how to avoid contamination of their gluten free dishes. Their gluten free cakes are on the top shelf of the display case and are wrapped in plastic wrap to keep them safe. When customers ask where a good place is to get lunch, guess where I suggest!
There are some great websites that can help you find a restaurant that is either gluten or coeliac friendly. One that I have been using is Kiss My Gluten Free (www.kissmyglutenfree.com) This website has information about not only restaurants and cafes, but also where to buy gluten free products; all our stock is listed. I was recently in Sydney and wanted to find somewhere to get breakfast close to The Rocks. I searched using Kiss My Gluten Free and found a café that served the best banana pancakes I’ve ever had. If you’re ever there, go to Dare in Playfair Street; they’ll ask if your gluten intolerant or Coeliac and will prepare your meal accordingly. Try those Banana pancakes though; they’re to die for!
But what happens when you’re invited to a celebration that’s already been booked in a restaurant? My advice is to call the venue ahead of time, let them know what date you’ll be dining, who’s booking it is and explain your requirements. I’ve done this and met with wonderful cooperation from restaurant staff. Just last week, I wanted to go to a function at a local sporting club but saw what was on the menu and was concerned that it may be unsuitable for me. Before booking I called the club and was assured that there would be one of the meals made separately and with no sauce, and that for dessert I could have either pavlova or fruit salad. When we attended, I was very pleasantly surprised to find that the club chefs had created beautiful gluten free meals for their Coeliac and gluten intolerant patrons that exceeded my expectations. That’s one place I’ll be more than happy to revisit!
We recently went on a cruise with Royal Caribbean, and I was so impressed with the arrangements for gluten free dining, even in the buffet restaurant, where there was a whole gluten free station! At dinner times in the main restaurant the head waiter came and saw me every evening with the menu for the following night. I could order almost anything I wanted off the normal menu, and the kitchen made it for me gluten free. Each evening when I sat down (we booked the same table every night), there was a plate with some gluten free bread rolls waiting for me. There were a lot of passengers on the cruise with Coeliac disease, and I know everyone really appreciated these little touch touches.
Visiting friends. This can be a very tricky situation to manage, and often depends on how well you know your hosts, and they know you. A good friend will know of your intolerances and will try to cater accordingly, maybe even asking your advice. We recently attended a good friends birthday celebration and his wife contacted me a few days before the event to ask what I could eat, and what she had already planned for me, which I thought was very thoughtful and was much appreciated. Another way to ensure that there are suitable dishes is to volunteer to contribute to the catering. What host could resist an offer like that, or be offended by your willingness to help?
How do you manage your gluten intolerant child going to parties at other people’s houses? The cake, the lolly bags, even the fairy bread? Children don’t like to seem ‘different, and if your child has Coeliac disease, or gluten intolerance they will already feel that way. Why not line up with the host parent that you’ll provide foods suitable for your child; make up a little lolly bag with safe confectionery (there’s a lot available these days), make some cupcakes that all the children can eat, or find out what ‘theme’ the cake is and try to make a little cake just for your child. My daughter made a little one for me for my granddaughter’s second birthday and decorated it with the same colour icing and even topped it with a plastic dinosaur, as the birthday party was a dinosaur themed event.
I know sometimes it’s easier to just say to yourself that it’s all too hard; I’ve thought that myself many times. Sometimes I’m very restricted in my meal choices, and I don’t like that, but then I remember that dining out is more about the company than the consumables.
Happy dining everyone!