A Lesson in Gluten Bombs

:: in which I explain why Saltines don’t belong in the sugar bowl ::

Restaurants, I’m begging you. Please stop hiding gluten grenades in your dishes. I understand you’re going to have dishes that contain gluten, but for the love of all that’s good in the world will you PLEASE mention it on the menu.

I have celiac disease. So does my daughter. We’ve been strictly gluten-free for over seven years, longer than gluten-free has been in vogue. Which just goes to show you I’m not dabbling in crazy; I’m fully committed. I’ve gone through waves of self-pity about this ridiculous, medically necessary diet and have gotten most of it out of my system. But I still find myself in situations that are frustrating, to say the least. My bone of contention right now is restaurants that neglect to mention gluten bombs on their menus.

Recently I had dinner at a cozy, hometown restaurant I like to visit when I’m in the mood for pork chops. My daughter ordered New York steak with a baked potato and green beans. Should be gluten-free, no problem so far. When we ordered, we specifically asked that no bread be served with the meal. After seven years, we know what to order and how to order it in order to get a safe, gluten-free meal. Pretty straightforward.

Until the steak arrived with two fat onion rings on top of it. The menu didn’t say anything about onion rings. I knew to be preemptive about bread, but how could I know that I should also ask them to hold the random, surprise onion rings? Another time at a different restaurant, we ordered pulled pork and it arrived on a thick slice of toast. We’ve ordered ribeye and it came breaded. Ribeye! Once I ordered salmon, and it landed on the table with a pile of breadcrumbs on top. Seriously. That’s not even a good dish for people who CAN eat gluten. A pile of breadcrumbs? Get a recipe, man.

Restaurants, here’s how you are forcing me to order my meal: Yes, I’ll have the New York steak, medium rare, no roll, hold the onion rings, hold the slab of Texas toast, not encrusted in breadcrumbs, no soy sauce, no malt vinegar, no pile of bread on top.

As I was complaining to my husband about the be-onioned steak, I noticed something weird in the sugar shaker on our table. I looked closer and saw that it was a Saltine cracker. For real, people? A cracker?! Good thing I didn’t order coffee.

I owe my husband a debt of gratitude for having my back in this battle. Sometimes I am tired and hungry and feeling put upon by the world, and all I want is to sit down at a restaurant and have a nice meal. These are usually the days when my “burger, no bun” will show up encased in a fluffy cracked wheat roll. If I get that look on my face like I’m either going to burst into tears or overturn the table in a fit of rage, my husband steps in to sort it out for me. He’s a keeper.

Most of the time, the server will take my plate away and return it with a burger that has clearly just had its bun removed. This happened at a festival last summer and the woman working in the food cart couldn’t understand why that wasn’t good enough. I got that sad/crazy face and my husband dutifully took over. He explained that even a small crumb of bread can make me sick, and I would need a burger that hadn’t just been making out with a bun.

Restaurants, I’m not asking you to change your menu offerings, or go very much out of your way at all. I know I’m in the minority. But can you at least be a little helpful? If you’re going to make a dish in an unexpected way – like onion rings on a steak – just mention it on the menu. That’s all.

Hold the Gravy
Hold the Gravy

Now here’s a restaurant that did it right, sort of. Turkey, carrots, and mashed potatoes – not a drop of gravy in sight. Although the cavernous depression in the potatoes really highlights what you’re missing. It says, “Here’s where the delicious pool of gravy would be, if you could have any. But you can’t, so instead we made an empty hole in your mashed potato heart.”

4 thoughts on “A Lesson in Gluten Bombs

  1. I am so sad for you! And laughing with you at the same time. Glad you have Michael to beat up the bad (ignorant) guys for you.


  2. Love it!! I take for granted how lucky I am to be able to eat gluten. There are a lot of other foods that I have to avoid, but to me it seems a lot easier than trying to avoid gluten since it is in so much these days. I love your blog writing, Jessica, keep up the great work!


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