As “Celiac Awareness Month” comes to an end, I’ve decided to share with you my way of making others aware of our disease. We all know going out to eat can be a challenge. Whether it be at a restaurant or at a friend’s house, allowing others to cook for us is literally putting our health in their hands. I know when I’ve tried to explain the severity of my disease to my family and friends when they’ve offered to cook for me (this is after I’ve begged to cook for them,) they look at me several ways, #1. Like I’m crazy. I don’t choose this. My brother-in-law is a classically trained chef, and even he isn’t aware that certain products contain wheat. My husband and I went to a demonstration and cookbook signing by a Food Network chef. When I asked if any of his samples were gluten free, and explained I had Celiac Disease, he stated Celiac Disease was really rough (I was thankful he was aware of the disease,) and in front of the entire audience offered to make me something “safe.” I was honored he was making ME something special, but even he had to ask about EVERY ingredient he put in and whether it was “Celiac Safe.” So the answer to #1 is no, I’m not crazy, you may think you know what gluten free and cross contaminated is, but I rather be safe than sorry (when it is my next 72 hours in bed, with a 102 degree fever, nausea, vomiting, intestinal distress, etc.) If you felt the effects of Celiac Disease, you’d be extra protective of your body too! #2. Have you ever been to a restaurant (usually a family owned, or located in a smaller town,) when you communicate your allergy/disease to your server and they A. Pretend to know what it is, yet still bring bread on your plate/croutons on your salad, or B. Tilt their head to the side and a glaze comes over their eyes? I believe I have come up with a method to help limit, not only our cross contamination or gluten risk at restaurants and family and friends’ homes, but also help educate them for those who come after us. I realized I was communicating everything to my server “I have an extreme reaction/allergy to wheat and gluten (such as bread products,) due to an autoimmune disease. Because of this, my food needs to be prepared separately, with clean hands/gloves, surfaces, and utensils.” The question was, though I was communicating this to my server, were they communicating it to the kitchen? But that wasn’t my only concern. I don’t know about you, but every business dinner, work meal I attend with my husband, or first time eating with new friends, I’m almost embarrassed. I feel like I nearly harass our server, forcing them to take multiple trips to the kitchen (delaying our dinner, drinks, etc.) Again, we understand the need for special precautions; however, those we share a meal with aren’t always as understanding. I feel like I spend more time apologizing to servers, friends, and coworkers than I do enjoying my meal. This is why I’ve created the Celiac Card. This card doesn’t guarantee a complete gluten free experience; however, it is meant to reduce the risk of cross contamination by educating your server, chef, friends, etc.
- Copy and paste images on a text or word document, or print the photos (or download the word/pdf document I have provided.)
- Use the Blank Table for yourself, referencing my table to fill in your “Can’t Eats.”
- Insert a Text Box into each table square with each ingredient you cannot have (gluten ingredients are in BOLD.) If you print the photo directly, you may handwrite your “Can’t Eats.”
- Print card, fold or paste sides together. Laminate or use clear tape to seal. (This card will pass through many hands.)
- At every restaurant, hand it to the server (when they take your drink order,) and ask them to take it to the kitchen and find out which dishes would be safe for you to consume based on your “Can’t Eat” ingredients.
**Disclaimer, not meant to prevent cross contamination and gluten ingestion 100%.
I’m no longer as worried the message isn’t getting to the kitchen, that I’m consuming unlisted (from the menu) hidden ingredients, that the location is uneducated on Celiac Disease vs. the gluten free diet, and that I’m embarrassing the non-family members that I’m dining with.
If you speak (and write) another language, other than Spanish, and would like to translate the paragraph for me to post for others, please email it to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org and I will be sure to post it! I know many of you overseas travel, and it would be helpful to have it in as many languages as possible. I hope this helps all of you as much as it has helped me!