When you’re Coeliac your worst possible nightmare is being glutened. This is exactly what happened to me at the weekend.
As a treat, Husband and I went out for lunch at a cafe in Bristol that specialises in doing every dish with a gluten-free alternative. You can have a burger with a gluten-free bap, gluten-free pizza and gluten-free pasta. In other words, every gluten-intolerant person’s happy place. Admittedly, they also serve gluten on the premises, but they boast on the menu about their gluten-free prowess, and I’ve been many times before.
I always make a point of ordering the food so that I can explain to the waiter exactly how important it is my food is gluten-free. I watched him put the order through on the till where the magic words ‘GLUTEN FREE’ came up (yep, in caps!). I asked him to tell the chef I was extremely allergic* to gluten so extra care would be taken not to cross-contaminate my food. When the food arrived, I checked again: “Is this gluten-free pasta and gluten-free sauce?” By now the (same) waiter was starting to laugh – yes, he reassured me, clearly thinking to himself I was a bit of a cracked record, everything’s gluten-free.
* I realise coeliac disease is not an allergy but it’s far easier to say “allergy” than go into a lengthy explanation about auto-immune diseases.
About five bites into my meal, the waiter hurried over.
“You haven’t eaten any, have you?”
“It’s not gluten-free.”
I have never had this in a restaurant before. I’ve had people serve me the wrong food, I’ve questioned them, they’ve checked and then whisked the food away. I’ve spotted food on my plate before that clearly isn’t gluten-free (the last experience was a stuffing ball) but avoided it, and I’ve often had dry roast dinners because I wasn’t confident the gravy would be all right to eat, but I’ve never been served a plate of gluten after going to so much trouble to ensure the food would be all right.
And this is a cafe that boasts of its gluten-free options. The result was awful. I had no idea if the gluten would affect my pregnancy (I’m currently in my third trimester) and immediately decided the only option was to try and vomit up the pasta. After a series of repeated fails in the cafe loo, I gave up and necked two pints of water.
Husband then bundled me into the car and we went straight to casualty at the BRI (the local surgery was closed). To their credit, the staff there were brilliant. The nurse reassured me the gluten wouldn’t affect the baby. She took my blood pressure (now ridiculously high in comparison to the reading I’d had 3 days earlier but thankfully still in the safe zone). She also offered to make me a doctor’s appointment if I wanted one.
I went home feeling a lot more reassured but still distinctly upset. An hour later, I vomited 5 times. Hardly able to walk properly, I then crawled into bed and, mercifully, fell asleep.
You may be wondering which cafe it is that did this to me. There’s a deliberate reason I haven’t outed them: I want them to have the opportunity to reassure me they’ll change their processes so this can never happen to anyone again. I want to give them a chance. If they don’t respond appropriately, you can be sure I’ll follow up this post with their name and a strict warning never to trust them.
Has this ever happened to you? What did you do? What would you do if you were me? Do respond below – I’d love to know your thoughts.