Looking for somewhere to have lunch? Easy. Need gluten-free? Not so easy. In fact, a minefield littered with overhead explosives and the odd miniature cactus.
Wherever I go, there’ll probably be something I can eat. But before I ring the victory bell, I ready myself for some sort of compromise. The most probable is going into a chain store where the gluten-free food will only be sweet (such as a brownie or worse, like fruit).
Then there’s the problem of portion size. For some reason gluten-free food seems to be a lot smaller than its normal counterpart. The first time I saw a gluten-free sandwich I almost mistook it for an hors d’oeuvre. It seems like eating establishments think we Coeliacs won’t notice. Either that or they’ve looked us up and down and decided we need to downsize.
There’s also the issue of taste. If I’m given a sandwich that gives me no desire whatsoever to eat it, I can heave a sigh of relief it’s gluten-free. And then sob a bit, especially if the cost has made a hole in my wallet.
Which brings me to the worst possible problem: cross-contamination. Does the eatery use the same utensils to serve gluten-free food as normal food? Are they (horrors) using the same hot plate to make gluten-free pancakes (a worryingly common practice)? Or will they assure you they know all about gluten-free and then whip out the croutons from your salad just before they serve it to you?
Thankfully, standards are improving, and anyone who’s been Coeliac for as long as I have knows that Herculean leaps have been made, which is why there’s a small area in the middle of the picture: the Holy Grail of eating establishments – i.e. the place you can utterly and absolutely trust to have uncontaminated delicious food where there are large portions of savoury options (and you won’t have to phone the bank manager afterwards to get an extended overdraft).
What are your experiences of eating out as a Coeliac? Do share them below!