Gluten-Free Simplicity

Useful Info, Tasty Anecdotes and Simple Recipes for Attaining Gluten-Free Simplicity

Posts Tagged ‘Gluten’

Tonight’s Gluten-Free Menu Item Choice: Is It Celiac SAFE; or Is It Simply Gluten?

Posted by nepeht on May 8, 2009

By William T. Beverly, Ph.D., L.C.S.W.
This is the question that a typical person with Gluten intolerance is possibly asking her/his self from the time they know which restaurant they are going to be eating in tonight, to the time that they leave that establishment.

When a place has a “Gluten-Free Menu” or items that they advertise as “Gluten-Free”, a person with such a medical condition is still going to probably be a bit cautious. That is, until they know with whom they are dealing and just what they are getting.

With whom are you dealing?

Well, there are big chains that are beginning massive advertising campaigns claiming that they serve some “Gluten-Free items” and that is all well and good. At the same time, one can sometimes get a pretty scary feeling when entering such an establishment and asking a question about such an item, and the server is not at all versed on the terms “Gluten” or “Celiac”.

I guess in cases where the item is fully automated and totally hands off from the time it leaves the corporate big house to the time it is served to you, then perhaps it can be assumed to be truly “gluten-free”. But then who really wants to eat something that mechanized. I mean, even at the fastest, fast-food joints, the folks in the back at least bless your entree with a pickle or something prior to serving it.

And then there is the problem that one often encounters in massive chain operations where the consumer gets an item that is supposedly “Gluten-Free”, yet the item is served with a brand of ketchup or mayo or dressing that is known to contain gluten. Then one nudges up to the counter-server to ask about this and is met with an “I don’t know” or “If you cannot eat wheat, can you eat white bread instead?”

In fact I was at one of those “Have it your way” burger chains the other day and ordered a Double _____ “with everything except the bun”; and the counter guy, savvy as he was — and polite — whistled back, “One Double ______, Low Carb!” OK… so I didn’t say a word. I was delighted that at least he was trying…. but does “Low Carb” necessarily mean “Gluten-Free”… I don’t think soooooooooo.

Part II of With Whom are You Dealing?

OK, so then there are those wonderful mom-and-pop places that just seem to be perfect, and they are trying their best to serve their Gluten-Free-Needy customers a wonderful item and they do….. Except, they get a little touchy when one asks… nicely, “Hey, this steak is like…. mulllahhhh wonderful!!! But can you tell me…. is it marinated?” (yes)… “OK… and I love it tooo……. but how bout… , Does that marinate include any items that might contain gluten???”

Their first defense (and unfortunately it is often a defense — which it does not need to be) is. “Well that’s Jenny’s Secret Recipe and I cannot divulge…” So you explain to the waiter about the Gluten-Free thingee, while at the same time, he is wondering why his establishment actually cares about such “food preferences” and he goes back to consult with the Chef… Jenny…. or Jenny’s daughter or somebody close enough to know the secret.

Of course she gives him a list of the ingredients in the marinate because as the Chef, she is somewhat aware that the Gluten thing is in her face more and more every day now…

The Waiter returns to the table and says, “The ingredients are some herbs and spices, vinegar, mayo, beer (cannot tell you what kind), sugar, a (not-to-be-named) steak sauce, an anonymous fruit juice, and tomato paste.” “Nope, nothing in there could contain Gluten.. so, you are home free.”

“Now can you please cut into your steak and tell me if it is done to your liking?”

At this point, it is kind of hard to tell the guy……. the waiter about how almost every ingredient he mentioned could contain gluten, depending on which brand they use etc… (e.g., Gluten can be in some brands of vinegar, mayo, beer, confectioners sugar, some steak sauces, some fruit juices, and in tomato paste).

I’m Backing Off Now…

So with tons of years in food service under my belt, I say with some firmness that in every establishment, there should be at least one person who cares about this “Gluten issue”. Food service people are people too and they are typically underpaid, overworked and they have to deal constantly with social situations where they clothes smell more like their fryer grease than like the cologne that they splashed on this morning. This is a hard life. So some slack is warranted.

At the same time, as an over-educated person with years of Celiac Disease under my belt (literally un-der my-belt), I can say that this life too is difficult and unfair and some slack is definitely warranted.

So How can We Meet In the Middle?

I am not sure what the solution is going to be.

I am certain that there are two things that cannot be helpful:

  1. I do not think that half-hearted “Gluten-Free” menu and advertising overhauls in corporate America are going to do anything but aggravate the situation UNLESS… and I said, “UNLESS!!!”, those same corporate bosses are willing to also act consistently in terms of training ALL involved staff and also sincerely analyzing recipes and inventoried product brands to see that only “Gluten-Free” product makes its way to the consumer’s table. This is an expensive undertaking and I would be surprised if even the majority of those touting “Our New Gluten-Free Menu” are taking it as seriously as all this.
  2. and, at the same time: I am certain that nothing really gets solved when a person in need of a Gluten-Free meal gets visibly angry about what she/he is served and then takes out 100% of that anger on the extremely low-level staff-person who served it to them. Yes, I think ALL staff are or should be responsible in such cases, but if a person is a teenager making minimum wage and has not ever even been reasonably briefed on the “New Gluten-Free Items” thingee… then I think it is management who is in the wrong; not the line worker.

So this morning, I was going to write up a list of what kinds of dishes on restaurant menus that say they are “Gluten-Free” are likely to be safe, versus which ones are probably not. I could not write that yet because I think these types of problems — as listed above — are much grander and much more significant at this time.

Surely, I will put together a list of “probably safe” and “possibly not” Gluten-Free “safe” menu items soon. And I will publish it. But for now, I think the “Safe” thing to do would be for America’s Corporate Bosses to wax sincerely about the “Gluten-Free” issue or NOT wax at all. And I think that those of us who sometimes have emotional rants in our empty dining enjoyment quests that sometimes lead to “Gluten-Free” starvation — oh… and I have been there many times too.. — should also think next time before we blast an unsuspecting cashier the local “Minute Burger Joint”.

What do you think?


Read what others have said about this issue:


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Way #23: Becoming the one Noted “Special” Person in a crowd does NOT Necessarily help one Attain Gluten-Free Simplicity.

Posted by nepeht on December 18, 2008

23. Becoming the one noted “Special” Person in a crowd does NOT necessarily help one Attain Gluten-Free Simplicity.

  Be careful NOT to ALWAYS become a “special” person in crowds due to your need to be Gluten-Free.  One might want to only consider doing so in “SAFE” circumstances.

  While it is important that commercial vendors disclose to potential customers whether or not their products contain certain common allergens; it is not necessarily important for a person with a Gluten-Related Health Condition to disclose such with anyone in particular, unless there is a “need-to-know” in that situation. 

  If one looks, one can see the anger around such issues within our culture.  For example, in a situation where a very large commercial vendor failed to do so, they were then frustrated by a subsequent lawsuit.  Afterwards, in a blog, a third-party person expressed anger at the plaintiffs seemingly thinking that Gluten-Related Allergies are a chosen condition.  This blogger actually wrote that it was the fault of the consumer who was exposed to gluten.  And then finally, another blogger slammed back at the former blogger in defense of his family member who has a Gluten-Allergy.  

  It is fascinating to me (not necessarily in a good way) how Americans (and probably many others) seem to be so insensitive toward people with very real medical conditions.  In 1994, there was an article in The “Humanist” Journal titled, “Hating the sick; health chauvinism and its cure“.  In this article there are examples of how people with medical conditions are discriminated against and even suffer violent attacks in supposedly otherwise civilized societies around the Globe. 

  It is largely for this reason that one should be very careful NOT to disclose things about her or his health to just anyone.  It is probably best to avoid having ones health condition(s) verbalized to a crowd.  There are lots of other reasons also, largely having to do with often benevolent prejudices persons (even family) might form about persons with certain illnesses…. or certain needs.

  I am not saying, “TRUST NOBODY!!!”  NO!!!  That’s not it.  I am saying be careful.

  And one way to live carefully would be to avoid becoming that “Special” person in a crowd with the “Gluten allergy.”  Yes, of course one needs to eat safely and avoid Gluten.  But there are many ways of doing that without having it become common knowledge.

  Now, that’s one side of the story.  The other point I am trying to make here is that sometimes knowledge about ones health condition or allergy can become a burden to self and others.  There are many cases where one can eat happily and safely without anyone around them having to know about the Gluten thing.  This is where is might help one to develop some skill.

  Who can one tell?  Who should one not tell? 

  These are questions best answered by each of us individually.  There may be great risks involved.  And these include both negatively-motivated risks such as anger or discrimination against a person for having an illness.  Or this could include positively-motivated risks such as good friends and loved ones bending over backwards to serve a gluten-free meal only to find it is much much much much much more difficult than presumed and then feeling guilty that they could not pull it off. 

  Another type of risk here is when a loved one — like a life partner modifies and self-educates in order to help you be Gluten-Free, but then their heart is broken the day that you got weak and had a Gluten-Relapse right in front of them.

  In no way could I suggest that ones Gluten-Related needs should stay a secret.  It is just that these are very serious needs and this condition effects the whole person — including the biological, psychological , social, economic, vocational and perhaps even the spiritual parts of us. 

  With a condition that serious, every person in a crowd does not need to be involved.  Only those who need-to-know, really need to be involved.  And hopefully, among those who need-to-know will be very special people who are either professionally capable of dealing effectively with the situation or they are persons whose fondness and maturity is such that they both put effort in that they feel like contributing; while also they can have patience and humility enough to understand that Gluten-Related conditions such as Celiac Disease are all too often really really really big in a given lifetime and while the effects of caring can be miraculously wonderful; they can also seem to be nil.  And this is because like everyone else, we have good days and we have bad days.

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Way #24: Deciding Who Needs-To-Know About Ones Gluten-Sensitivity Might Help One Attain Gluten-Free Simplicity

Posted by nepeht on December 18, 2008

24. Deciding Who Needs-To-Know About Ones Gluten-Sensitivity Might Help One Attain Gluten-Free Simplicity.

  What exactly do I mean by this?  Good question.

  OK, this is probably a very different proposition for different people.  It has to do with ones place in life, ones psycho-social needs, ones degree of self-esteem etc… 

  If you are a person of rock-solid self image and you are totally NOT vulnerable to the actions of anyone else, then by all means, go out and broadcast your medical history to everyone you find.  Put it on a shirt.  Make an audio announcement of it and blurt it out of your car stereo.

  But if you are like most of us, and it does matter how others see you, how they treat you, and it also sometimes matter what others think of you in terms of making decisions that could impact your life (like whether or not to hire you or promote you or sell you health insurance), you might want to be careful who you tell about the Gluten thing.

  I say this from experience.  Sure, on a blog, we can talk all we want…. but what are the chances that our alleged condition(s) can be determined BY anyone OUT THERE… if you know what I mean???  Probably very small.  The satisfaction I get from writing this and sharing these thoughts is well worth it.  At the same time, I might be at lunch with my workmates, and few (if any) of them even have a clue about my special dietary needs.

  Why?  Because discrimination happens.  It just does.  I wish it did not.  But it does.

  Now, about who needs-to-know.  Who does need-to-know in ones life about such issues?

  •  I would think that a romantic partner should probably know about such important health concerns as soon as a meaningful relationship becomes desirable.
  • In emotionally functional families one would think that all first-generation blood relatives should know.  This way they can have the option of getting themselves tested.  I take that back.  Perhaps ALL blood kin should be told.  Just be careful that one does not expect unrealistic responses from certain incapable people … you know who I mean.
  • Anyone’s dependents or children who are old enough to understand should know because they will likely understand one and ones moods better.
  • The person who buys the groceries and cooks should know.
  • I often disclose to anonymous food-service peeps who often reply with compassion.  But they also (almost) just as often reply with crazy statements, like, “That’s ok, you don’t have to eat the wheat, we have white bread too”.  At least they mean well and that means a lot to me.
  • If you have a secretary who books your mealtimes with meetings, they should know.
  • Any person who frequently gives you edible gifts should know.

  So, help me out here…. who else????

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Are Gluten and Depression Related?

Posted by nepeht on November 26, 2008

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Gluten Sensitivity: A Gastroenterologists Personal Journey Down the Gluten Rabbit Hole

Posted by nepeht on November 15, 2008

By Dr. Scot Lewey

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Gluten Intolerance Group of North America

Posted by nepeht on November 15, 2008

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Gluten-Free Restaurant Awareness Program

Posted by nepeht on November 13, 2008

With this site, one can search for restaurants in their area who participate at various levels with the GFRA program.

“Each participating restaurant is provided with specially designed resources, which aid the restaurant in being able to provide gluten-free dining experiences. The materials include gluten-free dietary information, guidelines for managing an allergen-controlled kitchen environment and staff training information. Restaurants choose the level of GFRAP participation.”

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Increasing Valid Information Can Help Increase Simplicity

Posted by nepeht on November 11, 2008

  This section is an attempt to logically explain the need for valid information and how even though there may be more information to manage as a result; the windfall from the validity of the information compared to the previous state of confusion makes the increase in information acceptable.

Assumption 1: Increasing Valid Information Can Help Increase Simplicity:

  This is particularly true in complex situations that are populated with invalid information.  There are few things more frustrating than having an often awful disease with irritants to which one is frequently unintentionally exposed, yet one cannot readily identify either the irritants or their sources.

  It is something like this:

  1. Imagine that you are a human being who needs to drink at least a gallon of water per day to survive.
  2. Imagine that the water available to you is also harmful to your system with negative and painful effects following each exposure as well as in the long run.
  3. Imagine that you do not yet know that this water is harmful to you.
  4. Imagine that you try and try to find out what in your environment is causing you these problems yet you cannot get valid information that specifically identifies this water as the source of your problem.
  5. Imagine that you frequently consume other products (i.e., Foods, Beverages, Food Supplements, Health and Beauty Aides) as do other human beings, simply in order to survive and that many of these products contain that particular water that causes you the misery of these short-term and long-term reactions to having this poison in your system.
  6. Imagine that you often ask family, friends, servers, retail vendors, purveyors, manufacturers, preparers, medically-related experts, elected officials and others for help in identify the products in your daily life that contain this water, yet few even respond, and many who respond do not give valid answers.
  7. Imagine that those who can provide a small variety of products for your necessary daily consumption, products that traditionally have needed this poisonous waterfor preparation have agreed to provide it to you, yet when they label it as “Poisonous Water-Free” they really mean that it actually probably contains a potentially harmful amount of this water in it and on top of that, they charge you from 3 to 5 times the usual price for these products.
  8. Imagine that some of those who you turn to for information and instrumental support necessary to prevent further exposure to this poisonous water either directly or indirectly label you as abnormal, deviant, or simply to blame for this problem, some assert that you must have done something wrong to have incurred this problem; some feel that you deserve any adverse effects related to this problem; and some over-react to you having this problem.

*** Now, substitute the word “Gluten from Wheat” for the word “Water” above.

  OK, so if someone could come along and finally give you valid information that would help you more reliably and accurately navigate your way clear of exposure to this poisonous water, wouldn’t that help make your life simpler, and perhaps more enjoyable?

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Gluten Be Gone on the Gluten Free Guru Blog

Posted by nepeht on November 10, 2008


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