Hi, I have celiac disease. It is not an allergy. It is an autoimmune disorder caused by an intolerance to gliadin, a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, spelt, kamut, et cetera. If I ingest gluten in even tiny quantities, the reaction starts with stabby abdominal pains, continues with hideously itchy skin and brainfog, and results in a lot of gastrointestinal pain and issues that you don't want details on, plus massive fatigue and pain; it's an inflammation thing, so think of it like the pain from rheumatoid arthritis or lupus. Those last few last for a while.
I'm lucky in that this is the only autoimmune disease that has a known and avoidable trigger. The way to avoid all of this mishegoss and more (I have/have had most of the symptoms on these lists, including the dental issues, seizures, and recurrent miscarriages) is to maintain a 100% gluten-free diet.
The good news is that if I stay off gluten, I am much healthier; I have energy, I'm not in pain, my brainfog is gone (I'm smart again!), et cetera.
The bad news is, of course, that it's difficult. Here's some 101, and lists of unsafe and safe foods. The risk of cross-contamination is pretty big. Also, not everybody knows where the stealth gluten is hiding. Who thought it would be in soy sauce? Or blue cheese?
So dining out is a bit of a challenge, but it's one I'm up to. Yelp.com is a great resource, because when a celiac gets glutened at an allegedly-safe place they tell the world. I found Sel de la Terre on Yelp; they don't have a GF menu, but celiacs gave it good reviews, and I was not disappointed. I can do the research. I don't expect anyone else to do it for me.
But what you can do for me, should we be dining out, is not fucking eyeroll at me whenever I say the words gluten-free.
Because look. This is not easy for me. Bread has always been my comfort food, and I'd dearly love to have a chunk of the bread on the table. I would like to be able to order whatever I want. The Cajun rabbit at Small Plates looks awesome. But it's not GF, so I can't have it. I don't whine about that, I just order a different delicious thing. But it's not easy, and it is not me being sensitive or trendy. It is an actual necessity. I hate having to send the waitress to the kitchen to ask if the chicken is safe just as much as you hate being delayed in placing your order. Probably more. I was raised in the sort of family that speaks about medical conditions in whispers. But the physical cost to me is too great for me to not make it clear to the waitress that I have this disease that, if it's a good restaurant, she's been trained on. Me just saying "I have celiac disease" in a restaurant with trained waitstaff makes my life so much easier and safer.
I am not doing this to be difficult, dammit. So stop shooting me looks whenever I ask for the gluten-free menu.
Just - aaaaagh. A whole weekend of this.
"Well, can't you just eat a grilled chicken breast with nothing on it?"
"Yes, but I can also have the espresso bistro steak and squash "fettucine", and that's much better."
Because I still love food. I still love real food what has a flavor. Plain salads and grilled chicken with nothing on it have a flavor, and that flavor is deprivation. You can get really good food gluten-free. I promise! You just have to do the legwork and have the conversation with the server and you can eat like a normal person.
"Can't you go to a regular restaurant?"
"This is a regular restaurant."
Because it has a GF menu it's not a regular restaurant? I do not even know.
"You're not going to make us eat that vegan gluten-free... stuff, are you?"
"You can eat whatever you want. I'm not vegan anyway. I'm having the steak."
You can eat gluteny stuff at the same table as me. Please try to pass the bread basket around me and not directly over my plate, and if you want to try my food, let me scoop some onto your plate so the crumbs from your fork don't get in my food. But you can eat whatever you want. If you intend to kiss me afterward... tooth-brushing is ideal, but drinking a lot of water is probably good. Depending on how much kissing, and the intensity of said kissing, et cetera. But, Adam's mom's friend, our dynamic is not like that. So.
And the thing is, she loved every restaurant. Raved about last night's food. But before and after and during, she kept giving me the damn pushback on the gluten-free diet.
This is not easy or fun, but it is necessary.
Also what the hell.
So yeah. I would love to have dinner with you. But if you eyeroll me for asking for food that isn't toxic to my system, I am so not going to be your biggest fan.