Sunday Soapbox – Eating Out

I went out to dinner Thursday night. I. Went. Out. To. Dinner. Why is that such a big deal? Well, I’m here to tell you why: it’s terrible, for a person with multiple food allergies/sensitivities, to eat out. It’s almost downright impossible.

To understand this post, a little bit about gluten: gluten is proteins found in wheat endosperm. It is found in wheat flour, but it is also present in many other types of grains because of cross-breeding. Grains refer to harvested seeds. This lists includes but is not limited to: corn, oats, and rice. Those with a gluten allergy can usually (safely) eat grains that do not contain gluten. Since harvesting grains is a relatively new technology, paleos do not eat any grains.

When I gave up eating grains, my body changed. I lost *some* weight (though, people who haven’t seen me for a year look at me and go “OMG, you lost weight, wtf?!?!” but really it’s just “puffiness” that has disappeared from my body), and I respond severely to eating grains. About an hour after I’ve eaten grains, my stomach begins to swell. If I’ve eaten gluten, pain ensues. Terrible pain. And I cry. A lot, because that’s how much it hurts. For hours I lay in bed. In the fetal position. In pain. The pain doesn’t happen when I (occasionally) eat other grains. Obviously, now I can tell when I have eaten gluten because of the terrible reaction. It wasn’t always this way, of course. My stomach used to swell, and I used to think nothing of it. “I probably just ate too much again, oh silly me,” I would say to myself.

“What does this have to do with eating out?!?!!!” you’re wondering.

It’s nearly impossible for someone, especially a celiac, to eat out.

It’s nearly impossible because everything has gluten in it. EVERYTHING. And if it doesn’t have gluten in it, it’s most certain it will have gluten on it.

Side note: soy is another very common ingredient in foods. People with gluten sensitivities tend to avoid soy because it is generally grown in crop rotation with wheat. Of course, paleos avoid soy because it’s actually a legume, but that’s a different story.

I ate at Red Robin Thursday night. Actually, surprisingly, I was really impressed with this place. Our waitress was amazing; generally, we never get good waiters/waitresses. But! You know what was even more amazing?! As soon as she saw I had the food sensitivity book, she said to me, “I see you have the food sensitivity booklet. Whatever your food allergy is, we will do our best to take care of it.” IJWEIWJEHRK. REALLY? No place EVER says that to me. It’s a first. As a matter of fact, they cooked my burger on a separate part of the grill so that it wouldn’t mix with any of the food cooked with flour. I even heard they have a separate fryer for their fries (so that they don’t fry floured foods with the fries). AND!$#! my waitress warned me to get my fries without their seasoning because it might contain gluten (it’s not listed as an ingredient, though, so I’m not sure it does, or why seasoning would have flour in it). See what I mean about it being in EVERYTHING?

Not only was I super impressed with the way they handled my allergy, but their food was AAAAHMAZING! No really, though. It was very good. To start off the meal – yes, start off – Charlie (my boyfriend) and I split a salted caramel milkshake topped with pink salt. I could have died and gone to heaven. If I could only bring one thing with me to a stranded island, it would be this milkshake. It’s that good.

Caramel

Salted Caramel Milkshake at Red Robin
Image courtesy of http://www.seattlesouthside.com

There is nothing better than salty and sweet. It was smooth, a little tangy, and deliciously salty sweet. The consistency was perfect in my mouth. Next, the burger tasted really good. They wrapped my burger in lettuce. It was juicy, well put together, and had just the right amount of “stuff” on top of it. Even better, I got something called a “pig out style” on my burger, where they top your burger with bacon, and they top that with bacon aioli. Could it get any better? So much of my favorite food: bacon. It sounds like it would detract from tasting the rest of the burger, but it didn’t. I think I salivated even after I was done eating it. Their lettuce wrapping skills need some work, though. The sweet potato fries served with the fries were pretty good (yes, sweet potatoes ARE paleo – they are a root vegetable). I mean, they were kind of plain, but let’s face it: you can’t do much with fries when you can’t use the seasoning that is supposed to go on them (which might contain gluten, remember?).

It’s incredibly difficult to eat out because most places don’t cater to people with food allergies/sensitivities. I usually have to stick to places like Elevation Burger (the absolute BEST place to get lettuce wrapped burgers) and Nandos Peri Peri (a chicken restaurant) – two of my favorite places to go. It’s exciting to have another place to eat, especially since Red Robin is quite affordable!