Every Celiac cringes when their restaurant server responds to their order of a gluten-free meals and specific food-handling details with “so… how sensitive are you?” Uhhhhhh…..
It’s not the servers fault: they have been witness to many similar requests. And often, when those requesting a gluten-free meal aren’t happy with the limited choices, they announce with a giggle or guffaw “oh, I guess I’ll just cheat and have *insert name of delicious glutinous or cross-contaminated item*. I’m so bad!”
Many Celiacs curse those gluten-free “tourists”. They trivialize our disease! They make us look like we’re trying to be trendy! People won’t take us seriously because of them! They make people think that Celiac is a made-up disease! They make it look like it’s ok if we get just a little gluten mixed up in our meals!
We see it everytime we venture out of the safety of our own gloriously gluten-free kitchens, the declarations proudly shouted from the menus and restaurant signage:
Gluten Sensitive Menu
Gluten Conscious Bread
Now with Low-Gluten Choices
Reduced Gluten Items available
….and so on. And it makes us weep, because we usually can’t consume most of these items. They’re capitalizing on our autoimmune disease, we fume, yet ironically we usually can’t eat these goodies because they’re:
a) gluten containing
b) cross-contaminated with gluten in their storage
c) cross-contaminated by gluten in the food-handling/preparation process
d) some of the above
e) all of the above
JP Sears is an actual therapist, but makes crazy funny videos lampooning the faux “Ultra Spiritual” types. Check out this one that pretty much speaks to this post:
Now, you might be wondering….
“If the real or imagined gluten-sensitive crew are commandeering our disease and getting special stuff on menus etc. that are not suitable for us, why do you heart them, Louise?”
Funny that you should ask. And the answer is not emotion, it’s economics. See, while more and more of us Celiacs are being diagnosed everyday, we are still calculated at about 1% of the population. Yeah, the wrong kind of 1%ers. But I digress. According to this article, (which is a recent (2015) and business-oriented) apparently, 30% of the population is trying to reduce or eliminate gluten from their diets.
Now, that’s a better consumer base! Because of the gluten-free trend, food manufactures, restaurants, and snack companies are taking stock of the potential profits, and wanting a piece of the gluten-free pie. So they’re making mainstream gluten-free products, getting their processes certified, creating menus, and generally getting a clue about gluten-free eating and trying to appeal to the gluten-free consumer, both in the grocery store and in the eateries. Is it perfect? No. Is it a HELL of a lot better than our Celiac forefathers and mothers had before us, which was getting pretty much nothing unless they learned to cook it themselves? YES! The more people that create a consumer demand for gluten-free food, the more gluten-free choices there are.
So who really benefits? We do. The real Celiacs. We are really lucky to have large choices of food that didn’t exist in the near past, and don’t require us to rattle any pans to make. We can now eat and drink such a wide array of foodstuffs, many of them labeled GF for our identification convenience. Oh, sure, it’s not perfect, and there are still some frustrations (especially around bread and deep fryer foods) but we can feel so much closer to normal because there is more variety available to us.
And for that we can thank the gluten-sensitive crowd. Real or imagined. Whom I heart.