As a person with celiac disease I find that there is a fine line between things I want to know and things I don’t want to know. For example: I frequently eat at a local restaurant whose menu consists of paninis, soup and salad. They have a very yummy, naturally gluten-free tomato red pepper soup that I always order, but it’s still feels like a consolation prize when I look around at the buttery sandwiches oozing with cheese, onions and turkey. One day when I couldn’t take it anymore I casually asked the chef if he would consider a gluten-free panini option. He replied that they could make any of the sandwiches with gluten- free bread. I asked him if this was something new. “No”, he said, “We’ve been doing it for several years”. “Does the menu say anything about this option?” I asked. The answer was no. I don’t know why it took me so long to ask but why should I have to? Gluten-free, as far as know, and especially in Santa Cruz, is not on the down low. It seems like a small thing, but I find many of life’s greatest pleasures are simple; like the joy of looking at a menu and ordering from it without having to ask a zillion questions.
On the other hand, I was at another local restaurant where I asked if the French fries were gluten-free (I’ve taken to ordering fries before I even sit down so that I don’t have to watch my dining companions tear apart soft pieces of bread and dip them in oil or generously slather them in butter while I patiently wait for the main course. Maybe this is why I’ve also recently gained five pounds.) Anyway, the waitress went to check with the cook and came back to cheerfully tell me YES, they’re gluten-free…but they are fried in the same oil that we fry our breaded calamari in. Here’s the thing, if I am going to eat at a restaurant I know there is a chance of “cross contamination” a fancy term for getting unintentionally ”glutened”, a made up term, for accidentally eating gluten. The only way around this is not to think about it, because if I think about the fact that even one crumb of gluten that comes in contact with my small intestine will set off an auto-immune reaction in my body that may take weeks to repair, I will go crazy. Not the kind of crazy that I already am, the real kind of crazy.