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Tanya Tandoc

Food: Gluten-Free Eating

AgriLife Today (agrilifetoday) / Flickr.

I will admit, very readily, that when I heard about the “gluten free” diet a few years ago, I thought it was a trend or just another weird excuse for an eating disorder. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye and their cousins. Gluten intolerance makes drinking regular beer or eating soy sauce impossible. For the gluten intolerant, eating regular bread or pizza or pasta is simply not in the plan. The horror.

As a recovering bulimic, I sympathize with those who struggle with eating problems. I understand having to be weird about food just to eat in a restaurant and not freak out. My grandmother died of Crohn’s disease. However, I also know that special diets are hard on chefs. Low-fat diets, Atkin’s, Dukan, are all just another thorn in our sides. I know that any special order makes many chefs go south—be it a well-done steak, or sauce on the side, or a split plate. So, that’s the grain of salt when you are trying to take care of yourself and your diet. The chef might complain, but she’ll complain about anything. She’s tired. And she needs health insurance and child care. Be clear and be gracious, everyone.

Gluten-free eating hit home for me when I opened my shop again after seven years of being closed. So many more people were having trouble with gluten, or were diagnosed with celiac disease. “Trouble with gluten” means that any gluten one might eat can cause any number of problems, from bloating to fatigue to full-blown pain and other terrible things. It can make people super grouchy. This is bad. We responded by labeling our gluten-free offerings. We were received by the gluten-free community with thanks, so restaurant owners, take note.

My opinion has changed, and my tolerance level adjusted, because I spent a minute getting myself educated, and a few minutes in someone else’s shoes. I have also met a few real food-loving gluten-free people who eat beautifully without it… although they still really miss pizza and bagels.