In the Game of Clue, players must solve the mystery of who killed Mr. Boddy, what they used to commit the crime, and where this occurred. A similar version of these three questions is something that gluten-free folks are used to finding out.
Who prepared the food?
What utensils did they use?
Where did they prepare it?
When I dine out, I’m always sure to remind the server, “They cannot prepare my sandwich on the same counter,” or when I’m at Chipotle, “Could you please change your gloves? I am gluten free.” These are comments that MUST be made in order to ensure safety and reduce the risk of cross-contamination.
I figured we’d have some fun and make a gluten-free version of this classic detective game because that’s what we all need to be – gluten-free detectives! When dining out, there are different places one can be glutened and there are different weaponsof contamination. No matter who did it, where it happened, or what caused the contamination, the end result is always the same – the victim is glutened.
Gluten-Free Game of Clue: How was I glutened?
If dining at a restaurant that serves both gluten-filled and gluten-free food (which is just about every restaurant we can eat at), the opportunity to be glutened is everywhere. The key to a safe dining experience for a gluten-free individual is for the kitchen staff and servers to be trained properly.
Let’s put our detective caps on and go through some of the possible scenarios that could result in someone being glutened:
The prep cook, in the kitchen, with the cutting board
If a prep cook slices your gluten-free bread on the same cutting board that they sliced a gluten-filled baguette on, you’re in for an unpleasant evening! If it’s your first time at a restaurant, ask your server about the preventative measures the restaurant takes to prevent cross-contamination. Chances are if the server isn’t aware of any special procedure, neither is everyone in the kitchen. Play detective – it’s better to be safe than sorry!
The line cook, at the salad station, with the croutons
Salads are a safe bet when dinging out, right? Well, yes, but only if you ask the right questions and stress the importance of NO CROUTONS. Make sure your server knows that these little pieces of stale bread can play havoc with your intestines. The kitchen can’t simply take the croutons off, they MUST prepare your salad without croutons and with fresh utensils.
I literally cringe when I see food being prepared at a so-called gluten-free restaurant, yet the same tubs of condiments (mustard, mayo, barbecue sauce, sour cream) are used with the same knife that touches gluten-filled bread AND gluten-free bread. It gives me anxiety, seriously. But the good thing is that restaurants always have extra condiments waiting to be used; it’s part of their kitchen prep. So the next time you’re ordering a dish that includes some type of condiment that will come from some type of tub, ask if they can use the fresh batch due to your allergies. I have had restaurant employees be very considerate when I make this request, and I’ve also gotten the eye-roll and “Oh my gosh, this girl is so annoying,” look but it doesn’t bother me! Why? Because I value my health and gluten-free diet more than what someone thinks of me and you should too!
Another line cook, placing your food, with contaminated gloves
When visiting a restaurant, whether it’s your first time or your fifteenth, tell your server that you are highly sensitive to gluten and you’d prefer your food to be prepared by someone with fresh gloves. If a cook is placing someone else’s food that comes with a bread or bun and then they grab your food, it’s game over. That simple glove with even a trace of gluten has the potential to ruin not only your meal, but also the next few days (depending on how long your symptoms last). Don’t be afraid to speak up for yourself, educate your server, and get confirmation that the kitchen staff is trained to serve the gluten-free community properly.
It is imperative for restaurants to be educated in the preparation process. If they’re going to have a gluten-free menu, they HAVE to do their homework. Also, you’re going to have to play detective sometimes in order to ensure that you can trust the restaurant, employees, and the food.
What are the questions you ask when dining out?
Author Information: Laura Hanley
Laura Hanley, known as G-Free Laura, has been gluten-free since 2009. She reviews gluten-free products, restaurants, posts simple recipes, and writes about gluten-free experiences onwww.gfreelaura.com. Laura also blogs for the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness and Rudi’s Gluten-Free Bakery. You can follow Laura’s young, wild, and [gluten] free updates by finding her on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Google+.