Home of God & Good Food
I’m Dr. Ron, producer of and social media manager for the Devotional Chef Show, and I have a little story:
I am staying with my son, who is self-diagnosed (though he is under a doctor’s care, so don’t worry – for medical issues, a doctor’s care is critical!) with Celiac disease.
Celiac disease is responsible for a variety of digestive problems (and problems not limited to digestion!), caused by difficulty in properly digesting wheat, barley, rye, and related grain products. I won’t get into the details here, but at this site you can learn more.
My son’s situation – as is the case with many – was related to troubles in his lower intestine not limited to diarrhea and anemia. And he found that as soon as he took the simple step of removing wheat from his diet, he began to feel better immediately – and his health continued to improve as he went along.
I came to stay with him, and I have no such condition (as far as I know). One day he and I were hoping to go out for lunch, and I pointed him to a Chinese buffet in Hamilton, NJ, not far from us. (I had a strong desire for an Asian buffet meal.)
At the restaurant my son took his usual precaution: asking what gluten-free options were available. I remember when Celiac disease first hit the news, people I knew who were gluten-sensitive or gluten-intolerant ran into push-back at restaurants, because they had not encountered this before. (It’s no longer a new thing now.)
First the wait staff doesn’t know the word, then looks at us like we’re from Mars, and finally we are told that NOT ONE ITEM in a 50-item Chinese buffet can be guaranteed gluten-free. So we had to drop $5 for two Pepsis and then move along. I had never encountered something like this before. I couldn’t hide my disappointment. I was let down by the cuisine that until that day I loved most in the world!
Why? Well, the major cause is that the restaurant uses some sort of wheat product as a thickening agent in sauces. I mentioned to them cornstarch as a reliable gluten-free alternative, and again, we’re from Mars. The shift supervisor finally would not even guarantee that RAW FRUIT, RAW VEGGIES, and SHRIMP COCKTAIL would be safe. THAT was the blow that hurt the most. They simply didn’t want to deal with us.
It could be argued that the language barrier and inexperience of the staff came into play – they were all between the ages of 20 and 30, were ESL learners, and were unfamiliar with technical terms like “Celiac.” Though in a restaurant, I felt I could reasonably expect SOMEONE to know the term “gluten,” even if their English is broken. NOT IN THIS CASE.
We got something else for my son and me. But I was still upset. So I approached your friend and mine, the Devotional Chef, for help. Now, the Chef does not have gluten-free food prep as one of his specialties, but he knows where to go for help. Several years ago, in a previous podcast of his, he interviewed Chef Stacy LaRoche of Guaranteed GF, who talked at length on the subject. This was in 2009, and Chef Stacy has since passed away. We wouldn’t add more with a new podcast unless the Chef had a particular recipe to share, so instead we held a TweetChat, and polled Twitter users for ideas for recipes and approaching grocery stores and restaurants.
In future, if we are doing a TweetChat, and we will do it again, look for the hashtag #ChefChat.
And here is another site offering background on Celiac disease.
Here are a few tips we want to keep at hand in case they are needed.