So I had this great plan in my head of a list of 5 sneaky ways that gluten finds its way into our food. As I was thinking I realized there really is only 2 ways gluten sneaks in. I know a list of 2 is not much fun but it’s what we have! If you have another way you can think of please let me know in the comments!
This discussion is especially important for those of you who are new to eating gluten or grain free. The concepts are essential for anyone with food allergies or anyone simply trying to avoid one particular food.
Sadly it’s not an odd experience to go out to eat and think you have been super careful about your food and restaurant choices. Low and behold 2 hours later you find out you were so wrong. Maybe you just forgot to actually ask because you figured it would be alright. I did that to myself recently on vacation.
The French Fry Debacle of 2019
As I mentioned elsewhere fries are my weakness, and they are typically ok if you look for the right key words on menus. We were in a little town and it’s hard enough to be sure about making sure the food is safe for me to eat at a place like that. I did not want to ask if their fries were battered or not. I felt fairly sure from previous visits that they were ok. Well, I was completely wrong. Thankfully I know what to look for and I know the battering is typically made from wheat. Battering is a frequent place where gluten sneaks in. That way I did not make a 2nd fateful assumption about the safety of the food.
I made another assumption later in the week though what I felt was on more reliable information. I was wrong, again. The menu stated “Oven Baked” or some similar verbiage about their fries. It made me feel fairly ok about them. So I ordered them, and of course they were also battered.
Now you may be saying “Hey, just because they are cooked in the oven does not make them GF!” That is totally true, come to find out though when I asked later, they don’t even cook them in the oven anymore anyway. They just have not changed their menu.
What’s the point?
Fine, so you may be asking “Other than to depress us, what’s the point of this discussion? How does this help us find where gluten sneaks into our food?” The point is we have to be vigilant at all times about what we are eating. Thank the Lord we live in a country where 98% of the time we don’t have to worry about the safety of our food supply. Certainly there are quality issues in it, and yes occasionally there is some sort of contaminated food. Yet, anyone can basically walk into any restaurant and grocery store in the US and buy food and not get sick. That is a HUGE anomaly in the history of the world (even in the US) and in most of the world right now as well. The safety of food is something that has always been questionable.
Thankfully in the US we have basically been inoculated against those concerns. To the point where many people walk into a place and have little real concern where the food came from, how it was processed, or what it contains.
The Restaurant Reality
So back to “what’s the point?”. The point is that as people with food allergies, we have to ask the questions. Yes, depending on where exactly you live there are certain laws in place to help lay out what allergens are in food, does it contains GMOs, etc. We cannot rely on those things to be accurate, though. Human beings are fallible. Gluten sneaks in the smallest places.
Especially if you are eating in a restaurant, you are dealing with, typically, high school and college age kids who should care, but frequently do not. If nothing else you are their 20th party of the night. They have already been on their feet 6 hours and they are tired, and have 3 more hours to go by the time everyone leaves and they get the restaurant clean and closed. They also don’t really know what gluten is, other than when their manager gave them in a training manual and said “hey some people can’t eat this gluten thing. This logo on our menu means its Gluten Free, Ok?”
The manager should also care and be knowledgeable, but your food allergy is one of the 250 small things they have to worry about on their 12 hour shift. Not that he or she won’t care and want to help, but that if we assume that it’s a perfect kitchen in the back with everything perfectly clean and partitioned and best set up for allergen free cooking, we are setting ourselves up for failure.
Ask the Questions
Ask the questions when you go in. I know I like to go out when I am tired, so I just want to be able to order and eat. I don’t want to have to expend the mental energy to think through the potentials of where on the menu gluten has snuck in. It is that or risk getting sick for me, though. I for one would rather ask the questions.
Ask the questions when you go to a grocery store as well. Granted, this is not typically actually asking a real person. “Ask the questions” of the box – read the ingredients. More and more people are getting used to this just in general, but if you haven’t needed to before, why would you? Even “healthy food” items such as Organic baked goods or even supplements can have gluten “hidden” in the ingredients. Remember the companies are not maniacally trying to find where they can sneak gluten in the ingredients to make you sick. They are doing their best to provide the best tasting, most effective and economical product available. This frequently ends up meaning they are using wheat or wheat based products to do that.
The 2 ways
I just said a lot of words without actually telling you the two ways, isn’t that fancy? The 2 most frequent ways gluten sneaks in our food relatively unintentionally are:
1. Cross Contamination
2. Minor Ingredients that are derived from Wheat
We will cover these more in detail in the next couple of days. Stay tuned and if you have any questions about this or anything else please comment below!
Make it a tasty day,