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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Gluten-Free for You and Me

Forgive me father, for I have sinned. I don't know if it's really a sin, but I may have done something to put someone in harm's way. Well, it wasn't really my fault, I guess, but I still feel bad about it, Lord. Okay, I don't really feel too bad about it because now that I think abut it, it really didn't have much to do with me at all. Am I responsible for something I knew nothing about? Never mind, God, I'm sure she's fine.

All servers deal with customers who have allergies. It's part of our job to accommodate requests so that our guests can enjoy their food without worry that their throats are going to swell up and they will asphyxiate because they ate a nut. Of course I don't want someone to die because I forgot to type in "nut allergy" on the ticket. I can only assume that if you kill one of your customers, the tip is going to be pretty low. It's never happened to me, but I'm just going to assume.

I don't think gluten is ever going to kill someone, but I don't want to be responsible for stomach cramps either. There are a couple of regulars at the restaurant who can never eat gluten. One lady in particular is adamant about it, which I totally get. What I don't understand is how she can ask me every single time if the sauce that goes onto the roasted chicken is gluten-free.

"No, ma'am. The sauce has flour in it. We have not changed the recipe since the last time you were here, I'm sorry."

"Oh, really?" She says. "That's a bummer, because I'm allergic to gluten. Like, if I even have a little bit of it, I don't feel well. It's horrible for me. Like I even have to have my own mayonnaise at home because if my husband gets crumbs in the mayo and I use it, I get sick. Blech! Toilet for hours, you know what I mean? So, can you make sure the kitchen knows to be very careful? Thank you!"

"Yes, ma'am, absolutely."

"Okay, so I will have the roasted chicken with no sauce, okay? No sauce. Like not even on the side. I will pay for it if I eat it. Thank you!"

"Yes, ma'am, very good."

Every time we go through this. Every. Single. Time. I got it, lady: you don't eat gluten. It gives you projectile diarrhea or whatever. Enough, already.

A few days ago, the phone rings at work, and being the dutiful employee I am, I answer it on the seventh ring since it seems clear that no one else is going to fucking do it.

"Thank you for calling This Restaurant, this is The Bitchy Waiter. How may I help you?"

A lady on the other end wants to hear the specials of the day. I rattle them off and she decides she wants to place an order to pick up.

"This is what I get for answering the phone," I think. "Now I have to ring this in under my number and I know she isn't going to leave a tip on a to-go order. Where do we keep the to-go boxes anyway? Fuck. I will never answer the phone I again!"

I place the order and rummage around around the bar to find all the to-go utensils for her curry cauliflower soup and roasted chicken breast, with no gravy. I think nothing about the order until 15 minutes later when the food is in the window. I put it all together and place it on top of the oven to keep it warm until the customer comes in to get it. The bartender will probably deal with it so I don't give it another thought.

A few minutes later, I see that the food is gone so I look over at the bar to see the bartender thanking the customer as she walks out the door with her soup and roasted chicken, with no gravy. As she passes in front of our window I see that it is the "no-gluten" lady and she is carrying a gluten-free roasted chicken and a cup of curry cauliflower soup that has gluten all up in it.

Forgive me father, for I have sinned. I don't know if it's really a sin, but I may have done something to put someone in harm's way. Well, it wasn't really my fault, I guess, but I still feel bad about it, Lord. Okay, I don't really feel too bad about it because now that I think abut it, it really didn't have much to do with me at all. Am I responsible for something I knew nothing about? Never mind, God, I'm sure she's fine. 

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blue said...

Well, we all know how she spent the evening after dinner , don't we?

Cassy said...

5 bucks says she didn't even get sick.

noreasonwhy79 said...

Cos people with celiac totally are faking huh, cassy?

JoeinVegas said...

You didn't recognize the voice, and she didn't ask about the soup. Not your problem.

The Honorable Mayor of Bethville said...

I'm your worst nightmare, Bitchy. No gluten, no sugar, no dairy, no legumes, no starchy vegetables, no alcohol. But I also preempt my order with, "So....I know I'm the worst, but I have some questions." And then I eat a bowl of lettuce.

christie hampton said...

You are many things, mind-reader is probably not one of your strong suits. If it was, then you'd have no concern. She should have asked, it could be that the chicken was for her, the soup for her husband? Let it go, you did your job.

The Cheese said...

Nothing annoys me more than people who tell me they have an "allergy" to gluten. I know people with celiac's disease, and I know people with gluten intolerance. It's not an ALLERGY! People who say that are on a fad diet because Dr. Oz or some other celebrity or their next door neighbor or their shaman said it worked for them. Celiac's is a disease. It's serious, and it usually does more than put you on the toilet. I'm sorry this lady has issues with it. I'm perfectly happy to inform people of our options on the menu that are gluten free, or how they can modify things so they can eat what they want. But why, for the love of god WHY, are these types of people so annoying! "You mean I can't have that sauce? Well you should really make another version that's gluten free. Because the seven options you just gave me aren't enough. I'll only really be happy when I can be difficult. Yes, I am aware you didn't list that entree when you told me my GF options. I just need to ask you eight more questions and modify something into the most bland dry and disgusting thing I've ever eaten so I can complain about it. That sounds like more fun. Oh, and can I get more hot water with lemon? It's good for the digestion..." Please, inform me of your limitations, I'll inform you of ours, and then pick something that falls in the middle. Please for the love of a smooth night and your own satisfaction. Thanks!

Haley Nowak said...

No noreasonwhy79 its just an incredibly rare disease. People who can't have gluten because it makes them feel not so nice are totally faking.

noreasonwhy79 said...

Haley, clearly my sarcasm aimed at cassy went right over your head.
I have celiac.
I don't spread the tmi, but I do ask a lot of questions about the food as gluten and animal products (I am also a vegetarian) are hiden in a lot.
I am not over demanding and I find most servers to be a delight in assisting me.
I do however have friends who doubt me and say things like cassy, "oh you are just being trendy," "I bet it doesn't even hurt you," etc.
That was the intent of my posting. That just cos you do not see the after effects, it doesn't mean they aren't real.
*kicks soapbox and walks away*

Sandra said...

Maybe the soup is for her hubby - the one who leaves bread crumbs in the mayo.

chacha1 said...

First of all, yes, celiac disease is a real thing. (It is not "Celiac's Disease.")

Second of all, servers shouldn't be expected to inquire into the validity of a customer's diagnosis. If a customer says they need something gluten-free, that's that. A customer may want something gluten-free without having celiac disease; it's not the job of the server to determine whether they NEED it gluten-free.

I think TBW did as much as anyone reasonably could. If the caller didn't ask if the soup was gluten-free, ego te absolvo.

Q said...

I have a regular customer who says she is allergic to lemons. She won't even let people who done with her have lemons in their water or tea because she has such a severe allergy just being near lemons or lemon juice could be life threatening. I accommodate her. And then when she requests buckets of our homemade tartar sauce for her fish I accommodate that request as well. Then I sit back and wait for her to swell up like a puffer fish as the lemon juice we put in our tartar sauce takes its lethal effect. Five years I have been serving this lovely woman and not so much as a rash has appeared. She is the reason servers second guess all people who say they have an allergy to something. Seriously guests, if just don't want a lemon in your drink just say "no lemon".

Anonymous said...

My favorite is people who say they're allergic to dairy, so they don't get cheese on anything, but then butter their bread and dump cream in their coffee. If you don't want cheese, don't get cheese, but don't tell me it's because you're "allergic" to dairy and then proceed to eat other forms of dairy right in front of me.

SmooshieFace said...

I'm sorry, since when is telling your server the absolute truth about your non-life threatening food intolerances/allergies a requirement for eating out? I find it amusing when a guest tells me they have some allergy when they clearly do not- who cares? If it makes them feel better, I just accomodate them and move on. I don't let silly little things like that bother me!

The Cheese said...

I have regular customers who come in, sit down, smile and say hi to me. We discuss what they would like to drink, I tell them the specials, I double check that there's no flour in it, and we go on our way to having a nice meal that my chef prepares, I serve, and they consume. This is how it should be. Sorry I labeled it Celiac's. So ignorant of me. I do admit that I know very little about CELIAC disease, and I do not at any point in the future plan on learning more. Anyone who has any truly severe food limitations shouldn't be expecting their server and some smelly line cooks to suddenly be their nutritionist for the evening. That's what pisses servers off. I'm happy to accommodate my customers to the best of our restaurants ability, but do not start arguing with me about your options, do not describe to me your symptoms if you do eat this thing you're "allergic" to. It's gross, no one wants to hear it, and while I'm sure you don't want to live with it, there's nothing anyone can do about that. Keep the gross details to yourself and find a Thursday night support group. I will always be happy to explain our gluten free options, I will always let the kitchen know, I will double check that its right after it comes out and I'll even happily refill your hot water with lemon. The end.

California Girl said...

is she super old? I mean, who discusses bowel movements with strangers other than really old people who will discuss them with anyone trapped in their web of bathroom conversation. ugh.

Anonymous said...

Chacha1-I agree that servers typically should not be questioning someone's dietary needs. BUT, if someone says they have an allergy to gluten, they are full of shit (no pun intended). There is no such thing, and anyone with Celiac disease or a gluten intolerance would not be referring to it as an "allergy".

Indigo said...

Actually my mother has a gluten intolerance and refers to it as an allergy - simply because when she says intolerance servers seem to think she can eat gluten, just not in large amounts. She can't. If she does, she swells up to point that she looks 9 months preggers with twins and curls into a ball of pain. It's not always a "fad" thing if someone says they have a gluten allergy/intolerance.

As for eating out, she has a few local restaurants she goes to. The waitresses know her and have no problems helping her find something to eat that won't put her in massive amounts of pain. But she is also realistic and knows her dining options are limited.

The woman in the story though should know to ask if things are gluten free IF the soup was for her. It could be for someone else. But if she doesn't ask, then how is TBW supposed to know to tell her? I think TBW did fine and if she did eat the soup and get sick, then maybe she'll remember to ask next time. Her allergy is her responsibility, not everyone else's.

Noelle said...

Yikes that kind of sucks. How about the regular customers who have ordered a particular dish for years that is prepared with bacon fat. We recently found out that they don't eat pork for religious reasons. How could we ever back up this truck or semi.

Anonymous said...

If shes been living gluten free, she knows that soup has gluten. Its very very common in non broth soups. It likely wasn't for her.

S'A said...

I work in a small grocery store and one of my jobs is to answer customers' questions about products. Wheat allergy is a real thing. It's not the same as celiac disease. I have one customer who's skin breaks out in sores when she eats anything with wheat. I know some people are just drama queens that are trying to get attention, but there are some who really do suffer.

... said...

I have an anaphylactic allergy (the throat-swelling kind) to shellfish and strawberries. My two oldest children have Celiac disease. We are a waiter's worst nightmare. But guess what? I read menus online BEFORE we go so that I know what we can eat and I try my best, aside from asking for burgers sans buns, not to be a pain in the tuckus about making special orders. Sure, we let the waiter know about the allergies but please, it's not YOUR place to ask ME what we can/can't eat. She didn't ask about the soup? Not your problem. Besides, maybe it was for her husband. :o)

Anonymous said...

I had a woman once refuse to drink beer from a can because she was "allergic to aluminum." She went ahead an ordered a draft beer. :|

Anonymous said...

Totally agree cheese, if someone is that concerned about what's in our food they should go online before they come in to see all ingredients bc like you said as a server I only have so much control over what comes out to the table. I don't make the food, the cook line does. I could have the utmost concern and care for your health condition but that doesn't mean everyone does. Are you really willing to put your o so serious health concerns in a cooks hands who you will never see, talk to, or leave that lousy tip for after they mess it up? Maybe take just a minute to look ingredients up online before you come in and that places your nutritional health more in your hands than it could have been...

The Cheese said...

Anyone with a wheat allergy is not going to refer to it as a gluten allergy. Gluten is a protein that is found in wheat, rye, and barley. Most who are on a fad diet will refer to whatever supposed problem they have as an allergy, call gluten the devil, and be concerned only about wheat flour. This is what is so annoying to servers.

Anonymous said...

Maybe you shouldn't go out to eat

Anonymous said...

Actually you CAN have a gluten allergy, for the record. Not a sensitivity, a medical allergy. The same as you can have an allergy to anything. Just because you "know someone" who has a sensitivity, doesn't mean much. My kid has an egg sensitivity. I don't call the child's parent that said their kid has a deathly egg allergy a liar because "my kid only has a sensitivity so an allergy must be crap".

How do I know allergies exist? Hmm which answer would you like? The fact that I'm a medical student or the fact that I watched my best friends daughter nearly die from a gluten allergy. The child is also allergic (fatally) to beef, berries, most green vegetables, citrus, most chemical soaps...the list goes on.

A person can be allergic to anything, to the point that simply touching it can kill them. My first child, for example, is fatally allergic to 3 different tree nuts (peanuts being the worst, as in touch it and swell), feathers, and cats. She has a sensitivity to many other foods. My second child can't have cow's milk or soy milk, and has to drink goats milk. Yes she's actually allergic, not lactose intolerant, and that allergy does carry over to beef and soy products as well.

Anyway, TBW you did your job like you should have. You couldn't know that it was the same woman on the line, and you also can't predict who is eating that soup. If she was curious about a menu item she should have asked about it.

Anonymous said...

I have Celiac Disease, the autoimmune disease associated with gluten, and the fault is hers for not identifying herself as the gluten-free customer and for not asking about the soup.

Anonymous said...

Gluten sensitivity, gluten allergy and celiac disease, while united in a deathly fear of bread, are different and seperate things. Also, many celiacs simply say they have a gluten allergy because it is simpler and less time consuming than explaining the autoimmune effects of Celiac Disease.

LON said...

my wife has it if it gets bad enough leads to cancer but we check everywhere we go before hand even plan meals on vacations its not that bad to eat because sometimes i have to eat her way so she has good things to eat as well and if the portion is to big for her i try to stay away from her sugary foods they kinda seem like there is sand in them with that being said poeple are suppoded to look out for themselves not somebody in there business been hanging out all day to all have a good night

Anonymous said...

I know most of the comments here are old, but I have some input. I agree with the other anonymous person who said they say allergy because it's less time-consuming. In my experience, people seem to understand allergy better than "Well, it's not really an allergy. It's called celiac disease, and if you accidentally give me gluten, perhaps it won't kill me, but I will be downright miserable for a couple days and probably curse your name as I'm running to the bathroom ... so please don't give me gluten, okay?" LOL. The thing that is most irksome to me is there are all these annoying people out there who ruin dining experiences for those of us who have REAL problems. I'm not saying this to be trendy. I'm saying this because gluten poisoning is pretty damn evil for those to us who've experienced. It's a little more than a simple stomachache.

Usually I try to visit during offpeak hours, so you don't have to halt everything just to clean a prep area for me. I fully understand lunch or supper rush is going to be a burden to waitstaff, especially when you'll have to deal with my string of questions and making sure you understand that no croutons on my salad doesn't mean you can put them on there and just take them off... After you know I'm the gluten free girl, though, I'll likely learn to trust you if you've never made me sick. :P So I promise I wouldn't ask you about gravy seven billion times, I promise.

Given the story, I'm inclined to agree she could just be a trend person, and believe me, I'm super annoyed with the "trend" status of gluten free too. It's not a trend for me, and the "trend" people make waiters doubt people who really HAVE the disease, like me. Still, I have to put in the selfish plea with any waiter to take the requests seriously even if you think it's bs. It could be, and I'll hate that person who makes my life harder as much as you, but on the offchance that person has Celiac disease FOR REAL, please don't feed them the evil protein... It's not a fun experience for us and we will tell our Celiac friends and family to avoid your restaurant like the plague.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately so many people have made the gluten free diet a "cool, fun, new, hipster diet" (insert slap in face here) that it is hard to take anyone seriously. As someone in the service industry this means, bringing a special menu, explaing a different order, ringing in the correct modifiers for the kitchen (which means they actually clean a seperate spot on the grille and replace cutting boards), and make sure my food does not get mixed up or containmainted with anyone elses. It is a process and people go through a lot of work to get there, so ya its slightly frustrating when all that trouble is completely unnecessary for someone who is making up a food allergy.

Anonymous said...

Wow typing on my cell phone leads to some serious typos ... smh haha

Anonymous said...

Still, I have to put in the selfish plea with any waiter to take the requests seriously...please don't feed them the evil protein... It's not a fun experience for us and we will tell our Celiac friends and family to avoid your restaurant like the plague.

I'm sure the restaurant would be grateful if you stayed away.

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