LONG AGO, I wrote about the gluten issue.
My articles had titles such as Hold The Bread on that Sandwich Please, and Eat Before Dinner. I understand the problem. I’ve known I had celiac since I was one year old, and grew up eating rice, eggs, bananas, carrots and chicken — in an Italian family, where the sumptuous, wheat-based food was being passed around the table.
It’s been said that any substitute is a poor substitute. Some rice with tomato sauce splashed on it is not spaghetti and meatballs. The years have moved on and it’s now possible to make gluten-free spaghetti and meatballs, and there are even restaurants that serve it.
This series of mini-articles and restaurant reviews is designed for the benefit of people with celiac or other extreme gluten sensitivity. However, everyone else is invited along for the ride. The discussions of gluten with kitchen and dining room staff that I will describe are applicable to any food sensitivity.
My intent is to acquaint you with what you need to know to sort out whether you can safely eat something in a restaurant, and provide you with information about food systems, food formulations, and the language and ideas used in coming up with different dishes.
Parity of Experience
However, I have another goal, or rather two of them. The first is to advocate for parity in the dining experience between gluten and non-gluten restaurant patrons. What I mean is, your dining experience should be the same, or very similar. As part of this, I object to up-charges for gluten-free preparations.
Don’t Put Gluten Where You Don’t Need It
Second, as a critic of food systems, I’m here to put out the idea that the way to keep gluten out is to not put it in. A certain number of dishes seem to require wheat-based products; most do not. Generally, the use of wheat is either about convenience, cost or not bothering to figure out another way. This leads to constant discussions of what is and is not in food.