Restaurants can poise a particular problem for folks who are gluten-sensitive. I recently attended an annual banquet held at a local restaurant. We've been going there for the last 10+ years because of the location, good food, and low cost. The last couple of years, we've added a meal choice of a gluten-free meal (thank goodness). Our group now includes several seniors and others needing gluten-free food. I decided to do a little research on behalf of the gluten-free group--just to make sure about an hour before the lunch was to be served. The salad dressing was questionable and so I decided to pursue a peek at the ingredient list. Prepackaged salad dressing, which as many of you know, is notorious for having gluten. The conversation went something like this:
"We're serving Rxxxxx on all of the salads."
"Is it gluten-free?"
"We make it ourselves, with milk and things."
"You use some kind of a packet?"
"Oh," Pause "I guess we do. We serve it at all banquets."
"What's in the packet? Can I read the label?"
"Everyone says it is OK. We've never had any problems."
"I still need to read the label if I can. I am very allergic and need to make sure. May I see it?"
"I suppose, but there shouldn't be any problem. We've always done all of our banquets this way."
Finally after about 10 more minutes of discussion, I was able to read the label. But I was also asked to prove, somehow to the waitresses, that the dressing was a problem. I'm not sure how to prove such a thing in a restaurant. The label was printed in teeny type and was very difficult to read--even for someone who is near-sighted. To no surprise, Modified Food Starch was high on the ingredient list (along with MSG which is also problematic for several folks). I showed it to the waitresses, alerted the other gluten-free folks, and requested oil and vinegar and delivered it to the table.
Some folks might have felt intimidated by the waitresses. Under normal circumstances, I might have simply avoided the salad and avoided the restaurant. In this case I knew I would be coming back and that there were others in the room at risk. What would you do?
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