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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40 thoughts on “Gluten-Free for You and Me

    1. Anonymous

      No, because celiac occurs very rarely and yet every fucking person is convinced gluten is satans own ejaculate.

      Reply
      1. Matt

        1% of the population isn’t ‘very rarely’ but for sure all too many people choose not to eat gluten because they think it’s ‘glue’ (*ahem*bull) and that’s ridiculous.

        Reply
  1. christie hampton

    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.

    Reply
  2. The Cheese

    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!

    Reply
  3. noreasonwhy79

    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*

    Reply
  4. chacha1

    First of all, yes, celiac disease is a real thing. (It is not "Celiac's Disease.") http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001280/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.

    Reply
  5. Q

    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".

    Reply
  6. Anonymous

    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.

    Reply
  7. SmooshieFace

    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!

    Reply
  8. The Cheese

    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.

    Reply
  9. California Girl

    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.

    Reply
  10. Anonymous

    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".

    Reply
    1. Abby

      Not true. My girlfriend says allergy all the time because it’s quick and easy to understand. Rather than go in to the discussions about how so many different things “trigger” her hereditary disease. If you say intolerant, servers don’t seem to give a shit. If you say allergy, servers will keep your tablemate’s cheese away from your plate. If she had a true allergy we probably wouldn’t be eating out. We are just trying to minimize risk/severity of attack.

      Reply
      1. Matt

        I was going to say. I know people with biopsy-confirmed Coeliac disease who refer to it as an ‘allergy’ to gluten so that the chef will know to follow protocol to ensure cross-contamination doesn’t happen. Lots of people know very little about Coeliac and assume it’s ‘just’ an intolerance and that trace gluten won’t do anything, especially as it doesn’t kill you on the spot..but it can still have severe internal consequences.

        Reply
  11. Indigo

    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.

    Reply
  12. Noelle

    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.

    Reply
  13. S'A

    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.

    Reply
    1. Matt

      Coeliac is a serious condition which requires protocol to be followed to ensure cross-contamination doesn’t happen, as even a molecule of gluten can cause the immune system to attack the intestinal lining. It’s not simply an intolerance. It is a severe condition and should be treated exactly the same as a life-threatening allergy.

      Reply
  14. ...

    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)

    Reply
  15. Anonymous

    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…

    Reply
  16. The Cheese

    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.

    Reply
    1. Matt

      Some people with Coeliac refer to it as a gluten ‘allergy’ so as to ensure chefs will treat it as they would any true allergy.

      Reply
  17. Anonymous

    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.

    Reply
  18. Anonymous

    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.

    Reply
  19. Anonymous

    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.

    Reply
  20. Tipsykit

    The reason people are drawing a distinction between allergy, intolerance, and preference is this: if someone has an actual ALLERGY like they will swell up and die if they eat it, we need to know so that we make sure their food is prepared with equipment that hasn’t touched that allergen. Often, this means the cooks have to stop and sanitize the griddle or get out a fresh set of tongs, etc to make sure we don’t contaminate your food. If you just don’t want to eat cheese or gluten because you are on a diet or you just can’t eat a bunch of it, that is good to know since we don’t want to slow down your (and everyone else’s) food order with full allergen protocols if we don’t have to.

    Reply
    1. Matt

      “if someone has an actual ALLERGY like they will swell up and die if they eat it”
      Not necessarily: people can have milder allergies.

      “we need to know so that we make sure their food is prepared with equipment that hasn’t touched that allergen”
      Coeliac isn’t an allergy but it has to be treated just like that as any gluten at all causes the immune system to react and attack the intestinal lining.

      Reply
  21. Kata

    Maybe the soup was for someone else. It’s a logical explanation.
    This woman asks about ingredients and explains the protocol every single time. Given that she calls it an allergy, it also seems that she’s trying to explain it as simply as possible.

    It sounds like she’s trying to not be an entitled cunt, who expects waiters and servers to remember her allergies. She also doesn’t expect the restaurant staff to apprise her of possible recipe changes, which suggests that she’s trying to take responsibility for her condition.

    And since she asks about ingredients every single time, she would have asked about soup, if she intended to eat it. Which takes you off the hook.

    Reply

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