Thursday, January 10, 2013

Keeping the Traveling Celiac Safe--Two Near Disasters

This past week, Rick and I took a mini vacation to the beautiful Smoky Mountains. When traveling with a loved one who has a serious dietary constraint, aka, Celiac, traveling can be anything but enjoyable, especially when eating at unknown food establishments. I tend to go either into a panic mode or an attack mode.

Since Rick did not give me time to prepare a few things to take that are safe for him to eat, I felt as if I was flying by the seat of my pants. I did raid our pantry on the way out the door for few gluten free granola and energy bars, thus covering breakfast.

On day one, we stopped at the Pottery Barn restaurant in Old Mill Square in Pigeon Forge. Not only were they knowledgeable about the importance of eating gluten free, they rose to the occasion, surpassing all my expectations. Rick had his usual grilled entrĂ©e with veggies on the side. I, on the other hand, ordered comfort food—quiche (Click for recipe) and soup (Click for recipe) —which just hit the spot on a cold, overcast day, not to mention soothing my jitters.
Rummaging for safe food the last day of our little get away became my worst nightmare in real time. When I asked the hostess at a lunch spot, aka Texas Roadhouse) in Alcoa, TN if they perhaps had a gluten free menu. She assured me she would check as she reached for a basket of rolls for us—a clear sign of trouble ahead. 

Every muscle in my body was getting more and more tense when the “training coordinator” came to help and was equally clueless. I was ready to head for the hills so to speak, but I was already in the hills. Feeling more than a little panicky, I finally demanded to speak with the manager. I know that every chain restaurant has a list of which allergens are in which food. Even without a gluten free menu, most can prepare a safe meal for a Celiac if care is taken to prevent cross contamination. The young manager was truly like a breath of fresh air. She completely understood eating gluten free was a medical necessity for Rick and made sure his food was safely prepared. By this time, I was once again in dire need of comforting so I ordered the ultimate in comfort food—a big bowl of chili and creamed potatoes on the side. Everything was delicious for both of us and with no problems for Rick.
On our way home, we stoped at Applebee's in Newnan, GA for a quick bite. This is the same restaurant we frequent almost every time we go to Atlanta and beyond. We had the same nice server we had several times prior. He understands the problem and works with the kitchen to make sure everything is prepared in accordance with the instructions on our "Our" Chef's Card (Click for Card)

When Rick cut into his "well-done" steak as opposed to "medium-rare", I was afraid something was wrong. Apparently, Rick’s order got mixed up with another order in the kitchen. I am not kidding. Rick received someone else’s order while another unsuspecting soul received Rick’s order. That is the bad news! 

Here is the good news! Oddly enough, the food Rick received had also been prepared gluten free, so there were no lasting problems. Disaster safely avoided, we struck out on our trip home. 

On a serious note, look at your food careful, poking around to make sure the food you are served is the food you ordered, prepared the way you instructed the restaurant management. Our server was very apologetic and was the one who figured out the mix up. I think we all learned another valuable lesson in how easily a Celiac or anyone with any food allergy can be made sick even when the food establishment is truly trying hard to keep you safe.

But, by this time, I seriously needed a serious glass of wine. Good thing Rick was driving.

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