20 Jun 2008

Quality over quantity

I will admit here right now with my hands held high in admission, that eating out with coeliac disease is challenging. But equally I will say it is not impossible and can be rather fun.

As I have said before, I refuse to be determined by this disease and I maintain this position with regards to dining out. I love eat in restaurants as much as I love to cook and rarely visit the same restaurant twice – it’s too easy to do so, and when living in London there is no need to either!

I will admit, my approach to this can be rather awkward and does not make for an easy life. But, I think life is unsatisfying without its challenges and having spent 10 years developing some very strong food values, I refuse stop just as I have begun to truly enjoy my food.

I admit - I have had to compromise a little and I have returned to one or two establishments a couple of times. This is not just because of their confidence in dealing with gluten free cooking, although that is my basic requirement, but also because of their commitment to cooking with seasonal, fresh local ingredients.

Fresh, local, seasonal food, I have found, is more likely to be, or be made gluten free. Clearly, this comes at a price, higher than that of the typical high street chains where wheat focused, factory processed meals are the dish of the day.
But I seem to have found common muddy ground between my local seasonal food aspirations and eating gluten free. Even though this is more costly, I find my new approach ensures that I eat safely whilst enjoying the delights that London and further afeild has to offer. So, here I suppose is my approach:
  • Go out less – I have reduced my eating out from at least 2 or 3 times a week to not even once a week, but dine at much nicer restaurants that show confidence in the kitchen
  • Research the menu - The blessing that is the internet means that many restaurants give sample menus to indicate the kind of meals they cook
  • Book ahead and check they can accomodate you - this causes me to relish the anticipated supper all the more and prevents any panic or embarassments on the day
  • Be clear, friendly but firm - Don't be fobbed off. Be friendly and open about your condition for a postive experience all round.
  • Explain all the foods you can't eat to be sure noting gets missed
  • Be simple and seasonal - asparagus with poached egg is a simple seasonal and truly deliocuious dish that ensures you can eat well in both sense of the word.
  • Never assume anything - ask about ingredients used, cooking methods used to confirm meals are free from cross contamination - frying oil always catches people out!
  • Give positive feedback - Personally, I don't want there to be negative associations with my dietary requirements, and always say thank you when staff have ensured I eat safely
So, I enxourage you to try new places - I believe the most basic requirement of a restaurant is to know what makes up the food that they serve. Going to new places challenges chefs to accomdate individual needs whilst raising the awareness of coeliac disease. I believe that if they are an establishment worth their rave reviews then they should be able to cope with a little flexibility in the kitchen.

What do you think?

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