I had been hoping to post this sooner but we have been having major internet troubles here. A tech has already been out here once and we’ve placed many calls to customer service. Apparently, there may be a problem with our whole neighborhoods service. Another tech should be coming out today, and hopefully I can get this posted without another internet outage interrupting me! Anyway . . . . .
Today I don’t have a recipe, but rather some general thoughts about the gluten free diet. This month is my 7 year anniversary of being GF. Honestly, being gluten free hardly feels like a big deal to me anymore. I know how to read labels and how to cook safely. I rarely eat out, and if I do I know what restaurants are safe and which restaurants are not safe. Two months ago I had a major slip up, ended up ingesting gluten and was sick for about a month. I wish I could say it was an accident, but it wasn’t. I just happened to be a little lazy one day and didn’t take all of the necessary precautions. Here’s the story of my not-so-accidental-glutening and some tips about not letting the same thing happen to you!
A few months ago a fellow GF friend of mine finally convinced me to try sushi. I’d avoided trying it for years, and was a bit nervous, but the sushi my friend prepared was amazing. It was one of the most delicious foods that I had ever eaten! I literally was talking about sushi every day, so about a week later we decided to go out for sushi. Steve was more than a little thrilled; he loves sushi and had been hoping and praying that someday I’d like it, too. I asked my friend for guidance about ordering GF sushi and she gave me a few tips about possible gluten containing ingredients in sushi: First, make sure all of the sauces are GF and second, get real crab, not imitation.
We went to a nearby sushi restaurant and were pleasantly surprised to walk and see GF soy sauce sitting right on the tables! We asked the middle aged Asian woman at the counter about gluten free and she told us everything in the restaurant was GF and pointed us to the sauces. She even rolled out a whole fish on a to show us that she uses whole, real ingredients.
We ordered a California roll, a Philadelphia roll with smoked salmon, and a spicy tuna roll. I loved trying each of the different sushi varieties. The Philadelphia roll was my favorite – I love smoked salmon! The spicy tuna was seriously spicy and if you’ve been around this blog very much you know how much I love spicy! And, although I don’t usually like avocado, something about the combination of the California roll made me enjoy it. We had a few leftover rolls that my husband ate for the lunch the next day. He’d offered them to me but my stomach wasn’t feeling great and we wondered if it was the sushi.
I continued to have an upset stomach and also continued to talk about sushi very often. The next week we out for sushi again. I forget exactly what we ordered the second time, but the restaurant owners did bring us out a complimentary fancy California Roll because Steve had helped them with an internet/phone problem.
To make a long story short, I felt even worse and it went on for several weeks. Talking through possible reasons why I was sick one day the sushi came up. I remembered my friend’s warning about the sauce and the crab. I’d followed her tip on the sauce but NOT on the crab (California Rolls, which I had both times, have imitation crab in them). I immediately did some research on imitation crab and found out that it does contain wheat. No wonder I was sick, I had eaten multiple sushi rolls with imitation crab in it!
I was happy to know why I was sick but I felt like a total moron. Why did a woman I never met before convince me to eat something my knowledgeable GF friend had told me not to? When she told me everything in the restaurant was gluten free and had the soy sauce to prove her point I simply believed her. How had I become so complacent about my diet that I had not asked more questions? Answer: I was so excited about eating sushi that I let my emotions drive me to not push for more information.
Here’s what I learned to help me avoid this in the future:
1. Arm yourself with knowledge
I went out for sushi not knowing very much about what made sushi GF or not GF. I just had my friend’s advice. Had I done a few quick google searches I would have learned that all imitation crab has wheat in it and not been deceived into thinking I was eating GF imitation crab. Whenever you go out to a restaurant with an unfamiliar type of cuisine make sure you learn about common ingredients and what may and may not be gluten free. Even if you don’t know everything, you will at least have enough knowledge to ask the right questions!
2. Ask Questions
ALWAYS ask if you are unsure about what you are eating. In my 7 years of being gluten free I have never had an experience where a restaurant resisted my inquiries about ingredients. Often, they will bring the ingredient list right out to me to check! With my sushi experience, if I had asked about the crab I would have figured out it had wheat in it and not gotten sick!
3. Don’t become disillusioned by good food, hunger, tiredness (or anything, for that matter)
This is really the most important tip of them all – don’t become lazy about your health and the GF diet. I’m generally incredibly careful because I know how important it is for me to stay gluten free. However, I was excited about eating sushi and was hungry when I got to the restaurant. I let my want of sushi take precedent over my want for good health. Rather than asking questions and doing research like I normally would have I just ordered and ate. How do we avoid this laziness? In general, people make dietary mistakes when they are hungry or tired, so eating before you reach the “I’M STARVING” point is always a wise idea.
4. Make good choices a habit
Veteran celiacs know what to do to stay healthy so it an become easy to cut corners. Resist that. It doesn’t take a terribly long time to build a habit, and once something is a habit it is hard to stray from! Make a point to always ask questions at restaurants and read EVERY SINGLE LABEL. Soon, you won’t think twice about doing those things. Even if you are hungry, tired, or just really excited about sushi, the habit will take over!
So, back to my sushi story. After I figured out the imitation crab was a problem we went back to restaurant and talked to the owners. It is a small restaurant, with the same couple employees there every time. We asked the same woman who told me that everything was gluten free if she used real crab or imitation crab. When she told us she used imitation crab I asked her to read the label. She brought the package out and I showed her where the wheat gluten was on the food label. She felt badly, and offered to sub in a few other things in place of the crab in my sushi. Even better, she asked me to help her write out a few sushi roll to add to the menu that would be specifically gluten free! So, although I was a bit of an airhead and got sick the story ended well. I learned some lessons about safe GF dining and helped a local restaurant become GF friendly!
What about you? Have you had any air head moments like me? What strategies do you use to make sure you eat safely?