As a restaurant reviewer whose son was allergic to wheat as a child, I was curious to see what the award-winning five-book series Let’s Eat Out was all about. I have my own “weird little allergies,” to Monosodium Glutamate, caffeine, clip art and tights worn as pants…but allergies are a very serious matter.
Today more and more East End restaurants are offering wheat-free and gluten-free menu items. Notably, there’s Dark Horse in Riverhead, where all the baked goods are made under the direction of owner Dee Muma. At Il Capuccino Ristorante in Sag Harbor, you can get your pasta sans wheat. Simply Sublime, which opened in Springs last year, offers lots of gluten-free options.
Thankfully, my son grew out of his wheat allergy. His doctor said that by eliminating almost all wheat from his diet, his body was able to acclimate to it over time. Many children’s’ food allergies abate around age 15, but millions of people suffer the limitations and risks of food allergies throughout their lives. Celiac disease (CD), also know as “coeliac” and “sprue,” is estimated to afflict about one in 100 Americans. Though the disease causes a reaction to wheat proteins it is not the same as a wheat allergy. Barley and rye also cause internal inflammation, which blocks the absorption of nutrients in the celiac sufferer.
If you have a relative who has been diagnosed with celiac disease you should be tested for it too—many people show no signs of this disease for years. There is no cure, just a strict diet to avoid discomfort and internal damage.
The Let’s Eat Out book series promises tips on dining out, eating on-the-go and traveling with food allergies, sensitivities, celiac disease and special diets. The creators aim is to “empower gluten and allergen-free lifestyles.” In addition to the books, there are four pocket-size guides providing cuisine choices and multi-lingual phrases, 15 gluten and allergy mobile apps for Apple and Android devices and 15 eBooks dedicated to eating out and travel. These guides offer solutions to assist both individuals and food businesses in handling common food allergens including corn, dairy, eggs, fish, gluten, peanuts, shellfish, soy, tree nuts and wheat. If only they had a dining guide for teenage vegans—I’d buy it today!
I could have used the little guide full of multi-lingual phrases when our family was travelling abroad years ago!
Koeller told me in a letter that the information presented in the series is based on over seven years of research and personal experience in managing dozens of food allergies and celiac disease, involving millions of miles of travel and quality assurance reviews from hundreds of individuals and professionals worldwide.
If you’re an allergy sufferer and, yes, with increased screening, there are more and more of us today—you should check this series out—it offers a range of information about major cuisines, their ingredients and restaurant preparations. Of course, in addition to the traveler and the dining enthusiast, there’s a good deal of info that the home cook will find useful.
Here’s a sample question: “Do you dust the beef in gluten/wheat prior to pan frying?”
Here’s another: “Is your rice cooked in the same water as your pasta?”
These are life or death questions. A touch of wheat won’t kill someone with celiac disease on the spot—but cumulatively wheat can kill. A childhood favorite, peanut butter, could kill someone with a severe peanut allergy in minutes. I can understand how the book series has won awards. The book I read is highly organized with inviting chapter titles like, “Let’s Eat at Indian Restaurants”—yes, let’s, and SAFELY.
Let’s Eat Out with Celiac/Coeliac & Food Allergies by Kim Koeller and Robert La France (R & R Publishing, 2012) is one in a series of guides, glutemfreepassport.com.