Wednesday 30 January 2013

Mother Judger

Mothers , we all have ‘em. Some of us are them. Some of you sleep with them. Some of you like to judge them. Usually it’s Mothers who like to judge other Mothers.

When I take the kids to ski lessons, I say a hearty goodbye and while the other Moms stand in the freezing cold, (like Canadian -35 cold) I sneak up to the lounge and grab a drink.

See what just happened there?

You JUDGED me…didn’t you?
You sat there and thought to yourself,

-          I am a BETTER mother than she is
-          I would NEVER do that and therefore anyone who does is horrible
-          Her children are going to turn out to be hateful, misbehaved losers who eat pickles for breakfast in their trailer
-          She doesn’t love her children like I love my children 

Fuck off. You don’t know me.

Today, the spawn had gymnastics. I usually sit in the gallery and write while they tumble and run. As we were packing up, another kid says to his mom, “Mom, remember you promised that we would stop at McDonalds for dinner.”

The woman paled and stuttered in embarrassment as she hurried to explain to me,
            “I promised them,” she started, “because my husband is home so late tonight and with lessons running late, I just figured that this one time I could swing by. The day got away from me. You see they NEVER get McDonalds, we usually don’t even eat Gluten.”

Might I remind you that I have never met this woman before in my life.

Is this where we have come to as mothers? That we are so shitty to each other that this lovely lady assumes that I am going to think she is a bad mother because at 630 on a Wednesday when it is -35 outside that she is going to fly through a drive-thru instead of going home and making a seven course meal? Is that who we are? Are we proud of this? Seriously?

 Is that all that counts these days? NOT going to McDonalds is the new parenting competition. Mom’s used to battle with grades and trophies, these days, it’s how little gluten you eat that makes you a good Mom. Does the xanthum gum and kale level count more than anything else? We use Gluten now to make each other feel shitty?

Shame on us.

 Know this and know it well. Every SINGLE mother in the history of all mankind has done her very best with what she knew how and what she could do. So shut your judging thoughts down because you do not know that woman and don’t even for a second pretend that you do. Please don’t throw Gluten into your desperate need to rank parenting skills on some ‘Good Mom Bad Mom’ scale.

I’m not telling you to take your kids to McDonalds every single day but certainly do not answer to random strangers when you do. My children have been to McDonalds, sure they have. If there were a gluten pill that I could take and eat whatever I wanted for a day, the FIRST thing I would go for would be a Big Mac. Don’t feel guilty for taking your kids to McDonalds once in a blue moon or shit, if you have to take them every day for a week. You being happy is one of the best gifts you can give your child.

In the words of a very wise woman I know, “Guilt is a useless emotion.” VK
McDonalds and other less healthy food are what my family call ‘sometimes foods’. Like everything in this world, my children’s lives need balance and yes, that means that once in a while they eat McDonalds and candy and ice cream and last week Trev gave Julia leftover pizza for breakfast, she was thrilled. We use our judgment and our knowledge of our children’s lives to make an informed decision on what goes into their mouths.
My thought process on what my children eat is none of your concern.

So please mothers I beg of you, STOP! Stop judging other mothers and support them. Smile at another mom in the grocery line up when her kid is screaming for a chocolate bar and you watch as she gives in. You were there once and if you weren’t, you will be. Smile at her tell her you get it.

Giving your kid gluten does not make you a bad mother. If your babies get into a warm bed at night in clean-ish clothes with sort of brushed teeth and a dry bum, you win today. As long as they know down to the core of their soul that they are safe, and special and loved, it does not matter one little bit whether broccoli or gluten are in their belly.

Can we keep our eye on the ball here? Please be supportive and kind to the Mom next to you. Sometimes we need to swing by McDonalds, sometimes a kid deserves a chocolate bar. Sometimes a kid skis better when their Mom doesn’t watch so it’s better if she goes to the lounge, has a drink and watches where they can’t see her.

Be the best mom you can, give other mothers your permission to do the same.

Friday 25 January 2013


Check this Video OUT! It is the best thing I have ever seen! Love it!

Tuesday 8 January 2013

The Great Debate

So I have just had a VERY interesting conversation and I think we should discuss this. The conversation was with the Vice President of Operations for a major restaurant chain. The exchange poses some debate and we should talk about it. Well, I will talk about it and you all can just sit there and listen because I’m a bitch like that.

I was recently at this major chain’s restaurant with my family. The chain (like many others) has a Gluten FRIENDLY menu so we decided to eat there because, as you might have heard, I have Celiac Disease and cannot eat Gluten. Just to keep any new people up to date.

On this particular day at this restaurant the floor was getting railed.

*GETTING RAILED – DEFINITION - VERB : having far too many customers for the amount of servers and cooks scheduled to work forcing the servers to scramble and run around frantically to try to serve 17 tables while maintaining some form of customer service which is basically impossible. The cooks must perform the jobs of twice that many chefs in half the time a task again, which is basically impossible. This has happened to every server and cook in the world at one time or another. This causes heavy drinking after shift when you realize that you made no money because your service was so bad and yet your socks are wet from sweat, beer and your own melted dreams.  Otherwise known as: in the weeds, underwater, drowning, bullshit scheduling and getting fucked.  Will one day be a funny story but not for at least a decade.*

Really, the servers kept their heads up and kept smiling despite the crazy flow of people coming in the door. I made it clear to our server that I was Celiac and I said what I say EVERY time I eat at a restaurant. I said, “I am very severe so please ask the chef to use clean pans, clean hands and clean plates when making my food.” The server said they understood.

Bottom line – I ate Gluten. I was sick. I wrote an email.

Now, the Vice President of the company wrote me back and asked to have a phone conversation about the incident which we did. He made it VERY clear that they are NOT a gluten FREE restaurant and that they do not claim to be, nor do they want to be. At any point during your meal, you could consume gluten.  He was very nice and apologetic about the poor service but he said that their Gluten FRIENDLY menu was for the people who select gluten free as a diet choice NOT for Celiacs.
And there is the issue.

This gauntlet once AGAIN falls to that stupid moron who has read some diet book or seen some stupid infomercial and decided that cutting Gluten out of their diet will make them:


 More toned
 The next bachelor
 More energetic
 More dateable
 Have more to talk about at parties
 More fertile
 Dentally desirable,
 More like me.



I am also aware that restaurants don’t make the claim Gluten FREE for liable reasons. They use terms like Gluten SENSITIVE or Gluten AWARE or in this case Gluten FRIENDLY which imply of course that it’s not guaranteed Gluten FREE. I find this interesting because I have no idea how I would EVER prove to a court of law that I was glutened by a restaurant. What am I going to do, get a good old colonoscopy and have the doc take pictures with a polaroid?

Begin completely factious courtroom scene….

“Your honor, please find plaintiff’s exhibit A:  A microscopic picture of the victims Villi. As you can see, it is trampled down and looks like the grass in the field after Coachella. Please note, your honor that I have no way to prove WHAT caused this damage.”

Like really?

ANYWAY, they use the term Gluten FRIENDLY to make it clear, the VP said that they are NOT a Gluten Free Restaurant and that Celiacs should not expect to get a gluten free meal there.

My argument was, then don’t have a Gluten WHATEVER menu. Don’t. Because to be honest, the ONLY people that it ACTUALLY matters to is Celiacs and it DOES give the impression that you know what you are doing - that you have the training in place to handle a special meal like a Gluten Free one. If you can’t do it the whole way, don’t do it at all. I also argued that anyone who cuts Gluten from their diet for any amount of time will start to feel ill when they ingest trace amounts: so even someone without Celiac Disease will get sick from eating somewhere if the kitchen does not use a clean pan or cutting board.


What does a Gluten FRIENDLY menu imply?

In my opinion, a Gluten menu doesn’t need special items on it. Chicken IS Gluten Free, Vegetables, fruits and nuts ARE Gluten Free. It is how these items are prepared that subject them to Gluten. I assume that a Gluten FRIENDLY menu means that every item on there comes to the restaurant without gluten on them and will be prepared in a clean environment.  In my opinion, a special Gluten Menu implies that someone there knows what Celiacs is, maybe that’s my mistake.

But I literally eat out at least twice a week at both chain and upper end exclusive restaurants. Some of my favorite chains for Celiacs are Moxies (awesome allergy awareness), Earls, Montanas, Joey Tomatoes, Chop and even Original Joes does a pretty good job. I have NEVER been sick at any of these restaurants so someone there is making an effort.

Now, the restaurant I went to doesn’t get any complaints about their Gluten friendly options either, in fact, my complaint was the first of its kind. This means that they are doing something right. Which leads of course to the question, what happened in my case?

In my opinion, the floor was too busy, the cooks too busy and the restaurant too packed to ensure the safety of my food. I think that a cook that was totally overwhelmed used a pan that had JUST had a breaded item in it or he didn’t have time to wipe down the cutting board covered in bread crumbs. I think he knew better, I just don’t think he had time. OR he didn’t even know; maybe the server didn’t even have time to ring in the modifiers. That’s what I think happened. I think someone fucked up. I think accidents happen.

But that is just my opinion.

I was however, certainly impressed that I received a call from the company to apologize for the poor service and discuss the matter. A lesser restaurant wouldn’t have given a shit.

 So- here’s the question: what obligations does a restaurant have to Celiacs?

My answer is NONE.

 A restaurant has NO obligation to cater to me if you don’t want my business.

 I think it comes down to customer service. If you want Celiacs at your restaurant, you will make an effort to ensure that actual Gluten FREE food is on your menu and your chefs make every effort to avoid cross contamination when they hear a Celiac is in the house. If you don’t care about the “1 in 100” Celiacs AND their families as a customer, go ahead, gluten away. No hard feelings, just be honest about it.  

 Will accidents happen? Hells ya! Should you just say, we fucked up, really really sorry? Hells ya. Celiacs poison themselves for pete’s sake. That is our life; we won’t die, well, not today anyway.  Eating out is a risk that we take on every time we leave the house.

 It certainly feels like LESS of a risk at a restaurant with a Gluten SENSITIVE menu so if you don’t want us there, don’t have one because in my opinion, it sends the wrong message but that’s just me.

What does everyone else think?

What do you think when you see a special gluten menu at a restaurant? What does that mean to you?

Comment here or tweet me! @afreakingceliac

Wednesday 2 January 2013

Dreamy Vacation

My review of Dream's Tulum...

Let me make it clear that I did not get sick at Dreams Tulum. Not ONCE - not even a little hint of cross contamination. This is fist pump news. Do the dance of joy that Balki Bartokomous does, call home, rent a skywriter because that is freaking awesome!!

Let me ALSO make it clear though that I was convinced I was going to get sick at almost EVERY single meal.

The terror started twenty four hours before we left when I wrote a quick email confirming that the food and beverage manager and the chef would meet with me upon my arrival to discuss my GF options. I had previously engaged in a lengthily email conversation with the hotel and the food and beverage manager as to my dietary issues. Suddenly, the day before we leave he responds with,

"I Hope you arrive during morning time, because I will be leaving from the hotel at 2 pm and I will come back Monday morning.
Our chef is leaving also a this time."

That's a quote.



I lost my shit. Imagine the Hulk writhing and frothing at the mouth while trashing a sedan. That was me. I fucking lost it, my travel agent loses it and my husband loses it. If we could have changed resorts at that moment, we would have. I was terrified. We wrote back long and expressive emails stating how this attitude simply would not do. We called the hotel and vacation company to ensure that my file had indeed been noted.

I was desperate for reassurance.  I always wish I had some magic phone that allows me to call for help. Like, what if I called He-man? After all, he has the power of Greyskull. I doubt that would have helped but still, wouldn't it be AWESOME to call He-Man when you needed him for Celiac emergencies? Right?

I digress...shocker

When we did arrive at the hotel, a chef named Raul came to greet us. He was very kind and told me everything would be fine if I just told my server and the hostess about "my allergy". I couldn't seem to impress upon anyone that I have a disease and not just an allergy but at the end of the day, it didn't really matter. Frankly - it's semantics, call it what ever you want, just take it seriously.

Raul explained that each restaurant had listings of any special requests by guests. This was true. Every hostess knew I was "allergic to gluten" - most however, had no idea what gluten was. Raul also showed me a long list of exclusively gluten free food that would be available to me at the resort. It was in Spanish but the concierge translated that there would be things like "gluten free bread" and "gluten free pancakes" and "Gluten free muffins." when I asked HOW I get any of these items, Raul told me just to ask and the servers would bring it.

This NEVER happened.

I asked every single morning if there were gluten free pancakes or muffins available and they had NO idea what I was talking about. Like staring at me as if I had ten heads type of confusion.

I was given gluten free bread without me asking one night in it's own little basket at dinner at the Portofino while my family ate the soft golden rolls from another basket. I was so thrilled that I asked day after day, over and over, even at the same restaurant again but was told that the resort had nothing of the sort.

 Generally, the servers seemed to have little idea what gluten was and were pretty lackadaisical about the whole thing. When I told them I was "allergic to gluten" they often just smiled, nodded and wrote it down. I had to say a small prayer that someone somewhere understood what I could eat and what I couldn't. This is not to imply that the servers were bad in any way. They were lovely and charming and eager to please, they just had NO idea what Celiac Disease was and therefore took little notice of the seriousness of my issue.

I only had two instances of poor service. When we went the the Chinese Restaurant, I kindly informed our server of my "allergy" the server simply stared at me, stunned and quivering slightly before stuttering the words,"No - no eat here." and walking away as if on a moving sidewalk.Trev and I burst out laughing (the fact that I had consumed buckets of daiquiris that day helped) and were about to leave when another server came over and took care of us. The meal ended up being fantastic.

The hostess at the Bordeau Restaurant attempted to turn me away on Christmas Eve claiming that they had a special menu that night and there was NO way to change it for me. I got upset - really really Kardashian level of upset.

The Bordeau was the only "Adults Only" restaurant in the resort - the kids were at Explorers Club and we were having the first quiet dinner alone that we have had in a long time. My voice cracked as I told the hostess (in front of a ring of servers and a pile of other customers behind me) that this was NOT what we had been told by the many people we had talked to. I had been told that I could eat anywhere on any day. Being sent away shamefully would NOT happen. She panicked completely and rightfully and ushered us inside implying that there had been some confusion. She begged me to "please don't cry - it's not pretty for your face."

 Damn right it's not. You know what's pretty for my face? Champagne, that's what.

 Merry Christmas.

My recommendation for Dreams Tulum would be to add some sort of stock response for your staff when anyone says they have Celiacs. Something like, "We have served people with Celiac's before and the chef can prepare something that you will love and it will be safe for you to eat."

Something - anything to reassure the guest. IF someone emails to enquire, have another stock response that you send back to the guest, one that reassures and instills confidence in the guest. Despite language barriers, your customer will feel confident about staying at Dreams Tulum.

Celiac's SHOULD feel comfortable about staying there, you guys GET it but you just don't TELL the guest that you get it. Brag about it, tell people that you KNOW what you are doing because at the end of the day, you DO know what you are doing and you do it well. Just instill that confidence in your guests and you are golden.

A shout out to Claudia in the World Cafe and El Patio for being one of the most authentic delightful human beings I have ever known. Other amazing service was given by Ivan at El Patio and Sebastian at the Seaside Grill. As far a liquids go, Jesus (pronounced Hey-zeus NOT Jeee-zuz for the fucking morons I sat beside at the swim up who were sadly Canadian - they also thought my wedding rings were for show) and Bento made our vacation perfect.

Let me also make it clear that I enjoyed every single meal I had at Dreams Tulum. The quality and plating was stunning, the flavours amazing and the service outstanding. My children were treated like valued guests and were fawned over with bright happy faces.

We will be back to visit Dreams Tulum because it had a gorgeous mix of the comfort of the small resort mixed with an extravagant luxurious private vacation. It was beautiful and delicious and fantastic and I loved every minute of it.