Thursday 22 June 2017

Restaurants Are Terrifying Unless You Have A Tracy!

A Celiac at a restaurant. She knows she is going to die. 

Let me tell you something, come in close now, real close. You listening? Good. EATING AT A RESTAURANT AS A CELIAC IS TERRIFYING. I'm not being dramatic or extreme's fucking terrifying. Alfred Hitchcock level of scary. I know Celiacs that never eat out...ever. It's THAT scary.

You have to put so much trust in so many people. People you don't know, nor particularly like, and you just have to pray. Pray and wish and hope and dream like a Disney Princess waiting for a prince or an education.

You have to trust the waitress and hope they were trained properly, can read, aren't hung over and don't have too many tables so they have the time to listen to your lengthily order and that they aren't fighting with the kitchen so they will tell them about your Celiacs. You have to trust the chefs, that they have heard of Celiacs, and know what in their kitchen contains gluten. You have to trust their trainer who months or years ago taught them what they needed to know about cross contamination and pray that on that day, everyone had their thinking caps on. You have to trust that the hostess controlled the flow of guests and didn't seat twenty tables all at once causing the kitchen to crash and burn in a blinding wall of tickets, leading them to not be able to see, or have time to prepare, your Gluten Free meal. You have to trust the manager, that they treat their staff well, and encourage them to take their time with special orders and double check all meals for quality and accuracy. You have to trust the owners, to adhere to the guidelines and spend the money training everyone about Celiacs. They also have to make sure that the products on their GF mcnu, are indeed Gluten Free and that their suppliers notify them of content changes. a LOT of trust.

Every once in a while though, I find a gem of a restaurant who gets it. Really, really gets it and it's the most satisfying thing you could imagine. Eating out is such a simple thing for the rest of the world and it's so rare for a Celiac to feel that simplicity.

I got to get that feeling when I visited the Chateau Louis Hotel and Conference Centre for the Gluten Free  Festival put on by the Edmonton Chapter of the Canadian Celiac Association. I was invited to be a speaker and I personally, was just excited to get a night away from the spawn and attend the festival. The restaurant was just a massive bonus. The Chateau Louis is this charming hotel close to the Edmonton downtown core. The rooms were clean and the bed was super comfy. After registering and scoping out the vendor fair at the Chateau Louis Convention Centre, we walked back along a covered flowered walkway to the dining room.

I was a little nervous to see that the dining room had a Pasta Buffet that night which for a Celiac is the worst thing ever. However, a lovely server came up to let me know that about eighty percent of  the buffet was Celiac friendly. Not just vaguely 'gluten aware' we are talking CELIAC FRIENDLY. That means all the ingredients have been checked, that they have exclusive equipment and are careful with every little step of the food preparation process. This was big news people.

So once we get seated, I decided to order off the menu because there was some seriously awesome stuff on there, even though the buffet looked amazing too. The lovely server's name was Tracy and she wasn't just lovely, she was fantastic. Tracy wasn't just happy and charming, she was super smart and knew everything a server needs to know about Celiacs and eating gluten free. She made great recommendations, she made sure the chefs knew about my meal and made sure I knew that my meal would take a little bit longer because it was being made from scratch. From scratch! She even added, "I hope that's okay."

Uhhhhhh yeah... that's okay. That's awesome! That's amazing! That's the best thing I have heard all day!

I had the mushroom soup and the Shrimp and Scallop Rizotto. It was one of the best meals I have ever had. I was in Celiac heaven.

We couldn't stay after the conference because we can only unload the spawn off on friends for so long because they are kind of annoying, but I totally wish we had! Turns out, the Chateau Louis has a completely Gluten Free Prime Rib Buffet on Saturday nights! Wow! I was so sad to miss it but might just make a plan to go back to Edmonton JUST to eat there.

Thank you Chateau Louis Hotel and Conference Centre for a wonderful stay. Thank you Tracy for being so smart and charming. Thank you Chefs for taking the time I know you don't have to feed us Celiacs.

Thank you to the Canadian Celiac Association Edmonton Chapter for inviting me to speak at the Gluten Free Festival. I had an amazing time.

Make sure you make the Chateau Louis a stop when you visit Edmonton, you will be as gleefully happy as I was.

Here is a few clips of my talk where I delve into the horror that is, restaurants for Celiacs.

Sunday 11 June 2017

Laughter and Love at the Edmonton Gluten Free Festival

I have no idea what I am saying here, but I guarantee that it was more funny than informative

WOW! I am still reeling from the fantastic weekend I just had. I had the privilege of attending the Canadian Celiac Association's Gluten Free Festival put on by their Edmonton Chapter. For those of you who are not from Alberta, you need to know something. Calgary and Edmonton have not always gotten along.We are technically sister cities and like sisters, we bicker, are often jealous and constantly vie for attention from our parents (two yuppy hippy types on the other side of the country named Trudeau). Calgary thinks that Edmonton is all hoity-toity because they are the Capital of our province. Edmonton feels that Calgary is all hoity-toity because they have the Stampede. And then there's the hockey thing. UGH the hockey thing! The battle never ends. For years, the Calgary Flames and the Edmonton Oilers have battled for top spot in the NHL and as you can imagine, we take hockey seriously....very seriously.

But of course, I jumped at the chance to speak and be the comic relief at the festival. To be honest, my heart stopped a little when I saw my name listed among the other speakers. There were Doctors and experts and then little old me with a bio that described me as a 'below average wife to the most patient man in the world'. The contrast was equally concerning and entertaining. At the end of the jam packed day though, I had learned a lot, made some new friends, and got to ramble like a drunk asshole into a mic for forty five minutes and make people laugh (except for the man in the red shirt who just sat there with his arms crossed, lip tight and scowling the whole time - I know you were laughing on the inside pal....I know it). I also got to eat like a Gluten Free Queen.

As the president of the Canadian Celiac Association, Anne Wagget stated, for us Celiacs, it's all about the food. Ohhhhh the food. I was giddy about the food. First of all, it was on a buffet, which normally makes us Celiacs pop Atavan like Pez to ease our anxiety. But this time, we could eat everything. EVERYTHING. For those of you who get to eat a buffets all the time, number one, you're an asshole for showing off, second, know that Celiacs don't like to touch buffets for a lot of reasons.

 First, it's rare to see the ingredients listed on a buffet, making anything with a sauce or a spice, or cooked for that matter, off limits. Second, even if there is something that you are fairly sure you can have, the possibility of some jerkoff who was ahead of you in line swapping out the tongs is huge. Seriously gluten eaters, just use the spoon provided for that item. If someone else is using it, just fucking wait for the serving utensil. If you can't wait seventeen seconds to put a damn tater tot on your plate causing you to grab at the fruit tongs and subsequently cross contaminate all the fruit so I can't eat it, you have big problems my dear, big problems. Stop screwing with the system and use the tongs provided you lazy ass.

But at the Gluten Free Festival, we could eat the entire thing. There was no fear of cross contamination, or improper handling of our food, we could just, relax and eat. For breakfast there was sausage, bacon, fruit, eggs, pancakes and toast. TOAST! Fucking TOAST! I almost lost my mind. I looked at my husband and said "I am eating toast from a buffet table." I'm not ashamed to admit that my voice cracked with emotion as I said it. I was amazed at how calm we all were about the whole thing. Everyone showed massive restraint. I was half expecting someone to just jump up on the table and go savage on that tray of toast. I can just picture some lady (okay, it's me), squatting on the table like a gorilla, fisting handfuls of toast into her mouth, chunks of Kinnikinnick bread flying around and crumbs stuck in her mascara. Lunch was sandwiches (SANDWICHES!) and salad. There was no worries about the dressing or the mayo or the deli meat. The relief of this, to me, was palpable.

On breaks, we could peruse the vendor fair which was an amazing display of awesomeness.

There was:
Arbonne                                                         NuPasta                                           Stellas
Blue Kettle Specialty Foods                          Only Oats                                        U of A Research
Celebrate Gluten Free                                    PastyPie
Dr. Schar                                                        Rio Vida Bakery
Epicure                                                           Screamin' Brothers
Hair of Rachel                                                Simply Delish Soup and Salad
Heart to Home Meals                                     Snyder's of Hanover
Monat Global                                                 Sobeys


As far as friends go, hanging around with a big bunch of Celiacs was some kind of wonderful. We had conversations that would make regular people cringe. Within moments of meeting someone, we were talking about common symptoms, including terms like 'loose stools'. It was kind of fantastic, not to you, gluten eater, but to a Celiac who often doesn't hang out with other Celiacs, this was wicked fun. There were so many inside jokes, and common stories, I was in Celiac heaven.

When it was my turn to talk, I wasn't even nervous because suddenly, I was just talking to a bunch of friends about the one thing we all share. They laughed a lot at my stuff, (red shirt guy) which was nice of them, and we all had a great day. I was filled with warm fuzzies and glowing happiness. After I was done, the co-chair of the event, Don Briggs came up and presented me with a thank you card. In true Alberta form, and to remind me that sisters only get along in short bursts, Don tucked an Edmonton Oilers key chain in my card. Funny shit. Fuuuuunnnny shit. Celiacs crack me up.

Note to Calgarians, I WILL be using this key-chain and will NOT be putting up with any sass

I'll be posting again shortly about all the amazing factoid stuff I learned and I'll be talking about the hotel and their amazingness. In the meantime, here is couple of little clips of my talk. If you want to see more, you can go to the next Canadian Celiac Association Conference and hopefully, I will be asked to speak again! That, or they will block my email and pretend they never met me.

With Laurie Lyons, honestly, it could go either way.