The Coeliac UK Gluten Free Challenge: Day 4

I’ve lost the hesitancy when asking for gluten free; it no longer feels as if it might be a kind of ‘whisper-it’ word. I’m asking everyone: including several newsagents whether they have any GF snack bars (they didn’t know what it meant), and the chap at the local off-license whether he stocked GF beer (he didn’t – but he knew what it was; hopefully he’ll get some in). Maybe I’m merely challenging and daring people to roll their eyes at me and be rude or sarcastic – sooner or later surely someone will? – and I’m curious how I might react.

I spent the day with two of my favouritest friends. First up was H, who was hungry. I let her decide where we would eat and she chose Carluccio’s, pipping Yo Sushi. A chirpy young Neopolitan waitress served us, and I quite apologetically told her I required gluten free (why apologetically, I’m not quite sure).

“No problem – I’ll get the gluten-free menu.”

Now I’d heard a few positive noises about Carluccio’s on the GF front, but this still came close to making my eyes water. I was so chuffed I slipped enthusiastically into Italian. Turns out the waitress was a former employer of a major GF food company and she really Knew Her Stuff. I think she was the first non-coeliac all week who had used the word ‘coeliac’ with me (or ‘celiachia’ in this case), and also as if it were just another word (which of course it is).

Having expected to order a risotto, I instead ate a corn and rice pasta – beautifully yellow and cooked al dente – with a red sauce, and it was perfectly agreeable. My friend put away the bread nibbles and a lasagne. Credit where it’s due – Carluccio’s deserve it for a GF menu. But could they perhaps go a little step further and just get a little GF bread or crackers in too? I don’t want to be moany but I really fancied something with the olives!

We went elsewhere for sweet. But we failed, because at the coffee bar we randomly chose at St Pancras station, they had no GF cakes or desserts. I had tea only. And, I swear, it is only as I am writing this and remembering it that I have realised I have gone wrong – I put milk in my tea, thus failing the lactose-free part of my experiment. How very easy it is to slip up.

Later I went to visit my old mate M. He did, actually, roll his eyes and groan when I told him about the week’s diet plan – albeit good naturedly – and then proceeded to grill me on it. Can you eat cous cous? What about semolina? I’ll let him off the sarcasm, not just because he’s a pal and I didn’t want to boff him on the nose for his dissent, but also because he was genuinely interested and I taught him a lot.

That’s Awareness Week in action, right?

To learn more about Coeliac UK's Gluten-free Challenge, click here.

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