For years now, people have becoming more and more aware of their health and dietary needs. It used to be that people who had ‘garlic allergies’, or ‘salt concerns’, or even, heaven forbid, ‘gluten allergies’, had to stay home because they were ignored or isolated in dining establishments as ‘problem customers’.
“oh geez, one of those….” was a fairly common term in the kitchens of local restaurants.
If you made the mistake of specifying a Gluten Free menu choice on a airplane, you were served last, or in our case, served a moldy meal from 4 flights ago. Our granddaughter had a gluten free hot lunch at school and came home upset because everybody else got a bun and she didn’t.
So May is Celiac Awareness Month. There has been a lot of talk about Celiac Disease and for those of you not yet aquainted with it:
“Celiac disease is an autoimmune digestive disease that damages the villi of the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food. What does this mean? Essentially the body is attacking itself every time a person with celiac consumes gluten.”
In a nutshell, it’s a bad thing with serious consequences.
Celiac Disease is hard to diagnose. There are tests you can take but it is always best to consult a Health Practitioner for a proper diagnosis. But there are a lot of us who suffer from gluten sensitivity – we don’t generally feel good after eating gluten. A few years ago, we cut back on our gluten intake because we were just feeling tired and we read a book from a friend with cancer, The Thrive Diet by Brendan Brazier, the creator of Vega Foods. The elimination of gluten from our diet was really difficult on my part because sitting down with a big plate of pasta and a glass of red wine was my comfort food. This was usually followed by a strong desire to take a nap, and it wasn’t until I put those two things together that I decided to change my diet. Once that decision is made, it’s pretty easy. The trick is to literally change your diet. If you try to ‘replace’ items in your diet, such as bread, buns, etc., it can become quite expensive and you find yourself travelling around looking for the best loaf of gluten free bread you can find. A lot of local bakeries do a fine job on their gluten bread, but it really is easier to change habits I found.
Gluten comes in an incredibly large array of products that you wouldn’t believe. When we started being aware of gluten products here at Union Street, we did our research and found gluten in soy sauce, breaded products, seasonings, commercial foods, pharmaceutical products, ice cream, virtually anything that the producer wanted to bulk up. Gluten is a starch, so it combines products in sauces, in ferments to create different flavours and textures and it’s relatively cheap, so it can stretch a product for added profit.
We first introduced a Gluten Free Menu at Union Street in 2008. Since then, we have changed a lot of our products, and created new sauces and baked goods that are all gluten free. Our cream soups, cream sauces, all our desserts and Tapas are all gluten free now. We offer substitutions with gluten free pasta, organic brown rice and rice noodles. With all of the research we have done, it has become a dietary way of life. You can still get burgers (although we’ve created “Tostadas” – our burgers on crispy corn tortillas), and our regular pastas. Our famous Steak Sandwich is still served on Artisan Potato Rosemary bread, but try it as a Tostada, you might be equally impressed!
Whatever your dietary needs or comforts, moderation is the key. Do your research about the effects of gluten and you decide.