“Do you not WANT to eat wheat, or are you actually allergic?” I got this question asked several times lately, eating out in Amsterdam. But… does it actually matter if I don’t want, or can’t eat anything? I think the actual question is: do you, as a restaurant owner, want to be flexible, or not?
Right now, there is some friction in the food industry. More and more research is done about the (medicinal or rather allergic) effects of certain nutrients. Healthy eating is a trend; there are more foodies than fashionistas nowadays. There’s a proper countermovement going on too; places that only sell burgers or chicken with fries rise from the ground, next to the salad and slow juice bars.
In general, people are more and more aware of their food choices, and this is a good thing.It is important to listen to our bodies and decide what to eat accordingly. If you don’t have any problems eating gluten, by all means, eat gluten. I mean, this cracks me up too. But as I wrote earlier, I have an allergy for dairy and for wheat. And although I love to go out for dinner, when I just found out about my food allergies, I hardly dared to ask for the menu’s dairy and wheat free options. I would even be polite and eat something, although I could taste it was prepared in butter. The next day, I had to pay the price: my digestion wouldn’t work properly, my eyes would be swollen, my skin red and inflamed.
I realized I did set myself up for disaster by telling myself beforehand I would not be able to eat anything according to my diet. It took me a while to change this attitude, but it worked! Now, going into a restaurant, I am full of confidence there will be something lovely to eat, wheat and dairy free, something my body is happy with. Of course, I have a look at the menu beforehand, and when in doubt, I make a phone call to check. And seriously, I never had a problem again. Until the Dutch Government decided to tighten the rules. Every ingredient used for every dish on the menu should be listed. From my former work at a bagel shop, I know that as a restaurant owner you have to follow up to more rules than possible (in order to still have time to actually cook and serve food). Dutch people are kings in creating rules. So I fully understand, more rules are simply not welcome. And if you just want to serve what’s on the menu, it’s fine with me, and I think with most people. There is no reason for friction.
I’m always looking for restaurants where the chefs don’t mind working around my diet. And other people just like to be surprised and eat everything the chef will serve them. So honest communication is all we need, to make everybody happy. I want to know if you are willing to meet my dietary requests, or not. I respect you either way. But I also respect my body, and I want to feel good. And I really don’t think it matters if people don’t WANT to eat something, or if they CAN’T eat something. It’s up to you, the restaurant owner, the chef, if you want to be flexibel or not.
(By the way, I read an article from a German doctor who forecasts that in a few years, 70% of the people will have been diagnosed with an allergy or intolerance for wheat (even gluten) and cow dairy. Over-production, lack of enzymes, large molecules; it’s just not easy for people to digest. But more about that later.)