But before we do, know that I love you. Know that I understand. Know that I live with the same frustrations you do every day of my life.
Having said that, I'm just going to come out and say it...we need to stop this sense of entitlement I see every day.
I'm a member of several online coeliac support groups and forums and at least once a day there is a post from someone bemoaning the existence of "low gluten" foods or "virtually gluten free" foods or restaurants who do not cater to us or who state that they cannot guarantee there will not be cross-contamination in their kitchen, yet they cater for vegetarians who everyone then hates for choosing their way of life when we didn't get a choice. Every day there is someone who is angry about these things and at least twenty others who jump on the self-pity bandwagon.
I think low gluten, virtually gluten free and no guarantees of cross-contamination are good things. You know why? Because I would rather people in the food industry be honest with me so I can make an informed decision. That muffin is low gluten? Then it's not for me. Those cakes are virtually gluten free? Not for me. You can't guarantee there won't be any cross-contamination? Probably not the place for me then.
This restaurant can cater for a vegetarian but not for me? I get that. Vegetarians are easier to cater for. Vegetarianism has been more prevalent for longer and isn't as misunderstood. For the most part, vegetarians aren't going to projectile vomit all over your restaurant, go into anaphylactic shock on the spot or sue you if you accidentally serve them an animal product. Vegetarians are safe and not as hard work as coeliacs are. Whether we chose to be hard work or not is not a restaurant's problem. Making money and not killing anyone are their priorities.
Not one of the places I see being complained about have advertised their goods as coeliac friendly. Not one. All they are doing is being honest with us. Guess what else - as coeliacs we do not have the monopoly on the gluten free food industry. Remember our friends with non-coeliac gluten sensitivity? The ones who can eat gluten if they wish without damaging themselves but can suffer awful symptoms like we do? They may eat a low gluten muffin. They may take a chance on something that's virtually gluten free. Those with Lyme Disease may. Those who are avoiding FODMAPs might. There are many medical reasons someone may be avoiding gluten but don't have to be as strict as coeliacs do. And I'm happy for them that they have the option of something low gluten! I'm happy gluten is even being recognised as something anyone avoids because when I was diagnosed seven years ago, it certainly wasn't. Low gluten is at least a step in the right direction.
Fad dieters will eat low gluten foods with one hand and drink a beer with the other, and they'll ask for the gluten free option on the menu then eat a basket of bread so no, I don't like fad dieters any more than you do but they're here and they don't appear to be going anywhere any time soon so why get angry about it? Why are we getting angry about any of it? Anger doesn't solve anything, it just makes us look entitled and difficult and gives us a bad name. It's not only fad dieters who cause the eye rolls. We're doing it to ourselves.
You know what gets things done? Patience. Understanding. Education. I knew nothing about coeliac disease before I was diagnosed because I didn't need to. It wasn't on my radar, it wasn't a priority, it wasn't important to me. Yet we assume everyone else who isn't diagnosed cares or wants to understand or even considers coeliac disease in their everyday lives. They don't. Because they don't need to. Restaurants will continue to make money without us. Muffins will continue to be eaten by others. They don't need our business so they don't need to understand us.
On the flip side of that - everyone likes money and everyone likes to make more of it so why aren't we appealing to that? Why aren't we taking the time to educate those in the food industry and telling them what's in it for them. Letting them know that if they slap gluten free on something with a guarantee that it is legitimately gluten free, they've just increased their market. Ka-ching! When we take the time to explain things and educate people, we are heard. When we stamp our feet and throw our toys out of the cot and act like the world owes us a living, we are dismissed as too much hard work, which I personally can't blame them for.
The world doesn't owe us anything. We got a shitty deal (no pun intended) and it comes with so many more issues than people realise. We're faced with food every day and every day it's a struggle. But it's manageable, it could be worse, and it isn't anyone else's problem. We are in charge of our own health, no one else. Let's stop living up to our own stereotype and making our own lives difficult, and start being a positive, united voice of coeliac disease. Let's change things for the better, for our own sake, and for the sake of those who are yet to be diagnosed, or those just starting to get used to the coeliac way of life. Change is already happening, we just need to help it along, not take it out on the rest of the world when progress isn't as fast as we'd like it to be. We have the knowledge so let's use it and work towards a brighter coeliac future!