The Pasta in the Water

Posted: 2015-12-10

I had the pleasure of writing a blog post for TouchPoint Resource Pool
You can find the original blog post here


Even if you’re not a fan of the TV show Bones I invite you to follow me through this case study based on real events and see how quickly you can spot the oversight.

Let’s pretend for a moment that you have discovered, after a long battle with health issues, you are sensitive to wheat and gluten. Upon this discovery and a shift in food lifestyle you feel like you have your life back. You’re getting along well.

One of your biggest adjustments is missing the pasta from your favorite Italian place. The food, the ambiance, the staff… PERFECTO!

A coworker lets you know that they have just added gluten free pasta to their menu. You do your happy dance and at your next opportunity, you head on over.

Your meal was excellent. Very close in taste to your old favorite. They have done well. Now you know you can totally do this gluten free thing!

A few hours later you begin to feel ill. It keeps getting worse and for the next few days you are miserable. You go over and over in your mind what you ate and you can’t figure it out.

You return to the restaurant a few weeks later and the same thing happens. You call and confirm with the cook the ingredients of the gluten free pasta. He assures that is what he made for you and that they did everything to make sure your meal was made gluten free.

You give them the benefit of the doubt, though with a little fear, and go again. Before you leave you begin to feel ill. You are really worried that it isn’t just gluten but the ingredients of the gluten free pasta too. You express your sadness to the manager.

She invites you in the kitchen to show you the package. She wants to keep you as a diner for sure and wants you to know exactly what ingredients they are using. She even asks you about other brand options.

Standing by the many pots where all the pasta is cooking for current diners you ask “Which one is the gluten free pasta pot?”

“Oh, we don’t have a specific pot for that, we just put it one of the pots without regular pasta already cooking in it.”

“So, you’re cooking the gluten free pasta in the same water you cook the regular pasta?”

“Yes, just not at the same time.”

You are relieved as you now realize why you have been so sick. And, that this should be totally solvable.

You share your concern and the need of a dedicated pot for gluten free pasta. They quickly understand and apologize profusely for missing that step. It just had never occurred to them. They thought it was about cross contact with the food.

Though you feel very ill as you leave you are excited to most likely have your favorite eatery back. And extremely grateful that you, or no one else, had come in with an actual wheat allergy.

Whether you are cooking for a customer, a family member or friend with sensitivities, allergies, celiac disease or religious dietary guidelines, it is always a good idea to take time to think through the process of preparation in regards to their specific needs. Cooking and cutting surfaces, toasters, knives, etc. Things we don’t often think of can sneak by our notice when habits take over. And for some the beautiful meal that much effort and care has gone into in preparation can accidentally be the courier of unpleasantness to come… the sad reality is for some that might mean a trip to the hospital or even death.

Sharing food with family and friends is enjoyable and so integral to our culture. Something to keep in mind all through the year but especially now as the holidays are clearly in our grasp. Being thoughtful and mindful in our food prep is key for many of our family and friends to stay healthy, well and safe.


About the Author:

Judy Breuer is from Wellness Renaissance. 

Wellness Renaissance provides various certified Food Allergy training designed for managers, chefs, front of the house and back of the house staff as well as consulting and general education on allergies, sensitivities and celiac disease.
Judy is our anchor TouchPoint partner in the Duluth area.