I don't know about you guys, but when I was first diagnosed with celiac disease anyone and everyone had a pizza place recommendation for me (okay, let's be real - they all still do, God bless them). Don't get me wrong, I'm glad pizza joints are riding the G-free crust train - it certainly brings some form of awareness to our dietary needs - but are they doing it right?
A few months ago, I frequented Spin! Pizza in Kansas City, a delicious, local gourmet pizza place that roots and toots their allergen-friendly options. Everyone (none who have celiac) told me to go to Spin! whenever I needed a pizza fix, and I had to agree! I'd been there a few times pre-diagnosis and damn, their pies are good.
Just not for celiacs.
Unfortunately, I learned this the hard way.
On my first post-diagnosis visit, I went through my spiel, making sure my crust was prepared on a clean surface and placed in a special spot in the wood-fired oven. I even ordered a salad since they ensured me mine would be devoid of croutons. I'll be honest, I didn't think to ask any more - this restaurant seemed to "get it."
A few bites into my salad, though I noticed something a little too crunchy.
You know how gluten makes things extra delicious? It has that texture that no matter whether it's chewy or crunchy there is nothing else that can honestly compare no matter how hard our beloved gluten-free companies try? Yeah. Suddenly my salad was extra delicious.
That's when I saw it. The devilish rye crouton infecting my holy leafy greens.
In any other situation I would have gone all T-Swift on this establishment. But, like every charming man who wins your heart only to crush it with some moronic, male move and then beg for sweet, sweet mercy, they gave me a $20 coupon and asked that I give them another try (psh, I wish I'd get $20 in every break up).
And like every girl who holds her ground for so long, with countless "girls' nights" and Wine Wednesdays, there was a weak moment, a lonely night, where I was two days away from payday and $30 over my monthly budget...
So, Round Two at Spin! Pizza. Remember that lonely night? Turns out my singledom worked in my favor this time. Ordering a small pizza to-go allowed me the opportunity to chill at the bar that overlooks the pizza prep area. Pizza after pizza went through the queue, and finally I spotted my little rice flour dough ball. They did what they promised, and plopped it on a special little pan, but what they didn't do was ensure that everything else going on that special little pan would be uncontaminated.
Wheat flour. Is. Everywhere. behind the toppings bar at Spin! Pizza. In the air, on their hands, dusting the counter - everywhere.
As my little dough ball went through the line, my pizza maker took her gloved hand and wiped the excess flour off the counter. Then she took the same gloved hand and put it into one of the containers of toppings and sprinkled them on my pizza.
I was horrified.
Fight or flight? This time: flight.
It was the first time I've ever left a restaurant because I didn't feel safe eating there. And as hard and weird as it was having to defend my health decision to the manager and ask him to please cancel the order, I left surprisingly proud.
Spin! Pizza's reaction was very human. "Sometimes it gets messy back there by the salad bar." "Other people who can't have gluten eat here all the time and are fine." And really, I can recognize their humanity. I'm sure the salad bar does get messy, and I'm sure other gluten-free eaters are fine eating here.
But when I'm eating anything, I need perfection. Humanity alone isn't going to cut it. Others rely on scientifically tested drugs and treatments for their remedies, but mine? Mine is eating a safe meal. I take my medicine three times a day, and I have to have the correct dosage, just like those with other diseases.
But my prescription is for none. I can't have any. And while I know ultimately, I should have asked more questions about how my food was being prepared, I just wish that restaurants like this would get properly educated. Offering "gluten-free" food is fantastic, but can you really feel okay when that offering is contaminated? Is that still free of gluten to you?
So, Spin! Pizza, I'm sorry. It is you, not me. Well, maybe it is me, too. But I'm proud of how I am, and I'm proud to turn you away.
Take it away, T-Swift.
Image courtesy of Local Eats