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Hibachi Food and Hidden Gluten Hazards (How to Celebrate Gluten-Free)

I recently celebrated my 22nd birthday at a Japanese hibachi restaurant. Knowing that the food would be cooked in front of me I felt safe that I would not get sick. I have been to this sort of restaurant before and it was a success. I am very careful when it comes to ordering Japanese or Chinese food because teriyaki sauce and soy sauce contain gluten.

Something went wrong on this Tuesday night. I was with about 15 of my closest friends, and the chef was very entertaining. I was so excited and distracted that I let my guard down. I left the restaurant feeling fine and continued to have a couple drinks with friends. A couple hours later what I like to call my "gluten stomach-ache" hit. It was late and I had already done my share of celebrating, but I couldn't help but blame the restaurant.

I did a lot of thinking the next day to figure out what made me so sick. Here is what I think...although I have had this disease for over five years, I made a major slip up. As I watched the chef cook the food he kept the rice separate from the noodles. Although he cooked the rice in front of us first, he used the same spatula to move the noodles out of his way. I don't know if it was the excitement of my birthday or me being distracted, but I did not pay enough attention to this. The food tasted great and he did not add any sauce;
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I guess I thought I was in the clear.

Another thought my friends and I had was that there may have been gluten in my drink. I am very careful when it comes to ordering drinks. I have learned the hard way that some alcoholic beverages they say "might" contain gluten really do make me sick. So I ordered a drink made of only rum and juices--a safe bet for me. The drink was great, but when I ordered my second I did not specify to them over again that I wanted the same exact drink. Again because I was so distracted this drink may have contained something I could not tolerate.

The two major lesson here are:
  1. Do not try out a new restaurant on your birthday. Stick with a place you know is safe for you. When you are in a big group like that it is easy to forget that checking for gluten is your first priority. Save the experimentation for a night where you can take your time and make sure it is safe.
  2. If you are ordering a mixed drink, make sure you watch them make it! This is something I always do. When it comes to wine you are safe, but it's sad to say that some bartenders do make major mess ups.
Lastly, it is important to remember the language barrier when you are out to eat. Eating international foods it great, but many other cultures do not understand what a gluten allergy is. We need to be very careful and very patient. Keep an eye on what is going on in front of you, try not to get distracted--like I did!

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