Sorry we haven’t blogged in FOREVER – we both have been settling in at school. But don’t worry; we will be back on track in no time!
Brooke here - just wanted to share some gluten free experiences I’ve had in St. Louis so far.
This year I brought my car to school in order to ease gluten free living in St. Louis, especially since gluten free isn’t all that familiarized in the Lou. Food shopping has been great and I’ve been getting by on Van’s Gluten Free Waffles, Edy’s Strawberry Frozen Fruit Bars, and Special K Protein Shakes, not to mention Wash U's amazing gluten free dining program; but I find that nothing compares to a fulfilling meal at a good restaurant.
One Sunday morning my friend Jacob and I decided to go for brunch. I wanted to go to First Watch, a franchise diner that is great with gluten free, but Jacob insisted on me trying new restaurants in the area. He understands my frustrations with St. Louis gluten free and wants me to find restaurants where I can eat to break my typical restaurant cycle.
So he took me to Winslow’s Home, a St. Louis favorite, located at 7213 Delmar Blvd, only a few minutes from Wash U’s campus. I only agreed to go if they could make me eggs, even though secretly I was craving First Watch’s potatoes. When it was our turn to order, I asked for two eggs sunny side up, and decided to be daring and ask if the breakfast potatoes were gluten free or not; who could it hurt?
After a silent few seconds, I then asked, “Can you ask the chef or something? I have Celiac.” When they continued blankly staring at me, I then said, “I’m highly allergic to gluten.” Once they heard allergy they began taking me somewhat seriously, and finally asked the chef. The woman emerged from the kitchen very quickly and confirmed that the potatoes were gluten free. That seemed easy.
As I paid, feeling confident in my brunch choice, I noticed on the Winslow's menu under sandwiches it said, “GLUTEN FREE ADD $2.00.” I was excited and confused at the same; excited because I could finally have a gluten free grilled cheese out of New York state, and confused as to why the women at the cash register didn’t know what gluten free was. But I didn’t care; I already told my roommates and myself that we had a date at Winslow’s for the next weekend. Gluten free grilled cheese was on my mind all week.
Friday couldn’t have rolled around slower, but Lexi, Julia, Emily, and I knew what we were in for: Winslow’s Home Gluten Free Grilled Cheese. I think my roommates were more excited than I was, so they let me order first. I ran up to the counter and proudly ordered, okay-ing the additional $2.00 for gluten free bread.
When I went to pay, I asked if the gluten free sandwiches were made separately, which was more of a rhetorical question just to ease my mind. Winslow’s has plenty of organic, farm fresh foods, I figured they’d know all the in’s and out’s of gluten free. I was wrong. Once again, the cashier looked over to the woman standing next to her (different staff this time) for an answer; they both looked at me as if I had nine heads. The woman then asked, “What do you mean?” I began explaining that gluten free needs to be made separately and she replied “We don’t think about those type of things.” I could not believe how patronizing her response was. I responded, calmly but firmly, that gluten free must be made separately due to the severity of Celiac Disease and cross-contamination. This explanation was lost on her. She once again responded, “We don’t think about those type of things.” I could not believe this. I then began explaining that they cannot advertise their food as gluten free if it is not gluten free. I continued explaining cross-contamination, the severity of my disease, and how sick I could be if I ate this sandwich because it was falsely advertised as gluten free. She did not care. She was neither understanding nor apologetic.
My inner Celiac advocate emerged, along with slight frustration, and I told this woman that they absolutely CANNOT advertise their sandwiches as gluten free when they are grilled in the same machine as gluten filled sandwiches; I said that I have a disease and ingesting even the slightest bit of gluten can make me extremely sick. I asked to speak to the manager, and she said she was the current manager. I asked her name and she told me it was Sara. I asked to speak to the owner, but Sara told me they were at the farm. Sara did not seem concerned, and continued patronizing me, probably hoping I’d back down. I would not. I asked for the owner’s contact, and she gave it to me. She, still, was neither understanding nor apologetic. She didn’t realize what gluten free actually meant, and tried excusing the miscommunication with the new introduction of gluten free bread in the restaurant. I wasn’t taking that.
Not only did I feel that I was being patronized due to my young appearance, but also due to my disease and eating restraints. Not only was I frustrated, but my roommates were also. They felt as if I was spoken down to, ignored, and blatantly disrespected. They agreed with my decision when I swore I would never step into Winslow’s again. They encouraged me to blog about it on Celiac Sisters.
I checked out the Winslow’s Home website, and under the “About Us” tab, it states:
“At Winslow's Home, we strive to bring together warm, caring and intelligent people who are the best in their field. We believe in diversity, sustainability, and giving back to the community.”
The people helping me were not the best in their field. They did not even know what gluten free entailed. I did not feel cared for or welcomed. The food attempted to be diverse by offering gluten free, but it was not done so properly, so that statement was moot. I am a part of the St. Louis community being a Wash U student, but felt ostracized.
Under the “Food” tab, it states:
“Our goal at Winslow's Home is to provide you with local, seasonal, thoughtful food honestly prepared before your eyes.”
My food was not thoughtful. It was not prepared honestly.
“We strive to ensure that our food arrives to the table with its integrity intact.”
If I ordered a supposed gluten free grilled cheese sandwich, it would arrive at my table unreliable. Unsafe.
“We want its taste, texture, smell & appearance to make the utmost impact on your senses, heart and soul.”
My food would not make the utmost impact on my senses, heart and soul; but rather on my small intestine, stomach, and digestive tract.
Unfortunately, my off campus experience at Winslow’s Home was NOT a positive one, but I still have hope for the future. All you St. Louis Celiacs make sure to ask before you order! And First Watch, I’ll be in any day now for some First Watch Potatoes.
Peace, Love, Gluten Free,