Alright, I’m going to be straight with you: I haven’t been on a typical “date” in over 5 years. I’m in a happy relationship and obviously haven’t needed to date since meeting my partner.
But this article, and my advice, is useful in more situations than just your typical “date”.
I travel a lot, which means eating out in foreign countries with language barriers. I also take my partner on 1 or 2 date nights each week, and I also meet business contacts for food 2 or 3 times per week.
I do a lot of eating out with people I don’t know but who I need to impress. And who wants to be a burden for their partner?
Coeliac disease and gluten sensitivity can wreak havoc with one’s social life, but its social-effects can be far more profound in an enclosed date environment.
Through years of travel and eating out with regular gluten-eatin’ folk, I have come to learn a thing or two on surviving dinner with those who don’t necessarily understand your condition.
I’m sure some of our readers will have their own tips, and I welcome you to leave them in the comments at the bottom. The more information we can share, the easier life becomes for those of us suffering for gluten related illnesses.
For now, though, here are my top 4 tips on surviving dates and staying gluten free (without making a scene):
1. Plan ahead
Choosing your restaurant in advanced can have a profoundly positive effect on the success of your gluten free date.
If you’ve already researched the menu (or eaten at the restaurant before), you can arrive for your date safe in the knowledge there’ll be something for you to eat.
However, going out into the city on a whim – perhaps after pre-dinner drinks – can lead you on a seemingly endless search for restaurants that support your diet.
I have experienced this a lot when I travel with my partner. We’ll arrive at our hotel, quickly change and set out in a new city to find a place to eat. We stumble upon restaurants which look great, only to read the menu and be disappointed there is nothing for me to eat.
This is ok when you already have an understanding partner, but definitely not a great situation to when you’re on your first dates together.
It may seem romantic to wander through a city and eat at the first place to catch your eye, but after changing restaurants a couple of times, you quickly become a chore. Especially when your date is hungry.
A few minutes planning beforehand can help guarantee a smooth, gluten-free dinner date (with minimal walking!)
2. Don’t complain
In any of the many gluten-free Facebook groups, there’s a steady stream of posts from people who’re pissed off at restaurants for not offering gluten-free alternatives, or the price of gluten-free food.
It’s easy to complain because it is down right frustrating.
I share your pain, I honestly do. But I also believe it is important to understand (and accept) that restaurants are in no way obligated to provide gluten-free foods. Moreover, gluten-free alternatives are actually more expensive to produce.
I’m no behavioural scientist or social studies expert, but I know that nobody likes to sit across from someone who complains. Complaining kills a conversation.
Complaining about your limited menu choices or the cost of dishes available to you will make you seem like a boring killjoy.
Sufferers of CD and gluten sensitivity get a bad rep in the media. We’re made out to be fussy eaters and fakers.
Complaining about our ailment to those who can happily tuck into a spaghetti carbonara is like complaining about cold weather to an Inuit. They don’t get it, and they simply don’t care.
Focus on the positive; how delicious your steak is or the quality of your cocktail. Don’t be a killjoy!
3. Avoid talking about your illness
I’m currently in Bordeaux, France, renting an Airbnb for the week. I asked my Airbnb host if she could recommend anywhere for dinner and she quickly told me she has to eat gluten-free and can only recommend a handful of restaurants.
That was like striking gold for me, and we headed out to a local spot with plenty of GF options. Shortly after tucking into my food, my host proceeded to tell me about her reaction to gluten exposure. Being Coeliac and running GlutenBee, I am very interested in these sorts of things.
…But as I’m about to take a mouthful of my dinner? Please.
Past travels, family, art projects in your city and the new dog your cousin just adopted are all great dinner date topics.
The crippling pain and runny tummy you suffer after gluten exposure? That’s a terrible conversation, especially whilst your date tucks into a melt-in-mouth bouef bourgeon.
4. Be understanding of wait staff
Unfortunately not all restaurants educate their wait staff on allergies, menu ingredients and the importance of taking care of diners with special dietary requirements.
I am a huge advocate of being very clear with wait staff on your dietary requirements. Avoiding gluten is of the utmost importance and your health depends on it.
But at times, especially in foreign countries, you’ll encounter staff who don’t quite understand the importance of what you’re saying.
At all times, especially on dates, it’s key not to lose your temper or get frustrated in these situations.
On dates (or business meetings for that matter) staying composed and making a good impression is important; but staying gluten-free remains the priority.
One way I handle this is by sticking to “safe options”. You might be tired of paying for overpriced steak, but in a “date” environment, making a quick fuss-free order can be much better than asking the waiter to walk back and forth to the chef 2 or 3 times.
Furthermore, if you order a risky dish (specified to be gluten-free), but it arrives with breadcrumb sprinkles, you’ll need to send it back. This will put a serious downer on your evening out whilst your date eats and you wait for a reorder. It’ll also make you appear very fussy.
Sticking to safer and simpler options can help you glide through a date without seeming like a picky eater. We might understand you can’t eat gluten, but it might take your date a few more evenings out to fully get the picture.
WHAT TIPS CAN YOU SHARE?
We all live very different lives but share an inability to consume gluten. So I ask you: what tips do you have when eating out on dates?
Please share a tip in the comments below and help further our understanding and ability to cope in tough social situations.
You never know who will read your comments and how you may help. Every piece of advice helps push our community forward (and I can’t wait to read them!).