The Verboten Crouton

Here is a real world dilemma for a celiac.  I know it is real because it happened to me last week!

One of my absolute favorite lunches is a chopped salad.  Several restaurants have chopped salad bars near me and, while the toppings amp up the calorie count, I love them.  It is great to climb out from my work cave and seek a healthy lunch with company.

salad ingredients

Last week I chose the leafy greens, garbanzo beans, beets, tomatoes and tofu for my chopped salad.  I watched all of these gluten-free ingredients go into the bowl and observed the “chef” with the mezzaluna chopping everything up to create a finely mixed salad.  The salad guy tossed it with a balsamic dressing and put it into my container.  As far as my watchful eye could see, I had a gluten-free lunch!

salad mezzaluna

I was thoroughly enjoying my lunch and conversation with my lunch buddy when I crunched down on something that had no business being in a gluten-free salad…a crouton.  I could tell immediately what it was and was so incredibly bummed.

salad crouton

What would you have done with a mouthful of crouton?  I should have spit it out into my napkin.  I was eating lunch with a friend, a really old, “knew-me-when” friend who watched me suffer difficult pregnancies and waste away during my sickest point…she would have understood.  It wasn’t a job interview and it wasn’t someone I was trying to impress.  I should have spit it out.

But I did not spit it out, I ate it.  In that “blink” decision, I calculated that I had probably already eaten the other half of the crouton or at least most of it since it was all chopped up in my salad.   I regretted it.  My intestinal track gurgled all afternoon and into the evening.

I consider myself fortunate that I do not get violently ill with accidental gluten, but I still did not feel well and that crouton damaged my intestine.   It just knocks you back a little bit when you are careful and watchful over food that is made outside of your control and it is not enough oversight.  All I can think of is that there was a crouton in my portion of mixed greens that I did not see as it was placed into the mixing bowl.

Would I have felt better if I had spit it out? Who knows how much gluten I had already eaten by the time I crunched down on the crouton.  Next time, I will make sure the greens are free from croutons prior to selecting other ingredients.  And if I ever crunch down on a verboten crouton again, I will spit out the mouthful into my napkin!

Kendall Egan