It's an interesting phenomenon when you tell people you are a gluten-free eater. Most of them think it's a choice, and that you're a "healthy" eater, focused on nutrition. They picture greens, nuts and berries.
Well ... not necessarily.
Trust me, you can find a lot of stuff that's gluten-free, but full of sugar, fat and other not-so-healthy ingredients. Even the shelves of the health-food stores are filled with gluten-free cookies, cakes and cheese-laden rice bowls. I've tried a lot of them.
So just because I have to eat gluten-free, doesn't mean I'm always eating "healthy."
Sometimes you just crave a burger and fries. But most burger places aren't equipped to deal with the no-bun issue, and I usually just skip the whole thing.
A new friend who truly does eat healthy, recently shared with me that Five Guys Burgers and Fries is her go-to gluten-free destination when she "goes off the rails." The only thing in the place with gluten is the bun, and they'll happily serve you a burger without it. The fries are gluten-free and fabulous.
I tried Five Guys once, after President Obama bought burgers for his staff there, but that was pre-gluten-free, and I hadn't really thought about it since. So after my new friend mentioned it, it percolated in my burger-deprived mind, and last weekend, ironically after walking for an hour on the elliptical at the gym, my son and I headed for its doors.
There was a long line, even at 8 p.m., so we enjoyed the unmistakable aroma of ground beef searing on the grill and shelled and munched the peanuts provided while you wait.
I ordered my burger extra-well-done because I like some crispness on the edges. And I told the man taking our order that I would like it without the bun. Without skipping a beat, he asked if I would like it wrapped in lettuce, or served in a bowl. I chose lettuce.
Then, the remarkable happened.
Instead of having to explain that I really couldn't have the bun, and that I'd really appreciate it if they didn't let my pristine burger touch any bread product, the man asked the question that was music to my ears: "Do we need to change our gloves when we make your burger?"
Such a simple question. Such a simple thing to do. But it spoke volumes.
It told me he understood my situation. It told me he and the other staff had been trained about gluten allergies and the proper steps to keep customers safe. It told me that, from the top down, Five Guys cared.
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I said, "Yes. Thank you so much." I got my Diet Coke and sat down in a rosy glow of happiness to await my to-go order. When it was ready, the staffer handed me my burger in its own bag.
At home, when I opened it, the lettuce was fresh and crisp, the burger grilled to perfection with a not-stingy amount of ketchup and relish, my toppings of choice, and the fries amazing.
I dug in to the deliciousness that gluten-eaters take for granted, and thought good thoughts about my new friend's great taste.