Sunday, August 29, 2010

Back to Reality...Qdoba

After our cruise, my family and I headed to the Orlando airport. Before leaving Chicago, I had already spent three or four hours deciphering the airport maps and the different restaurants that had allergen information on their websites so I could make positive food choices. (I've learned that a lot of websites are gluten-free friendly! Adding the dairy made things a little more complicated as I was constantly cross-referencing different charts.) In the end, I decided that at Qdoba, I would be able to get a full meal rather than just a hamburger bun on wax paper.

Qdoba's website is super easy to navigate and identify the food allergen section quickly: I had the pdf version of the menu printed out, but transferred my "yes" food choices to a small business sized card I had in my wallet. Their website states: At Qdoba, we care about giving you the information you need to make informed decisions about eating. Food intolerances make these decisions even more important. Ingredients like wheat, soy, milk, eggs, nuts and fish are found in certain food items served at Qdoba. Perfect! Although my shell and meat options were limited to the Soft White Corn Tortilla with Pork, that was fine since I only needed to eat their once so variety was not that crucial. (Although a little disappointing because their Adobo Seasoning contains whey - dairy.)

My brother ordered his flour burrito and I was next. I told the woman working there that I was allergic to gluten and lactose - could I please have the soft white corn tortilla with pork? The pork does not have their marinade on it, right?

She stared at me. What marinade? The one that is on all the meat. Based on your website, the marinade contains dairy. She had no idea. They were a franchise - they didn't have to follow procedures. They don't have soft white corn tortillas - they turn them into crispy shells. Did they have their allergen chart? Franchise. No. Go to the website. Well, I did and I didn't have the print out with me.

Thankfully, someone else came to my rescue. I explained that I was allergic to gluten and lactose. Could I have the soft white corn tortillas? He got the manager who was able to help me a little more. He brought out three tortilla shells for me. And the woman took them in her gloved hands and put them on the tortilla press. My mom and I yelled "No!" in unison. Again, with the stare. I said that I couldn't have them any more because they were cross contaminated. Frustrated, she threw them away and the other guy and her washed their hands, changed their gloves, and got new tortillas for me. The manager said they would be cold. I said that was fine. (I was not a fan of warm flour being pressed into my shells for some reason...)

While the other guy (who was probably the most helpful of the trio) filled my shells, I learned that my normal taco additions (thanks to my Chipotle habit) of rice and fajita vegetables had an extra charge. And I'm cheap. So I got some salsa and corn. He asked if that was it. It was. These were the three saddest tacos ever. They were not even worth photographing.

And now for the kick to the gut (as if my whole ordeal was not stressful enough and reminded me how unaware people can be about the food they serve): while the whole "no, I'll have the cold tortillas" debacle was being straightened out, a pilot (the only other person in line) asked me where I was flying. I said to Chicago.

"If you are that allergic, you should have brought a snack. It's not fair to the other passengers if your plane has to divert to St. Louis."

I mumbled something about not being that kind of allergic - I just will be running to the bathroom. I was doing everything right in this situation (except for walking around with Qdoba's allergen chart in my back pocket) and a stranger had the audacity to essentially tell me that I don't deserve to eat out since it isn't fair to other people.

I've lived almost two years being gluten intolerant (and unaware and gluten-filled). True, there were some days that I was so sick I left work after 30 minutes (those days were probably the ones where I had a bagel for breakfast instead of skipping the meal) but I NEVER was prevented from taking the bus home (a 30-60 minute ride). I may have been uncomfortable during that time, but my food allergies/intolerances never once affected someone's commute.

I will never eat at Qdoba again. Some people are jerks. This is what I have to look forward to. Great. Welcome back to reality...can I just stay on the cruise ship next time?

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