Monday, July 22, 2013

Celiacs and the College Cafeteria

There are mixed feelings about college cafeterias. Some view them as a symbol of new found freedom and adulthood, a place where they can eat pizza for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Others worry about the Freshman 15 lurking inside the serving plates. For a celiac, though, it is a literal nightmare full of cross contamination and gluten-filled temptations.

Today, though, I decided to face this monster head-on when I explored all the crooks and crannies of Point Loma Nazarene University through the eyes of a celiac

Where to first?

Since I live only half an hour away from campus, I've visited PLNU multiple times, but this was my first visit since my diagnosis. When I entered the kitchen on my first visit, "Stairway to Heaven" might as well have played in the background for how excited I was about the food options. Pizza, hamburgers, spaghetti, Japanese...just about every food imaginable lay on stainless steal counters. Not to mention all the desserts, varying from baked goods to self-serve ice cream. 

When I entered the cafeteria today, it was a bittersweet moment. Excitement over my future personified in the place I'd be spending so much time in come September; sadness that my situation has changed enough that I can no longer enjoy every piece of deliciousness emerging from the kitchen. I settled on a mood of curiosity, scanning the dining areas and food court with quick glances.

In my last post, I mentioned the importance of utilizing the Internet, and I took my own advice regarding the PLNU kitchen. After researching online, I already knew that my school boasts a "gluten free zone" where the food is guaranteed free of contamination. Because summer has driven most students back home, though, the kitchen wasn't organized as usual and the gluten-free zone wasn't set up

But, I sucked up any feelings of anxiety and after telling one of the super-nice employees about my gluten-free diet, he pointed out the corner where it usually exists. Score! I wanted to put a sticky note on it saying, "Casey's Corner: Don't Touch," but I decided to at least mimic the maturity of a proper incoming college freshman and resist. 

What really excited me, though, was a poster on the wall of the cafeteria. In my excitement, I forgot to take a picture but I remember it well. Titled "Gluten Free," it listed a background of gluten, symptoms of gluten intolerance, and explained the rules of preparing gluten-free food. 

As much as celiac disease sucks sometimes, I feel incredibly lucky that I was diagnosed now instead of ten years ago. Now, a majority of waiters are familiar with serving "gluten free" food. Now, the public is more well informed about food allergies. And, as I discovered during my visit, now colleges are accommodating students with celiac disease so everyone can have the full "college experience."

Celebrate PLNU! And gluten free food! :D

Does this mean that 3/4th of my backpack won't consist of foods and snacks? Not really, but I'm pumped to dig into a lunch made in the PLNU cafeteria like every other college kid. Apparently every intestine is created equal

Are any of you gluten-free in college? Anyone heard of PLNU before? Comment below!

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