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Blog - Eating Adventures at Taco Cabana

I'm picking up writing again.  It's been about 4 months.  I needed the 4 month hiatus for a variety of reasons which I might occasionally elaborate on in future blogs.  All I have to say about the break at this time is that life is full of adventures, fun, and not so fun.  And the experiences of life continue to "season" me as an adult.

Tonight I ate a two cheese enchilada plate at Taco Cabana.  Like many fast food chains, this Tex-Mex chain is convenient, but it's an iffy place for me to dine with my gluten sensitivity.  I tend to eat at home where I can prepare my meals in a safe way and to my liking.  I have spoiled myself in getting comfortable enough in the kitchen to prepare meals exactly the way I like them.  As of late, however, I find that I become so busy during the week that I don't have anything prepared to quickly heat up.

After confirming that the red chili did NOT have wheat flour (which contains GLUTEN, one of the common food allergens) in it, I went ahead and ordered a two cheese enchilada plate.  The young lady at the cashier didn't know if the red chili had flour in it, so she had to ask her shift manager and I patiently waited. As a gluten-free (GF) customer, I have learned that patience really is a virtue and I've honed my politeness and diplomacy skills.  Eating out with a food sensitivity forces certain character building qualities!  Every time I go in a Taco Cabana restaurant, I always scan their menu secretly hoping they've rolled out a menu that addresses common allergens.  Taco Cabana always disappoints my expectations every time, but it doesn't have to be this way.

I wish Taco Cabana would advertise the fact that their menu isn't half bad, at least for people with a GF sensitivity and for those who focus on eating whole foods.  Aside from their flour tortillas and deep fat fried taco shells, Taco Cabana offers a menu that is naturally GF.  To boot, it offers a fresh whole foods condiment bar that features many freshly made salsas, cut onion, cilantro and limes/lemons.  The only iffy thing I still need to investigate is if the seasonings they use to spice up their meat and chicken contain flour.  You'd be surprised how flour is in so MANY seasonings and sauces....

Two Points:  1.  People should not be afraid to embrace the idea of gluten free foods because many foods happen to be naturally gluten free.  Fruit and vegetables happen to be naturally GF and so are rice and beans. 2.  If you find you need or want to eat GF, have no fear in actually eating GF.  Well, maybe some fear of letting go of the old eating ways is in order.  Sorry.  The GF diet tends to be feared and is considered foreign, but I think this largely comes from the fact that one has to let go of many sugary and deep fat fried goodness.  And letting go of tasty foods can be very hard.  I know. I still miss Popeye's spicy chicken and Albertson's donuts.  But, because I felt so crappy eating those things, I gladly gave them up.  It actually took a couple of years to fully realize that I had to leave them permanently, no cheating.  I'll write more about this slow journey in future posts.

Anyway, I filled out a feedback inquiry form at Taco Cabana's website.  I suggested that they rework their menu to reflect the fact that they make their chili without flour and to highlight the fact that they make their taco salad using dark leafy greens.  They can include on their menu that customers can choose to order the taco salad without the deep fat fried tortilla shell.  I would also recommend to include plenty of lettuce in place of the shell for a full decent sized salad.  Along with the beans and rice, this salad would be satisfying.  It certainly sholdn't add cost as a bag of refrigerated lettuce is less expensive and easier to manage than manufacturing big formed tortilla shells that need to be fried in a hot vat of oil.

With all due respect, Taco Cabana and other restaurants should actively consult the community it serves.  Not only would these restaurants increase sales and profitability by reworking and remarketing their menus, but they would turn people into loyal customers who could trust a transparent menu.  I know for a fact that people with food allergies and sensitivities would respond favorably.  The changing tastes and dietary needs of the public are evolving and the restaurant chains that respond will reap monteary rewards and kudos with menus that reflect the public's needs.



Christina Funkhouser

I’m Christina (Tina) Alvarez-Funkhouser and I am the wife of Dr. Todd Funkhouser, MD, PhD, Allergist/Immunologist. I have a food triggered adult onset neuropathy which has led me to fundamentally change the way I eat. My neuropathy is an increasingly recognized form of gluten intolerance that is immunologically based, and affected by food choice. Through my food allergy outreach blog I share the changes I’ve incorporated in my family’s diet based on health issues that exist within my own family. I will also host cooking demonstrations of food choice and preparation with the public in our teaching kitchen located in our Westside location at 211 Bartlett, El Paso, TX 79912. I am a secondary school teacher by profession and I am thrilled to teach and share my experience with dealing with food allergies and intolerances. If you have any questions or comments about my blog, please contact me at tina@accessallergy.com.
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