Crying in Restaurants

I live in Chicago, land of food. Second only to New York. Just kidding, New Yorkers aren’t fat enough to wear that crown. Living here is a blessing and a curse; I have access to the finest dark chocolates and gluten free beer when I want to indulge. Then again, everyone else is indulging all the time, and if I want a social life, or to feel human, I have to make appearances at bars and restaurants that have nothing for me to put in my mouth. I sip on water and watch everyone slip into a boozy haze or a grainy food coma. And for the most part, I’m okay with it. Saving money is nice.

However, sometimes, I am reduced to tears. It’s usually when my boyfriend wants to show me his love by taking me out to eat, and something goes wrong. Second only to being away from home all day and ending up at a restaurant where the menu itself is the only thing that isn’t fried and battered in corn oil (I’m looking at you, WISCONSIN).

To deal with it, I’ve developed some restaurant “hacks” to make the whole experience less traumatic:

  1. I have a short list of “safe” restaurants where I can eat at least a few things on the menu. I make an effort to become a  regular, and I tip 20% always. Most staff are willing to help if you let them know up front and try to make it easy on them. Also, restaurants where friends works makes things a bit easier.
  2. Sometimes, (often) others order for me and explain my situation. Because I get talked out of discussing my diet.
  3. Invest in a flask and fill it with your favorite gluten/corn free liquor and you can dump into a soda water & lime from the bar.
  4. Pack sea salt packets (for a corn allergy) and airplane liquor bottles full of dressing.
  5. Call ahead and explain your situation.  I’m not saying Denny’s will roll out the red carpet, but fancier restaurants may accept challenging requests in a timely manner, especially if you explain your limitations calmly and clearly. This is especially great for pre-planned work meetings.
  6. Manage your expectations. Very few establishments are trained for food allergies, (Ruby Tuesday, Flat Top Grill, and Native Foods have booklets with complete listings!) and may not understand the severity of your allergy. When I say I have a corn allergy, I don’t expect the waiter to connect the dots to vegetable oil, or citric acid, or even corn starch. At the least, I expect them to ask the kitchen staff before putting my order in.
Last week my boyfriend and I went to Duck Fat in the burbs just so I could get some sweet potato french friend cooked in Duck Fat. They didn’t offer them.  However, when my boyfriend mentioned I hadn’t had restaurant french fries in over a year, the waiter got me a special batch, and a second one later, for the ride home. I also ordered a veggie plate that took a long time to make.  The waiter apologized, and said after checking the ingredients again he realized they did have corn in them – and special oil-free veggies were being prepared as a replacement.
Not killing your customers! Huzzah!

Of course, it’s always an adventure, going out to eat. Sometimes a $12 salad turns out to be nothing more than fancy lettuce with piece of shaved zucchini (cough Revolution Brewery). And I cry. Sometimes it can’t be helped.


Now with Real Food!

Lets talk about blueberries. For years, I thought blueberries were blue rat poopy powderballs. Nope, that grainy taste was powdered chemicals engineered to simulate what someone who had never had an actual blueberry thought they might taste like. And the FDA just says okay. It makes me think that we are in fact, living in the Matrix.  For years we’ve gone around saying, “I know this blueberry doesn’t exist. I know when I put it in my mouth, the Matrix is telling my brain that it is blue like a berry and delicious.” But is ignorance bliss?

Probably not.  For me, changing my diet saved my life. I can’t imagine eating processed food ever again, as it directly correlates to how I feel.

This SNL sketch pretty much sums up how I feel about processed food. Except for pizza. Oh god the smell of even the greasiest, saltiest, cardboardiest tasting pizza makes me drool like Pavlov’s dog after a hard time at the pound(?).

Personally, I would have gone with mutant blueberries, but what do I know about comedy?

Pizza is one thing grain free, dairy free science cannot replicate.  It is my white horse. Although, the food allergy industry is coming up with some creative ways to make cookies and cakes and all kinds of crazy deserts.  But even here, continually, allergy companies like Enjoy Life Foods have boxes that exclaim, “NOW BETTER TASTING!”.  Gluten free beer Awards might as well say, “Tastes Okay”.  I am almost to the point where I don’t bother creating substitutes for these things very often. Almost to the point…right now I just put about $100 worth of dark chocolate on the credit card I’ve been living off of for unemployment.

One does not simply loose their sweet tooth just because they are unemployed and can’t afford such luxuries.