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Thursday, October 17, 2013

I'm Not Avoiding Bread Just To Be Trendy

            Recently I was at brunch with some friends, and I couldn’t find anything on the menu that was gluten-free and dairy-free.  I ended up ordering two scrambled eggs and a piece of bacon, because those were my only choices. 
One of my friends rolled his eyes and said, “The 1950’s called – they want their breakfast back.”   He drilled me with questions – do you have celiac?  No?  Then, what would REALLY happen to you if you ate a piece of French toast? 
I explained that I’d get a stomachache that would last the rest of the day and into tomorrow.   I explained that my stomach would swell up like I’m 4 months pregnant.  I also explained that I really didn’t want to go into detail most of the symptoms I’d experience, because Mama taught me not to talk about toilet problems when I’m sitting at the table. 
My friend vaguely accepted my explanation, but I could tell that he was thinking, “Whatever, she’s just being dramatic.” 
I’d like to explain something to those of you who do not have food allergies or intolerances: it is not fun to suffer food intolerances.  Those of us who are high-maintenance-orderers in restaurants aren’t trying to be trendy.  Personally, I find myself outrageously annoying when I’m in a restaurant asking what ingredients are in every dish. 
I wish I could go back to my old life in which I drank Dr. Pepper and at potato chips every day, and I ordered French toast with reckless abandon (and, ahem, I never gained a pound – those days have also tragically ended).  But that’s never gonna happen. 
And it’s not just that I can’t eat dairy or gluten.  I can’t eat onions or garlic or beans or a million other gas-producing things if I don’t want to suffer chronic pain.  I don’t want my whole body to be so itchy that I am up all night scratching.  And believe me, you don’t want to be in a room with me for too long if I’ve eaten onions or garlic or beans.  And I don’t really want to be in a room with me for too long either. 
Those of us with food allergies can’t just relax and enjoy going out to restaurants like we used to.  When we go out to dinner, we think, “Okay, I’ll be miserable afterward for a day or two, but I really want to go on this date,” or, “I really have to go to this work function and not question the menu,” or, “I haven’t seen these friends in two years so I’m going to eat whatever they cook for me…”  We brace ourselves for the painful after-effects of eating something as simple as a piece of sautéed fish in butter.  And before we take a single bite of the fish, we reach under the beautiful white tablecloth to pull out two Lactaid pills so that at least we don’t end up with cramps before we even get home.  We leave Lactaid pill wrappers strewn across the tablecloth like little paper carcasses.

          If you don’t have food intolerances, you are lucky.  Immeasurably lucky.  Enjoy it.  The rest of us are watching you eat a piece of bread and secretly salivating.  We wish we could be you.  But we can’t.  So please, give us a break, and don’t roll your eyes when we order nothing but two scrambled eggs and a piece of bacon.

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  1. Thank you Laura for addressing this! It is a CONSTANT struggle for me too. Trying to educate my non-food-allergy friends and colleagues about what I can't eat and why, all while attempting not to be too high maintenance at work dinners, conferences, and weddings...anywhere they serve an un-adjustable menu designed to appeal to the masses. I either end up eating something I shouldn't and then I'm sick the next few days or I don't eat at all and then I'm starving AND bombarded with questions about why I'm not eating. Ugh. I think awareness is key, thank you for putting it out there, you are not alone!

    1. Thank you emptyspoonful! I do feel a lot of solidarity with other peeps in my position. Thanks for your comment - great to hear from you!