I kid that every time I go out to eat at a restaurant it’s like I’m playing Russian Roulette because of Celiac disease. I totally say this as a joke, yet there’s more truth to it than I like to admit. This has become abundantly clear to me because in the past two months, I’ve lost this game twice. No, I wasn’t shot in the head, I was gluten-ed. The first time was at a little food truck where I’ve eaten before and I ordered what I always order. Which means that they either changed the recipe so that it now includes gluten, or there was cross-contamination. I know what you’re likely thinking, “Why in the world would you ever eat at a food truck? Half of those people aren’t even trained chefs! Of course your food was cross-contaminated!”
To that I would counter you with my second exposure to gluten. It occurred at a fancy restaurant, after I had spoken in detail with my server, who then spoke with the chef about what I could and could not eat. In this instance, even after all of the precaution, they served me a rice flavored with the exact same miso sauce that they had removed from the meat because it contained, you guessed it, gluten!
To be honest, I’m not even upset about the first one. Shit happens. People who don’t have Celiac don’t realize that all it takes is a crumb or two, so even when they’re being careful, they may not be careful enough. The risk of cross-contamination is the gamble I take whenever I decide that I don’t want to prepare my own food. The second instance, pisses me off. Why did we all go through that stupid elaborate dance of ‘What can Kat eat?” if nobody’s going to pay attention in the end? In all honesty, this is why I hate eating at fancy restaurants. The fancier the food gets, the more ingredients they use, and the chefs are generally not big fans of removing elements from their perfectly balanced dish, because it means that someone in their restaurant is going to eat bland food.
Thankfully, I was able to identify the miso flavoring with my first bite, and I was actually able to throw most of it up. I generally can’t make myself throw up at all, so the fact that I was able to that night sheds some light on just how upset I was. I was upset on several levels. First, that I was going to have to leave my friend’s wedding reception while I was still able to drive home. Second, that any plans for the next day or two would have to be cancelled as I would be at home feeling like shit, and any plans around large groups of people for the following week would have to be cancelled since my immune system was going to be compromised.
But mostly, I was upset because no matter how strong I am, no matter how careful, how thorough, how detailed I am, all it takes is one bite of food to take me out. And when I get taken out it just highlights how restricted everything in my life is. How there are people who can gallivant about carefree and go on trips spontaneously, or go places with the expectation of ‘finding food there,’ and how I will never be able to be that person. Shit, I can’t even go to a dinner party without putting the host through the third degree, or bringing my own food. I can count on one hand the people that I trust to give me food without making me sick, and that’s mostly because they tell me every single ingredient they used. Something as simple as eating, will always be a production with me. There will always be a conversation, there will always be a risk. It’s not only frustrating, it’s exhausting.
So when the friend, whom I had cancelled on because of the gluten exposure, not only completely understood, but offered to bring me food – as long as I told her exactly what to bring – it lessened the frustration and the exhaustion somewhat. On top of everything else, when this happens I feel even more overwhelmed because I see myself as a burden on those around me. Not just with the gluten thing, but with my mental illnesses as well. Sometimes I really see myself as someone who is hard to live with. As someone who it is hard to be friends with as you never know when plans may have to be cancelled, or when I may not be feeling well. So the reminder that even when I cancel plans and I am not feeling well, I’m still someone worth spending time with was something I really needed.