Basically when you have food allergies, you don’t eat out. That kind of normal experience that nearly everyone takes for granted is not an option for you. Whereas food in the grocery comes with labels that are about 90% helpful in helping you avoid thing things that will make you sick, restaurants are not similarly labeled.
Friday night we tried to eat out at a new place in The Fort, a Vietnamese noodle house. Asian foods, if I am alert for peanuts, are strangely easier for me to eat. Rob was a bit dubious. He has learned (more quickly than I ironically) that dining out nearly always ends in disaster. The only safe bets include Subway, Subjoint and anyplace that serves eggs and toast any time of day. The short list of my allergies includes: peanuts, tomatoes, anything citrus, oil, butter, onions, red meat, pig, and chicken. It might not seem a long list but try to find a seasoning or sauce that doesn’t contain tomato or onion. You wouldn’t believe the number of foods that those two things alone knock off the “good foods” list. Vegetarian options are not plentiful when they exist at all and most dishes are prepared with some kind of oil and the more oil used the sicker I will be.
When we arrived at the Noodle House, I had surprisingly high hopes. We walked in, however, and were greeted with a CASH ONLY PLEASE sign and promptly turned and left. Cash? Quaint. I was undeterred though Rob voiced suspicions of omens. We headed toward a strip mall on 99 Ave and while I hit the ATM there, Rob and Katy ran into the Shopper’s to pick up a registered letter the postlady had left him a note for earlier that day. Money and junk mail in hand we first hit the main post and then returned to the Noodle House. To make a long story a bit shorter, I will quote you Rob’s rendition of our noodle house adventures:
The Fort Noodle House was a total bust. We returned, with our cash, and were eventually seated. We looked at the menus; only one kids’ menu item (French fries, chicken wings, pop….wait, did that say chicken WINGS? For KIDS?) We looked over the rest of the selections. There were a few vegetarian selections and we discussed a few possibilities. But I was starting to get a bad vibe about the place. It was filling up and it was visibly understaffed. We decided to nip a potentially bad dining experiment experience in the bud and got up and left.
and skip to the Chinese buffet that came after.
Normally I can eat Chinese. It’s hard to get into too much trouble with rice and veggies, but Rob had nearly filled a plate for Katy before I realized that this buffet was more Alberta than Chinese. Meat in nearly every dish and onions in the rest. And I was ready to cry. Seriously. Dining out is absolutely not on my list of fun things to do. If I am not trying to make a meal out of side dishes, I am trying to assure my fellow diners that I am really okay with not eating while they stuff themselves in my face. I am not sure which is worse sometimes. Feeling like a leper or knowing that aside from Rob, no one really has much patience with my food “issues”. People with food allergies are generally treated like closet anorexics – we just don’t like to eat or something because no one but the small children of anal retentive overparenters really has food allergies. Even the health profession tends to downplay the idea. I have been told I have an ulcer (nope), IBS (nope) or perhaps I mistook a stomach virus for something more.
Let me tell you what happens when I eat tomatoes or citrus. I get a bumpy rash on both sides of my tongue leaving it feeling as though I have burned it, and sometimes my lips will tingle or go numb. Then I get horrible stomach pains which then travel through my digestive tract wreaking havoc.
Yes, I know. That was TMI. But I don’t banish food from my life lightly, and I am as weary of my allergies to food being looked down on or dismissed as I am of smokers who crowd doorways and take insult when my asthma flares. I would rather be a “normal” person, but for whatever reason I am on my way to life in a plastic bubble.
Rob, though, is better than a plastic bubble. Perhaps in a way he is my bubble. When I told him I wasn’t going to be able to eat anything, he sprang into action. Grabbing a menu, he quickly found me suitable entrées and while ordering quizzed the hostess as to the types of ingredients used. Peanut Oil? MSG? Within ten minutes we were all seated and eating.
So the evening ended on a high note. Katy loves to get out and it was nice to not have to prepare an evening meal. I don’t think we will eat there again. It was, in Rob’s words a downtown skid row establishment.