Congrats! You made it to Friday, the most wonderful day of the week… well, not quite so wonderful until you get through what is always guaranteed to be the most miserable 8 hours of your week. You probably had to go in early in order to make sure you meet all your deadlines before you leave for a 2 day reprieve. To make matters worse, every underdeveloped Cro-Magnon left on the Earth (sooo about 85% of the population!) decides that they need to call and bother you with every ridiculous, irrelevant question they can fit in before they too join in on the aforementioned reprieve. Add in the fact that your executives are out for a round of golf, so your workload just doubled. By hour 6 you start to go cross-eyed from incessant scrolling and clicking that has consumed most of your day. So, by the time your sacred moment of escape arrives, you are in no mood to celebrate. No, No! You are tired, angry at the world, and most definitely hungry. Food! Yes, Food! That will fix it! Food fixes everything.
“Hey Mom, just leaving the office. What’s for dinner?”
Yes, you are still making that phone call, because you are 24 and no one respects you, and remember those executives of yours? Well, they sign your check and right now, they have decided that another round of beers at the clubhouse is more important than the dignity you would gain by being paid more than an illegal immigrant.
“Your Dad and I got home early and ordered pizza.”
Ugh, well that sucks. But, don’t fret! You over heard your co-workers saying they were going to grab a quick bite before heading home.
“Hey Hannah, you and the HR crew still up for some noms?”
“Of course! Any preference on toppings? We’re all pitching in for pizza.”
UGH! IS EVERYONE EATING PIZZA WITHOUT ME?
Yes, yes they are. And, they are probably topping it off with a pitcher of pale ale and a trip to the Cupcake Cubby. Why is this the most aggravating, nerve-bending offense that could ever cross your path? Because you my friend, are gluten intolerant.
Ok, so you’re probably not gluten-intolerant. In that case, let me hold the door for you while you enter into the theatre for a dramatic portrayal of a little show called “Scenes from My Life.” This particular snippet, has become all too familiar for me over the past 2 years. Now I know what you may be thinking, #1stWorldProblem. So what? I have a food allergy. NBD. And, it’s not like I have Celiac Disease or something. I probably even sneak in a few cheat days…WRONGO! Nope, that’s like thinking a Diabetic would be just fine if they only spent a few hours in Willy Wonka’s factory. Without subjecting you to too much of the gory details, let’s just say that even the slightest hint of soy sauce has had me running from the table faster than you can say, “Domo Arigato Mr. Roboto.”
The true irony in all this is that before being diagnosed, my life was one big pile of dough (sadly not the crisp, green kind). Dough, batter, cake, crumbs. If it had gluten in it, I was probably elbow deep in it, as I had big dreams of becoming the next Ace of Cakes. Now, by all means, a baker can be gluten-intolerant, I just happened to lack talent, but I still find it silly how much my life revolved around the one thing (well, actually one of 2. I’m also lactose intolerant) that for me is now forbidden.
Most days I am not affected. I have no problem eating my turkey sandwich on gluten-free bread, and they make a fairly decent gluten-free Oreo substitute. But let me tell you, when the weekend rolls around and everyone’s knee jerk reaction is to hit speed dial for Dominos, no amount of deep cleansing yoga breathes can soothe my aching heart (but also who am I kidding, I don’t do yoga. Let’s get real; I’m losing my shit over not being able to eat pizza.).
And then, there is Mac and Cheese. Don’t even get me started on Mac and Cheese. I mean, that one is more just a me problem I suppose, as they do make gluten-free Mac and Cheese. But try and find a lactose-free, gluten-free Mac and Cheese…you might have better luck just eating the cardboard box it comes in.
The biggest nail in the coffin comes with dining out. Today, roughly 3 million Americans have Celiac Disease, with another 18 million living with non-Celiac gluten sensitivity, or gluten intolerance. Many larger chain restaurants have adapted a few items to accommodate these growing numbers (you can still rule out fast food, but really, who wants to eat that even if they are eating gluten?). But, try and go somewhere a little more upscale? Well…
“Look Honey! It says If you or anyone in your party has a food allergy, please let your server know and we will be happy to accommodate. There in the fine print.”
“Hi folks, my name is Ari and I will be your waiter tonight. Are there any questions about the menu?”
“Well my daughter here has some food allergies. Gluten and dairy free. What can you suggest?”
“Of course! Might I suggest one of our fresh, garden salads!”
That, that moment right there… UGGGH! The last thing a person with food allergies wants to hear is that the only allergen-friendly item on your menu is garden salad, not to mention a garden salad that you will probably still charge as much for as one of your fancy entrees. And forget the dessert menu. Nope! Just chuck that out the window. You may be able to find something either gluten-free or dairy-free, but certainly not both. As a former baker/pastry chef-in-training I totally get it, because really, what is left that doesn’t compromise the integrity of the food you want to put out? But, for someone with food allergies, this fact doesn’t bring much comfort. Of course, as a waiter, the best and most sure fire way to not be left a tip is to ask the question, “Would you like your meal gluten-free due to an allergy or a lifestyle choice?” I’m sorry, how is that relevant? If it is merely a lifestyle choice do you plan on throwing a little gluten in there for good measure? Like, if it’s only a lifestyle choice then you can be sure to let the cooks known it’s OK to cross contaminate? WTF. Seriously WTF.
*Sigh* Oh gluten, why must we be mortal enemies! This is the sad question I have to forlornly ask myself some days, especially when the Girl Scouts start hawking their Caramel Delights. But, overall it’s really not that bad. Sometimes it even works in my favor, like at holiday parties, or Free Doughnut Day. I can totally make a healthy choice and not look like a Dieting Debbie Downer. But it’s the pizza. That damn Papa John’s and their garlic sauce. Boy, how I miss that!