So, I have mentioned before that I no longer am able to eat much these days aside from lettuce and cardboard. This often makes it a bit on the frustrating side when I am joining friends or family for a nice meal out. I mean, at home, it’s still not much fun, but at least I have some sort of control over what’s in the fridge or freezer and I am generally aware of what I’m eating – except for the nights that I’m so stressed or tired I forget to eat until bedtime and then I’m not responsible for what I shove down my throat.
Basically, I do not eat meat and I can no longer tolerate delicious foods which include gluten or cream. Meaning I can no longer tolerate delicious foods. On a side note, you would think I’d weigh 90 pounds at this point for as little I can eat and how often I get sick if I accidentally ingest something that is delicious. But life is cruel and life often goes the opposite way that you think it should, so I have learned not to expect justice.
Following the above-placed dots, this brings us to your example of the week of the frustrations that can be faced by those of us on any kind of limited diet – I know many of you can relate on some level to the following situation.
I went out to dinner with the boy child for his birthday (and hopefully the girl child – they are twins – and I and maybe even my hubby will get to celebrate soon next time we’re all in the same city at the same time).
We went to an Italian chain restaurant (not the Olive Garden, but one that has a name containing the word Grill) that I used to love, pre the no-gluten thing. I haven’t been there for awhile due to the delicious pasta-based foods calling my name, the delicious bread that is plunked on the table singing its Siren song, the cream-based sauces that demand to add 10 pounds to my thighs… But it was not my birthday, so that’s where we went.
I searched frantically for a salad that was larger than 3 tomatoes, 3 slices of mozzarella cheese and a basil leaf to eat, since everything else on the menu pretty much either had meat, cream, or gluten. No such luck. So I resigned myself to the Caprese Salad, and explained my situation to the waitress who couldn’t believe that was all I was going to eat, especially since I’m sure I look like I have a much heartier appetite. Anyway, she said they have gluten-free pasta there – specifically penne – and I could order off their menu where you can pick your own ingredients. That sounded like a great idea until she told me I could actually order anything off the menu and ask for gluten-free pasta as a substitute. Well, now we were talking!
I really wanted something delicious. I felt like I deserved something delicious. So I ordered a shrimp dish that I used to order that had a lemon sauce and pine nuts and other yummy ingredients. Now, I don’t think I mentioned that when we got to the restaurant, we were told there would be a 10 – 15-minute wait. Not a terribly long wait, although I was surprised there would be any wait on a weeknight, but OK. We waited a half hour. Then it was about another half hour until we got our food, so I will admit that I was hungry. My boy child got to eat the entire loaf of delicious bread on his own, so he was doing OK. I was ready to eat the crayons that were on the table.
Finally, the server arrived. She handed my boy child his pizza. Then she smiled and said, “Here is your Chicken Piccata.” I looked at her in confusion. I explained I hadn’t ordered that chicken or any chicken. Our waitress was at the next table, and server worriedly hurried over to her where they conferred in hushed tones over this dilemma. The waitress approached and smiled.
“This is what you ordered,” she told me.
I shook my head. “Do you remember our conversation about me not eating meat?” I asked as nicely as I could at this point. “I guarantee you I did not order chicken. I ordered the shrimp and pasta.”
I think a little light dawned at this point. “OK, well, I’ll just move the chicken off this plate and you can keep the pasta and then I’ll have them heat up some shrimp for you.”
Now, the chicken was in with the pasta. I really didn’t want chickenish pasta. So I asked if they could just make me what I had ordered. She said it would take a few minutes and gave me a look like I had told her to dance around the restaurant with a jug of wine on her head.
Ten minutes later, she smilingly brought me the shrimp and pasta – the pasta which looked very suspiciously like the pasta on the first plate. I decided not to say anything other than asking if she was sure it was gluten-free pasta. She assured me it was.
I took a bite. It was not bad, but I was pretty sure the dish I ordered didn’t have chunks of mushroom and cherry tomatoes in it. And this pasta had no pine nuts either. But I thought I’d let it slide, since I was kind of ravenous at this point. Then I crunched on something. Something that tasted suspiciously like a meat-related food. Such as bacon. I called the waitress back over. You can only imagine her joy as she approached the table.
“I think there’s bacon in this pasta,” I said through gritted teeth, trying to approximate a smile.
“Oh no, it’s not bacon,” she assured me. “It’s pancetta.”
I looked at her in shock. When I was finally able to speak, I said, “Do you remember the part of the conversation where I told you I don’t eat meat? This is not what I ordered.”
She did not admit that she had made another mistake – a mistake partly due I’m sure to the fact that many restaurants these days insist that your servers are not allowed to write anything down and must instead memorize every last detail of your order. I will happily pay an extra dime for them to use a piece of paper and get my order right. Instead of her apologizing profusely and admitting that she had no idea what I had ordered, she said that she had shown me the list of allergens (she had) and asked if I was OK with what I ordered. I asked her to bring the menu, and proceeded to show her that the dish I had ordered didn’t have pancetta or tomatoes or mushrooms, and should have had pine nuts and other MIA ingredients.
She looked at me, sighed, and told me she’d go ahead and put in an order for the dish I was telling her I should have had. I told her never mind, I had completely lost my appetite.
She did apologize, but advised me that next time I came there, I should order the choose-your-own meal so I could get exactly what I wanted. I sighed, we left, and I proceeded to get sick when I got home. Yes, sure, I’ll be back there soon.
Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved