Monday, July 27, 2009

Oh God... It's One Of Them

How Do I Order? What Do I Order? Oh God! Am I going to be one of those people who annoys others because of a food allergy? I think I’ll just stay home and cook for myself.

Does this sound familiar? These were the questions and thoughts running through my mind, as I was getting ready to go out to dinner Saturday evening.

I’ve spent a year and several months eating the wrong foods because I was misdiagnosed. I was told I had Crohn’s Disease when in fact I really have Celiac Disease. The food I was eating contained my enemy GLUTEN, and it was making me ill (deathly ill). I literally was being poisoned.

I am now six weeks into my gluten-free diet, and I’ve never been happier. I thought I was destined for a life sentence of depression because I couldn’t eat my favorite foods… pasta, pizza and bread. Oh, how I miss you, but because you made my life a living hell… I’m over you. Ohhhhh, I am so over you!!

I’ve heard discussions amongst friends and other individuals about these “annoying people” with food allergies. I remember my friend Lisa saying to me, “Oh, this man at my work, no one can stand him because he has food allergies and he always has to make a big deal about it. He’s always saying, ‘I can’t eat this.’ or ‘I’m afraid to eat that because it will make me sick.’ ” OMG! I’m the guy at her work!!

Actually, I’m NOT the guy at her work. I’m not even a cousin of the guy at her work. Nothing has really changed. I was about to let stories like the one above and other verbal nonsense control my ability to move freely among the masses. I’ve never been one of those people so easily beaten down, and I’m not about to change. Thus, I got myself together and went out to dinner with my friend.

We went to a beautiful restaurant, Cinghiale. It really is a wonderful place and not just because they put my fears to rest. The restaurant definitely commands your attention, from the gorgeous marble floors to the beautiful wood to the brilliant light fixtures. It’s just stunning. I knew, out of all the restaurants I like, if Cinghiale could not meet my needs as a Celiac I would just sit in that beautiful space and be content. However, that was not the case.

What can I say about our waiter? Anna F. was attentive, well-spoken, engaging, knowledgeable and extremely personable. I was thinking to myself, “OK, the place looks great and the server is amazing, I don’t have to eat. I’ll just have wine.” (LOL) I guess you could say I was a tad nervous to bring up the whole Celiac thing.

While we were perusing the menu, Anna asked us if we had any questions. We had many because, as savvy as Michael and I like to think we are, we still had a few challenges with Italian translations, but Anna put our fears to rest. Her explanations were exact. Her communication was concise. This is the model for a perfect waiter.

Shortly after I told Anna I had a gluten allergy, and before I could say anything else (and I did have a few other things to say), Anna said everything was fine and that Cinghiale could tailor their menu to my needs. I had been ready to have my mental breakdown, but she denied me my opportunity for drama (thank you).

Michael and I had these visually stunning salads with sweet green leaves and vinagrette dressing. Michael had the Grilled Orata, Grilled Apricot, Braised Fennel, Basil Butter Sauce, and I had the Pan Roasted Chicken Al Mattone, Caramelized Local Onions, Crispy Pancetta, Local Swiss Chard, Rosemary Sauce. For dessert we had Vanilla “Panna Cotta”, Caramel, Hazelnuts, “Fleur de Sel” and Vanilla Ice Cream. I could break down the food and tell you all about the taste and texture, etc., but that’s not needed because each one of these dishes was spectacular. Again, it was visually stunning and the food just melted in our mouths. The wine list was incredible, and of course we enjoyed a few glasses. What else can I say? It was a fabulous dining experience.

It’s very important to tell you about this dining experience because I would have missed out on a fabulous night of delicious food and great company if I had allowed my Celiac Disease to get in the way.

It all comes down to communication. The nicer restaurants will more than likely be accommodating. However, sometimes dives are fun to go to, but the atmosphere can be a bit intense and quick. At times like these you go for a salad, vegetables and maybe some chicken. However, if you have any doubts about your food you must ask without any hesitation, “Does any of the food I am ordering contain gluten, and if you don’t know please ask the cook/chef.” Always consider asking the waiter for gluten-free options. Hey, they might just know.

I must admit I had always been annoyed by people with allergies too. With a little commonsense and practicality you don’t have to be stressed out or left out. Sometimes you might have to eat a little something safe at home before going out to a certain restaurant or when going to a party, but it doesn't have to involve a whole lot of drama. It's your choice.

No matter what challenge you are dealing with in life, people will understand, but they won’t understand if you’re making a big deal without communicating the facts. Always know your audience and learn effective communication.

I must recommend the Gluten-Free Bible by Jax Peters Lowell. I’m not a big fan of the other Bible, but the Gluten-Free Bible is a good read. It’s information you can use. It really has been instrumental in my recovery. Jax Lowell’s Bible rocks! If you have Celiac Disease, be like me and live life one meal at a time. Learn, live and grow. - paerki

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"I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do because I notice it always coincides with their own desires." - Susan B. Anthony

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