Have I bitched about my food allergies lately?

So, last night, a friend and I were talking about the greatest salad restaurant ever, Sweet Tomatoes, and lamenting the fact that there isn’t one in Gainesville. Seriously? With all the granola-crunchy hippies in this town there’s not a place to eat devoted to salads?! And she mentioned Crispers, and maybe I would like to eat there. And yeah. I used to eat there all the time – well, not ALL the time, but about once a week. But here’s the deal: I’m allergic to at least one thing that’s in every one of their salads. I said… you know, I don’t remember my exact words but they were something along the lines of feeling bad making changes to what I order. Whatever I said, I must not have used the right words because she thought I meant I felt bad making the person putting my salad together make it differently – and that’s not true. I could give a fuck, really. They work there, that’s their job: to make food that people want to eat.

What I meant was I feel sick and tired in my heart about not being able to walk in to basically any place to eat and order one simple thing without second-guessing everything. Is there egg in that salad? Chicken? Do they make the salads fresh or pick it out? If they make it fresh, how often do they wash their hands in between making salads? Do they wear gloves? If so, how often do they change gloves? If the person before me had a turkey salad, the gloves are contaminated. How often do they clean the counter that they make the salad? Did the person before get chicken? If so, the counter is contaminated. Just because I’m not ordering chicken doesn’t mean my food isn’t touching something chicken has touched – and believe me, my body will know. I’ve had to stop eating at a couple places for just that reason (Roly Poly, I’m looking at you!). If the salad is freshly made and nothing I’m allergic to has touched it, let’s move on to the dressing. Did you know that some dressings contain eggs? Yeah. That fucks me up, too – just ask Aunt Gay!

Moving on from the salad course, let’s talk about the main dish. Can’t have chicken. Can’t have turkey. Can’t have fish. Can have steak. Oh, but wait – is that steak cooked on the same grill as the chicken, turkey, or fish? What if I have a hamburger instead? Is that cooked on the same grill? Maybe I’ll just have pasta. Oh, but is that a wheat-based pasta (good) or an egg-based pasta (bad)? What about the sauce? Is there egg in that sauce?

There’s a really great breakfast place in town (actually, a couple) and do you know how much it pains me to go to them? I can have grits. And a biscuit. Most places offer turkey bacon as well as bacon bacon. And I can have the regular bacon… unless it’s cooked on the same grill as the turkey bacon.

You see what I mean? It takes me 30 seconds to figure out what I want, and another 30 minutes to figure out how they make it and whether it’s safe for me to eat.

It’s almost not worth it to go out to eat sometimes, at least at a new place. Some places I’ve been going for years and I either know and trust the menu or the servers know me well enough to happily work with me on menu changes. People who are invested in having happy repeat customers are definitely happy to work with menu changes. But it still makes me sad in my heart. Makes me feel defeated; bad. Not on their part – on my part. I miss the days when I could go in and say “I want blah blah blah no onions” just because I don’t like onions.

Edited to add that there must be something in the water (or the milk) because a friend of mine with very similar allergies just made a good point. Speaking of which, I have to be careful about what vitamins I take – no Omega-3 from fish for this allergen-ridden girl!


  1. Skipernicus

    You are a grown person. Have dinner parties. Eating out is for single people who can’t fend for themselves. Collect a list of everyone’s allergies, distribute the list to the foodistas and then have a potluck.

    And save a place for me if I ever make it to Gainesville.

  2. Anne

    I can sure understand why you would feel the way you do — I’ll work on remembering not to take my good fortune for granted. Even if I don’t develop allergies, I’ve known people who have to stop eating certain foods as they age, just because their bodies no longer handle them well. My grandfather couldn’t eat raspberries or blackberries (and I will be SO SAD if I ever have to give up raspberries). I can’t eat whole kernel corn anymore, and corn on the cob was my favorite summer food! At least I still have my cornmeal!

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