Why He'll Never Suggest Lettuce for Lunch Again

Why He’ll Never Suggest Lettuce for Lunch Again

We’d been driving for a day and a half and were only halfway home. The high winds across the Kansas plains and the oversized trucks creeping into our lane forced my husband to keep a hands-of-steel grip on the wheel while I kept eyeing the sky for a tornado.

An Allergic Foodie and her husband don't always agree on where to eat

We were a little on edge.

And we were hungry.

When we finally decided to stop for lunch, we began quarreling. For us, quarreling involves a lot of silence.

Husband-Who-Can-Eat-Everything wanted to stop at Taco John’s. With my soy, dairy, gluten, and corn allergies, I didn’t even want to breathe the air in Taco John’s.

Besides, Husband-Who-Can-Eat-Everything knew I wasn’t looking forward to the three-day-old tuna and garbanzo beans I’d packed for myself. He knew this because I kept opening all the apps on my iPhone–Allergy Eats, Find Me Gluten Free, YoDish–and reading the reviews.

Still, he said, “Taco John’s has salad. Did you bring salad dressing?”

“Yay, more salad,” I said.

“The lettuce looked fresh last time.”

“How would you like a bowl of lettuce for lunch?”

Silence.

I pulled up Taco John’s list of allergens on my iPhone. Just about everything has milk, wheat and/or soy.

Except maybe the lettuce.

“I just thought you ‘d want to order something while I ate,” he said.

“Lettuce?”

More silence.

Food Allergies and relationships are a difficult journey

A few exits later, my husband of 20+ years tried to explain how he thought he was being thoughtful. Almost six weeks ago, on the drive out, he’d gotten Taco John’s to-go and taken it to Subway; a food-allergy app had given the Subway salad bar a good review.

While standing in the salad line, I watched the worker make pizza with gloves, then dip the same gloved hands into the salad ingredients. Even if he changed gloves, the tomatoes and lettuce and cucumbers were already contaminated with wheat.

I passed on the salad. My husband ate his tacos and I ate my fruit and almond-milk yogurt in one of the Subway booths.

It was a little weird. But if  an employee had said anything, they’d get an earful about how anyone with celiac or a gluten intolerance would get sick from Subway’s unsafe practices.

So this time around, my husband didn’t want me to feel uncomfortable by eating outside food in a Taco John’s booth. That’s how he was being considerate. To me, suggesting we go to a grocery store and picking up food we both could eat would be considerate. But that’s just me.

Here’s the thing: I GET IT!  My food allergies are not only a pain in the butt for me– but for him, too!

After a long difficult drive, he wanted tacos. He didn’t want to have to drive around looking for a grocery store or a safe place for me to eat–and allergy-friendly options are limited in Colby, Kansas.

Still, if he’d just said, “I’m sorry you can’t eat tacos or burritos or nachos, but do you mind if we stop at Taco John’s?” I would have been okay with it. Sometimes I just want confirmation from my husband and others that they get how food restrictions make life’s road bumpy.

Just don’t tell me to eat lettuce for lunch.

Why He’ll Never Suggest Lettuce for Lunch Again first appeared at Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.

I’m a Picky Eater! And Proud of It!

There I was at a pizza party grazing off the veggie platter when a friend–for the sake of my future social life let’s call her Deborah–leaned across the table and announced loudly that her daughter who has celiac disease doesn’t need to be nearly as careful as I do.

“Well she kind of does,” I explained good-naturedly while the other guests rolled out homemade pizza dough.

“But her symptoms aren’t nearly as bad as yours,” Deborah said. (Oh, and did I mention Deborah is a nurse?) “At our house, we use the same toaster, the same utensils, the same cutting board, and my daughter is just fine.”

Maybe I was just being overly sensitive that night, but it felt like Deborah was announcing to all the other guests, as well as the lovely hosts, that I was just being a picky eater.

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Guess what?  I am a picky eater! I have to be. Otherwise, I’ll end up spending the evening in the restroom and the following day in the fetal position on the sofa.

Yes Deborah, I really can’t eat the gluten-free pizza dough that’s been rolled out with a rolling pin covered in flour. Nor can I cook the gluten-free pizza in the really cool pizza oven because it’s also been contaminated with flour.

My husband doesn't have CD enjoyed the pizza!

My husband doesn’t have CD enjoyed the pizza!

There was no convincing this woman that her daughter with mild symptoms should follow strict contamination guidelines. She didn’t want to change her cooking habits or reorganize her kitchen. I went to bed that evening worrying about her young daughter who could possibly develop serious complications from uncontrolled celiac disease later in life.

According to Peter Green, MD, author of Celiac Disease: A Hidden Epidemic, “Many patients who do not have diarrhea think that there is no need for treatment. But the longer individuals have celiac disease, the more like they are to get other autoimmune diseases. Even without symptoms, patients need to be treated to prevent further damage.”

As those of us with CD know, “treatment” involves removing all gluten out of our diet and avoiding cross contamination. For those newly diagnosed or who are cooking for a loved one with CD or gluten sensitivity, learning to avoid cross contamination takes patience and practice. Following are some basic guidelines; even if you are an experienced gluten-free eater, it’s a good idea to review these.

  • Always wash cooking utensils with dish soap and water before using—you never know where that fork has been!
  • Maintain designated non-wheat cutting boards, strainers, and toasters. Color code if possible; at my house, gluten-free cookware is apple green. I also label items with a Sharpie and keep a gluten-free cupboard for my supplies. In our vacation home, I label everything I cook with, and when I think guests won’t follow the rules, I lock my cookware in an owner’s closet.
  • Never double dip. If a contaminated spoon has been dipped into the peanut butter, don’t eat the PB. If the flour tortilla has been sunk into the salsa, don’t eat the salsa. If it looks like the crouton spoon at the salad bar has been swapped with the cucumber spoon, pass on the cucumbers.
  • Clearly label the jars that you eat out of (for example, “Amy’s Jam”). I especially find this helpful since I have lots of food allergies and my food is expensive. My husband can eat the cheaper brands. 🙂
  • When eating food that’s typically cooked in oil, such a French Fries, ask if breaded items are cooked in the same oil. Some restaurants, such as Red Robin, are now cooking gluten-free fries in separate oil.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask the server or chef lots of questions—whether eating at a restaurant, at a wedding, or at a friend’s house. Be specific about your needs. Can you cook my salmon on foil to avoid contamination? Can you leave the pasta out of my minestrone?
  • If you are still getting sick even after taking cross-contamination steps, keep a food diary and consult a nutritionist/dietician. Gluten hides in so many products and can easily contaminate foods–don’t be afraid to ask for help!

As for Deborah’s daughter, I hope she learns to be a picky eater. It’s nothing to be ashamed of.