Eating Out When You Can’t Eat Everything

Sorry for the radio silence these past couple of weeks, life has been a bit hectic and I have also been busy working on a draft for an upcoming post about taste. I’m still working on it and won’t post it until it feels perfect so in the meantime I’ll post some other stuff.

For this post though I’d like to talk about something that affects everyone with a food intolerance of some sorts, like lactose or milk protein intolerance, egg allergy, coeliac disease, soy allergy etc. Namely, eating out at a restaurant.
We’ve all been there. Trying to find a restaurant that will fit our desired budget while being able to cater to our needs and not cause us to leave the venue feeling horribly sick because someone forgot to check all the ingredients in a dish or thought that “it’s just a tiny bit, surely that can’t be too bad?” Well, in case you’ve ever been that person to have that thought here is a news flash: for some it can be near fatal.
And we as sufferers don’t always want to make demands because we don’t want to be seen as “difficult”. The trouble is, once we start seeing ourselves as “difficult” we stop living our daily lives and quit putting pressure where pressure should be put: on the restaurants, cafés and coffee houses. We are not difficult just beacuse we want to eat food that is safe for us.

I have coeliac disease and I am one of those who don’t experience symptoms when I accidentally eat gluten. I might feel a little tense but nothing more. On the other end of the scale I have my sister who gets terrible stomach problems when she eats milk protein.
When I first got my diagnosis I was deflated and though that I would never be able to eat out again. Today we go out to lunch or dinner every other week and it works totally fine. If you’ve suffered from a food intolerance/allergy for a long time you are probably, like me and have devised a routine for going out to eat. If your diagnosis is new, however, you might find these tips useful:

  1. Call the restaurant prior to making a reservation and ask what can be done in regards to your particular intolerance/allergy.
  2. State you allergy/intolerance when making the reservation. Some restaurants have an option where you can leave a special message after choosing party size, date and time, others will want you to send them an email if you have any special requests.
  3. Remind them on arrival and let them know who it is who has an intolerance/allergy. They don’t know that when you’re making the reservation (unless you write “I” instead of “One of us”) and it makes things easier for everyone when ordering your food.
  4. Ask about the menu! A good (even decent) restaurant should be able to either recommend which dishes you should go for or what could be tweaked in order to make it safe for you. While some things will be difficult to adapt to your specific requirement, other things will be perfectly safe. But if you don’t ask you won’t for sure. Knowledge is the key to everything, never forget that.

I also always check out the menu (if it’s available online) prior to the visit. Although this is mostly because I’m curious about what they have and what I might be in the mood for, it also helps me rule out dishes that I know they won’t be able to fix for me.

Eating out should be an enjoyment for everyone, no matter what you can and can’t eat. Restaurants are constantly getting better at seeing and understanding food intolerances and we as sufferers need to be better at letting them know what we want from them. If we don’t communicate they won’t be able to learn and improve.
And to all you chefs and restaurant owners: please don’t see us as a pain in the ass. All we want to do is to live our lives the same way everyone else does, and that includes eating. We want to have the same experience as all your other guests, nothing more. While I understand that easy route is to just remove the particular allergen, more often than not it is apparent that this is the easy way out. I want to be able to taste all the different textures my dinner company is tasting. Crunchy crumbles usually can be replaced with something else that’s crunchy, such as nuts and seeds. I don’t want to feel that something was left off my plate because it was “the simplest way to fix it”. Please ask us if you’re not sure what can be done. When you’ve had a diagnosis for a couple of years you learn things and we’d love to communicate our experience with you so the next customer will feel as happy as we did.

I love to go out to eat and will keep doing that for the rest of my life. And I look forward to see the restaurant world evolve and make it easier for us with food intolerances and allergies to eat out.

Foto 2016-07-14 19 58 04
Dessert at Ekstedt, June 2016, almond cake (instead of honey cake) baked in the wood fired oven with raspberries, birch ice cream and buttermilk cream.

Cooking as a Therapy

I do nearly all of the cooking at home. And it’s not because my boyfriend doesn’t like to cook or have some strange idea that I should do all the cooking, he actually enjoys it and would like to be in the kitchen more (I’m learning to let in him). It’s because I come home earlier than he does, sometimes several hours earlier depending on his work schedule.
This means I spend most of my kitchen time alone with no one else to keep me company except for myself and my thoughts. I don’t mind it though as this has given me an opportunity to talk the day over with myself, rant about all the things that have annoyed me and discuss whatever problem I’ve had or things that worry me. I find that if I say things out loud and not just think it a problem gets easier to solve and something that at first seemed like a huge worry cloud ends up getting a shrug and a “Whatever, it will work itself out somehow”. Add to that the fact that I always think better when I’m doing something that requires focus and I have my own winning combination. Cooking gives me the opportunity I need to think, philosophise and go over the same thing again and again until I either find a solution to my problem or just say “Screw it, it’s not my problem so I don’t care”. It has in a sense made me aware of how my own brain works and how I solve my issues.

Cooking has also made me more physically aware. I will go deeper into this in another post though, or else I will lose focus on this one. But I am more aware of myself, my breathing, how I move my fingers etc when I’m in the kitchen. In other words, this is my form of mindfulness. No matter how sad or angry I am, cooking makes it better – or at least easier to handle.
I think it all comes from my connection with food and cooking as something enjoyable, something that’s done because we like to do it, not just because we have to. If I do something that I enjoy, like reading, having a cup of tea or going for a walk I feel happy and at peace. That’s what I feel when I’m cooking. It’s a bit like yoga, I guess, calming, awakening, focused and strengthening. I love the smell of something frying in a pan and hear the bubble of cooking water, a sauce or a stew. It makes me smile to know that I’m doing something that I’m good at and that it will taste good once it’s done. All my problems go away in that one area of my home, the only thing that beats it is my boyfriends embrace, however cheesy that sounds.

Cooking is my therapy. Some years ago I used to write in my journal to get all my worry and annoyance out. Today, I cook and bake. If I come home feeling upset about something it immediately starts to feel better once I start prepping for dinner. Doing something as simple as chopping an onion helps me focus my mind in the right direction and I can see what has upset me in a new light. If I didn’t cook I don’t really know what I would do. I might write a journal again but sometimes I find it hard to find the time to sit down and just write on my own. Cooking is something I do nearly every day (that is, when we don’t go out to eat) and for me it has done my brain good.