Life StoryDec/Jan 2014 Issue

We've Got "Issues": Dating and Celiac Disease

Irreverent solutions to your real life allergy drama.

Photo by Oksana Charla

Dear Issues,

My issue is that some of the spontaneity in my life has disappeared since my boyfriend was diagnosed with celiac disease. I’ll make a new recipe and I’ll say to my boyfriend, “Hon, you’ve got to try this,” and then I stop and realize that he can’t.

Signed, GF of GF BF

Dear GF,

I asked my husband to prepare a response for you because, wow, can he relate. Although I should say a husband is much closer to a wife’s evil eye, especially if he were to tell me how delicious something is that I totally cannot have. So perhaps his perspective is a little more, well, let’s just call it fearful, than your own. All I’m saying is a boyfriend can get in the car and take off, while a husband is committed to you by law and real estate. Keep this in mind when you read what my gluten-loving spouse has to say to you: “Understand that your boyfriend is a celiac. Enjoy that new recipe on your own time.”

So, yeah. My husband has the fear of God in him. Maybe his advice isn’t great for you, the suffering partner—but there it is.

Don’t think I have no sympathy for you as you’re eating gluten-free pasta when you really want a deep-fried dish of spiedini alla romana. I do! Since you don’t have the sprue, you should be able to enjoy whatever you want for dinner when your boyfriend is out of town.

Because if you’re eating gluten and then making out with your boyfriend, he’s going to get sick. If you’re cooking up dinner with gluten, then using that same pan to make your boyfriend something gluten-free, he’s going to get sick.

I really don’t want to be the jerk that lectures you—but celiac is an autoimmune disease that, if not properly treated, can lead to a lot ickier diseases. Surely helping your boyfriend live a healthy life is worth a little cramp in your style. And when he’s not around? Eat that croissant as if your life depended on it. Just brush your teeth before playing tonsil hockey.

Dollars and Sense

Dear Issues,

I’m beginning to feel defeated about eating out without breaking the bank. Between managing a very busy schedule and a full social calendar, I eat out frequently—and on a budget! I do prepare most of the food that I consume at home and I’m no stranger to bringing my cooler or lunch box to a party. But I constantly feel isolated and left out. I live in Central Texas where 105 is a normal summer day. Carrying food around with me just isn’t practical all the time. Plus, I really want to be able to be normal sometimes. Any suggestions on restaurant options or ordering tips to keep the price down? My primary food allergies are gluten, dairy (casein), soy, peanuts, eggs, yeast, mushrooms, strawberries, lettuce and food preservatives.

Signed, Feeling Defeated and Broke

Dear Feeling,

You’ve got issues here, my friend, but I’ve got solutions.

It may seem overwhelming to dine out given your dietary issues but clearly you’re doing it at least some of the time. I know you know that the way to win this game is to focus on what you can eat (meat, vegetables, fruit, select grains) and act like those other annoying foods do not exist. Like they called your mother a name and you de-friended them faster than dairy goes through your small intestine. With this mindset, ordering becomes more of a positive than a negative. The next time you walk into a restaurant, ask what kind of meat dishes are available and what, if anything, they’re seasoned with. Do the same with veggies and you’ve got a good idea of what to order.

Of course, if your next office lunch is at Bread & Dairy-a-Lot, well, that’s a problem. As you know, things can go haywire when you don’t control the venue. But you can change that or at least influence it heavily by making suggestions every time friends or cubicle-mates start talking about happy hour.

Here’s where you should go and what you should eat:

Eat Tacos. You’re in Central Texas, deep Tex-Mex country where gluten and dairy live on every corner. There are also lots of tacos, so eat “authentic” Mexican that is not slathered in cheese and wrapped in a flour tortilla. It does exist. If you demand genuine corn tortillas with simple meat or beans (no queso!), you’ll sound like a foodie instead of a spoilsport. Also, tacos are cheap, filling and freaking delicious. (Fast food tip: Head to Chipotle and get the hard shell with no cheese or lettuce and lots of guacamole.)

Cook, Cook, Cook. If you buy only fresh produce and grass-fed meat at the store, you will not break the bank. I was amazed at how much my food bill went down when I skipped the processed foods and started eating clean. Eat sweet potato hash for breakfast so you’re not freaking-out hungry by lunch. Pack a good protein-and-veggie lunch and then all that money you save can go to…

Steak Dinner. You will have zero problems chowing down on a steak and baked potato (or spinach, or whatever veggie you can enjoy) that’s minimally dressed, therefore lowering the possibility of soy or other food additives sneaking onto your plate. You’re in Texas where they take meat seriously and it’s not messed with that much. Is it expensive? Heck, yeah. Which is why you eat tacos, baked chicken and food from home the rest of the week. Splurge on a steak dinner and night out and stay frugal (and healthy) the rest of the week.

Flirt. This may be out of your comfort zone but it’s still an awesome suggestion. The next time you find yourself in a restaurant that seems like it only sells poison, pull the waiter/waitress aside and put on the charm. Explain your allergies in the most adorable (non-cranky, non-angry, non-I-wanna-punch-you-out) manner and ask what they might have for you. You’d be surprised how accommodating some restaurants can be for those of us with special dietary needs. Try it. You may find some new options for dining out.

If you want to join the “norms” again, start saying “yes” and follow these safe eating suggestions. If all else fails, order a martini (it’s free of gluten, dairy, casein, soy, strawberry, lettuce, mushroom, peanut, eggs, yeast and preservatives) and enjoy the evening, knowing you have a taco waiting for you at home.

April Peveteaux is the author of Gluten Is My Bitch.

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