OK – so you are down with cooking. You are good to go with trying your best at total avoidance. You are strong and symptom free. Then this funny thing happens. You want to go out. With friends. To a restaurant. Like – dare I say it? Normal people.
I am here to tell you – it’s all right. We’ve all done it. You can do it. All the cool kids do it. OK – perhaps not – I know some very fine people who have such bad reactions (though usually a result of multiple sensitivities) that they just cannot possibly go out. If you are one of those people, my heart goes out to you. I hope you stay strong and realize there is plenty of the good stuff in life for you and thank you for helping me not feel sorry for myself.
For the rest of us, however – it is JUST BARELY possible to go out to a meal and survive. But only if you are careful. And have a good sense of humor. And have a waiter that believes you and acts accordingly. And get with the fact that the food is better at home. But – you are OUT. With FRIENDS. Or on a DATE.
So – here are my strategies for the occasional night out:
I hate to say this, I hate to limit people, but the bottom line is, the fancier (read: more expensive) restaurant you go to, the better chance of success you will have. High end establishments build their reputations on excellent customer service. They feel it their duty to bring you what you ask whether or not they think you are full of it. So – here is my plan at a fancy steak house:
First explain that you have a food allergy and that can make you very sick. Wait staff will be more sensitive to your request if they know it is a health issue.
Salad to start. No onions. Instead of dressing – lemon and olive oil. Ask specifically if it is pure olive oil. You CANNOT have a blend. Oil is oil in most people’s minds. You have to educate them. Fresh lemon. I am torn on the topic of salt. Regular table salt usually has sulfites added as an anti-clumping agent. Ask for sea salt. And don’t be afraid to use it. Salt is the stuff of life. And DO NOT be intimidated by the debunked theory that “salt equals high blood pressure”. I have 12 kinds of salt in my cabinets. My bp only goes up if I have a reaction. There have been no studies LINKING high bp to salt. Google it, really.
Now – cocktails. Yes, many cocktails await – but you need to be careful. Here is what I know: it is unlikely that you will be able to have wine. Not even the sulfite free organic kind. Sulfites are created in the fermenting process. Now there are a few wines that will read on the label “no sulfites detected”. This is very different than what you see on most labels which is “no sulfites added”. They actually manage the processing so the wine is not producing sulfites in the same way as it is in other wine – and then they test it to be sure. I can have a glass or two of this wine with very little reaction. Beer MUST be German (LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the Reinheitsgebot , or German beer purity law of 1516. It states that beer must have four and only four ingredients: water, hops, barley and malt ) Germans RULE. Other beers often have sulfites added or other ingredients that contain sulfites and ingredients don’t need to be listed on alcohol by law in the US – so stick with German beer. I can have two before a reaction. Nice – but not like Absolut vodka. Yum. BUT – NO ICE FOR YOU. Cold water if you must. But – ice is made through systems that have filters. Those filters are often made from charcoal. Which is made from coconut – which is a no no. And then there is scotch – well – there are one or two scotches you might have. Most scotch has caramel color added – which is sulfited. However there are some purists out there – Glenrothes is my favorite – and apparently American straight whiskey cannot by law have caramel color, so you are probably safe there.
Next course. Order the steak. Order it medium rare. When you are not able to have sauces, spices and seasonings on the meat it starts to taste pretty dry and tasteless the more well done it is cooked. Obviously, this is a personal preference, but I find the more well done pieces of meat need a little help with taste and since you don’t have that option, I recommend trying it a little less done so you can appreciate the taste of the meat itself. If you are opposed to steak, get a tuna steak. Ask if they pepper it. If they do, ask them if it fresh ground. Fresh ground is OK – pre ground is sulfited. This is an ESSENTIAL point. Fresh ground or nothing – make sure they believe you.
OK – veggie. Baked potato. Sorry – but often you have little choice. The big issue here is the butter. It can have vitamins. Which are sulfited. Organic is best – but you never find that in a restaurant. So – butter or not – your call. If not – olive oil and salt.
After that – I want you to have a happy ending, but the truth of the matter is – I SEETH through chocolatey deliciousness that other people can have and I cannot. But I manage it with a cocktail. Or two. If you are a sulfite sensitive soul and cannot eat anything but a plain steak and potato – anyone that cares about you should drive.
Then take you friends home and have a GOOD dessert. I am sure you can think of someplace to find a good recipe…..
Or you could just go out for a drink. Or a movie – just bring your own popcorn and beverage!