It’s Monday night. I usually sit down with my fake boyfriend, Anthony Bourdain, for a little armchair adventure. There is a certain fearlessness, recklessness and allergy-free-ness in “No Reservations” that I just don’t get in my own life. But I realize that I’m going to have to put an end to this charade. It’s not me. It’s you.
Tony is my fake boyfriend. Fake is perfect. He’s tall, smart and funny, but he swears like a sailor, drinks to excess, smokes (or used to) and is mean as hell to people who order things on the side, who are vegetarinan or lactose intolerant, or who kill his particular food buzz.
That would be me. Just call me Buzzkill Jill. I order gluten-free, seafood-free, soy-free, corn-free if I can. I don’t drink much, cigarettes trigger my asthma, and I don’t like crowds. And, thanks to a trip to the naturopath, I’m now going to be ordering dairy-free.
In “Kitchen Confidential” Tony writes about taking risks with food. It might cost you one bad night every year or so, he writes, if you get a bad plate of mussels. For those of us who really, truly have food allergies and intolerances, that bad night is more likely going to happen than not.
When I was 14 we moved from a small town in Ohio with about 3 restaurants to Atlanta. Both my parents worked and had a bit of a commute. We went from all home-cooked meals to eating out all the time. We loved it. Chinese food, Southern BBQ, Greek pizza, Mexican food…. But I soon realized that my evening went like this: Eat out. Feel sick on the ride home. Go to bed as soon as we get home, curled up on my left side. Go to sleep if possible. Those nights I couldn’t fall asleep, I’d lay awake in the dark listening to the same Eric Carmen album over and over.
Every. Single. Meal.
A few years later, when I was 17, I got a full allergy work up, and that generated a big list of foods I’m allergic to. Truly allergic, BTW. The stomach aches start to diminish. I’m 40something now and I’m still trying to tune my diet to support feeling well. And avoiding terrible stomach aches.
So Tony, you could never be my real boyfriend. My real life sweetie understands that I really do just need to order the roast chicken and salad at every restaurant I go to. That it may be a buzzkill, but me doubled up in pain all night is a bigger buzzkill.
My message to the doubters: I don’t eat this way out of lack of imagination. I don’t eat this way because I’m picky by nature. I eat this way because it hurts like bejeezus if I don’t. Simple.