Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Utter Deprivation of Delights and Temptations

I was in line at Starbucks yesterday, and I took a good long look at the pastry case.  Delicious cake pops, muffins, lavish slices of pumpkin  bread, sugar cookies in bright cheerful holiday designs and colors.  Truly a collection of Earthly delights.  And I absolutely cannot eat any of it.  Because of this worthless sign on their pastry case:

The problem with signs such as the one Starbucks posts, is that it does not indicate WHICH items have which allergens.  But if you look at the food item behind their lazy sign, you can clearly see cookies.  Cookies are a terrible food if you are like me and allergic to peanuts, in fact, cookies are probably the single number one killer of people like me.  Horrible things.  So this sign plus cookies in the case means that when I see a display like this I look at it, and appreciate the colors and the treats.  And then I go without.  I wonder to myself: what it must be like to be 'normal' and be able to select and eat anything you care to ingest.  That's a crazy freedom I've never even experienced.

I guess most people don't have these severe dietary restrictions, so they probably wouldn't even think about it.  But everyday, I am bombarded with countless food displays, advertisements, restaurants, coffee hours, pot-latches, etc, all overflowing with food I cannot allow myself to eat.  If I don't eat, I won't die.  If I plan ahead, and make careful food choices, survival is a likely scenario.  

I only slept for like 3 hours last night, and I am kind of in a fog.  

I live in the Seattle neighborhood of Fremont.  Fremont is a fun, arty, funky, place.  Someone was telling me that Fremont had a lot of great places to eat.  I was confused.  Restaurants?  Huh?  I asked and they named off like 4 Thai restaurants.  Oh.  Okay.  I guess Fremont does have a lot of Thai restaurants, but I've never noticed because I cannot eat Thai food.  Thai food served in Thai restaurants in America has tons of peanuts, and the last time I ate at a Thai food restaurant I went into anaphylactic shock and almost died.  I walk and drive pass Thai food restaurants all the time.  They do not register to me as restaurants.  They are dead to me.  Places I'd rather not go.  Having a severe allergy, entire sections of reality are blocked off to my perception in this way.

There is this stupid chocolate company called Theo's Chocolates in Fremont.  It's a chocolate factory, and they give tours and make their delicious chocolate.  But they are a small company, and the peanut chocolates are made on the same equipment as the other chocolates.  Deadly cross contamination.  To me Theo's Chocolates does not exist.  I once biked past this horrible chocolate factory when they must have been making a peanut butter chocolate thing this summer.  My eyes started to water, my nose started to run, and I started gagging when I smelled the aroma of chocolate peanut candy.  This is a psychological problem.  The peanut allergy is not airborne.  But I can't even begin to describe the smell of peanuts when one has a peanut allergy.  It's like smelling death itself.  Theo's Chocolates is a pox upon the neighborhood from my perspective.  Theo's Chocolates is dead to me.  Maybe if they had allergy friendly practices and chocolates, I'd have a different outlook, but right now it's a worthless waste of space.

This summer, my little sister gave me a Groupon for this trendy new vegan restaurant called Plum Bistro.  It was so nice of her, and I looked at the menu on the website and it didn't seem to have any peanut containing menu items.  I was starving when I walked into the restaurant.  My blood sugar was low: I was shaking.  I started asking the waiter my questions:  Do you have any menu items with peanuts?  Can you accommodate a guest with severe peanut allergy who will die from cross-contamination.  And the waiter went and talked to the manager and the kitchen.  And the waiter suggested I leave because they could not.  What. The. Fuck.  This trendy restaurant can accommodate a strict vegan diet -which IS A CHOICE, by the way, but not accommodate A SEVERE FOOD ALLERGY WHICH IS NOT A CHOICE?!?!?!!

I agree with the vegans, I mostly eat vegan at home.  But it seems that every time I go out and try to enjoy an ethical vegan meal, I am refused accommodation, I am refused service.  The waiter at Plum Bistro told me that their food handling practices had rampant peanut cross contamination, and he basically advised me to eat elsewhere. I thanked him and left.  I was so hungry, I was faint.  I practically dragged myself out of the restaurant.  It is such a heartbreak, a disappointment to be refused service.  It brings to mind the shameful segregation period in American history, when blacks had to endure the heartbreak of being refused service at a restaurant.  Well.  That is kind of like my life.  Right now.  And the food smelled so good.  And the ambiance was nice too.  I really would have liked to have eaten there.  I really like to eat vegan food.  But I had to leave starving and sad.  I didn't want to die.  I didn't have a choice.  I suffered a lot in attempting to eat at this restaurant, and I wanted to call them out on their discrimination of people with disabilities: people with severe food allergies like me.

That's the entire angst of today's whiny blog post.  All these wonderful food establishments exist with their delightful selections.  And I can't partake in any of it.  Thus I suffer greatly.

I was on a date with a guy.  He was nice.  He was a vegetarian.  He was critical that I occassionally ate meat.  My response to him?  It was this:

You know what?  I really enjoy vegan and vegetarian food.  I don't buy a whole lot of meat, and when I do it's grass-fed, organic, all that.  I consciously choose to buy ethical meat.  You know what else?  I try to dine at a vegan or vegetarian restaurant, and historically, I've either been refused service, or lied to and gone into anaphylactic shock.  You know that delicious chocolate company, "The Dilettante?" You know their vast cases of wonderful chocolate? I cannot eat any of it.  I can't eat it because it is cross contaminated with peanuts and I could die.  What about that trendy new cafe "Regent?"  They have aisles of pastries, and I can't eat any of them and it's not a choice.  Can you even imagine what that must be like?  With your privilege of not having the concern of deadly food allergens to vigilantly avoid?  Personally I would love being able to eat food safely at vegan restaurants, but the reality is that right now I can't do that.  So don't criticize me for eating meat sometimes, I am doing the best I can living with an incurable disease that will kill me if I eat the wrong food.

That guy didn't get a second date.  I just wasn't that into him.  And it is bad manners to criticize someone for something they didn't choose.  But he did buy me dinner, a nice one.  And I was gracious when dining out with him as well, I ordered a vegetarian option: the Mac and Cheese.

Again, I realize that this blog post is whiny.  But I am writing because it's important to let people know that for a person with deadly food allergies, this impacts my life in a big way, every hour, every day.  And I would give anything to be able to be like other people.  To eat food without the concern of a deadly food allergy.

Every time I see food gorgeously displayed in a pretty glass case, I look at it.  Often the food is beautiful.  And 99% of the time it is off limits to me.  That gorgeous glass case may hold all the choices freedom has to offer a normal person, but to me it is a prison wall, something I could never eat.  I wish science would cure peanut allergy.  I am sick of living in a prison.  I would give anything to be free.

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