This weekend we went to see some friends in Stoke. Over a few drinks we were trying to decide where to go for dinner. Every suggestion sounded great; Indian, burgers, Italian. All I was thinking about though was what non-dairy dishes could I have??
I haven’t told many friends about my new challenge but I find myself not saying anything or if I do, I feel really apologetic. I try to avoid mentioning it if I can, which I suppose is adding to my own awkwardness. I think that eating out hasn’t helped and I have really started to become a little down hearted and angry.
During the week I went for an Indian meal with some work friends and they know about my diet so I felt comfortable discussing this with them. Before going to the restaurant I had decided I was going to have chicken tikka shashlik which is just chunks of succulent chicken, peppers and onions in tikka spices. When we ordered our food I asked the waiter to confirm that there wasn’t any dairy in the dish. “There’s yoghurt in there. Looks like you’re just having popadoms tonight!” Oh come on, give me a break. I really don’t want to give up Indian food. I asked him what else I could have and he just pulled a funny face and started looking at the menu. After suggesting making a curry without ghee I decided on a chicken rogan josh with a chapatis and rice. I’m glad he thinks it’s a laughing matter. Food is a huge part of my life and brings me so much pleasure but at this present moment it’s accompanied by frustration. Having a stranger laugh at me doesn’t help. I should have said it was an allergy and I’ll keep my epi pen close by if he makes a mistake!
On Saturday night we finally booked a table at a traditional Italian with your typical red gingham table cloths. There’s nothing more appetising than the smell of freshly baked pizzas as you walk through the door. As soon as I walked in the door I crumbled, “I’m having cheese tonight, on everything!” Luckily for me I was talked out of making this stupid decision. Looking at the menu it would have been easy to choose the steak and chips but I was in an Italian restaurant, I didn’t want to do that, I wanted pasta. There were so many tempting options, all containing cheese or butter. I ended up having calamari with a tomato dip followed by tagliatelle in a bolognese sauce, minus the huge mountain of freshly grated parmigiano I usually have. It was hard to resist the tempting cheese but I did it and I was so glad when we left the restaurant.
On our way home from Stoke we stopped off for a coffee and cake, I had high hopes. As I was slightly peckish I thought I’d just have lunch, the deciding factor was that there was no non-dairy cake options. It seemed everything on the menu had cheese in; toasties, paninis, sandwiches. I could already feel I was getting angry at the lack of options, obviously it had nothing to do with the fact I was slightly hangry. There was hope, a light at the end of the tunnel, a tuna mayo sandwich. I thought I’d ask to be on the safe side and the young girl at the counter had no idea so she asked someone else. The other member of staff didn’t even turn around and just said ‘yes’, no more detail was provided just yes. That was it, I was choking on my rage so much that I decided not to order anything, not even a drink. Why didn’t she suggest something else? Why didn’t she enquire whether it was an allergy? The lack of customer service is one issue but the other is the sign. Why have a sign about allergies and intolerances and how ‘happy’ you are to help if you have no idea, and ‘happy’ would not be the work I would use to describe the service I received. I ended up going to Sainsburys for a pasta pot, I can always have confidence that a large corporate business will ensure their labelling on the packaging is correct.
I have a new found sympathy and understanding towards people who decide to follow strict regimes like veganism as they take a huge commitment. All I want is food without dairy in and I have found it to be incredibly exhausting, frustrating, embarrassing and challenging to say the least.
Week one has been easy at home as I have been organised and planned every meal. I need to start looking/thinking outside the box and choosing my eateries carefully if I want to continue with this new challenge.