Tuesday, July 1, 2014

An accidental poisoning

So the thing about dining with toddlers is... don't do it.  Just don't.

They scream, they won't sit, they either throw the food or mash it in their hair, their armpits, their belly buttons, basically anywhere except their mouths. They make the thought of any sort of peaceful dinner conversation laughable.  Not only is it frustrating, it's dangerous!  Having a full sippy cup of water spiked on your foot, grains of rice flung at your eyes... I need protective gear just to eat a family meal, these days.

We went out to our favorite Mexican place a couple weeks ago, because Amaliya behaves ever-so-slightly better when we're out in public (our most recent Chipotle run notwithstanding... innocent strangers were beaned...  I don't want to talk about it). Anyway, we were at Maria's Cafe, it had been a rough week, and I was indescribably relieved to have a meal delivered to my table, fully cooked, and eat it without a kid screaming in my face.  So relieved, in fact, that I did not take my usual precautions when ordering.  I asked for a salad, and did not blink when it came to me in a fried tortilla bowl.

I passed on the cheese and sour cream, but for some reason, downed half the bowl without even thinking.  I noticed it tasted strange, but it never crossed my mind that it might be a flour tortilla - off limits, for someone with Celiac Disease like me.

I started feeling off on the ride home, but it wasn't until I was on the couch two hours later, barely able to hold my head up, that I realized what had happened.  I ate gluten.  I poisoned myself.  It brought on what I think might have been a migraine.  I've never had one, but the symptoms - massive headache, body aches, nausea, sensitivity to light - fit the bill.

I have accidentally poisoned myself 4 other times since I stopped eating gluten forever in June 2010.  The first time was August 2010, I ate a cheese croissant at Panera and had no reaction, but my body had not yet adjusted to the new diet.  July 2011, I ate a fast food hamburger (my first since 2004, and definitely my last) and was incredibly sick.  September 2011, I ate a contaminated fish taco and was sick.  December 2012, I ate a chocolate chip cookie, and felt off but not terrible.  My body has definitely grown more sensitive over the years, since the gluten has been out of my system for so long.  I used to eat bread three times a day.  Now, half of a flour tortilla makes me very sick.

Those of you who know me, know that I am cautious with my diet to an anal-retentive degree. So why, and how, did this happen?  The short answer: complacency.  We don't eat out too often, and when we do, we frequent the same places.  I am familiar with the menus and know what I can and can't eat.  Honestly, my gluten sensitivity seldom crosses my mind when I eat out these days, because knowing what to look/ask for is second nature.  This time, I was distracted, frustrated, and just plain lazy about my food.  I didn't take the appropriate precautions, and I paid the price.

A rare peaceful moment during dinner.... also, could they BE any more related??
There is a lot of negative backlash against food sensitivities lately.  Those who adhere to "special" diets such as gluten-free without thoroughly understanding it are being called out and publicly shamed.  I, too, am irritated at people who have jumped on the gluten free bandwagon without really understanding its implications, because these people damage the credibility of all of us. They make it that much harder for those of us with intolerance due to an autoimmune condition to find compassion and understanding when eating in restaurants or asking questions at grocery stores.

The bottom line, though, is this.  Every one of us, Celiac or not, gluten-sensitive or not, has the right to experiment with our diets.  We have a right to know what we put in our bodies.  We are paying for food products, purchasing meals in restaurants, and (hopefully) tipping our waitstaff, and therefore have the right to expect transparency and accountability from vendors when addressing the products they serve.  I'll speak for the gluten free community when I say that most of us aren't out there looking for freebies.  We don't want to you bend over backwards and make us a special meal in your restaurant that we can eat.  If you will do that for us, great!  We're likely to vote with our dollars and frequent your establishment.  But above all, we just want to know.  We want to know what ingredients you use in your food, so we can determine whether or not it will make us sick.  That's all.

This experience was a good reminder for me to always be mindful of what I put in my body, and also to be compassionate towards others who have allergies, food sensitivities, or other medical conditions that they have to deal with on a daily basis.  It is not easy, especially when the wider world seems to think you're just seeking attention or mindlessly following a trend.

Be kind to each other, friends.

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