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Adulting: Allergic Girl Navigates Restaurant

Adulting: Allergic Girl Navigates Restaurant

A satire based on real events

Friends invite you to dinner with them at trendy hipster gastropub in the west end of (any city). 

It took you a half hour to find it but finally, you enter. The kitchen is open and the walls are covered in subway tiles, easy for cleaning, while the body of the restaurant is filled with what some might call thrift store finds but what you call clutter. There's a lot of taxidermy. A lot. You briefly worry about your dust allergy and try not to breathe in. 

So many warm yellow Edison bulbs hang from the ceiling that you worry for a moment when you see the redness of your face reflected in the antique mirror hanging over your table. Phew, it's just the glow. 

It's overcrowded and you and your three friends sit around a vintage school desk on cold metal chairs while your jacket is tucked by your feet and your arm rubs the girl next to you. The waitress pours you each a glass of water from an old milk bottle. You wonder how well they washed it. 

Everything on the cocktail menu contains gin so you ask what's on tap. $3 House lager, Rabid Squirrel Pilsner, Grandmother's Panties cider, Chocolate Cake Stout. What!? No idea what those things are, best not to try something new in such a public place. You heard once that stout contains dairy so you will never again drink it. You order San Pellegrino. 

You take a look at the menu. All the sharing plates have hummus or cheese. The salad has walnuts and chickpeas. There's a vegan dish with lentils, the meat dish is marinated in miso paste. One item lists various pickles and something deep fried. There's a gourmet burger. You curse your legume allergy. Grilled whole fish with half a lemon, charred. Market price - you know it's going to be expensive but that's never allowed to be a factor in your order choice. You decide on the fish even though you're starving because it seems safest.

Bread arrives at the table. The waitress announces it's gluten-free! None of you have Celiac disease but you do have a nut allergy. It's made with almond flour. Your stomach grumbles as your friends dig in.

You're all ready to order and the waitress smiles at you as she takes it down mentally. You suggest she write it on her notepad. She fluffs you off. The music gets louder as it's now 9:30pm and the clientele is shifting to the bar crowd. You strain to yell your order at her and she smiles and nods. When you get to the part about your allergies you ask her again to write it down. She looks doubtful but says she'll check with the chef. You get embarrassed about requiring so much hand-holding as an adult. 

Upon her return she announces that the chef doesn't usually do menu substitutions of any kind but he'll do it this once as a favor. (Quick glance at the open kitchen to take a peek at the power-tripping chef.) But you called ahead! And they have a small kitchen and can't guarantee anything but they'll do their best to make it gluten-free. You remind her again that it's dairy, nuts, peanuts, legumes, all severe anaphylactic allergies. Gluten is fine. You look her in the eyes and tell her your allergies are deadly. She finally writes it down.

At this point you wish you could leave but everyone is settled in and it would be burdensome to find a new place to eat. The next three minutes are spent calculating the probability of having a reaction in your head. With this skill level you could moonlight as an actuary. 

The food arrives 45 minutes later. You were able to relax and forget your allergies for all of 15 minutes. The fish has a sauce on it even though you requested no sauces because they sometimes make you nervous. You ask her to check with the kitchen about the sauce. She confirms it has butter in it; the kitchen is really jammed right now and she said there were no guarantees. She takes it away and brings you a new one that's completely bone dry but at least it's safe. They neglected to include the charred lemon. You decide the chef hates you. 

A cautious bite is followed by a gulp of sparkling water and then further examination of your dish for contamination. There's a splatter of hummus on the side of your plate. Do you send it back or just eat around it? How do the social risks compare to the medical ones?

The meal is finally over and you look forward to a shot of espresso to finish it off. It's brought with a side of milk which you are told is actually almond mylk but no it's not safe for you so you send it away or try to convince one of your friends to drink it since the server went to the effort. And you would hate to be the demanding allergy girl.

After paying $50 for a whisper of fish, a glass of carbonated water, and a shot of espresso you head home with your friends. Everyone loved the restaurant and, understanding that other people seemed to really enjoy it, you chime in with a smile yeah it was amazing


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