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Eating with Dru

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Hello!  My name is Alex and I’m Dru’s boyfriend.  I thought to write a guest entry today since it’s our one year anniversary.  Dru and I have a lot of food stories, from Florida to Washington D.C. to Vermont.  I don’t have any food allergies but I’ve learned to appreciate food even more after spending time with Dru.  Here’s what it’s like for a person with “normal” diet to date someone who can’t have gluten, corn or soy products.

It’s never a bad idea to date someone who cares about high quality food.  Chances are that is the type of food you’ll be eating too!  I have to admit though, I had no idea how important food can be to a relationship.  Food is ubiquitous and something we people with a regular diet take for granted.  Traveling, backpacking, food shopping, ordering pizza, dining out with friends are the few activities that often go unhindered by our readable access to food anywhere we go.

I was aware of “weird” food growing up.  My mom is the type of person who loves to try new things and often stays abreast of news about food and health.  She was among the first ones to know about the dangers of trans-fat long before it became trendy for the food industry to mark their products as trans-fat free (or more commonly, 0 grams of trans-fat, which isn’t altogether true by the way).  When she read a journal clipping about the dangers of ingesting too much partially hydrogenated fat, she immediately went through the pantry and threw out anything that contained it.  That was the last day I ate my Oreos and Lipton’s onion dip mix.  Not long after were we disbarred from eating anything that contained high fructose corn syrup, cottonseed oil or anything with too much sugar.  We experimented with agave before my mom decided it wasn’t healthy for us (the debate still goes on).  We were exposed to foods such as tofu, lentil beans, quinoa, anything that could be found at Whole Foods at an early age.  We often had strange vegetables on the side of our main course for dinner.  “Mom, what the heck is THIS?!” “Kale.” “And what about THAT?!” “Leeks and fennel.  Now eat up or you’re going to stay at this table all night!”

When I was made aware of Dru’s corn, soy and wheat allergies, I wasn’t too taken aback.  Surely there are alternatives like the food I had growing up.  Before I took Dru out on a date (for dinner at a restaurant, of course), I looked up a place that wouldn’t prove to be too restrictive for us food wise.  We ended up at a place called Sky that was well renowned for its gluten-free options.

When we got there, we were served bread as a free appetizer.  Uh oh.  Now I’m in an awkward position.  On my first date and I’m the only one who can have the appetizer.  I’m not quite sure if I should eat the bread or wait until we get our meals.  Dru tells me that it’s perfectly fine I eat the bread.  Well, hunger dictated I eat the bread and so I did.  Even though it was the first date, I started to see the potential food had for starting friction between us two.  What if we’re walking down the streets of Boston and I want a pretzel or a cup of hot chocolate?

One year late, we’re still a happy, functioning couple.  How does food not get in our way despite the pervasiveness of wheat, corn and soy in America’s food?  We’ve traveled to Florida, went backpacking, ate food together to fuel us during our marathon training and dined out with friends without many issues.  Here are some hints.

Firstly, I realized that Dru can eat only what Dru can have.  Easy enough right?  It is fortunate that most of that food is healthy and rich in essential vitamins and minerals.  So if Dru has her dinner planned for the night, why wouldn’t I want to have what she has planned if it has everything I need and is delicious as well?  We often cook gluten/corn/soy free meals together and I’ve loved every one of them (if we don’t mess up the recipe too much).  So eating together at home together is a breeze.  Even when it comes to pizza.  We don’t order them but instead make our own with the Against the Grain pizza crust.  There is a perk to it- we add only the top-notch, high quality toppings that we want!

Going out is more challenging but this is remedied by being very proactive with informing the restaurants of Dru’s allergies.  This can lead to frustration on the waiter/waitress’s part but hey, there’s absolutely no reason to be served food that well, makes you unable to get out of bed or have allergic reaction for days.  Sometimes, the waiter is extremely accommodating and will make sure not to serve you the wrong thing.  More often than not though, they will pretend to know what they are talking about.  “So you’re saying she can have the teriyaki sauce on the chicken? Doesn’t that have corn in it? Why would corn be in teriyaki sauce?”

One of our many meals together- lobsters!

In these cases, it’s better to ask for the manager.  We had one situation in Washington D.C. where after the manager was called, the waitress became our “best friend” and would make sure that every plate brought to the table was free of gluten, corn and soy.

Traveling is another challenge posed to us but can be ameliorated with visits to the food store.  Luckily health food is now all the rage so there is often a gluten-free section in most food stores.  And where do we cook them while traveling you say?  Well that’s where hostels come in!  You have access to your own kitchen and condiments/oils are there to share.  If pots/pans and dishes look unclean, just wash them before use.  We had memorable times at the Everglades Hostel in Homestead, Florida and the Burlington Hostel that Dru talked about earlier.

For the most part, I eat what Dru can eat but at the same time, we have an understanding that there ARE some foods that I want that she cannot have, like corn on the cob or peanut M&M’s.  We have an agreement that if I’m eating something she can’t have, we find a replacement food equivalent to what I’m eating.  If I’m enjoying bread, Dru is enjoying her Against the Grain baguette.  If I’m snacking on some trail mix,

Dru is downing her gluten-free granola.

So I’m saying here, as a person with no food allergies whatsoever, that it is doable (and very easy after some food education and lots of communication) to not let food get in the way of dating someone with food allergies.

We also have one more rule.  We kiss only when we wipe the food off our mouths!

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