Happy 46th Birthday!! Here, celebrate with this gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, sugar-free counterfeit cake that doubles as a Kettlebell. Never mind. Stick a candle in some tofu and pretend it’s Pavlova.
My mum used to call me ‘Cast-iron-stomach’ due to my ability to eat pretty much anything without a reaction of any kind. I remember one time we were all eating two-minute noodles and I’d already polished mine off when my mum announced in horror that there were weevils in hers and my sisters. Being the greedy, hollow-legged, bottomless-pit of an opportunist that I was (more terms of endearment), I viewed it as ‘all the more for me’, and ate theirs as well.
Fast-forward 30-years down the track, to a middle-aged woman with chronic health issues (can’t think why) these days I’m unrecognisable, transforming from human garbage disposal unit to reluctant hippy-health-freak in a bid to gain my life back.
I’m now gluten-free, dairy-free, nightshade-free, sugar-free, egg-free and mostly, but not completely, nut and grain free. In fact, it’s probably easier just to say I only eat meat and vegetables (but not pork). My birthday is coming up and I can only look forward to a travesty of a cake, the kind they serve to people in hell that looks like it’s chocolate and cream but in actual fact, it’s deceptively based on avocado, quinoa and linseeds, then iced with a mixture of soy cheese and tofu. We’ll stick a candle on it, sing that annoyingly stupid birthday song (which I usually only put up with since it’s followed by cake) and tuck into this fraudulent dessert as I impersonate my very best Wallace and Gromit smile. We will all throw up a little in our throats and announce we weren’t that hungry after all, but thanks for making it Bec. Means a lot. I’ll take a bunch of photos and make it look terrific on Instagram. All the vegans will follow me and think I’m super awesome #VeganCake #TofuIcing
So my friend says, “It’s your birthday Lets take you out for a meal?” and I say, “Why?” she replies, “Because it’s your BIRTHDAY!” She should know this. God knows I’ve said it a thousand times, but I’ll say it again:
I. DON’T. EAT. OUT.
I don’t even try to go out for a meal because the whole experience has proven to be a demoralising, painful public confession of what a freak show I really am.
It takes a minimum of two hours to order. The first hour, whilst everybody is chatting about how bad the traffic was on the way in and yapping about their terribly interesting jobs, I spend desperately scanning the menu trying to decipher what dishes may be modified to my dietary needs without the Chef coming out and smacking me on the head with a skillet.
The second hour is where everyone is ordering their meals and I say with a sheepish smile, “Just leave me ‘til last”. I get a dirty look from the waitress. She knows. Oh, she knows. And so it begins. I have post-it notes stuck to five pages of the menu to assist in alterations, improvements and compromises. I bravely embark on negotiations.
She’s openly despising me now tapping her pen on the pad. I begin gently, using a submissive tone, “Do you have anything I can eat that is gluten-free/dairy-free?” I’m afraid to let out the whole truth, that I can’t have eggs, sugar, tomatoes, eggplants, capsicums, potatoes or nuts either; she already hates me for the gluten/dairy issues which I believe are actually quite common these days so she can just buggar off. I smile apologetically.
After creating an awkwardly long silence to prove what a pest I am she says, ‘Well you can have the frittata, the fries, or the pizza without the cheese. (Who wants a pizza without cheese?) I quickly interject like one of those government campaign ads where they talk super fast at the end, “I can’t have eggs, sugar, potatoes, nuts or capsicum.” There. It’s out. I said it. She looks at me with undisguised hostility. The gloves are off. People on the next table are starting to stare like I’m holding the waitress hostage with my unreasonable list of food demands. I stoically continue, suggesting I can have the frittata but without the eggs, and perhaps she could see if the chef has gluten-free pasta or if he’s willing to make a sauce using buckwheat flour and coconut cream instead of dairy? My voice trails off, she zoned out at ‘just leave me ‘til last’ and this has now progressed well beyond her expertise or interest. She casts me a baleful glare as she announces she will have to go and discuss me with the Chef.
She is gone for a full ten minutes and I can only see her arm occasionally gesticulating or pointing (in my general direction) from the entrance to the kitchen. I know they’re having an enormous bitch-fest about what a pain in the arse I am. Finally, the chef comes out to talk to me directly. He sizes me up and says patronizingly that I can have the salad with dressing. I gingerly enquire, “But what’s in the dressing?” He heaves a sigh. Vinegar, salt, sugar and cream. I reply, “Ooooh no, I can’t have cream, I’d be totally tying up your toilet all night!” a look of revulsion flickers across his face. Filled with shame I quickly announce, “You know what? It’s fine. I’ll just have the water. Yeah, that would be good…is it filtered? (Oops don’t go there he’s looking pissed-off again), <nervous laugh> hahaha, just joking, never mind, tap water’s fine! It’s ok, I’ll get the salad, but without the dressing, capsicum, tomatoes or nuts, sounds great. Even though I’m not really that keen on salads. Hahaha.” <More nervous laughing>
I pause for a moment.
“Or, I can just sit here and watch everybody else eat. Yeah. That would be nice, kind of vicarious. In fact, you know what? Can I order the angry couple at the next table a hamburger each with the works, and a choc-fudge Sunday? I’ll just watch them eat. That will be almost as good. Thank you.”
And that’s it. My friends are all tucking into their meals and I’ve got my tap water. The arduous ordering process has completely wiped me out and I’m now wondering how long before I can excuse myself and return home to Netflix and a cup of tea in my dressing gown. Which was all I ever really wanted for my birthday but I felt rude saying so.
So do I want to go out for my birthday? Nah. I think I’ll pass. Let’s have that abomination of a cake here at my place, while I’m in my jimmy-jim-jams. We’ll order a pizza with cheese and I’ll stink out my own toilet for the privilege and you will all leave by 7:30 pm because that’s when I go sleepy-bobos.
Oh, and before you go, do you want to take some of that cake home with you? Because the dog doesn’t seem to want it. Weird. He normally eats anything.