By the time Friday night rolled round, I found I was feeling notably better and — for the first time in a week — I wanted to eat. I was still very worn down and so I certainly didn’t want to cook, but I wanted to eat something delicious, something comforting, something lazy and luscious and Friday night. I know what I wanted — I wanted to order a pizza.
But I can’t. My diet is zero-tolerance on soy and that rules out vast swathes of the normal choices for both eating out and ordering in. Most restaurants struggle to accommodate me (oh wow, I can haz dry salad again?) and some have simply suggested flat out that I go elsewhere. In the year that we’ve been here, I’ve found only two restaurants that I feel really comfortable eating in — one rather expensive but worth it because they firmly believe in “inclusion rather than exclusion” (to quote the owner) and so go to extra lengths for me, and the other because they import almost all their ingredients from Italy (which means the ingredients don’t contain soy where American versions would) and then cook their food very simply, so it is easy to spot any potential danger. I have come to hold a real fondness for these two restaurants because of the way they treat me and they are where we go whenever we eat out, but still… it’s the same two restaurants time and again. And neither of them deliver pizza when I’m craving it on a Friday night.
At first, I really struggled with this soy-free thing, but now that I’ve got the knack of it, it’s become less difficult. I eat plain meats cooked in nothing but their own juices or a bit of olive oil. I eat plain vegetables, plain fruits, and make my own bread. I have a few sauces that I know I can use, but I still check the label every time I buy a new jar, just in case. And I’ve got used to life with no chocolate whatsoever — though that was particularly difficult.
It’s an austere diet, but it does its job and keeps me pain-free. And it’s certainly the sort of diet that would make any nutritionist smile — this is what they are always telling us we should be eating but know that no one ever really will, because it’s unrealistically spartan and inflexible. Every meal made from scratch — including breakfast — every single day, no snack foods, no store-bought desserts, no easy quick foods, no pizza on Friday night…
There was a woman I used to converse with who always seemed to take issue with my soy problem whenever I mentioned it — I never found out why, but somehow, it pressed a button for her in a big way. She mentioned to me several times that, as far as she could see, soy wasn’t as prevalent in US foods as I was making out and it just shouldn’t be so burdensome for me to eliminate it from my diet. It just wasn’t that big a deal, she seemed to be saying — and at a time when I was in a lot of pain and battling desperately to make it go away, her repeated dismissiveness felt really difficult to take. But when I asked her what sort of foods she had in her pantry, her responses suddenly made more sense — she and her husband enjoy cooking their meals from scratch and bake their own bread, so her pantry is filled with foods in their most pure forms. And so, of all people, her pantry would be less littered with needless soy than most …and I guess my difficulty in going soy-free would seem over-blown to her.
But taking a tally of the pantry misses the point of what has been the biggest struggle in going soy-free — and I can see that it’s something that might not be apparent to an outside observer. It’s not so much the real food, the stuff you use to make your proper meals. It’s not been finding a tin of tomatoes without soy (though I had to put four different brands back on the shelf before I did) or comparing the ingredients on carton after carton of chicken stock. The real rub comes when I’m standing in front of the fridge at 11pm, holding the door wide open and looking for something to satisfy my munchies, now …and there’s just nothing that wouldn’t require at least ten minutes of cooking. The rub comes when we’re dashing out the door, having run the coats-boots-arguing-hats-mittens-crying-carseats gauntlet (x2), and then I realise I’ve forgotten to eat lunch, so I reach to grab a cereal bar or a handful of breadsticks or… nope, can’t have any of those. It’s when we’re out at the shops and we stop for coffee and everyone else gets something sinful to go with it, and I just can’t. Or even when we stop for petrol and M pops his head in the door before he goes to pay and says, “Are you hungry? Do you want something?” …and I am but there’s not a single thing — not a single thing — in that gas station that I can have except for the one lonely bruised apple or the brown banana sitting sadly in their cheery wicker basket.
I can make my own cereal bars, I know. And I can make sure I remember to eat lunch. And, really, who wants any of the crap they sell in petrol stations anyway? But, the thing is, normal people don’t eat that way — even the most wholesome, cook-from-scratch people. And when you can’t have that crap — ever — you miss it. When you can’t have a sweet with your coffee, you really wish you could. And when you can’t even order a pizza on a Friday night and eat it curled up on the couch with your husband while watching some rubbish movie — on the first day in a week that you feel like eating… well, that pretty much sucks. No matter how wholesome the pantry is.
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