“Is that gluten free?”
Just typing it makes me cringe. I can hear myself say it, and I know how it sounds. But that sentence is my new reality. I’m fine with being annoying food allergy person. I’d ask you again, if it guaranteed I was eating something safe.
I recently learned I have an intolerance to gluten, and it’s changed my life. I can’t eat the leftover treats from client meetings, I can’t drink cheap beers and I can’t tell you how difficult it is to walk around New York City and smell the pizza without being able to eat it. But my body is slowly transforming from an angry, swollen cave monster to a happy, healthy human. I’m not nearly as mad about it as I thought I would be. I’m actually kind of excited.
There’s a reason I feel like crap. There’s a reason I’m tired. There’s a reason I have a migraine, all the time. All of the pain I put into feeling like this wasn’t for nothing. There was a reason, and now I have a new place to start from, and something to work towards. Sometimes, I feel like I’m doing great. Other times, it feels like two steps forward, one step back.
This past weekend, we went to Dorado Tacos just off Union Square. They had a generous amount of (and well-labeled) gluten free items. It was delicious, and I loved every part of it—except for the girl at the counter.
“Is the chorizo taco naturally gluten free, or do I have to order it that way?” I asked, my mouth watering with excitement of eating “normal people” food. She rolled her eyes out loud, muttered something about fad diets and launched into an explanation of the difference between corn and flour tortillas, neither understanding what I was asking nor the human element of living with a food allergy.
“Just making sure, because you never know,” I said loudly, hinting heavily that she was being rude. “If you accidentally give me flour tortillas, I’ll make sure to shit all over your floor,” I wanted to add.
I’m still new to this. When I’m at the grocery store, I’m glued to my $7.99 app that tells me which brands and ingredients are and aren’t gluten free, because what in the world is buckwheat? I geolocate gluten free options because it’s not so easy anymore. I indulge in overly-processed gluten free snacks, because I miss the real thing (hi, cookies). But I’m learning to make my own cookies. I’m learning what psyllium husks are, and the difference between xanthan gum and guar gum. I’m learning to eat more natural foods, because isn’t it nice to know what you’re putting in your body? Yes. It is.
Eventually, I’ll get the hang of this. Until then, please be patient with me. Even after I know what I’m doing, please be patient with me, because I’m still going to ask: Is that gluten free? Because if it’s not, and you give it to me anyway, I’m going to keel over in pain, then occupy your restroom for the next five hours.
Do you have any great gluten free resources or favorite recipes? Let me know!
I moved to the city five months ago. I didn’t need to specify which city, because you knew it when you read it: THE city. Gotham City. The Big Apple. The City That Never Sleeps. Living in New York City is everything that people said it would be, yet nothing like it at the same time. I’ve avoided writing about my new life—my new area code, new zip code, new morning coffee routine—because I was afraid acknowledgement and admittance of my newfound happiness would result in everything being taken away. I think I’m safe now.
As many midwesterners who make the move say, I’ve always loved New York City. My first introduction was in 1992, on a long layover before our family’s flight to Greece for the summer. (Greeks invented airplanes! I can hear my grandfather exclaim.) The only memory my four-year-old-self could retain is of going up the Statue of Liberty. I fell in love with her, her view and her strikingly fashionable headwear. We only had an afternoon to spend in the city, so a trip to see Lady Liberty and Ellis Island (Greeks invented islands!) was all I got. It wasn’t enough.
I came back a few years later, and my mom bought me my first Kate Spade purse. It was a fake from a street vendor, but I didn’t care. I feel deeply in love with labels and the possibility of what could exist on any avenue, around any block. I visited the city every few years, and my love only grew stronger. It had to be mine some day.
Thinking back on the New York City I met in 1992, I can’t help but marvel at the changes that were happening at the time. Call it gentrification or chalk it up to Mayor Dinkins (later, you can blame the effects of 9/11), but the city was beginning a metamorphoses and becoming the city I know now. Places like Brooklyn, Tompkins Square Park and Times Square were turning a new leaf. It wasn’t necessarily a bad thing; just different. “New York isn’t what it used to be,” people say. But that’s the beauty of it: everyone experiences it differently.
I always had a deep respect for the city. I knew I wanted to live a significant part of my life here, to be one of the fashionable, bustling, click-clacking high-heeled cab hailers I so admired. It was never a matter of “if,” only when, but I didn’t want to make the move until I was ready. I didn’t want to just wing it, figure it out or deal with it later. Moving into a sublet with three boxes of books was not an option. I didn’t want to take advantage of New York City; I wanted to earn it.
To some, “earning it” is considered taking a chance, surviving the struggle of your early days and working odd jobs, any jobs, trying to make ends meet. To others, it’s a birthright. To me, it’s enjoying where a successful career and even more luck can take you. Everyone has his own definition of “earning it,” which is what makes New York City is so diverse.
I read Sari Botton’s Goodbye to All That shortly after moving here. It’s a collection of essays by writers who fell in love with but eventually left New York City, and admittedly, it kinda bummed me out. It would be naïve to say, “I’m never going to fall out of love with the city. I’ll live here forever!” but the day will probably come when I look around and realize, “I just can’t do this anymore, and I can do this lonely writing thing from anywhere.” At least, that’s the love/hate New York City lifecycle the authors have romanticized in the book. One writer poignantly states a theory that one year in New York City is equivalent to seven years elsewhere. It sounds like (and sometimes feels like) I’m already a good three years in.
I was struck by how many people fell out of love with the city that once made them leap with excitement. How many New York natives essentially hate everybody who wasn’t born here (sorry for contributing to YOUR economy… that’s a topic for another post). But Goodbye to All That also inspired me to make the most of Manhattan while I’m here. There’s so much to see and do in New York City, and it likely won’t always be right outside my front door.
Who am I to have an opinion on New York City’s past and present, you may ask? I might not be an official New Yorker, but dammit, I pay enough rent to be. If you can leave your mark on New York, I think you’re part New Yorker for life, regardless of where you end up. (What a non-native New Yorker thing to say, right?)