Friday, November 9, 2012

Not a Restaurant, But a Kitchen

Ever try to explain "Gluten Free" to a Chinese restaurant?  Neither have I, not when just getting a simple order called in correctly is a challenge.

It's at times like these -- when language barriers clash with dietary impeccability -- that I just want to push my way into the kitchen and prepare my own food.

Chinese food is the best fast food choice for Paleo dieters.  But it's not perfect, even if you avoid rice, noodles and the "crispy" (breaded) selections.  It's the sauce that will trip you up.  Even plain old soy sauce is a combination of soy (albeit fermented) and grain (wheat).  But Chinese sauces are the Marvel Mystery Oil of the culinary world.  Aside from soy sauce and fish sauce, they contain dyes to impart special color, plus even more starch for extra gloppiness.

I am blessed with a Chinese restaurant that offers steamed entrees, and when I feel the need to adhere strictly to my diet, I'll choose the steamed chicken and broccoli.  But I long for the variety that comes with ordering from a full menu.

Indian food would be a great choice, too.  But the one near my workplace is, first of all, expensive.  Their entrees cost twice as much as those from the Chinese restaurant.  On the other hand, many include lamb.  Unfortunately, they also include peas or chickpeas.  The former taste gross; the latter, induce gas.  And Indian chefs can't seem to make anything that doesn't include either potato, cauliflower or dairy (cheese or yogurt), all of which I'd rather avoid.  And of course their sauces are even starchier than their Chinese counterparts.  With all that lamb in their kitchen, I'd love to strongarm my way in and cook up something decent.

Then there's the Greek-owned pizza joint.  Greek is good because it means they have gyros, and that means they have lamb.  But everything on the menu is served in bread or on crust.  A few years ago I asked the guy for a gyro "without bread."  He was flummoxed to say the least.  It wasn't so much that he couldn't figure out how to make it.  His problem was that he couldn't conceive of someone not eating bread.  It was as if I asked him to suck out all the air from the restaurant so I could eat in a vacuum.  But then a dim bulb flickered on in the back of his mind, and he recalled another customer who can't eat wheat and brings his own bread.  "You could bring your own bread," he suggests.  "Oh, good idea," I say aloud with minimal enthusiasm, inwardly shouting, "I don't want any bread -- just meat and vegetables!"  Every six months or so he makes a breadless gyro for me, telling me about his other customer who brings his own bread.  Meanwhile my eyes wander longingly to that kitchen space 10 yards behind him, where a big glistening hunk of lamb spins slowly under the intense red glow of the grill.

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