A couple of days ago, I went to a restaurant in Sidney, BC called RumRunners. It’s got a nice location on the harbour in Sidney, the windows look out on the sail boats and motor boats and yachts. There’s a nice view of some islands. The ferry to Sidney Spit docks right beside the restaurant.
I have a soft spot for this area of Sidney for it is here that I brought my mother and father when they were still well enough to visit BC and able to get around easily.
Since I’ve been diagnosed with celiac disease, I’m a reluctant restaurant patron. Despite the growing incidence of celiac disease, the majority of restaurant staff have no idea what it is. I’d visited this restaurant a couple of years ago, explained to the waiter that having celiac disease I was seriously allergic to wheat, rye, oats, barley and spelt. I ordered fish chowder. He assured me that there was no gluten in it, but when he brought it, there were two slices of bread on top of the soup.
However, on this visit, the young waitress immediately said, oh, yes, I know about celiac disease. We have a celiac friendly menu. She pointed out items on the menu that were safe to eat but then added “And, our fish and chips are made without gluten.”
Unless you’ve lived without fish and chips in a place like Victoria where fresh seafood is all around, where the British tradition of fish and chips is strong and the food good to excellent, you have no idea what it was like to hear that the batter was gluten free, the French fries made in house and not rolled in flour, both deep fried in oil that was not used to fry products covered with batter made with wheat, you have no idea how I felt. I was dumbstruck.
I looked to see if she were joking. If she were, no tip. The possibility of fish and chips was no laughing matter.
She crossed her heart and swore the batter and chips were gluten free. I ordered it along with a Diet Pepsi.
When it came, the batter was light, crunchy, delicious, the halibut so fresh it had to have been caught that morning. The French fries were crisp on the outside, soft on the inside. I ate the fish and the French fries slowly, making sure I tasted every morsel. I took deep breaths between each bite. I sipped my Pepsi.
Today, I went to Origen, a bakery dedicated to gluten free baking. No gluten passes through its door. They do have oats but the oats are grown and processed away from all other grains. Unfortunately, the door was locked, the sign said, Closed on Mondays. I’d gone to buy gluten free sourdough bread.
I sped to Babba Rose’s. There, joining the line of patrons that never ends, like an infinite caterpillar, I made my way to the counter. Date bar. Gluten free. Quinoa chocolate muffin, gluten free. Pizza. Gluten free. Lasagna, gluten free. With my bag of loot in hand, I braved the traffic by crossing Cook Street to my car. Today, pizza and date bar. Tomorrow, lasagna and the chocolate muffin.
Tonight, though, after the calories in the pizza and date bar, I’m having brown rice and beans for supper. It also helps to balance the budget. A gluten free diet is healthy but it is also expensive. My 3.50 cent muffin costs more than tonight’s entire supper. The beans and rice come to about one dollar. If I’d eaten it with a couple of corn tacos, it would have cost about 1.35. With a salad, it might rise to 2.00.
I like beans. I like brown rice. I like keeping my waistline inside the waistband of my pants. But now and again, once in a while, now that I’ve discovered fish and chips that are gluten free, I’ll break the bank, eat those fries with vinegar and salt, hang the expense, ignore the calories. We only live once. Some people dine on Kobe beef, pheasant, caviar. Let them have it. I’ll take my fish and chips.