Fields of Grain and Memories

Dining out for this gal, as ridiculous as it may seem, is a literal quagmire of never fully answered questions: Should I eat this? Should I forgo that? Is the chef absolutely sure no flour is in that dish–not even a dusting? Did the server really ask? Do they even believe that my allergy to gluten and soy is real? Do they care enough to not peg me as just another picky pain-in-the-ass guest?

As careful as I am when eating restaurant food, I usually end up feeling pretty awful for a few days afterward, every time I eat out. I know, the irony of this.

Believe me, I have been poisoned by the most well-intentioned chef and by the servers who seem to care the most. They don’t intend to make me sick for a week, of course. They just don’t understand how easy it is to forget what is, ingredient for ingredient, in every single dish–main, side, and otherwise.

Sometimes, a restaurant totally gets the gluten allergy thing. At one fine dining spot, the chef personally came to the table and pointed to each item on my menu that I could eat. I was not even offered a dessert choice that evening–a creme brulee with fruit simply appeared at the table. That was a great night out.

On another night, however, at a very popular foodie spot owned by a celeb chef, the server told me, “You can eat everything on the plate,” except she failed to mention that the great-tasting tiny square of something delicious was just that wonderful because of a combination of sweet corn, sugar and flour. Oops.

This evening, as RG Son and Mr. Restaurant Gal watched me squeeze multiple lemon wedges into drawn butter and eat steamers and fries at Legal Seafood in Reagan National Airport prior to my late flight back to Florida, we regaled each other with family dining-out “moments.”

We laughed about last night’s dinner out, remembering how the mostly arrogant server at Rock Creek/Mazza Gallery was suitably amazed by RG Son’s flawless demonstration of the “Double Candle Stick” napkin fold at the end of our meal, which he so folded not long after we had drained a second bottle of wine between three of us.

“No one has worked in a restaurant at this table,” drawled the server, finally showing a human side. We almost liked him after that, even though you could tell he was disappointed that we were not obvious VIPs like the national news talking head holding court at the adjacent table.

“Hey!” RG Son said, after the server had walked away, obviously quite certain we were no one to care about, after all. “Do you realize this is Restaurant Gal seated in your section?” Yeah, well, not quite the same calibre of VIP. Still, we laughed. Because it was D.C., where everyone is important, where everyone is on the news, at one time or another.

“But Mom, who can forget the best line ever?” RG Son reminded us tonight.

“You know, when you asked for corn tortillas instead of flour ones, and the server came back to the table, apologizing and saying they only had ‘the round ones.’”

I had forgotten about that incident until RG Son mentioned it tonight, just as I was already sad about hugging him goodbye in less than a half hour to get on a plane. I had also forgotten that this was the same restaurant at which the server had poured brandy on the fajita plate, put a lighter to it, all while we watched, horrified, as the platter flamed out in a brilliant blue hue, and the fajita mixture was reduced to a mixture beyond well done.

I had forgotten that this was in Oxford, Ohio, at a now torn-down restaurant, when RG Son was just starting college. Back when my life seemed like a simple choice of corn tortillas vs. flour.

Back when we laughed so easily, so well together. As we did for this moment, on this night, just before I left D.C., once again.






13 responses to “Fields of Grain and Memories”

  1. Dennis Avatar

    Sounds like a great family, RG. Thanks for sharing memories which are not based on actually working. The times we have with co-workers are fun, but nothing replaces family, does it?

    Since leaving the industry, my best memories still include dining out, and the good news is that I broadened my “family” by meeting many of the people who read my publication.


    – Dennis

  2. Stephanie Avatar

    I always liked eating that Mexican restaurant in Oxford as well… always getting the fajitas and always fearing for my life when they set the dish on fire.

  3. Don Avatar

    ….only round tortillas…..ROFLMAO……ahhh the elusive well trained server again makes a rare appearance.

  4. Ex-Restaurant Manager Avatar

    The imagination soars. Restaurant Gal standing up in the middle of the restaurant, rendering her frock, and exposing her super-hero outfit, crossed fork and knife over the RG on the front. “Do you know who I am, young man?. I’m Restaurant Gal! And you have been exposed as ‘Snooty Know-Nothing Server’. Off to Denny’s for you!” Cheers ring out from the dining room as you save them from officiousness! If only…..

  5. Restaurant Gal Avatar
    Restaurant Gal

    Dennis–Thank you, as always. And if you crave a warm beach this winter, let me know. Would love to join the “family.”

    Stephanie–I have forgotten the name of the place. But it was crazy, yes?

    Don–We all collectively bit our lips at that comment, I can assure you!

    Ex-RM–You do have the best dreams a great imagination can produce!

  6. Dennis Avatar

    Geez, ex-RM. Get off of Denny’s ass, will ya?

  7. Dennis Avatar

    Geez, ex-RM. Get off of Denny’s ass already, will ya?

  8. Julie Avatar

    At Thanksgiving, we prepare two meals. The traditional turkey and stuffing, and the poultry-free version. My husband is allergic to poultry (and a bunch of other things). Servers are generally respectful of my shellfish allergy. If I tell the server and ask the questions about poultry, they are as well. If my husband asks, they look at him like he’s crazy.

  9. jali Avatar

    I’m glad you were able to spend time with those who love you and that the day was full of laughter. I think my favorite part of family get togethers is the re-telling of those family stories.

    Maybe you might preface a food order with: “If I eat wheat, I may die”. Maybe they’ll take you seriously. Bravo to the chef who did.

  10. namaste Avatar



  11. Ex-Restaurant Manager Avatar

    Denny’s, Denny’s, Denny’s! And there’s more where that came from, Dennis! Just a point of reference actually, someplace universally known and infamous for vacuous, distant, and surly hospitality. When you want your employees to shoot for the stars, what would you use as a base-line? RG, what do you think? Do you have a base-line example you use?

  12. -A Avatar

    First, I am SO glad you got to spend time with your dear ones.

    Second, as a fellow food allergic diner, I LAUGHED at the round tortilla thing. In the southwest, eating around dairy in Mexican places is easy. Here in DC, not so much. My last attempt, after I informed the server that I needed to know what items could be prepared dairy free, she proudly produced a menu ‘just for people like you.’

    It was the gluten free menu. Everything was based on cheese…