Do Celiacs dream of McDonald’s French Fries?

No matter how well you ate before you diagnosis there is something that you are missing. It might be fresh baked rolls brought to your table with hot melty butter. It might be cake, literally any cake. It could be red vines, yeah I’m still super bummed about that one. For me though, it was McDonald’s French Fries. It’s one of those things that you can’t get away from. You drive down the road, you WILL smell a McDonalds. And that smell will make you think about those crisp, salty, fries.

For some reason, I intellectually know that you don’t often get those perfect McDonald’s French fries. The ones that are perfectly golden, rigid on the outside, melty on the inside and doused in salt. Most of the time you get something soggy and limp and kind of lackluster. Still, when I smell a McDonalds, my mouth starts to water with the thought of those perfect fries. It’s kind of a Palovian reaction.

And the worst part, there really no reasonable substitute for McDonadl’s french fries. You can try and make your own, but they don’t every quite match up. There’s always something missing. It might be the gluten that floats over from Chicken McNuggets or Fillet-o-Fish, but really, it doesn’t matter, because you can’t really duplicate it at home.

Of course, we all know that we want what we can’t have. I don’t know if we’re conditioned for it or not, but it always seems that we want a nap while we’re at work. Or a snowy day in the middle of summer. It stands to reason that the second we can’t eat gluten anymore, we want pizza, all of the time.

Before my diagnosis, I was only okay with pizza. It wasn’t my favorite or my least favorite, it was just kind of foodish shaped stuff that was there. Now, I want pizza. I honestly really want pizza with a fervor that I never had before, mostly because I can’t have it anymore. Sure, I can go to the store and get a gluten free pizza from the freezer section. Or make a crust at home, but there’s nothing like having someone bring you pizza a Chinese food when you’re just feeling lazy. Or a beer. I wasn’t a big beer drinker before my diagnosis, but the second I couldn’t have it anymore, I wanted it all of the time.

Yes, I could make most of this myself, but here’s the other part of this whole rant. When I make it myself, I feel accomplished. I feel like I did good. I made something, but what I don’t feel is spoiled. When we go to a restaurant and order, even a McDonald’s, someone else is doing all of this for us. It makes us feel lazy, but also a little spoiled. Sure I could fry my own fries. Or bake my own cake, but there’s nothing quite like someone else doing it for you to make you feel a little special.

Dinner at home, it is normal, common, no matter how good the food is, but dining out has always been an experience. When I was younger, we ate out infrequently. Usually it was only on a special occasion, like payday. Going out to a restaurant was a ritual, and we treated it with reverence. We generally only ate out twice a month, on payday, and we would go to this one particular Mexican restaurant and be served by this one particular waitress. On these nights, my sister and I would get Shirley Temples and we had to make sure that one drink lasted our entire dinner. The food wasn’t special, it was good but noting extraordinary, but for us it was special and that is what matterd.

I still have a little bit of that engrained in me. Eating outside of the house is a treat. It’s something that savor and experience. Sure, as I got older, we ate out more. And when I started to live on my own, well it was as often as I wanted. Still, if I go to a place with silverware and they bring me a glasses of water, that still feels special to me. Heck, even going and sitting inside at a McDonalds can feel special.

I used to work with adults and children with disabilities. I did this for about 8 years while I was going through college and some afterwards. Until you take someone with a disability to a McDonald’s or a Starbucks and see how special it makes them feel, you can’t really understand. While I was still in college, my best friend and I spent an evening taking 2 of our high school student clients to the prom.  I don’t remember a whole lot about the dance itself, but before the dance we took them to McDonalds to eat. It was like it was the biggest treat they’d ever gotten. Just to get a Big Mac or a Happy Meal and to eat it dressed up like a princess, that was the highlight of their month. I think that’s when I learned about how important those little things really were.

Celiac’s has made me struggle for control of my food. I have to control everything about food from how it’s prepared to what’s in it, and yet I still want to feel special. I want those little moment again. And I will say, the first time you go to a restaurant and they have a gluten free menu. Or the facility is dedicated gluten free, and you have a million choices spread in front of you. That’s a moment where you can just breath again. Where you can just feel special and relaxed and normal. And every time I go out to eat and get to order french fries and someone brings me a plate with steaming hot french fries, well I feel a little special again. Not quite like someone on TV, but a tiny bit more normal. And somehow normal has become even more special than anything else.