Friday 6 April 2012

The Pepper Allergy

I don't really talk about this much as once I found out that I had it, that was it, pepper was gone from my life for good without any complaints. When it does become an issue is eating out, that's a real tricky one. See, there are more and more gluten free options becoming available on menus but I also require no pepper and that's tough when kitchens don't make food to order.

My first meal out since being gluten free was at Las Iguanas, it was a scary and daunting experience leading up to it for me, and I know that my OH was concerned too. I must have read through 500 comments on their website before I even dared consider that we try it out. I called them and the guy I spoke to was really, really helpful, no gluten, no pepper, no problem. I have to say, that first experience of gluten free and pepper free dining there was fabulous.

The problem is that my meal had to be made from scratch, but in this instance it wasn't a problem. The chef who made my meal that night was a star, he even came out to the table to make sure it was good enough. It was utterly delicious, I had the Xinxim which I have since replicated myself.

The next time we went it wasn't such a good experience. I couldn't have the Xinxim because the kitchen wouldn't make it from scratch for me. Fair enough, what could I have then? They presented me with a dry chicken breast in a tasteless white sauce. I didn't want to, but I felt that I had to complain. I realise that cooking a dish from scratch for one person is a chore for a restaurant kitchen, but a trained chef could surely have come up with something better than what I had been served. I could do better myself; poach a chicken breast and make a full flavoured sauce in about 12 minutes tops.

They noted my complaint and brought me another chicken breast, this time in a rich mushroom sauce that was actually lovely. Why couldn't they have done that the first time though? I would have happily eaten it without the need for complaint.

The next time that we went there we covered all bases and then some. We called the night before as we were going for lunch. My OH asked if it would be possible to make a Xinxim from the gluten free menu section without pepper. "Yes that's no problem" they said that the chef would make it as he was prepping in the morning. My OH reiterated, no black, white or cayenne pepper can be used. They were fine with this.

As we arrived the waiter asked who required the "special Xinxim", that would be me. Everything was nice and relaxed and when the food was brought out my dish was again referred to as the "special Xinxim". About three quarters the way through scoffing it (I hadn't eaten in nearly 24 hours due to another restaurant mix up the previous day, I was starving) I felt the familiar stomach rumble that I only get when I've eaten pepper. It was a nightmare. I didn't complain, I couldn't, I was feeling too ill. All I wanted was to to be home again.

The difference for me between being glutened and being 'peppered' is huge. If I get glutened, I don't have any symptoms for a few hours, then the pain arrives, after which so does everything else. Full recovery from a gluten episode for me can be anywhere from a month to three. If I eat pepper I get a reaction pretty much straight away, it's urgent. It's more of a washing machine effect on the stomach than a pain, but it's very uncomfortable nonetheless. My symptoms of being glutened and eating pepper are very similar but after a few hours I'm fine again with the allergy, no lasting symptoms. It's always a horrible experience though.

We tried once more with another Las Iguanas, (I have tried so hard to be 'normal') we were out shopping and wanted lunch, we asked the waitress before being seated if a gluten free, pepper free dish could possibly be arranged. Anything half decent would have done. She said it could so we sat down.

Turns out she was wrong. There wasn't a dish on the menu without some form of pepper in it unless I wanted dessert, and the kitchen couldn't make me anything. So I went hungry.

Because of my pepper allergy it seems that no matter how many gluten free menus are introduced into restaurants I'm still - to put it politely - thwarted from eating out safely.

It's not just being a coeliac that sucks, it's being a coeliac with allergies that makes it all the more difficult.

Did I mention my tomato skin allergy?


Lovely Easter Weekend To All!


  1. It's often astonishing to me how reluctant restaurants are to deviate from their set way of doing things even if it is something so slight as 'no pepper' or in my case 'no cheese on top'. I mean really, if you're trained in food preparation these are quite minor things to accommodate!

    Happy Easter!

  2. Hi Amy,

    I've kind of got round to thinking that I'm the problem, so many attempts at trying this and no 'luck' thus far. But you're right, it's a simple request, cheese or pepper, if you're a trained cook it shouldn't be so difficult. If I can make things from scratch in minimal time then with training they should be far more able to than me.

    Thanks for putting me straight, it's not me or us that's the problem, it's them!

    Your comment means a lot, hope you had a great Easter weekend x


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