It happens every year, and I'm not telling you this as a braggart: we go on vacation.
This should be a happy time. It's February in New York, and a blizzard swept up the Northeastern seaboard the night that we left. I, on the other hand, am on a beach in a beautiful place, getting sunburned and craving black beans that are nowhere to be found. I know that this sounds as though I am whining, as if I am the loud, obnoxious American that Europeans complain about. I am not. I am, instead, a hungry person with food allergies in a foreign country.
I'm also a frustrated cook. Have you ever wanted to cook or eat something so badly that you dream about it at night? Worse, have you ever craved something so badly that you dreamed about it but were then thwarted by lack of key ingredients? It's hell. I feel like Rapunzel's mother, ready to give up her first born for a bite of black bean doused in lime juice and topped with a sprig of cilantro.
Bien sur, I can go to a beautiful restaurant down the beach and find a divine menu that would surely satisfy the snobbiest of food snobs, provided those food snobs aren't allergic to pretty much everything under the sun. The grilled chicken salad is mouthwatering, but it is, of course, marinated in soy sauce for days. The club sandwich. Oh Le Sandwiche Club! Well, let's face it. It's all wrong for me what with the freshly emulsified mayo made of eggs and oil, the delicately toasted, gluten and egg-laced brioche, and the hard boiled eggs sandwiched between the layers and layers of charcuterie. The pad thai is killing me with its delicate aroma, but the noodles, sauce and scrambled eggs would put me into a coma.
So, I eat fish and salad. Admittedly, this is a fresh, low-fat, delicious meal, but it is getting old. I started grilling for myself at night, so I have ventured out and gotten to know the butcher on the island. Going to the supermarket at the end of the day is fun. It is like going on an interesting treasure hunt, unsure of whether the treasure (in my case dinner) will be at X marks the spot. To date, I have found no cilantro, but this is better than the year that I couldn't find a drop of yogurt on the island (which is equally as important for eating as it is for taking the sting out of my sunburn).
I like to look for the silver lining. Of course, I am on the beach, and that it is the biggest one. I'm grateful for paradise. But, the other happy by-product of this trip is that I am being forced out of my safe, little allergy-free food box. I am looking at the fabulous menus at the fabulous restaurants and considering how I might alter the ingredients to suit my needs. Yes, I found tripe in a can (yuck) and no, I still haven't found black beans or cilantro, but I have thought about Christophine for the first time in my life.
So, as my stomach sits empty, my mind sits full of brain candy, and I really can't complain about that. Not to mention that I may be the only person in our party who comes back thinner than when I left, and, let's face it, that is really the most glittery silver lining of them all.