Twice a month, legendary bartender/chef/restaurant insider Dave Mau pops by Stick A Fork In It to chime in about a random OC food or drink musing of his choice. Enjoy!!
There is a buddy of mine in The Biz who had a pretty successful shop in central OC for a stretch—really well-regarded, and the food was great. He was a true trailblazer and created a very special place in DTSA. He is also one of the few people I know that has really, awful, horrible food allergies. Like no joke. So bad, in fact, there were times when he couldn’t even set foot in his own joint if anything like shellfish or nuts was on the menu that eve—and I mean not even getting near the front door. It got so serious, in fact, he ended up at a prestigious hospital back east to seek treatment and find a workaround. There was a bit of a happy ending and, after an extended stay, he was better but still not able to be around some ingredients.
Fast forward a couple years and a young lady walks into my shop demanding gluten-free vodka. So:
#1:All vodka is gluten-free.
#2: ALL VODKA IS FUCKING GLUTEN-FREE!!!
I understand that if it’s flavored and/or put in a barrel that once had a gluten content there can be transference,—that’s fine. But it is literally a chemical impossibility for gluten molecules to enter the distillation process. It’s like getting golf balls to float into the air from a boiling pot of spaghetti: it doesn’t work. I could get all mad-scientist about it, but the simple fact of the matter is that gluten molecules are the size of Jupiter compared to their ethyl alcohol brethren and it is, literally, a physical impossibility for them to make their way up the still and condense. When I casually informed her of this she said she “reacted” to vodka that was made from wheat. For argument’s sake, let’s get this straight, once and for all.
There is a gargantuan difference between “having a reaction” and “reacting.” We deal with it all the time in The Biz. “Having a reaction” is both quantitative and qualitative— you are (to some degree) flushed, anaphylactic, tachycardic, experiencing ocular hemorrhaging, whatever. My aforementioned buddy’s eyelids would swell up so bad he looked like Homer Simpson after a horribly one-sided street brawl involving a pool cue beatdown. However, “reacting” is a non-specific set of internal feelings that may actually seem very real but are a figment of one’s imagination: fingers are numb, mouth is dry, your chakras are misaligned, again-whatever. The difference in this part of the equation is the whole thing is a ploy to shame or guilt one into getting wrapped up in the one-way train ride to Crazy Town and the more one resists the insane narrative, believe me, the worse (and sillier) it gets.
What happens is this: People jam up the front of shop crew demanding all sorts of nonsense and justifying it by saying they are “allergic.” There is plenty of content out there that proves douchebag bloggers say it’s okay to lie about your pretend “dietary needs.” Same theory with “service” dogs. And while all this is happening, everyone in the back of the house is rolling their eyes, cursing under their breath and, generally, not taking the situation seriously. I get that in today’s world, people are allowed to be so narcissistic and self-absorbed they think the world revolves around them and they are entitled to warp reality in order to get their way—that’s just a fact. But it’s like pulling that fire alarm handle in Junior High ALL THE TIME. At some point, everyone is just gonna stop paying attention. (BTW: I once had a particularly self-entitled member of the South Coast Elite tell me with a straight face she was “allergic to condiments.”)
Faux food allergies are all the rage. People covet and collect theirs like Gucci handbags. So if you are truly allergic to something, please speak up: everyone will do their best to accommodate your needs. But if you’re playing that card to be coddled or to make yourself feel important, please knock it off or, better yet, stay home. You don’t need to ruin it for those people whose health (and possibly lives) legitimately rely on us in The Biz paying attention to what we are doing in that kitchen.