Endless Patience with Thoughtless Outsiders

By | 4 April, 2011
A typical "eating hole" or "restaurant" as they're known by posh people

A typical “eating hole” or “restaurant” as they’re known by posh people

(Or, why I hate Chicken Caesar Salad)

One thing I often have problems with is eating out. When it’s just me and the husband, we have a few places we can go that I know the menu, that have relaxed attitudes to requests to serve the salad dressing on the side, or take out the fried croutons/bacon bits. I know that it’s fine for me to have a starter, and he’ll wait for his meal while I eat that, and I wait while he eats his pudding .

The problem arises when we go out with others. I have a difficult time with food – I have slow digestion (nothing to do with diabetes, just genetics) that means that the carbs in my meal take longer to get into my system than average, leading to some momentous hypos after meals in the past (something that the pump’s extended and multiwave bolus functions have helped with immensely). Certain foods make it much worse, such as rich, creamy sauces, and high levels of animal fats and protein. So I eat other things.

But when you go out, particularly with family, it’s difficult – I don’t want to upset relatives, even those foisted onto me by marriage. I, for one, don’t like to be the one who spoils the party.

So Bro-in-law books his latest favourite restaurant. And we all turn up, sit down, and get the menus out. First question: ‘Are we having starters?’ And the inevitable answer: ‘No, we’ll save ourselves for dessert. Let’s just go straight to main course, we’re really hungry.’ So I miss my starter. But I can’t eat the majority of the desserts (too sugary/creamy/rich/fatty – I used to have cheese board or ice-cream, but can no longer cope with the fat in either).

On to the main course choice. And it’s a full menu. Of unsuitable meals. Steak? (Too much animal protein.) Gammon? (Ditto, and added animal fat.) Salmon…in a creamy white wine sauce. (Don’t think so.) How about the pasta dishes? Carbonara? (Creamy…) Lasagne? (Cheese – fat, meat – animal protein…) Maybe I’ll have more luck with the vegetarian dishes – Aubergines fried in olive oil and served in a creamy rich sauce…never mind.

Try the salads. How can they mess up a salad for me? By putting crispy bacon bits in it (not on it, so they couldn’t possibly serve it without). Or serving it with prawns. (Not likely.) How about serving me one of the vaguely interesting starter salads for a main course? Oh no, we can’t do that. (And why in hell not?) So I end up back with the old ‘favourite’ – Chicken Caesar Salad. Without the deep fried croutons on top please? (Panicked look on waiter’s face. Oh forget it, I’ll take them off myself.) Can you serve the dressing on the side? (Because I’m the customer and I asked for you to do so? And because I’d like to actually have something to eat this evening, so write it down on your little pad.)

So I get my salad. And the rest of the party enjoy their meat-fest, and then go on to order their sickly/sticky/sugary/creamy desserts, while I have coffee. And they never manage to finish, because ‘they’re just too full’ (whilst I go back to the house and fill up on fruit and yoghurt, because I’m starving).

But I don’t complain (except to the husband, who ignores my complaints, and to my sister, who as a carer of a PWD, and enabled with an amazing amount of empathy, understands). I don’t mention that I’m being put out by the thoughtlessness of the rest of the party. I don’t say I’d like a starter when they wave off the suggestion, or point out, following the accusing glances as I order a coffee when no-one else does, that I’m not having a dessert. I just let things slide.

I’ve never been happy using my diabetes as an excuse for something, even when that something is getting a decent meal. I don’t want to stand out as difficult because I’m diabetic. And that’s what raising the issue feels like. It’s just another example of the hidden nature of diabetes. People forget or ignore it. And I put up with it. It is possible to be too thoughtful of other people’s feelings, at the expense of one’s own.

(But I do like Chicken Caesar Salad, really.)

23 thoughts on “Endless Patience with Thoughtless Outsiders

  1. lizz

    Gosh. We don’t eat out much, but I’ve found, by being nicely assertive, that I can get what I want quite easily.

    First, if you know where you are going, ring the chef in advance and order something off the menu without the things that give you trouble. ie the fish cooked without the sauce and stress NOT cooked in butter. I do this quite often as I am allergic to dairy and wheat. If they get stroppy (and no-one EVER has, mention that due to disability discrimination laws they are obliged to do so). I have had the banana with ice-cream dessert for example changed to banana covered in just melted Green and Black’s chocolate so it contains no fat, not much sugar, no dairy, wheat etc.

    If you arrive at a restaurant without having been able to do this, it does make it difficult if you are going to a chain which just has stuff already made which they shove in a microwave. But in this case you can still go and see the maitre d before the meal quietly, on your own, and tell them what would be ideal for you from the menu – often, as you say, something from the starter is best. You ask to have the starter delivered at the same time as the main meal for the others. his is easy for them to do. If they say no, you nicely mention disability discrimination laws.

    I can honestly say that by using these methods I’ve had the very best treatment and help at any restaurant I’ve been.

  2. lizz

    Also, forgot to say, the menus are often available on the internet if you look the restaurant up, so you can pre-plan what you are going to ask them to do.

  3. Tim

    I’m afraid to say I just pitch up at restaurants, order what’s on the menu and scoff / drink myself silly. My diabetes is pretty well behaved, as long as I carb count reasonably accurately everything comes out fine in the wash.

  4. Alison

    I guess I’m pretty lucky as I manage to eat most things without too much trouble and my carb guestimation isn’t too wildly wrong too often.

    As a child on one injection a day, if we went out for a meal it used to involve a long conversation with the waiter/chef about what I could have, but thankfully those days are gone. My mother used to carry round a raw potato that she knew the carb content for. I was only ever allowed jacket potato in restaurants and when it arrived Mum would take her raw potato out of her handbag and compare it with the one on my plate to guestimate the carbs. You’ll be surprised to hear, I’ve never taken up the potato carrying thing!

  5. Dave

    The potato carrying is fantastic. I may reintroduce it to see how long it takes before anyone refuses to eat out with me 🙂

  6. Alison

    @Tim I think they operated a potato rotation system, so it it was taken out to a restaurant one day and on your dinner plate the next!

  7. Nig

    @annette – you are clearly far too considerate of others and/or your dining companions are just rude! You have to sit there waiting for them to finish their puds, so why the hell shouldn’t they be expected to wait for you to finish your starter? Even if you didn’t have digestion issues or diabetes, it is just rude of them to decide that no-one at the table is allowed to have a starter! Ooh I’m so cross 🙁

    @lizz – I like the sound of the chocolate covered banana, but when did chocolate (even Green & Black’s) become a zero fat food?

  8. lizz

    Well, it has cocoa butter in, but no milk. Its fat content is mainly stearic acid and vegetable monounsaturates. And they affect your cholesterol level not at all. Annette said that it’s animal fats that affect her.

  9. Cecile

    @annette: You should don your “Ban the Bacon” T-shirt…I’m in need of one, too: as soon as something’s supposed to be vegetably (especially spinach), you can bet it’ll be polluted by smoked swine 🙂 . Also, while the inconsiderate masses are gobbling down pudding, you should be your definition of normal & order a starter 😀

    I pay routine monthly visits to a single local restaurant, where the chicken I order is usually accompanied by roasted veg and potato wedges (which in absence of an Alisonian measuring tuber, I glue together with my tube of potato glue, to see what kind of bird’s egg I’m dealing with ;)). And when I venture further afield (to attend diabetes clinic), I crop at Woolies’ Food Bar’s buffet/harvest table, where you can pick and choose all things suitable yourself (and their set menus also offer a choice of lesser evils).

  10. Annette A Post author

    I used to know a restaurant in Harrogate called Jacques for Starters. It only served starters. You could eat as many or as few as you wanteds, and could order them individually or all in one go. It was fab. Dont know if it still exists…
    But, an update: we went out for lunch this weekend to one of those chain-type pubs. So I decided that I wasnt having salad (and there were 2 salads on the menu. 2. In a pub. For goodness sake. And one had bacon in. No prizes for guessing what the other was.) So I ordered a starter to be served at the same time as the main meals. And they were totally happy to accomodate me in that, so I’m thinking of trying that again in future. I may be slowly liberating myself…

  11. Annette A Post author

    My mother had a ruler in her handbag and a table of length v carbs for potatoes. Seemed weird at the time, but compared to @alison it now seems positively mainstream 🙂

  12. Nig

    Sorry Liz, my inner pedant just read “so it contains no fat” and didn’t bother consulting with the rest of my few remaining brain cells to put it in the context of Annette’s article.

  13. jason

    Hi Annette,
    I found an interesting group called Total Available Glucose (TAG) on the tudiabetes website. The idea is that eventually protein and fat is broken down by the body and used as glucose. It varies from person to person, of course, but I would bolus upfront for the carbs, in the normal way, but I would also bolus for 60% of the protein to becounted as carbs, and use an extended bolus over four hours. I would allow 30% of fat to be counted as carbs, and an extended bolus over six hours. So now eating steak, or fish, or chicken foods does not represent a huge challenge it used to and post meal bg tests are much better. There’s more info at http://www.tudiabetes.org/group/tagers?xg_source=msg_wel_group which might help! 🙂

  14. Rohan

    Wow, this is another example of why I like it here: I keep finding out how lucky I am! I have had no problems with any specific food types as yet. And as I am more than happy to be upfront about my pancreas’s failings, while doing my best to avoid complaining (I usually go for ‘sorry, stupid diabetaids requires me to be careful about this), and so far have had no problems, and avoided spoiling any parties. So I guess I’m doubley lucky – everyone I have associated with thus far re-diabetes has been awesome about it. Even the fellow apprentice who goes funny at the sight of needles doesn’t mind my shooting up at table, as long as I warn him…

    I think getting the starters to arrive with mains must be the solution, it’s really not a difficult concept to grasp, and you’d be WELL within your rights to whine about it if they really don’t do it. And I’m not someone who likes to complain/make a fuss…

  15. Scotty

    @jason If you have loads of booze doesn’t this kinda balance out all the high fat stuff? 🙂

    1. jason

      Still carrying out much needed research in relation to this important aspect 🙂

  16. lizz

    My parents reacted to me having diabetes by blanking it… Unfortunately my Dr who was very old gave me a calorie diet at first, so they bought a electric grill to cook my meat on and left it like that!

    When after having hypo after hypo and just collapsing all over the place, I was eventually admitted to hospital (in an adult ward) and given an appropriate diet, they made me write off to every food manufacturer that made the food we ate so I could work out how much of everything we ate to eat – they didn’t change WHAT we ate at all. When we ate out (very seldom) I had whatever I wanted.

    I still haven’t forgiven them for this – particularly as the boy over the road had diabetes and his parents threw out all their sugar, made appropriate recipes and all ate the same as him.

  17. Spike Jones

    @Annette Sorry sweet but you just have to be blunt. You want starter & not pud? Order it! Do any of the inconsiderates whom you mention give a moment’s thought to what they eat further than how it will taste? I doubt it. Do any of them become unwell if the don’t eat “right”? Maybe one or two & they should back you up. It isn’t our fault we have to do these things, but we have to do them. If anyone doesn’t like it, I tell them they can object all they like. I just won’t listen to whining idiots whose only concern is their own gratification over my health.
    If you think this is strong, you should have heard what I said to the woman whom I had kicked out of a restaurant for loudly complaining about me injecting under the table…


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