A terrible thing happened.
Or I thought a terrible thing happened.
One day when I was 29 years old I was walking into American Eagle Outfitters in Boulder’s old Crossroads Mall and the strangest thing happened in the vicinity of my stomach. I’ll never forget it. I was headed to the back of the store, straight for the shoes, my mind on a particular pair. I don’t dawdle. As I walked it felt like my stomach stood up and rolled over right there inside my belly. Not like if you’re pregnant and you feel that first little flutter, but like if you had the Ally McBeal dancing baby in there and he jumped straight up and landed. Just once.
I looked at the shoes and walked out of the store to the escalator. I was headed for The Gap downstairs. By the time I reached the bottom of the escaltor I was in so much pain I couldn’t stand up straight.
Months later, the doctor diagnosed an allergy to corn.
May you never have that.
Corn is in everything in the US.
Since then every few years I discover new things I’m allergic to. First it was eggs; I’m okay as long as I don’t eat too much. Then I was housesitting at Wendy’s and she had a bowl of plums, which I never eat. They looked so good. I ate one and my throat swelled up. Never felt that before. Now avoid plums and peaches and some melons, which have the same effect. Orange juice now makes sores on my tongue right away. Weird. Most of this is just annoying, though. None of these allergies have really caused a major problem.
And then I thought I was lactose intolerant. This is the terrible thing of which I spoke.
You must understand. On my new facebook page for religion I put, “A national cuisine with this much melted cheese and chocolate is good for the soul.”
And then I started noticing I didn’t feel so good. A lot of the time. I decided to test out the theory and headed to The Swiss Chalet in the Geneva airport. It is a themed shrine to dairy products, complete with personal raclette burners and chocolate fondue served in copper pots at the table. What a good idea.
I had a salad before the main event, just to assuage the guilt.
Then the young, handsome, flirty waiter (He’d said, “tres jolie” of me to another waiter as I walked in… fun!) brought me my very own raclette burner… part high school chemistry lab, part classic French cuisine… all right there next to a huge stack of slices of stinky, soft raclette cheese (and some potatoes and pickles to put it on, but they’re just formalities).
I melted and savored each precious slice. It took almost an hour. I ate as much as I could. I think in retrospect that the portion was for more than one person. It was like an eating contest for me. The waiters stood by watching.
And then, about 15 minutes later, I was wracked with sharp pains from my belly. I wished for a Roman vomitorium. (That was the Romans, right?)
On the way home to Lugano (this was the day I flew and it was beautiful but I left this part out when I wrote that post), gazed wistfully at the Matterhorn and mourned the cheeses I would not eat.
After I’d recovered I called two friends to share the tragic news. Beth said, “Well, maybe you can eat just a little bit of cheese. Anyone who eats an entire meal of cheese might have an upset stomach. “Oh, yeah! Like, “Moderation in all things?”
My friend, Amy, though, an expat for many years here now, imparted wisdom that gave me hope: “You drank water with it, didn’t you?!” she exclaimed. “You can’t drink water with it! That’s why they all drink white wine — it’s acidic or something and if you drink water with the hot cheese it actually turns to a hard ball in your stomach. I’ve seen it happen.”
Oh, thank god. I’ll have to try it again. This time with wine. Closer to holy communion, if you ask me.