In the summer of 2019, my husband and I were at an engagement dinner at a Persian restaurant in north Toronto. It was an upscale restaurant located in a hotel, that is well-known for having great, authentic food. Those who could eat it would happily indulge.
However, as an allergic person, I had prepared ahead, and brought my own meal in a new, very grown-up lunch bowl. It was tucked into a cooler bag cleverly disguised as a black crossbody purse.
The waiters brought around bountiful plates of grilled meats, saffron tinted rice, and bowls of kashke bademjan (eggplant dip with whey powder) that were filled to the brim. It was time to stealthily pull out my allergy-safe meal, when I realized I had forgotten to bring cutlery. If you’re already bringing a meal in a serving dish to a restaurant, then you might as well bring your own cutlery, too.
I looked down at the fork in my place at the table and noticed some crumbs near it. My husband, seeing me put a death stare on the fork, suggested I ask the bartender for a new roll of cutlery.
The Cutlery Caper Begins
So I excused myself and walked over to the bar. Instead of helping myself to a fork and knife from the bin of cutlery within reach, I thought I would be well-mannered and ask first. Afterall, this is a culture known for the utmost respect and politeness. To which the equally polite server then said, “Yes of course” as he gallantly picked up a fork and spoon each by the mouth, and handed them to me.
I looked at them laying in my hands, a slick sheen where his thumb had been. Was it from the kashke bademjan? The buttery rice? Or the meat marinated in walnuts, for God’s sake?
I shot my husband a worried glance. He looked confused. Afterall, he was just eating dinner like a normal person. Unlike me, he was not trying to devise ways to expediently destroy sharp metal objects. I sidled up by his chair and showed him the thumb print. “Go wash them in the restroom?” he offered.
In stealth mode again, I put the cutlery up my sleeve and walked toward the women’s room. As my luck would have it, the restrooms were outside the restaurant and down a hall. It was a long walk for carrying concealed instruments that beat under my sleeve like the Tell-Tale Heart.
Scrubbing in My Sunday Best
Once inside the restroom, I was thankfully alone. I produced the cutlery and slathered soap all over them, scrubbing and rinsing and watching the door and praying that no one came in. What would other patrons make of this weirdo hunched over the sink, washing a fork and spoon with antibacterial hand soap, while dressed in her Sunday best.
I could imagine the droll response: “They have more of those at the restaurant, you know.”
Just as I was finishing up – hands full of wadded up paper towel, while blow-drying a fork, knife and spoon under the hand dryers, in walked a woman. Caught in the act, I put my head down and swiftly strode the long march back to the fancy restaurant, where the fine food was circulating and the wine was flowing. With each step, I thanked my lucky stars – the restroom visitor was not in this weirdo’s party.
I swear, you just can’t take me anywhere.
Amanda Orlando is the Toronto-based author of two food allergy-aware cookbooks, the latest of which is Everyone’s Welcome. Also visit her blog, Everyday Allergen-Free, where she writes about the realities of life with allergies and shares many of her recipes.