As mainstream as gluten-free eating has become, and as relatively easy as that has made it to avoid gluten in the home, dining out still can be a challenge. Some restaurants, like Posana’s in Asheville, speak gluten intolerance fluently, and make a damn fine gluten-free biscuit, besides. Others seem never to have heard the term.
Most restaurants past a certain price point fall somewhere between these two extremes, which means that meal orders generally must begin, “I’m gluten-intolerant” and then continue along that line until, for example, the server directs your attention to the GF section of the menu. (Explaining gluten intolerance to someone who speaks English as a second language sometimes means having hot tea … and only hot tea … for dinner.)
A deli cafe named Coffee To A Tea opened in the West End last October, but I discovered it only a few weeks ago. They bake their own gluten-free bread – always a good sign – and juice their own carrots. So now my breakfast-on-the-town options have expanded to include egg white, spinach and feta breakfast sandwiches on gluten-free sundried tomato bread and fresh organic carrot juice. Unfortunately, drinking coffee anywhere other than the Coffee Underground makes me feel like an unfaithful lover.
Speaking of lovers, there’s a seriously Christian man who says that he loves me … as I imagine he’s been instructed to love all God’s children … and says also that I’m going to Hell. He isn’t clear on what Hell is exactly, but he does say that, unless I “do business with Jesus,” Hell is where I’ll one day be. It’s interesting to me that I had to bring up the subject myself, even wheedle him a bit, to get my current course confirmed. “Jesus didn’t stutter,” he said, by which I gather he meant that his interpretation of God’s word is solid on this particular point.
His brand of love permits him to socialize with and solicit hours of freely given computer advice from someone he believes to be on the road to perdition, while at the same time making no obvious attempt to get that person saved. Maybe he’s leading me into the light by example, knowing I’d spook if I caught sight of the Holy Ghost too soon, or maybe he just likes the company of sinners. No harm in that, I suppose, but … Was there ever a Nazi soldier who enjoyed the company of Jews before the Reich got rolling? Was he a popular oddity in the Jewish bars where he rarely spoiled the mood with dire predictions?
Another friend – I’ll call her my spiritual friend – tells me the story of an established older couple who traveled to Europe some time ago with her and her husband. The four of them were ending their day al fresco at a picturesque cafe when the male half of the older couple referred in an an off-handed way to the “blue gums.” This settled her suspicion that he was a racist and left a nasty stain on what might otherwise have been a uniformly pleasant memory.
I was shocked when she told me that she later accepted this man’s invitation to a party. Whenever somebody reveals to me that particular heart of darkness, I erase them from my book. Completely. But she and her husband are political animals, so politics drove them back for a second helping.
My Christian friend’s heart of darkness, as it seems to me, is this: He’s the kind of Christain who believes that his way is the only way, that Muslims and Buddhists, even Catholics, are his spiritual inferiors. He looks back over his shoulder at the wicked, misapprehending world with a confident grin and says, “I love you all, but you better do business with Jesus, or …”
This kind of spirituality … it’s a sickness. It divides. “But isn’t the truth always divisive?” he asked. (And he really did ask that … Socratically, of course.) I remember thinking, “If God’s truth is love, isn’t it inclusive?” but I was out of steam, so I nodded noncommitally. And besides, my sense of things is that he’ll be fine regardless of what he believes. As will I. As will we all.
When my spiritual friend told me that she’d gone to the racist’s party, I told her that, whatever the cost of not going might have been if she’d turned him down, she’d spent a great deal more than that shoring up his self esteem by stomaching his “blue gum” rhetoric and then honoring his home with her presence.
Now I’m asking myself if socializing with someone whose beliefs are so distasteful to me might not come at a rather high price as well.