Just before a big trip happens I always get very nervous, as though my family and friends, house, cats, and job cannot survive without me. Pre-flight, I’m like a man slowly marching to his execution --- and he doesn’t get to say goodbye. Dramatic and silly but nonetheless true, when it’s time to go, all I want to do is stay. Until I actually leave. And then reality slaps me into remembering I don’t have to deal with my mother if I’m far away.
For someone with severe allergies, even the best of trips can be bittersweet. I’d put one of my recent globe trotting exploits in the context of a boxing match: “Ladies and gentlemen, in this corner, hailing from Boston, Massachusetts, lasting 27 years, a constant reminder of potential headache, severe disorientation and dizziness: Rick’s food allergies!!! And his opponent, populated for several thousand years with one of the richest cultural food heritages the earth has ever known: Southern Italy!!!” It was a brief match indeed. I was sucker punched.
My significant boss, I mean my significant other, knows all too well my food limitations, since she does 99%, (okay, 100%), of the cooking at home. Nothing fried, no cow dairy, no wheat, and no citrus fruits. The Italian translation for that literally means: death by salad.
My downward spiral started out so innocently. Frozen yogurt in the United States is a stripped down version of ice cream, most of the fat is removed, and this reduces the allergic effects. So once in a blue moon I cheat and have some, and the few repercussions are worth the treat. This was my reasoning when we sauntered into the first of many gelato parlors that seem to be everywhere in Italy.
But the first taste was all the evidence needed to realize that what Italians call frozen yogurt is food for the gods. There was enough fat in it to burn the midnight lamp forever. My life before that bite was a simple, uncomplicated meandering. Post swallow, there was a new purpose that swelled in my hives – I mean heart. “Just one more” became my mantra of nirvana, the search was over.
For the 27th time, my spoon plunged into ivory towers that slowly melted into a river of white gold. I was delirious by this point. My poor wrecked body and my naïve partner, both victims of the lies I willingly told to keep my new obsession flowing from the bowl to my face. The headaches increased, my brain was about to pop, if there was a mirror around I could have witnessed the bulging veins throbbing in my forehead. The brightness of the gelato parlor began to dim. The busy hubbub all around me seemed to become more distant.