Oh the mall- that bizarre cross-section of humanity. The mall is not my favorite place, unless I have a bunch of gift cards or I am shopping by myself for myself. I don’t understand grown-ups who go and “hang out” at the mall. WTF is that? If you are too old to have a Chem Teacher, you are too old to wander the marble floors of your local shopping center.
The food court at the mall is the worst part of it all. It’s like the cesspool of civilization. I believe if there is ever an end-of-the-world event in our lifetime, the rescue bunker for survivors will strongly resemble the food court at the mall. You will have the thugs and their groupie females hanging off them in the corner laughing at nothing, the groups of families trying to corral their kids into washing their hands and the wretched old people who sit hunched and lopsided drinking coffee because they have nowhere else to go.
For a Celiac, the Food Court at a mall screams starvation. For some reason there are always at least three Chinese Food places and those are out because we can’t have the soya sauce. There are the pizza/pasta places which are gross even for the gluten eaters. There is Subway but they don’t offer GF options. There is of course your burger places which are out as well.
The main problem with the food court for the Celiac diner is the time factor. The food court places want you in and out of their lines because they understandably don’t want people to wait. Therein lies the problem for us Celiacs because we have to EXPLAIN what we need to someone who:
a) Can’t hear us because it is deafening loud in food courts
b) Aren’t trained on any allergy/celiac/sensitivity awareness or if they are, they…
c) Don’t give a shit because they work at a mall food court
At food courts I can usually have the tacos from like Taco Bell or Taco Time. It has to be the hard side tacos and you have to ask them to change their gloves to make it. I always get ground beef because they seem unable to tell me what is in the spices of the chicken.
This is my food court fare…pretty fucking lame.
So one day when there were no lineups I decided to try a Greek food court store front. I went up and asked the girl at the till if they had a GF menu. She seemed very on the ball and said,
“We don’t have a gluten free menu but you can have the chicken skewers and the Greek salad. You can’t have the rice or the potatoes because their seasoning has gluten in it.”
I am thrilled with this refreshing change and order the skewer and salad right away.
Then it all went to shit.
So I am watching the guy make my food. The girl has told him what I need and that it’s “an allergy”. Good enough.
I watch as he changes his gloves….check
I watch as he takes out a new skewer….check
I watch as he moves the bread over on the griddle and put the skewer in it's place…shit
Me: “Hi, um…hey..there. Um, I can’t have food that has even touched bread so you can’t put the skewer on the same spot as the bread was.”
Cook: Completely dumbfounded with my behavior, “It’s hot,” as if that explains everything.
Me: “Ya, it’s not like a germ or anything. I am so sorry but could you please clean the griddle and get a new skewer? Thank you so much. I really appreciate it.”
He does this with a smile…I think it’s a fake smile but I will take it.
I watch as he cleans the griddle and gets a new skewer and put it on …check
I watch as he uses the tongs to move the bread farther away from my food, creating a buffer zone…he gives me a smile…I smile back…we are off the races now.
I watch as he puts the tongs in the fryer.
Cook, “I will just clean them off before I touch your skewers.”
Me: “Wait! Don’t do that. What is cooking in the fryer?”
Cook: “Breaded Calamari.”
Me: “Ok, so now the tongs have the breading on them so you can’t touch the skewers.”
Cook: “The Fryer kills the gluten.” Please please sit with that dear reader because this is not the first time I have heard this theory. THE FRYER KILLS THE GLUTEN is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard.
Me: “Nope, it’s not a germ. You can’t kill it. You have to actually wash those tongs with soap and water please. Thanks so much. Really, I know it’s a pain so I appreciate all this work.”
Meanwhile the Spawn is running out of patience
Spawn one – “Can I please have those noodles from the Chinese place and I want a spring roll but I don’t want the sauce because the sauce is gross. And can I have a coke just a small one and I won’t drink the whole thing. Okay? Okay? Okay? Mom? Mom? Mom? Please? Please?”
Spawn two – “Can I get chicken fingers? Chicken fingers and fries. Chicken fingers and fries with apple juice. Chicken fingers and fries and apple juice with a toy. It has to be a girl toy because I don’t want the boy ones. Okay? Okay? Okay? Mom? Mom? Mom? Please? Please?”
Cook: Still with tongs in fryer- not smiling anymore. “No, the fryer kills the gluten…trust me.”
Me: “No, trust me, it really really doesn’t. If it killed the gluten then that calamari would not come out with any breading on them at all. It’s not acid, it’s oil and it does not kill gluten because gluten isn’t alive.”
Cook: “This works.”
Me: “I realize sir, that you are trained in this. I get it, I understand but please believe me when I tell you that hot cooking oil doesn’t clean ANYTHING.”
He ignores me completely.
A line up is forming and I have created a substantial bottle neck. The girl at the till has started making my salad in an effort to move things along.
I watch as she accidentally puts a piece of bread on TOP of my salad, I watch as she pulls it off very quickly and smiles her best ‘oopsy’ grin.
Girl, “Three second rule right?”
Cook uses “cleaned off” tongs (you can actually see chunks of breading stuck to them) to pick up the skewer and toss it on the salad.
They put the plate up and I just left it there and walked away.
The mall food court – stay away at all costs.