It’s not untrue that after the odd nibble of cheese, accidental sip of milk, or a dip of egg in that creamy hollandaise sauce I am left with feelings of nothing but regret and a shortness of breath depending on the proximity of the toilet.
“Stick to packaged foods” they said while venturing through South-East Asia. “You will live to
regret it if you don’t”. I am not one to avoid a pork bao when there is one cooked on a man-made BBQ over a Ho-Chi-Minh drain, though, or a lady selling pineapple on the floor in a mountain, or a $1 stir-fry at the Thai Cambodia border. “I’ll have it with a Yacult” I decided.
By the first few days in Vietnam, 3 of us were struck by an intestinal parasite and Darwin laughed from up above as the weakest took it in turns to be that white person running along the streets by the Mekong panicking in a sweat looking for a loo. We didn’t always make it, but we were at least a food poisoned crapping unit. Oreos and boiled rice for dinner. So long Vietnamese delicacies.
It made for interesting bus journeys and an anxiety ridden boat trip in Hoi An where we thanked our lucky stars the skipper on his blue wooden fisherman’s boat had Coke in his ice bucket. We felt bad for not accepting the local fish pieces we were offered, which we had only dreamed of a few months back while sitting in the travel agents, but we rubbed our our bellies while making a sick face to show the skipper we were sick and not rude.
I didn’t quite believe I had food poisoning the night I woke up in sweats with stabbing pains in my stomach which were handled lying by the toilet bowl of a hotel, which luckily had a very clean toilet vicinity. The sweats caused some hallucinations and I was pretty sure the Vietnamese man who had sat watching us eat our dinner from outside the restaurant and later asked if we would like him to watch us over night was watching me at the other end of the bathroom. I succumbed to the facts pretty quickly and my dreams of eating everything Vietnamese were over. The group buggered off to the American war tunnels the following day while I lost a good stone in weight watching the only English channel they had showing Midsummer Murders. All day.
We then ventured to Hanoi on a sleeper train, and this was made all the more fun when we realised that two of us in our cabin had the mega craps. The toilet was a mere hole in the train floor and coming through every orifice of the train were cockroaches. So, not only did you have to count your blessings and hope the toilet was free, but hope that a roach wasn’t going to prattle over your feet while you tried not to fall through the floor while having NO control over your bowels.
These tests in life really do make you stronger, on the outside, and less prude.
“Whatever you do, don’t eat the fish and avoid pork” they said, as we made our way to Bali two years later. It would have been rude to have not eaten the pork cooked in banana leaves by our host Dada, though, who had invited us to his house to celebrate the birth of his brother’s baby. The pig had been alive that morning, and in the rustic woods where wealth clashed with poverty we sat in the mud, listened to Bob Marley, and drank rice wine with about 20 Indonesian men. We had a lovely time.
Those familiar sweats and cramps took over and on my 3rd day out of the 7 I was an all round write off and lived off Norits. Dada told me to take 10 of them and so, in sheer desperation, I took these little black charcoal pills from a man I didn’t know and thoroughly blocked myself up, but the second they ran out of my system and the Australian authorities wouldn’t let me take them into the country I was ruined.
For months and months this parasite grew it would seem before I finally decided to see a doctor who gave me Penicillin and all sorts of remedies. I never recovered, as many of my dear friends know.
I think all people who genuinely have an intolerance should show some kind of “I have an intolerance to milk in my coffee as if I drink it I will shit myself” card to cafes that are prey to charging near on $1 for soy milk, because we live in a world where somehow gluten and dairy free products are a luxury. I would like us to be set apart from those who have soy because they want to be thin/healthier/a part of the pretence that can be the GF/DF industry, because for people who genuinely need GF/DF products it makes it near on impossible to afford, and if we rebelled by taking milk with our coffee it would not be ideal for anyone. We are, at the moment, doing a service to the community by paying that surplus for soy.