The Mayo Clinic is a humbling place.Whenever I think I’m having a tough time here because I’m having trouble finding something to eat- I can’t eat the dinner rolls, or the bacon, or the tortillas, or the entire bloody complimentary breakfast bar- I remind myself of this very important fact: here at Mayo I am surrounded by folks who have troubles worlds away from mine.
Not to mention that my No Sugar regime is self-imposed. Nonetheless, I take it pretty seriously- ask any waitress who’s had to run to the kitchen three times to ask about ingredients for me. In fact, I’ve gotten to the point where I dread the asking, because I fear I’m going to get “The Look.” “The Look” is that mixture of dismay and confusion which regularly appears on the waitress, cashier, or cafeteria line lady’s face when I ask if the penne with red peppers and broccoli has sugar in it.
“Sugar in it?” they always say, as if they perhaps didn’t hear me correctly.
That being said, I probably couldn’t have found a place on earth as willing to accommodate my ingredient queries as they are here. Because of the clinic, they are used to fielding just about every question you can ask about their foods… so many folks here have restrictions, special diets or upcoming test requirements. But even the diabetics aren’t asking quite the same question that I’m asking. Sometimes I preface it by saying “I have a little bit of a weird question…”
Now, on Saturdays and Sundays Mayo Clinic is closed, and so are, consequently, a whole lot of the restaurants. What stays open is just the kind of food I totally can’t eat… sub chains and coffee shops. In the sub shop the meats are probably cooked with glazes and other additives which are likely to include sugar, and the bread usually has it too; coffee shops are basically one big dessert.
On Saturday night I took my Dad to the sub chain inside our hotel. While he ordered his sandwich I noticed that they had a “no carb” option of wrapping your ingredients inside a large lettuce leaf rather than their bread (which- I checked- had sugar.) Rather than enter into a ten-hour discussion of the ingredients of the various cold cuts, I ordered the veggie sub with the no carb option… basically a vegetable bonanza, with a slice of cheese thrown in there for good measure. I couldn’t very well add mayonnaise because that has sugar (oh yes!) so I slathered on some mustard and dug into a very crunchy meal.
The next day was equally tricky. After a good breakfast of plain oatmeal and berries at a nearby hotel I thought I was full enough to get through till an early dinner. Not so much. I really should realize this about my metabolism by now, but somehow I still manage to convince myself that maybe I don’t really need to eat all three meals if it isn’t entirely convenient. Instead, I am like a wind-up toy that stops working when its short little energy source runs out.
So there I was, mid-afternoon, dinner still hours away, and not a thing in sight to eat. As usual when I miss a meal, I began to feel slightly ill, and then desperate. The Larabar from my suitcase had helped, but not enough. I couldn’t face another vegetable sandwich wrapped in lettuce, but I had an idea. I went to the counter at the sub shop and asked if I could just order some cheese.
“Just cheese?” the twenty-something man behind the counter asked. He checked with the sandwich makers behind him, “We can do just cheese, right?”
No one could think of any reason not to sell me some cheese. “Hey- there’s no reason why we can’t!” he said brightly, and he rang it up. The cheese came to 75 cents. After checking the ingredients I also added a bag of potato chips and received my tiny little package of cheese from the pick-up counter.
Back in my room I was sorry to see they had only given me two small pieces- should’ve asked for two or three servings worth. Oh well- paired with the banana I had stolen from the largely inedible (for me) breakfast bar, and the chips it still made a very serviceable lunch.
It was all there: I had some carbohydrates, some salt, some fat and some fructose wrapped in fiber and sprinkled with micronutrients. I was happy with my little improvised meal and even happier that it put a stop to the gnawing in my belly.
And honestly, it was waaaaay better than a lettuce and mustard sandwich.