“I’m going on a gluten-free diet,” my wife announced.
I stared blankly in response. The room remained silent for an awkwardly long period of time. I could only assume she was waiting for a reaction—most likely a particular reaction. Maybe she was waiting for congratulations, or sympathy. Maybe she was waiting for me to say I was going to support her by going on a gluten-free diet myself. I wasn’t even sure what a “gluten” was, but the word “diet” attached to it made me fairly sure that I didn’t want to be free of it.
“That’s good,” I finally answered, trying hard not to make my statement sound like a question.
My wife seemed less than satisfied with my answer and silently walked away. The subject of gluten-free living was not discussed for the rest of the night.
During the following days, I noticed that at dinner there would be what I would call “normal” food for two daughters and myself, and a separate dish for my wife. Other than being a curiosity, her gluten-freeness didn’t seem to affect me in any way. By the end of the week, I hardly gave gluten a thought.
That Saturday, like most Saturdays, we drove to our favorite restaurant for dinner. After being seated, I noticed that my wife did not partake in any of the warm bread and butter that the waitress had set on our table. I assumed that this must be due to the fact that there was gluten in either the bread or the butter. My wife loved the fresh bread from this restaurant, so I was amazed at her willpower.
As I sat in the booth stuffing warm bread and butter into my mouth, my mind began reconsidering my wife’s decision to become glutenless. I felt like I was missing something, like there was an aspect to it all that I was overlooking. My thoughts were interrupted by the waitress.
“Have you both decided on something?” she asked.
And then my wife answered an answer that made all the pieces fall into place, an answer that would reveal to me how her being gluten-free might actually have tremendous value to me.
“What do you have that is gluten-free?”
You might wonder how a question as simple as that might have any importance to me at all. But you see, my wife is a chronic food sharer, and I am not. Some of the most vicious arguments that we have had in our marriage took place in a restaurant just like the one we were sitting in, and were over our difference in opinion on the subject of sharing my food. I don’t like sharing my food. I know what I want, and I know that I don’t want to have to give up a portion of it so that my wife can satisfy her lust for variety. My wife not only insists on helping herself to whatever I have ordered, but will even argue with me about which entrée she thinks I should get so that she can then maximize her food stealing. I have even tried ordering exactly the same thing that she ordered, but still, she ended up taking half of mine claiming that, “yours looks so much more tender.” But with that one simple question that my wife asked the waitress, that was all about to change. My wife could not share anything I order that contained gluten.
“If you look on the second page, we actually have a few gluten-free entrees on the menu,” the waitress answered.
“Oh, I’ll have the salmon with vegetables,” she said after glancing at the entrees.
“And for you sir?”
I paused for moment, staring at the menu. “Sooooo, all of the other entrees HAVE gluten in them except for those on page two?”
My wife gave me funny look.
“Yes,” the waitress answered.
I paused for another moment. “Which ones do you suppose have the MOST gluten in them?”
The waitress cocked her head as if I had asked a strange question.
My wife was on to me. She glared a horrible glare and then picked up one of the delicious warm pieces of bread and threw it at me, hitting me in the forehead.
An argument immediately began that rivaled any we had had in a restaurant before, but I didn’t care. I didn’t even put much effort into my arguing because I knew I wouldn’t be forced to share my gluten-packed meal.
Food sharing had become such an issue in the years we have been married, that the thought of it no longer being a problem had me as giddy as a child who had just been given a bag of candy and told that he didn’t have to share it with his siblings. I could hardly concentrate on making my case during our argument. My mind was preoccupied with the possibilities that gluten was presenting me instead. I couldn’t help but wonder if gluten came in a spread, or in powder form. One dab or sprinkle would instantly lay my claim on any food I didn’t want to share even if it didn’t have any gluten in it to start with. I might even be able to end the perpetual argument over which one of us gets the prime spot on the couch by sprinkling it with gluten.
I decided right then as I stuffed more warm bread and butter into my face that I would never embark on a gluten-free diet, even if my life depended on it. Gluten, whatever it is, is wonderful. Gluten has not only improved my marriage, it may have actually saved it.
Jon Ziegler is the author of the humorous short story collection Single Family Asylum. The self-proclaimed nacho enthusiast draws inspiration for his writing from the chaos that takes place within the home he shares with his wife and two daughters.