A short scene about ordering a burger while on a diet
Or How I learned to stop worrying and love the Whole30
For the last month I have been eating according to a set of food guidelines known as the Whole30. Basically no dairy, grains, added sugar, legumes or processed food for a month. And no alcohol. Fun, right? But it’s a slick operation they’re got running over there at Whole30 HQ — full of peppy chat, nutritional nous and a natty line in change-your-life triumphalism.
(Now, for the record, it sort of has changed my life. I’ve lost 11.5 lbs in 30 days with no noticeable effort; my hair, nails and skin all look like I’ve been photoshopped in real life and the fact that I’m writing this mid-afternoon instead of slumping in front of the TV in a sugar coma is something of a minor miracle. I’ve begun to learn to cook, now shop for _ingredients_ rather than ready meals and have bought an amazing chef knife that glints hungrily in the sunlight and blitzes herbs in a blur of steel. I feel like a latter day samurai, except I massacre chicken fillets rather than people without honour.)
I am very happy.
But I am also British so I don’t want to make a fuss.
Back at the Whole30 they are all about shouting this stuff from the rooftops. They want me to be super proud of my new found health, they want me to tell EVERYONE I meet. I should be fist bumping coconuts and high fiving broccoli.
So here’s the thing — I can only assume that the Whole30 grew out of a more positive and affirming cultural context than my own. You know what I’m saying, right? They are American.
And this is where my experience of this new way of eating differs slightly from the platonic ideal presented by the Whole30 website.
For example, here are some tips that Melissa and Dallas Hartwig, the wonderful, bouncy people who created the Whole30, have to offer about attempting to eat out at a restaurant while keeping to their dietary master plan.
1. Upon being seated, ask that the server not bring bread to the table, and please not to offer you dessert.
2. Don’t hesitate to ask about food sourcing, hidden ingredients, or preparation methods.
3. Be firm but nice about your requests. Say things like, “Would it be possible…?” or “I’d love it if…”
4. Get creative! Order sandwiches without bread, pasta toppings on a bed of fresh spinach, or double vegetables as your side.
And here is what happened when I tried to put these tips into action at a popular posh burger joint in our capital city.
BURGER LADY: Table number?
ME: (pointing) Um… that one.
BURGER LADY: That isn’t a number. That’s a gesture.
ME: Right. ‘scuse me a moment. (runs back to table)
BURGER LADY: (hums tune to self)
ME: (returning) Table 13, please.
BURGER LADY: What would you like?
ME: Right, here’s the thing, I’m doing this weird diet thing — no grain, no sugar — so would it be possible for me to have an original burger with no bun?
BURGER LADY: (world collapses) What?
ME: I’d love it if I could have a burger but without the bun. And no relish because I think there is sugar in your relish. And no mayonnaise, thanks. (smiles apologetically in an attempt to convey solidarity over what an arse I’m being)
BURGER LADY: (stares with open mouth) I…
ME: I know it’s a bother. But if you could just not give me a bun. And an extra beef patty, please?
BURGER LADY: (this is her Vietnam) So, two burgers?
BURGER LADY: But no buns?
ME: Not a one.
BURGER LADY: I’ll have to charge you extra.
ME: For no buns?
BURGER LADY: Yes.
ME: Are you charging me labour costs for throwing away the buns?
BURGER LADY: (as if talking to a small child) It’s the rules.
ME: Okay. Can I just ask where you source your … (shuts up as Burger Lady makes face like a storm front) Can I have some sliced avocado on the burgers?
BURGER LADY: Which burger?
ME: Both burgers.
BURGER LADY: So two sliced avocados?
ME: Or just one if it’s of a sufficient size to cover the surface area of two burgers. And two fried eggs. As long as they’re fried in olive oil. Are they?
BURGER LADY: What?
BURGER LADY: Yes.
ME: In olive oil?
BURGER LADY: I don’t know (makes no move to check if eggs are fried in olive oil)
ME: Great. And a green salad on the side.
BURGER LADY: You’ve lost me. (it is self-evident that I have indeed lost her)
ME: I just want two burgers covered in avocado and fried egg and a green salad. And no buns. And could you tell me how the salad is prepared?
BURGER LADY: … (behind her eyes I can see that my requests have shaken Burger Lady to her very core, she is adrift on an ancient ocean, clinging to the very last vestiges of her sanity)
ME: Good-o. How much do I owe you?
BURGER LADY: (charges me more money than anyone has ever paid for a burger or, I suspect, a Lobster Thermidor)
So there we have it. The US and the UK — two peoples divided by one language and very different customer service methodologies.
There is, however, a coda to this particular story. A final grace note that I think is worth mentioning.
BURGER LADY: (bringing plate of food to my table) That looks quite nice actually.