Thursday, September 26, 2013

Felled by Beer

I was hoping to report on my visit today to Orchard House, the home of the Alcott family in Concord, a trip organized by my local garden club. But at lunch at A charming old Inn afterward, I ordered a crock of macaroni and cheese —  and it never occurred to me that they might make it with liquor. I called the restaurant tonight, and they told me they make their mac and cheese with a substantial amount of Guinness. Alcohol makes me sick; I've been like this for 11 years. I'd wondered recently if I had somehow been cured, and if it might be okay to have, say, a pasta sauce with a splash of wine in it — but it's definitely not.  I didn't taste the Guinness, although one of my friends said she thought she tasted alcohol.

If you have food allergies or sensitivities, always, always ask before you order a meal. I didn't, because I was with a large group of women and didn't want to take everyone's time—and risk being viewed as hypersensitive or fussy. Now I am unwillingly hosting a tiny mariachi band (or maybe it's a soccer team) in my stomach. Don't learn the hard way, as I just did. Just ask.

The person I spoke to at the restaurant tonight apologized, although I think it's my fault for not asking. On the other hand, who puts beer in mac and cheese. And there's this: their new menu debuted today and there are clearly some kinks they need to work out, including key omissions of ingredients on the menu — three friends ordered what they thought was a vegetarian "Alcott" sandwich (we had just learned during our tour that the Alcotts were mainly vegetarians, so a cheese and apple sandwich made sense....). But each one arrived filled with turkey.

I was lucky to spend the afternoon feeling fine as I wandered and shopped in Concord by myself after lunch. I was lucky that I only started to feel strange on the train ride home. I have not been so lucky since I came in the door. I'll be fine. I just need to stay close to home and follow the BRAT+G diet (bananas, rice, applesauce, toast, and — my addition — gingersnaps) for a day or two. I hope. Sometimes the band sticks around for a couple of weeks. But I'm going to think positively.

I'm going back to bed. More later.


  1. Beer in macaroni and cheese? I have a severe nut allergy so I always have to be careful - especially with the growing popularity of almond milk and almond flour - even apple pie could be fatal. I tend not to eat other people's baking, and Christmas is a minefield. I have found that restaurants are more aware and careful (read liability awareness) and you should just decide to make asking a standard step in your ordering. I hope you feel better soon and that this doesn't lead to an aversion to mac and cheese in the future.

    1. We're celebrating our wedding anniversary this weekend, and I've been thinking about the truffled mac and cheese at the Marliave, one of Boston's oldest restaurants, which is a wonderfully decadent dish. But I think I'll have to pass on that, and also the little fondue restaurant we love, for a little while. I have issues when a dish has a lot of cream, too, but I have survived the Marliave's mac and cheese. Alcohol has a worse effect on me. But it won't kill me: I'm sorry to hear you have a nut allergy, which is a thousand times more serious. You've figured out how to protect yourself and I can surely do better myself.


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