I am doing the A-Z challenge, focusing on places or entities that can be found within Mendocino County. I do not intend to imply that the subjects of my writing are the most significant, only that they have personal relevance to me. Today’s letter is Y for Yum-Yum Tree.
Rolling WIth the Punches
Unlike Ardella’s or Star’s or Taqueria Bravo, or any of the other places I have written about in my A-Z Challenge, Mendocino County style, I have not been to the Yum-Yum Tree in several years. The reason is simple: When I go out to eat, it is always with Annie, and since she has Celiac Disease, and cannot eat gluten, the Yum-Yum Tree has been removed from our list of go-to restaurants.
The Yum-Yum Tree features Chinese food, and is very reasonably priced, so we used to go fairly often, especially since the boys all liked the food and it can get very expensive providing enough food for three teenaged boys. Even in the time period(s) when I was subsisting on a vegetarian diet, the Yum-Yum Tree still worked because they do tofu a lot.
However, in 2009, when Annie finally got fed up with the complications stemming from eating gluten, and went on a gluten-free diet, we had to start avoiding many of our favorite restaurants, the YumYum Tree among them.
We have known since he was ten months old, that our oldest son is gluten-intolerant. Sometime during his college career, he had it confirmed that he had Celiac Disease. One thing that is well known about Celiac Disease, is that the female side of the family passes this trait down to her children. Annie thinks back to the gastronomical problems her own mother had, and is convinced her mom also had Celiac Disease.
When Annie first went gluten-free, she would prepare pasta, using the rice noodles, or whatever she was cooking for herself, but she would make me “regular” noodles. I didn’t mind the gluten-free pasta that much, but still had a preference for that which I found most comfortable. Now I never consider having her go through the extra trouble, preferring to keep things as simple as possible.
When it comes to restaurants, some go out of their way to provided items on the menu that are compatible with gluten-intolerance. We have found, however, that sometimes a restaurant’s idea of gluten-free, is not the same as reality. The term “dedicated kitchen” refers to an environment in which gluten is not found. Often bags of chips are labeled gluten-free, when in reality they are not, because the company uses the same conveyer belts for products that do have gluten. With restaurants, the same can be true. If a pizza place uses gluten-free crusts, but then bakes them in the same ovens, on the same racks as crusts which contain wheat, then it ends up badly for people with Celiac Disease.
There is a well-known bakery in Ukiah which advertises gluten-free products, but which, in fact, is emphatically not gluten-free. We simply avoid it. For a sufferer of Celiac Disease, it is most disconcerting to patronize an establishment that advertises a gluten-free environment, and then suffer the effects which clearly indicate that this is not the case.
One of the chief culprits in Chinese food is soy sauce, because soy sauce has gluten in it. You can get Tamari sauce, which is very similar to soy sauce, in a gluten-free form, thus removing one of the obstacles to eating Chinese food. However, if you are not sure that you are receiving gluten-free soy sauce, it is best to skip the whole thing. Hence, we no longer patronize the Yum-Yum tree, preferring to prepare a home-made version of the general’s chicken, along with Eggplant Szechwan, one of my all-time favorite dishes.
I know that many people enjoy eating at the Yum-Yum Tree, because it is very close to our place in Willits, and I see the parking lot often crowded with patrons, so I am glad for that. It’s not the restaurant’s fault that we no longer go there. All we’re doing is rolling with the punches, and trying to do the best with the hand that we were dealt. Isn’t that what everyone does?