My wonky gut can suck it
Credit: Photo by ilamartru via Getty Images

I miss diner breakfast so much I want to punch a wall. Thinking of it right now, I'm feeling deeply sorry for myself and I don't see that abating any time soon. Yes, I could leave my apartment and arrive at a diner within 90 seconds. I could sit down at the counter or sprawl in a booth and order breakfast and it would arrive swiftly and inevitably be everything I need it to be. I'd pay and I'd leave and I'd go home and then my gut would rage at me for hours if not days, negating any fleeting pleasure I'd gotten as I flew too close to the cheesy, buttery, toasty sun.

Before you send me a slew of newspaper headlines: I know there are far worse things in the world. But of all the food things I’ve had to skip out on in the past few years, thanks to endometriosis and a gnarly, hard-to-kill digestive condition called SIBO, diner breakfast is one of the things I miss the most. Not being able to sit down and enjoy a goddamned cheese omelet, hash browns, buttered toast, and coffee with two half-and-halfs is the thing that most makes me feel broken.

That's probably because it was my normal for so long. Not just my normal—the thing that simply sustained me through the brokest, hungriest parts of my young adult life, and the sometimes emotionally turbulent parts of the rest of it. It's just there, at any hour of the day, reliably filling, moderately to extremely pleasing, and save for a few really dark and terrifying times, it has always been a solid economic option. Carbs just come with. You might have to make a minor decision about the nature of them—fries/home fries, white/wheat/rye—but they're all calming and slatherable with hot sauce, ketchup, butter, or jam. An omelet is a tabula rasa for your dreams. But if there's not cheese, you're just playing yourself. The coffee and cream neither begins nor ends, it simply is. You are not expected to be sober or especially awake to achieve this meal and sometimes it even works in your favor that way. When I was in grad school, my roommate and I would finish up our work around 1 a.m. drive to the diner and have our single substantial meal of the day. She invited our regular waitress to her wedding a couple years later without even having to think about it.

Here's my standard order—omelet with American cheese, whatever side potato is on offer (unless there are grits, which yes and please and thank you), rye toast buttered because of course, plus endless coffee, and possibly a seltzer. Take a hefty forkful of the oozing omelet, plop it on top of a toast half, douse it with some neon-orange hot sauce, pick it up and eat it like an open-faced sandwich, repeat until gone. Alternate beverages as mood strikes. Apply hot sauce liberally to potatoes, eat all the crunchy parts first, and resort to the mushy chunks if I'm not already full. This is my nirvana, but if I ate that now, the vicious bugs in my small intestine—the "bacterial overgrowth" of the SIBO—would pounce like cheetahs onto the cheese, bread, potatoes, and cream and ferment them swiftly, leaving me a twisted-over tick of a human for the foreseeable future. There's not really a cure for now, just endless rounds of antibiotics and herbal carpet-bombing that leaves me feeling physically and financially spent and spiritually smeared.

So I pass up my diner breakfast and stick to a mostly Paleo meal. It’s fine. It’s fine. But all y’all who can eat cheese omelets and rye toast with butter with abandon, please know how lucky you are. And get a side of cheese grits next time, just for me?