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Itchy, swollen, hard to breath: a food allergy story

Itchy, swollen, hard to breath: a food allergy story
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  • Itchy, swollen, hard to breath: a food allergy story

    Post #1 - October 16th, 2007, 4:20 pm
    Post #1 - October 16th, 2007, 4:20 pm Post #1 - October 16th, 2007, 4:20 pm
    Last night, Mrs. Olde School and I tried a well-known River North restaurant which we had never before tried (I will not reveal it here to be fair to all concerned). We thought the food was very good. We looked at each other in astonishment that someplace so convenient and now so satisfying had never made it to our list of go-to restaurants. But just as our dishes were being cleared, she said her throat was beginning to feel funny, like she may be having some kind of allergic reaction. At that moment, the waiter came by, and Mrs. OS asked if by any chance there happened to be hazelnuts in any of the dishes we had (to which she is highly allergic). He said no, but offered that there were a small amount of Brazil nuts brought out in something accompanying the appetizers. Hearing this news--that her second-most feared food was put into a dish and not specified as an ingredient--caused her to almost lose it on the spot, giving the shell-shocked waiter "what for" in a short-lived but pointed rant. She knew what would be coming next--within a matter of minutes. A tightened throat, labored breathing, swollen lips and tongue, a face turning bright red, and then the need for an immediate double or triple dose of Benydryl that would calm the reaction but knock her out silly, all followed by four or five hours of cramps as everything worked its way out of her system. She was aghast, and what prompted her tirade was that this was a "hidden" ingredient -- not specified as part of the dish and unheard of as an ingredient that would ever be used with the dish. Further, she was hard-pressed to understand the restaurant's use of Brazil nuts under any circumstances, given that it ranks at the very top of the food allergy hit list.

    As someone with well-known and very specific allergies, the Mrs. takes it as her responsibility for avoiding these foods, not leaving it to anyone else. If a restaurant serves Chocolate Walnut Cake, for example, it's obvious what it is and she stays away. If brownies are offered, she always asks if there are nuts. Often, the answer is yes, they have pecans in them (which she is not allergic to). Still, she will decline anyway, thinking it's possible a restaurant could well have run out of pecans that particular day (unbeknownst to the server) and--easily enough--substituted walnuts.

    A number of years ago, a restaurant in Rhode Island caused the death of a patron when it served a bowl of chili that had been thickened with peanut butter. Virtually no one would think to ask if the restaurant's chili contained nuts, and the menu didn't reveal this fact either. In recent years, the restaurant industry's awareness has been heightened dramatically, and perhaps something good was able to come out of that tragedy. Mrs. Olde School, in fact, while still remaining on alert, doesn't always carry her antidotes with her everywhere anymore. She finds it so much easier to remain vigilant these days, she doesn't get panicked if she happens to leave home without them.

    We hope last night was an aberration, but it did cause her to re-think her slightly less stringent attitude.

    While we thought the restaurant--in particular the chef--should have known better than to use an ingredient like a Brazil nut and not disclosed it, the staff reaction after the fact was positive. The waiter was at least well trained enough to know there were Brazil nuts in one of the dishes, and could not have been more apologetic. The manager spoke with us as well, and said they take food allergies very seriously, and was most gracious in how he handled the situation.

    At some point, I'm tempted to go back--the food was really great, and I'd like to see if they've eliminated the nut from the dish in question.
    See, I'm an idea man, Chuck. I got ideas coming at me all day. Hey, I got it! Take LIVE tuna fish and FEED 'em mayonnaise!

    -Michael Keaton's character in Night Shift
  • Post #2 - October 16th, 2007, 4:31 pm
    Post #2 - October 16th, 2007, 4:31 pm Post #2 - October 16th, 2007, 4:31 pm
    So sorry. I hope she is ok. As you said, this is surprising because nut allergies seem to be on the radar of most restaurants now.
  • Post #3 - October 16th, 2007, 4:49 pm
    Post #3 - October 16th, 2007, 4:49 pm Post #3 - October 16th, 2007, 4:49 pm
    I'm curious: did it seem odd or out-of-place that (one) of the appetizers you had may have had the Brazil nuts in it?

    Is your wife allergic mainly to nuts, or is she allergic to a number of things? I agree that perhaps being more stringent about inquiring what dishes contain would seem like a good idea.

    It's also not uncommon, I don't think, for restaurants to substitute certain items if they run out of something. I don't know if that's the case here.

    I also agree, given the high rate of people allergic to certain types of nuts, that all dishes including nuts as an ingredient, should be disclosed if at all possible. I hope she did not have an awful night after that.
    -- Nora --
    "Great food is like great sex. The more you have the more you want." ~Gael Greene
  • Post #4 - October 16th, 2007, 5:27 pm
    Post #4 - October 16th, 2007, 5:27 pm Post #4 - October 16th, 2007, 5:27 pm
    I'm curious: did it seem odd or out-of-place that (one) of the appetizers you had may have had the Brazil nuts in it?

    Is your wife allergic mainly to nuts, or is she allergic to a number of things?


    The item in question was a dip. It didn't appear to have anything like nuts in it, and honestly, in a million years you'd never make the connection that it could be the kind of thing that might have nuts.

    She is allergic just to three or four varieties of nuts, no other kinds of foods.

    And, thank you, she is back in the pink today.
    See, I'm an idea man, Chuck. I got ideas coming at me all day. Hey, I got it! Take LIVE tuna fish and FEED 'em mayonnaise!

    -Michael Keaton's character in Night Shift
  • Post #5 - October 16th, 2007, 5:27 pm
    Post #5 - October 16th, 2007, 5:27 pm Post #5 - October 16th, 2007, 5:27 pm
    Glad the wife is OK.

    I'm lucky enough to not have any food allergies but my dear mother is highly allergic to most nuts, especially peanuts, not unlike your wife. My mother does stay away from all obvious dishes containing nuts but also carries a small index card with her listing all her food allergies on it and since her allergies, food anyway, most all revolve around some type of nuts, she just tells the server most often she can have nothing with ANY nuts in it - that way she's safe.

    Glad the Mrs. is OK.

    Bster
  • Post #6 - October 23rd, 2007, 1:30 am
    Post #6 - October 23rd, 2007, 1:30 am Post #6 - October 23rd, 2007, 1:30 am
    I'm glad Mrs. Olde School is OK. As someone with first-hand experience of anaphylaxis, I know that it's very scary and horrifying to be exposed inadvertently to an allergen likely to cause a serious reaction.

    But isn't it going rather far to expect chefs to avoid all common allergens or to render -- unrequested -- lists of all the ingredients in every dish that might cause a reaction to somebody? There are so many of them -- all kinds of nuts and seeds, gluten, soy, dairy, wheat, legumes, eggs, seafood....

    To say that no one should use an item "unheard of as an ingredient that would ever be used with the dish" is to tell chefs, "Never do anything innovative." Further, what's unheard of to you might be quite common to others. In a lot of places, for example, they don't expect to find peanut butter in egg rolls, yet it's fairly typical around here.

    Bster's mom's approach seems much more reasonable, not to mention safer. People with serious allergies to animals don't expect that everyone who invites them over will mention that they have a dog or a cat. They ask before they accept. People with allergies to common medicines wear ID bracelets to warn medical personnel.

    Rather than relying on restaurants to disclose possible allergens on the menu, folks with severe food allergies are far better off warning servers of their situation before ordering, so that they can be guided in ordering safe foods and people in the kitchen who know the recipes can make sure that what's served will be free of all vestiges. Even the most detailed menu description might might not mention that all the fried foods are cooked in the same fryer, so fried shrimp might taint the french fries, or that a nut oil is used as a cooking medium, or a dash of nam pla adds to the seasoning.
  • Post #7 - October 23rd, 2007, 4:50 am
    Post #7 - October 23rd, 2007, 4:50 am Post #7 - October 23rd, 2007, 4:50 am
    LAZ wrote:Rather than relying on restaurants to disclose possible allergens on the menu, folks with severe food allergies are far better off warning servers of their situation before ordering, so that they can be guided in ordering safe foods and people in the kitchen who know the recipes can make sure that what's served will be free of all vestiges. Even the most detailed menu description might might not mention that all the fried foods are cooked in the same fryer, so fried shrimp might taint the french fries, or that a nut oil is used as a cooking medium, or a dash of nam pla adds to the seasoning.


    Disclosing allergies seems like the surest way to avoid hidden allergens; a menu is a not intended to be a complete ingredients list and cannot, as you say, review all possible ways that allergens might have been introduced during the process of preparing a dish.
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #8 - October 23rd, 2007, 6:32 am
    Post #8 - October 23rd, 2007, 6:32 am Post #8 - October 23rd, 2007, 6:32 am
    To say that no one should use an item "unheard of as an ingredient that would ever be used with the dish" is to tell chefs, "Never do anything innovative." Further, what's unheard of to you might be quite common to others. In a lot of places, for example, they don't expect to find peanut butter in egg rolls, yet it's fairly typical around here.


    Not sure I agree. In the case of my wife, as I already mentioned, she takes it as her responsibility to avoid potential problems. And in restaurants which do take an innovative approach (e.g., Arun's, Trotter's, Alinea), she is very careful to point out her nut allergy to the server in advance, well aware that it might be difficult to know everything that might be in the contents of more complex dishes. This is also true with her in restaurants which have (to us) more unusual cuisines (Ethiopean, Korean, Vietnamese). Additionally, we believe in personal responsibility generally, without the expectation that it's someone else's job to read minds or otherwise cater to us without question.

    But I don't agree restaurants have no responsibility at all, and surely you couldn't mean this. I spoke with the manager of a restaurant recently about this situation, and she told me that when they opened, the chef was using peanut oil to cook certain dishes with. She said they stopped this practice not because any incidents had occured, but because she felt it would only be a matter of time before something did happen, and it would be--in her words--"irresponsible" of them to let this continue.
    See, I'm an idea man, Chuck. I got ideas coming at me all day. Hey, I got it! Take LIVE tuna fish and FEED 'em mayonnaise!

    -Michael Keaton's character in Night Shift
  • Post #9 - October 24th, 2007, 2:11 am
    Post #9 - October 24th, 2007, 2:11 am Post #9 - October 24th, 2007, 2:11 am
    Olde School wrote:And in restaurants which do take an innovative approach (e.g., Arun's, Trotter's, Alinea), she is very careful to point out her nut allergy to the server in advance, well aware that it might be difficult to know everything that might be in the contents of more complex dishes. This is also true with her in restaurants which have (to us) more unusual cuisines (Ethiopean, Korean, Vietnamese).

    I think it's misguided to expect innovation or unfamiliar ingredients only in high-end or ethnic restaurants. The best cooks like to be creative, even at diners and hot-dog stands. And corporate chains have huge R&D budgets to find new flavor combinations (and ways to cut costs).

    Olde School wrote:Additionally, we believe in personal responsibility generally, without the expectation that it's someone else's job to read minds or otherwise cater to us without question.

    But I don't agree restaurants have no responsibility at all, and surely you couldn't mean this.

    I believe that restaurants have a responsibility to take seriously any customer's assertion that he or she has an allergy and to be extremely careful that the allergen doesn't come in contact with that patron's food. (That goes for any other dietary restriction, too. If a customer says "I can't eat X," it's not the restaurant's place to quibble over the reason. I have a friend who hates seafood. He's not allergic to it -- he just hates it so much that he won't eat anything that's come in contact with it and he'd be distressed to know that his fried potatoes had shared oil with fried shrimp.)

    I further believe that any customer who inquires about a dish's ingredients should be told truthfully what they are. I also think that if a menu says a dish contains, say, pecans, the chef shouldn't substitute cashews or peanuts or whatever without a caution to any customer who orders it.

    But I can't agree that restaurants have a responsibility to avoid certain ingredients because a large minority of patrons may be allergic to them -- any more than I believe that restaurants should not serve liquor since lots of people are alcoholics, or should omit salt because so many people have high blood pressure.
  • Post #10 - October 24th, 2007, 6:43 am
    Post #10 - October 24th, 2007, 6:43 am Post #10 - October 24th, 2007, 6:43 am
    LAZ--Good points all. But here's where your concept of innovation and creative freedom can run into trouble when the reality of life steps in, especially regarding non-ethnic or non high-end restaurants. It's fine to think the corporate R&D folks at, say, IHOP, are entitled to open-ended culinary expression, but an individual customer at any given moment at one of their restaurants is far removed from their corporate kitchen. Even at a diner, the customer does not typically interact with the cook. In both instances, the person between the kitchen and the customer is the server. Sometimes these folks are experienced and well-trained. Others, obviously, are not. So even divulging to the server in advance that a food allergy exists doesn't in any way guarantee the ingredient in question will not reach the table. So the thought of an allergic customer's pre-emptive declaration, I'm afraid, may not always work. Hence the avoidance by many restaurants of potentially dangerous ingredients--that may not only be "hidden" to the consuming public, but also to its employees.

    For the record, in the example I originally wrote about, where a dip was the offending food, this was something brought to the table along with the bread basket--not something we ordered, which may have lowered my wife's guard. So I think in this situation, a restaurant may want to think about being a little extra careful in what it brings to the table.
    See, I'm an idea man, Chuck. I got ideas coming at me all day. Hey, I got it! Take LIVE tuna fish and FEED 'em mayonnaise!

    -Michael Keaton's character in Night Shift
  • Post #11 - October 24th, 2007, 8:13 am
    Post #11 - October 24th, 2007, 8:13 am Post #11 - October 24th, 2007, 8:13 am
    Olde School wrote:For the record, in the example I originally wrote about, where a dip was the offending food, this was something brought to the table along with the bread basket--not something we ordered, which may have lowered my wife's guard. So I think in this situation, a restaurant may want to think about being a little extra careful in what it brings to the table.


    It was courtesy, they brought this to the table. It was your option to ignore it, ask before eating or eat it. The choice was made to eat it without asking.

    I have a childhood friend who is allergic to sulphur. He has had medicine prescribed by his doctor who swears on a stack of bibles there is no sulphur present. My friend will not submit it to the pharmacy until he has independently consulted a directory of medication (I don't know if it is the manufacturer's website, desk reference or what). Several times he has gone back to the doctor to revise the prescription because there was sulphur.

    I did a day in the kitchen at Moto earlier this summer. At their pre-service meeting, they did a run down by table with information submitted by customers on their medical, dietary and personal whims. While responses to the first two are predictable, I really enjoyed the whims: no offal ever! Restaurants are responsive to people's needs, though they need to be informed.

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #12 - October 24th, 2007, 8:29 am
    Post #12 - October 24th, 2007, 8:29 am Post #12 - October 24th, 2007, 8:29 am
    Olde School wrote: For the record, in the example I originally wrote about, where a dip was the offending food, this was something brought to the table along with the bread basket--not something we ordered, which may have lowered my wife's guard. So I think in this situation, a restaurant may want to think about being a little extra careful in what it brings to the table.


    Not to be argumentative, but in your original post you mentioned that it came out with the appetizers, not the bread basket leading me and I assume others that you ordered the offending item.

    As someone who is now married to an individual with various food allergies and carries an epi-pen wherever she goes; I can say without hesitation that we will mention her allergies whenever dining out. As it has been stated above a menu cannot be considered an ingredient list. For instance, I have never seen MSG listed on a menu outside of an asian restaurant even though many individuals have an adverse reaction and it is found in many soups, sauces, and spice rubs.

    Flip
    "Beer is proof God loves us, and wants us to be Happy"
    -Ben Franklin-
  • Post #13 - October 24th, 2007, 8:31 am
    Post #13 - October 24th, 2007, 8:31 am Post #13 - October 24th, 2007, 8:31 am
    Olde School wrote:LAZ--Good points all. But here's where your concept of innovation and creative freedom can run into trouble when the reality of life steps in, especially regarding non-ethnic or non high-end restaurants. It's fine to think the corporate R&D folks at, say, IHOP, are entitled to open-ended culinary expression, but an individual customer at any given moment at one of their restaurants is far removed from their corporate kitchen. Even at a diner, the customer does not typically interact with the cook. In both instances, the person between the kitchen and the customer is the server. Sometimes these folks are experienced and well-trained. Others, obviously, are not. So even divulging to the server in advance that a food allergy exists doesn't in any way guarantee the ingredient in question will not reach the table. So the thought of an allergic customer's pre-emptive declaration, I'm afraid, may not always work.


    You say that improperly trained waitstaff is a reality, and as such common allergens shouldn't be used in unexpected contexts. Setting aside the subjectivity of "unexpected" for the moment, what about kitchen staff? Even if an allergen isn't used in a certain dish, that doesn't mean some chef or prep cook isn't going to absentmindedly use the wrong oil, or that some kind of cross-contamination won't occur. The same danger still exists. I guess what I'm saying is that it seems this isn't an argument that a responsible restauranteur shouldn't use certain ingredients in certain contexts, but rather an argument that restaurants have a responsibility to train their staff to be sensitive to allergy issues and always confirm with the kitchen. On the latter, I'm in total agreement. But on the former, while I'm very sympathetic to the dangers of eating out when you have serious allergies, I'm very troubled by this assertion that it's a restaurant's responsibility to avoid using certain ingredients in certain contexts.

    Please don't misunderstand, Olde School, I can't imagine what it's like eating out and knowing that if the kitchen screws up, you could be in trouble. But there are so many allergies out there, I don't see how it's reasonable to expect a restaurant to preemptively predict all of the possible offenders, guess which uses will fall under the subjective criterion of "unexpected", and completely rework their menu accordingly. Their staff MUST be trained to take allergy notifications seriously, and their kitchen MUST be trained to prepare those orders in an exceptionally careful manner, and everybody involved MUST be made fully aware of every ingredient that goes into the dish. But I don't see how it isn't the diner's responsibility to say "I'm very allergic to X and can't eat any of it" before putting anything in his/her mouth, be it appetizer, entree or the little dish of dip that comes out with the bread... or the bread itself!
    Dominic Armato
    Dining Critic
    The Arizona Republic and azcentral.com
  • Post #14 - October 24th, 2007, 11:11 am
    Post #14 - October 24th, 2007, 11:11 am Post #14 - October 24th, 2007, 11:11 am
    I don't see how it's reasonable to expect a restaurant to preemptively predict all of the possible...


    I don't think that would be reasonable either. My point is not that restaurants try to understand and take action against all possible culprits, and surely you know no one would argue that point.

    What I am saying is 1) food allergies are very real and potentially lethal; 2) the customer bears the ultimate responsibility; 3) nuts are the most common cause of food allergies; 4) it's generally easy to avoid them; 5) once in a while it's not; 6) that's why many restaurants have taken the pre-emptive action of being safe rather than sorry.

    Said another way, the potential does exist for someone to die. The restaurant may well be within its full legal and moral rights to say that all responsibility falls on the patron, and walk away blameless. But while this may be a "winning" position, in the end it doesn't matter who was to blame and who wasn't if something horrible were to happen. Which is exactly why so many restaurants don't want to even get in the position of having to "blame" their customers, and instead take some prudent steps (in a few ways, not all) with their ingredients and preparations.
    See, I'm an idea man, Chuck. I got ideas coming at me all day. Hey, I got it! Take LIVE tuna fish and FEED 'em mayonnaise!

    -Michael Keaton's character in Night Shift
  • Post #15 - October 24th, 2007, 11:54 am
    Post #15 - October 24th, 2007, 11:54 am Post #15 - October 24th, 2007, 11:54 am
    Olde School wrote:Which is exactly why so many restaurants don't want to even get in the position of having to "blame" their customers, and instead take some prudent steps (in a few ways, not all) with their ingredients and preparations.


    Why the need to place blame at all? What happened was an unfortunate accident. It doesn't have to mean that anybody was negligent, you or the restaurant.

    Olde School wrote:3) nuts are the most common cause of food allergies


    This is true, but they're hardly in select company. The "big eight" that comprise 80-90% of food allergies (depending on your source) also include milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, soy and wheat (tree nuts and peanuts are categorized separately). Even if you suggest that we're only talking about the most common, it's hardly a small matter to eliminate unexpected usages of items such as milk, eggs, soy and wheat. At the average restaurant, I suspect you're talking about reworking half the menu, if not more. I understand what you're saying about a "few prudent steps", and I don't disagree, but it seems to me that what we're talking about is far beyond a few prudent steps.

    I'm also a little puzzled by the large gap between the amount of work you expect a restaurant to take to avoid potential allergic reactions as compared to the amount of work you expect the person who is allergic to take. Even setting aside which party should or shouldn't be responsible for what for a moment, why turn the menu upside down and deprive other customers of dishes they'd otherwise like to taste when the same end can be achieved by a quick and simple, "I'm allergic to nuts, are there any in here?" What follows is a grossly exaggerated example, and I don't mean it to be inflammatory, it's just the clearest way I can think to illustrate the point. It would be like asking the city to add cushioning to the sidewalks on your route to work, so that you won't be hurt if you trip on your shoelaces. Yes, it would be thoughtful and nice of the city to do so, but why place such a burden on the city when the same end can be achieved by simply tying your shoes? Or the parents at my mother-in-law's elementary school (where she's a teacher) who sent letters to the parents of the entire second grade class insisting that no child bring a snack or lunch item to school containing any peanuts or peanut products for the entire school year. As you say, the potential for death exists. But when do reasonable measures become onerous and unnecessary?

    I don't mean this to come across as accusatory, I think it's terrible that such a thing happened. I just think that while it may seem a little thing on the micro level, if you consider the big picture I think you're asking a much bigger thing of restaurants than you realize, and while it would be a great ideal world solution, it strikes me as a very unreasonable request. Especially since you're not even simply seeking notification, but as you seemed to imply in the original post, you'd like to see the restaurant stop serving this dish altogether.
    Dominic Armato
    Dining Critic
    The Arizona Republic and azcentral.com
  • Post #16 - October 24th, 2007, 11:59 am
    Post #16 - October 24th, 2007, 11:59 am Post #16 - October 24th, 2007, 11:59 am
    Dmnkly wrote:Especially since you're not even simply seeking notification, but as you seemed to imply in the original post, you'd like to see the restaurant stop serving this dish altogether.


    Cripes, now I'm quoting myself.

    You didn't say this at all. You implied you'd like to see the nuts removed from this dish. But I still find it troubling that the expectation is that restaurants will guess at what dips people might think contain nuts and then eliminate the nuts from them, regardless of what impact that might have on the dish.
    Dominic Armato
    Dining Critic
    The Arizona Republic and azcentral.com
  • Post #17 - October 24th, 2007, 12:11 pm
    Post #17 - October 24th, 2007, 12:11 pm Post #17 - October 24th, 2007, 12:11 pm
    My mother-in-law can't digest bell peppers. She tells waiters this at the beginning of each meal, regardless of what's on the menu or what she is planning on ordering. This seems like the most reasonable approach to handling any food allergy/dietary restriction issue.
    -Josh

    I've started blogging about the Stuff I Eat
  • Post #18 - October 24th, 2007, 12:13 pm
    Post #18 - October 24th, 2007, 12:13 pm Post #18 - October 24th, 2007, 12:13 pm
    jesteinf wrote:My mother-in-law can't digest bell peppers. She tells waiters this at the beginning of each meal, regardless of what's on the menu or what she is planning on ordering. This seems like the most reasonable approach to handling any food allergy/dietary restriction issue.


    I'll go you one step further. I think a measure that some restaurants do and all should is simply to ask if there are any allergies before setting any food on the table. If there's an issue, it's immediately identified, everybody can take all proper precautions, and it only takes a moment with no expense or impact on other diners.
    Dominic Armato
    Dining Critic
    The Arizona Republic and azcentral.com
  • Post #19 - October 24th, 2007, 12:14 pm
    Post #19 - October 24th, 2007, 12:14 pm Post #19 - October 24th, 2007, 12:14 pm
    Olde School wrote:But I don't agree restaurants have no responsibility at all, and surely you couldn't mean this. I spoke with the manager of a restaurant recently about this situation, and she told me that when they opened, the chef was using peanut oil to cook certain dishes with. She said they stopped this practice not because any incidents had occured, but because she felt it would only be a matter of time before something did happen, and it would be--in her words--"irresponsible" of them to let this continue.


    Everything i've read says that refined peanut oil is not a (serious) allergen. The bad stuff is in the proteins, not the oil. Cold-pressed may be for a limited number of people, however.

    http://www.anaphylaxis.org.uk/informati ... t_oil.html
  • Post #20 - October 24th, 2007, 1:23 pm
    Post #20 - October 24th, 2007, 1:23 pm Post #20 - October 24th, 2007, 1:23 pm
    If we lived in a world where people weren't regarded as princess-and-the-pea prima donnas when they disclose their food allergies, it would be much easier for people to do this every time they sat down at a dinner table that wasn't their own. But, unfortunately, people with food allergies often are regarded this way when they speak up.

    When invited over to someone's house for dinner, I've had it happen often that the host will very nicely inquire, when first making the invitation, "Is there anything you won't/can't eat?" But when this question isn't asked, I feel funny about responding to his nice invitation by proactively saying, "Oh, by the way, I can't eat walnuts and brazil nuts." That seems like an ungracious response on my part, so I don't do it. Likewise, I don't want to be "one of those people" who always has to announce to a waiter everything they're allergic to before anything else happens. I know I should be one of those people, literally for the sake of my own survival, but I don't want to be. It would be much easier to be "one of those people" if "those people" weren't treated as pariahs.
  • Post #21 - October 24th, 2007, 1:48 pm
    Post #21 - October 24th, 2007, 1:48 pm Post #21 - October 24th, 2007, 1:48 pm
    riddlemay, I don't believe individuals who point out allergies such as tree-nuts, peanuts (big diffy), shellfish, eggs, etc. are generally treated as pariahs by the restaurant community. In my experience on both sides of the table eyes only start to roll when people start talking about onions, mushrooms, etc. simply based on their taste preferences not a true allergy. This generally happens after the individual in question has just consumed an appetizer loaded with said items.
    "Beer is proof God loves us, and wants us to be Happy"
    -Ben Franklin-
  • Post #22 - October 24th, 2007, 1:49 pm
    Post #22 - October 24th, 2007, 1:49 pm Post #22 - October 24th, 2007, 1:49 pm
    jesteinf wrote:My mother-in-law can't digest bell peppers. She tells waiters this at the beginning of each meal, regardless of what's on the menu or what she is planning on ordering. This seems like the most reasonable approach to handling any food allergy/dietary restriction issue.


    I have the same problem. Unfortunately, an unintentionally eaten bell pepper causes me gastric distress, though it's certainly not life threatening. These days, many menus offer a fairly detailed list of ingredients for each dish. But more than once I've observed:
    Dish 1 says it includes bell peppers
    Dish 2 says it includes bell peppers
    Dish 3 makes no mention of bell peppers
    Dish 4 says it includes bell peppers

    I order Dish 3...and it arrives with bell peppers. Very frustrating. (If it's a dish that I know is traditionally prepared with bell peppers, but no mention of it is made on the menu, I'll quiz the waiter before ordering the dish.) Alas, it's also fairly common to receive a dish garnished with a confetti of chopped bell peppers....it's not an essential element of the dish, but just gives it a bit of color. It surprises me, since I know a lot of adults have problems digesting bell peppers. (Also amazing is the prevelance of items such as bell peppers, broccoli, etc--in other words, gas-causing foods--on airplane meals! Have the chefs who conceive these dishes ever flown on a plane full of farting people? *g*)
  • Post #23 - October 24th, 2007, 2:01 pm
    Post #23 - October 24th, 2007, 2:01 pm Post #23 - October 24th, 2007, 2:01 pm
    Please don't misunderstand, Olde School, I can't imagine what it's like eating out and knowing that if the kitchen screws up, you could be in trouble.


    Or as our beloved Atticus Finch would tell it, don't judge another man until you've walked a mile in his shoes.

    While I admire--in fact, applaud--the fact that there's a rush to defend a restaurant's freedom here, you have no idea what any of this is like when it affects you or your family so directly. And I detect a certain amount of political incorrectness when I see it written that--in so many words--it's your damn problem, pal.
    See, I'm an idea man, Chuck. I got ideas coming at me all day. Hey, I got it! Take LIVE tuna fish and FEED 'em mayonnaise!

    -Michael Keaton's character in Night Shift
  • Post #24 - October 24th, 2007, 2:44 pm
    Post #24 - October 24th, 2007, 2:44 pm Post #24 - October 24th, 2007, 2:44 pm
    Olde School wrote:
    Please don't misunderstand, Olde School, I can't imagine what it's like eating out and knowing that if the kitchen screws up, you could be in trouble.


    Or as our beloved Atticus Finch would tell it, don't judge another man until you've walked a mile in his shoes.

    While I admire--in fact, applaud--the fact that there's a rush to defend a restaurant's freedom here, you have no idea what any of this is like when it affects you or your family so directly. And I detect a certain amount of political incorrectness when I see it written that--in so many words--it's your damn problem, pal.


    I don't see anyone saying that it is your damn problem. However, if a possible reaction is life threatening I'd make it known from the moment I make a reservation.

    Just so you know here is the list I have to deal with every time I go out to eat with my wife.

    - Tree nuts - deadly (She can eat peanuts without a problem)
    - Kiwi - deadly
    - Most uncooked unpeeled fruit - itchy, scratchy, swollen reaction stated in OP
    - Sunflower seeds - itchy, swollen

    The only time we've ran into a problem is when a deli's whole-grain bread included sunflower seeds. Otherwise, before ordering anything, even drinks, the tree nut and kiwi allergies are mentioned. As much fun as I believe it might be to stab her with the epi-pen, I don't really want to ever have to use it.

    Flip
    "Beer is proof God loves us, and wants us to be Happy"
    -Ben Franklin-
  • Post #25 - October 24th, 2007, 3:16 pm
    Post #25 - October 24th, 2007, 3:16 pm Post #25 - October 24th, 2007, 3:16 pm
    Flip wrote:Most uncooked unpeeled fruit - itchy, scratchy, swollen reaction stated in OP


    Wow, I have this allergy (to a much milder degree), but this is the first time I've heard of someone else having it. I can eat apple pie all day, but biting into a raw apple requires a Benadryl chaser. Thanks for sharing--I thought I was all alone.
  • Post #26 - October 24th, 2007, 3:51 pm
    Post #26 - October 24th, 2007, 3:51 pm Post #26 - October 24th, 2007, 3:51 pm
    tapler wrote:
    Flip wrote:Most uncooked unpeeled fruit - itchy, scratchy, swollen reaction stated in OP


    Wow, I have this allergy (to a much milder degree), but this is the first time I've heard of someone else having it. I can eat apple pie all day, but biting into a raw apple requires a Benadryl chaser. Thanks for sharing--I thought I was all alone.


    You are not alone. So far I know she has reactions to fresh apples, pears, peaches, plums, and nectarines.

    Flip
    "Beer is proof God loves us, and wants us to be Happy"
    -Ben Franklin-
  • Post #27 - October 24th, 2007, 4:03 pm
    Post #27 - October 24th, 2007, 4:03 pm Post #27 - October 24th, 2007, 4:03 pm
    riddlemay wrote:If we lived in a world where people weren't regarded as princess-and-the-pea prima donnas when they disclose their food allergies, it would be much easier for people to do this every time they sat down at a dinner table that wasn't their own. But, unfortunately, people with food allergies often are regarded this way when they speak up.


    Exactly why it's so frustrating (infuriating) when people who just don't like onions, for example, or who once got the flu around the time they ate a lot of onions claim to be allergic to them. It's just muddying the waters of a very serious subject. But all the more reason for a restaurant to make it policy to simply ask up front. They're demonstrating that they take the subject seriously, and you don't have to feel gunshy about bringing it up.
    Dominic Armato
    Dining Critic
    The Arizona Republic and azcentral.com
  • Post #28 - October 24th, 2007, 5:06 pm
    Post #28 - October 24th, 2007, 5:06 pm Post #28 - October 24th, 2007, 5:06 pm
    Olde School wrote:So even divulging to the server in advance that a food allergy exists doesn't in any way guarantee the ingredient in question will not reach the table. So the thought of an allergic customer's pre-emptive declaration, I'm afraid, may not always work. Hence the avoidance by many restaurants of potentially dangerous ingredients--that may not only be "hidden" to the consuming public, but also to its employees.


    While the server or kitchen staff may not definitively know whether or not an offending product is used in a particular dish they do have the ability to ask the chef or tell the patron they don't know whether it's a safe dish. In your wife's case had she mentioned that she had a nut allergy it seems the well versed server would have/could have warned her off of the prep with the Brazil nuts. Now, if the restaurant had misinformed the patron from the beginning that is a different story.

    As someone with celiac disease (gluten intolerance), I think individuals must take responsibilty for their well being by asking the appropriate questions at the appropriate time. I would neither go to a restaurant and order something that 'should' be okay, only to have a reaction and reprimand the restaurant staff for not forewarning me nor would I ever suggest that restaurants refrain from using wheat, rye, barley and oats.

    I'm far more selfish about my physical well being than most with intolerances/allergies. Different mindsets I guess.
  • Post #29 - October 24th, 2007, 5:35 pm
    Post #29 - October 24th, 2007, 5:35 pm Post #29 - October 24th, 2007, 5:35 pm
    you can never be 100% sure. my sister in law once had a reaction to vanilla ice cream because the other choice was praline. same scooper i assume. having witnessed her reactions several times, i don't think i would EVER eat out if i had a nut allergy.
    i used to milk cows
  • Post #30 - October 31st, 2007, 9:41 am
    Post #30 - October 31st, 2007, 9:41 am Post #30 - October 31st, 2007, 9:41 am
    I have food allergies too. I am allergic to fish & seafood. Every single time I order food anywhere, I always make sure to explain my allergy & to ask that they make sure the food I am ordering does not contain or been prepared near fish or seafood. That includes worchestershire sauce (which contains anchovies - although there is one brand that does not, thank God or I wouldn't be able to enjoy Bloody Mary's anymore...but I digress...)

    Sometimes I get the rolled-eyes and "uh-huh" but sometimes the server totally gets it. When I get the rolled eyes, I ask them to specifically go to the kitchen & ASK about the ingredients & preparation....and they always come back enlightened.

    I feel it's my responsibility to keep myself safe, same as I make sure to look both ways before crossing the street instead of depending on the drivers.

    BTW...do you know about the website www.foodallergy.org ? You should check it out. There are all kinds of processed foods being recalled all the time for containing unlabeled or mislabeled allergenic ingredients.

    Take care & beware!

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