“Waaait, so you are telling me that we use an oil that you can’t eat, but they use an oil that you can eat? So you can’t eat here, but you can eat there? I don’t really understand.” This is what I deal with. People who just can not comprehend the fact that there are foods that people just can’t eat. It is not a choice, it is a fact. If I eat the food used with a nut oil I will have an anaphylactic reaction. I didn’t make this up. I didn’t pretend so that I didn’t have to eat something. But some people just don’t get it!
To continue this story, the man who was speaking to me was a restaurant manager, at a well-known, highly recommended restaurant in the town where I went to college. I went out to eat with my friend that night after moving back in for graduate school. Over the years, I had been to this restaurant many times before while I was living there. The only item on the menu I could eat was a grilled chicken sandwich with no fries on the side. I told them my allergies, as well as giving them my chef card. I prefaced it by saying that I had been there many times before without a problem, but I just wanted to make sure nothing had changed (another great topic- never assume the food is the same at a restaurant…it is always better to double check).
The waitress came back a few minutes later and said, “I’m sorry. I asked the chef and showed him your card, but we can’t serve you. We use a nut oil in some of our foods.” I asked her if they used in on the chicken. “Well, they won’t serve you. I’m not sure, but you can’t eat here.” I looked back at the menu, “Do you know if there is a plain salad I could get? We already have our drinks and everything.” The waitress said she would go check. She came back a minute later, “No, I’m sorry, but there is nothing you can eat here.” Of course she had already put my friend’s order through, and we already had drinks. My friend suggested that I go get a slice of pizza across the street and bring it back, considering they wouldn’t serve me, and he was already getting food.
I went across the street, and very discreetly walked back into the restaurant with my pizza, but I was stopped by the hostess. “You can’t bring that pizza in here,” she said. I started to explain to her that they couldn’t serve me, and that my friend had food. Then I started to walk to the table, but she came back over to me as I was walking and said in a very confrontational tone, “YOU CAN’T BRING THAT IN HERE!” I said back to her, “who is it bothering? Is there a manager I can speak with?” The girl said, “The manager is the one who told me to tell you to leave.” I looked at my friend. I told him I would be sitting outside eating. Then left to eat my pizza. Five minutes later my friend came out with his food to go, and sat with me. I felt really bad. We had left our drinks, without even drinking them, to sit outside in the cool, windy evening air and eat in the dark. Fabulous!
After I finished my pizza, took a few breaths, and vented my frustration to my friend, I decided I should go speak to the manager in the restaurant. I went back inside and asked for the manager. The shifts must have changed, because a man was now the manager on duty, and came over to speak to me. I explained the turn of events, and why I brought pizza in to eat. That is when the manager said, “Waaait, so you are telling me we use an oil you can’t eat, but they (the pizza place) use an oil that you can eat? So you can’t eat here, but you can eat there? I don’t really understand.” If there was a scale for my frustration level at this point, it would have been bordering between at least an eight, maybe a nine out of ten. I decided to try to explain again, to educate this restaurant manager, who told me he had never heard of this before! I couldn’t believe it! After another failed attempt at explaining food allergies, and him trying to pretend he was interested, I left.
I do believe that education is what is most important. It can be so difficult sometimes to get through to people. Some people, no matter how many times you explain it, will still not truly understand. We need to find ways to educate people who don’t understand though. That is the best way to help people with food allergies. If you educate the people around you, around your children, and at school, then that is the best tool. I feel so lucky that my parents realized this, sent me to school, let me explore, travel, go to camp, and try to live a normal life, even with my allergies. It can be done! I know, because I was one of those kids, and I had those parents who knew how to give me the tools to let me live like other kids. Thank you mom and dad!