Traveling in Southern France with Food Allergies

French Experiences

On a recent family vacation to France, there were a few food encounters that I found interesting. I tried to write down my daily food encounters on the trip. Here are my notes:

The first night I arrived in Cannes with my family, we decided to go out for dinner. It was already pretty late, and not a lot of restaurants were still serving. We found a few places in the same area that were still serving pizza, so we chose one and sat down. The server came over and I handed him my chef card. He went back to the kitchen to find out if I could eat there. He came back and said that they used peanut oil in everything, and there was nothing there that I could eat. That decided it. We had to find another restaurant to eat at.
We walked down to a restaurant a few doors down. I showed them my card and they said that I wouldn’t have a problem because they used olive oil. They said it was common to use peanut oil in this area though, so that was important to discover. I was able to get pizza with no problem.
Sometimes it takes a bit of patience, but eventually you can usually find somewhere that will be able to serve you. In Italy I have a lot of good luck eating out. Since food is such a significant part of the Italian culture, it seems extra important to people at restaurants to find something to eat that pleases you. With my allergies, people have been wonderful. I’ve had very few (if any) places turn me down. Everyone seems to want to help me find something good to eat.
My parents wanted to take my sister and I out for a nice dinner at a highly recommended, award-winning restaurant that was right in the neighborhood where we were staying. We dressed up and headed out to the restaurant. We had made a reservation the previous day to sit outside on the patio, and had checked on my allergies. They were very nice and said that it would be fine.

July 10, 2010

Today I had a frustrating experience. I went out to lunch in Nimes, France with my family. We sat down at a pizzeria and looked at the menu. I was considering a mixed salad and a small dish of pasta. When the server came over to take our orders, he looked at my list and said something in French about how he could not serve me and that I couldn’t eat. He was so incredibly rude and not like anyone I had recently encountered in Europe. When I asked if I could talk with the chef, he said that he was the chef, which clearly he was not! His bad attitude and unwillingness to help me, took me by surprise.
In contrast, for dinner last night, we walked up to a restaurant in Avignon to look at the menu and the server was extremely warm and friendly. I showed him my card. He looked at it carefully and then said that it wouldn’t be a problem. We sat down at a table and had wonderful service.

July 11, 2010

For lunchtime today, we went a restaurant with a fabulous view of the ocher cliffs in the background. I showed the server my allergy card before sitting down. He looked at it, laughed, then showed it to another man who also had a smirk on his face. They told me there was no way I could eat there. Another rude experience. We did find another restaurant that would serve me though, and had no problem with my allergies.
Tonight we went out to a restaurant that was aesthetically pleasing but had terrible food. It also broke my dad’s rule of the nicer the restaurant, the higher the risk, since this restaurant was not incredibly upscale, but used peanut oil in everything. We ended up getting plain green salads and steak, since they didn’t need to use oil for either one. The steak was chewy, and I found a bug in my salad. The best part of the meal was the wine we got, a rose wine called Tavel, which is fantastic.
Overall, the south of France has been easier than Paris with eating out at restaurants with food allergies.

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