The Waitress Who Went to Bat for An Allergic Foodie

The Close-Minded Chef and the Waitress Who Went to Bat for Me

Just getting over a few days of food-allergy misery. I’ve been eating out a lot–just check my Facebook or Instagram photos!–so I’m not all that surprised a bit of gluten, soy, dairy, or corn snuck into my food. I guess I tempted the Food Allergy Gods one too many times.

This may sound slightly paranoid to some of you, but I kind of wonder if this time at this particular restaurant the chef didn’t intentionally leave an allergen in my order. It’s horrible to suspect someone who is preparing your food isn’t taking your food restrictions seriously, but we all know it happens.

The Close-minded Chef and the Waitress Who Went to Bat for Me

Here’s how the dining experience–er, dining disaster–played out. The waitress is terrific–very aware of my needs because she herself is gluten sensitive. She asks myriad questions and goes over the menu in detail. To be safe, it’s decided I’ll order plain grouper and steamed broccoli and cauliflower. The table will share crab legs for an appetizer, butter on the side.  The only unanswered question is what kind sauce of the six offered I can have on my fish. She goes back to the kitchen to find out.

When she returns, her face is flushed  She explains that the head chef is “old school” and believes the front of the house–the waiters and servers–shouldn’t converse with the back of the house–the chefs.  I thought this only happened in the movies! How in the world is our waitress suppose to find out if  food is allergen free without talking one-on-one with the person preparing the food?

“I told him you’re not going to have to use an epipen on my watch!” she says. Her pen flies up in the air like a sword.

This waitress went to battle for me. How awesome is that? But that’s also why it makes getting sick from this meal even worse–and why I suspect foul play.

You’re probably wondering why I didn’t just leave the restaurant then. In hindsight, I should have. But it was late, few other restaurants were opened, and we were so enjoying this view of the full moon.

IMG_2772

So I ate my plain grouper that was nondescript, which was fine if it meant not getting sick.

Of course, you now know how that panned out.

While rolled up in a ball on the bathroom floor, I rehashed that meal in my head. I pictured the chef ignoring that lovely waitress. I wondered what he missed–or added–to my order that made me so sick. I kept asking myself, If this chef had a wife or a child with food allergies, how would he feel about interacting with the front of the house then?

I’m often quick to blame a waiter for leaving croutons on my salad or butter on my vegetables, but maybe I don’t know what he is dealing with behind those swinging steel doors. When a hierarchy exists in restaurants–when good communication between all food staff members doesn’t exist–those of us with food restrictions pay the price.

The only time I’ll return to this restaurant is to see the sunset. I’m pretty sure this chef could care less about losing me as a customer, but the waitress may. She did her job exactly right. I’ll give her a high-five the next time I see her.

The Close-Minded Chef and the Waitress Who Went to Bat for Me first appeared at Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.

A Grocery List and a Chance Encounter--or Serendipity?

A Grocery List and a Chance Encounter–or Serendipity?

I’ve come to rely on specific food brands that don’t contain my allergens. So Delicious, Jones Dairy Farm, al fresco, Applegate, Erewhon, just to name a few. That’s why I get a little anxious when we head to our second home on Hilton Head. Up until recently, grocery stores carrying health food and specialty items were lacking on the island, and you paid a premium for allergy-friendly brands. I once paid $6 for a Hail Merry Miracle Tart at a small natural grocers.

In the last few years we’ve gotten a Harris Teeter and a Kroger with gluten-free and allergen-free foods–and this past summer the first Whole Foods Market opened! Yes, An Allergic Foodie did a happy dance!

New Whole Foods in Hilton Head Island

I was thrilled when it rained the second day we were here so I could skip the beach and make a trip to Whole Foods. That probably doesn’t sound all that odd to those of you with food restrictions. I took a very short grocery list with me–coffee, Just Mayo, hand soap, dog treats.

Wouldn’t you know I couldn’t find the Just Mayo. Every single mayonnaise from Canola to Olive Oil to Safflower  had egg and/or soy. I was kicking myself for not bringing the huge jug of Just Mayo I’d left at home in Colorado Springs.

While I was browsing through the gluten-free refrigerator section, my husband shouted. “Amy, I have a surprise for you!”

I rounded the corner and my mouth fell open. There was this lovely lady named Paulette (or maybe Pauletta?)  from Hampton Creek giving out samples of pretzels and dip made from  . . . you guessed it . . . Just Mayo!

An Allergic Foodie searches for her favorite brands at Whole Foods, HHI

I showed her my grocery list and her mouth fell open. We both laughed and snapped photos.

Just Mayo at Whole Foods

Turns out Whole Foods requires Just Mayo to be refrigerated. This version is in a glass jar; the one I buy at home from Costco and King Soopers is in a plastic one. So when you are looking for a favorite brand in a new store be sure to ask the clerk for help.

This experience reminded me how grateful I am for the companies that make food I can eat. With food allergies, we often focus on what we can’t eat. When I come to Hilton Head two times a year, I pack up a cooler with a few products I can’t live without and then pray I can find the rest. Sometimes, I order foods through the mail. For many years, I just went without for five weeks. That doesn’t seem all that long, but after five weeks of no Boulder Sausage I’m feeling withdrawal symptoms!

So today I’m giving a shout out to Whole Foods Market on Hilton Head Island and Just Mayo from Hamptom Creek Foods. Without you both, I wouldn’t be eating today’s delicious chicken salad.

Note:  If you have a corn allergy, the modified food start  in Just Mayo is corn. It is less than two percent of ingredients, and I have not reacted to it though I’m usually intolerant to corn.

A Grocery List and a Chance Encounter–or Serendipity? first appeared at Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.

Planning a Disney Trip with a Special Diet: Celebrating this November

Originally posted on Food Allergy & Celiac Convention:

Blogger Street Team member Amy (aka Allergic Foodie) shares with us her excitement of travelling to Disney World this November to celebrate her recovery. Her blog Adventures of an Allergic Foodie provides help to fellow adults and families by sharing strategies, research, helpful products, personal stories, and more with insight in living food allergies, celiac disease and eosinophilic esophagitis. 

Go Back to Spring Break 2004. There I was in the happiest places on earth—Disneyland—feeling miserable. While my husband and two sons ran around the park enjoying a lifetime experience of rides, attractions and food, I crawled back to our hotel room and slinked into bed. The pain was unbearable and I was so exhausted, a kind of exhaustion I’d never felt before.

photo(3)

We’d flown to Anaheim from Colorado Springs to promote my second nonfiction book, The Pregnancy Bed Rest Book. Ah, I see the irony now–the book was for pregnant…

View original 404 more words

Food Allergies & Celiac Disease: Tips for Coping at Work

Coping with Food Restrictions at Work

My oldest son just celebrated a birthday. Having graduated from college last May, he is now working his first real job in an office setting and living on his own. I laughed when he said, “Birthdays just aren’t as much fun when you’re a grownup.”

No matter how old you are, birthdays aren’t as much fun when you have to pass on the birthday cake, too. College Grad is allergic to dairy and eggs. Of course, there are plenty of treats he can eat, but the office is small and they are evidently unaware of the nearby allergy-friendly and vegan-friendly bakery with cupcakes like the one below.

cupcake

A few years ago, for a short time, I worked in an office. I didn’t know back then that food was making me sick. I’d buy a sandwich on wheat bread or bring one from home and spend the rest of the day doubled over. Fortunately, the company allowed me to work at home often, but I became so focused on figuring out what was wrong with me, I resigned. My husband likes to say I quite my job to be a blogger.

That experience, and now having a son with allergies in the working world, has made me empathetic to those who must manage food restrictions among co-workers who don’t alway understand. Even my younger son in college experiences challenges managing his celiac disease while interning for companies. Both sons developed allergies and celiac disease as young adults, so they had to learn to speak up for themselves; a teacher or a parent wasn’t always there to ensure their  food safety. Still, when you’re young and interning or starting your first job, it’s not easy to ask your manager to wipe the cookie crumbs off the counter or explain to the company CEO why you can’t eat the cheese pizza he just bought for the staff.

One of my friends, a project manager who developed anaphylactic reactions in her thirties, told me how she had to train her staff to use an epipen.  Can you imagine? Who wants to stick a needle in their boss’s thigh? A man I recently met shared how uncomfortable it is to have a reaction among co-workers and be the center of attention. He worried that others would view him as weak.

Whether you’ve grown up with food restrictions or reactions are new, you must learn to speak up for yourself and be proactive in managing your dietary needs. Christina Griffin, who blogs at Bubble Girl Happily, and Alice Enevoldsen have written a terrific guide Managing Food Allergies in the Workplace.  This manual is for both food-allergic folks and for their employers. FARE also has useful information.

My sons and I would love to hear your stories and workplace tips.Coping with Food Restrictions at Work first appeared on Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.

Erica Brahan, a high school senior writes honestly about living life with food restrictions

Food Restrictions: A Teen’s Survival Guide

I’ve been feeling pretty cool lately because quite a few high school and college kids following me on Instagram and Twitter.

Wait! It  just dawned on me that I hide my face behind a lemon with sunglasses. So maybe the girls think I’m actually a hot hipster guy and the guys think I’m one of those size-2 cross-fit smoothie-drinking girls. But then again, if I was a size-2 cross-fit girl I wouldn’t be using a lemon’s mug shot, would I?

None the less, it sure makes me feel good when people my kids’ ages want to see the photos of food I post or the info I tweet. I was super flattered when a high school senior named Erica Brahan asked me to review an e-book she wrote called  A Teenager’s Perspective on Food Restrictions: A Practical Guide to Keep from Going Crazy.

Poor Erica probably thought I’d never actually review it because I’ve been crazy busy with my social media addiction. But when I finally opened the pages of Erica’s e-book, I was hooked.

A Teen's Perspective on Food Restrictions

Erica has an upbeat attitude about life with multiple food restrictions, yet she doesn’t sugarcoat the very real challenges young adults like her face. While food restrictions are difficult at any age, fitting in is especially important to high school and college students. Erica writes,  “When eating other than the standard American diet, teens stand out and may be labeled as different or not normal. When you don’t fit in there is typically a desire to find others like you, but there is not usually a strong and united support system for teens with food restrictions.”

To help teens deal with food allergies, celiac disease, or other special diets needed for health problems, Erica asks readers to answer probing questions such as What are my dreams? Is my current health preventing me from achieving them?  She then provides concrete ways to overcome obstacles.  Among topics discussed are friends who don’t understand, dating difficulties, eating in school cafeterias, and choosing colleges. Readers can also find support and encouragement from others’ stories.

While A Teenager’s Perspective on Food Restrictions is aimed at young adults, parents and other family members as well as teachers and counselors can learn from Erica’s experiences and honest writing.  You can purchase her book at Amazon and Barnes and Noble, or from her website.

Other Resources for Teens (and Their Parents)

Erica’s blog: Edible Attitudes

Gluten Away (a teenager’s blog about celiac disease)

Teens with Food Restrictions Facebook Group

FARE Resources for Teens

Food Allergies and Anti-Bullying

Celiac Disease and College

Managing Food Allergies at College

Help My Teenager has Coeliac Disease! 

On Twitter: @teenallergies, @celiacteen, @coeliacteens

Please let me know about any other resources for teens and young adults.

___________________________________

Food Restrictions: A Teen’s Survival Guide first appeared on Adventures of an Allergic Foodie

Food Allergies have many symptoms

We Didn’t All Grow Up with Food Allergies

Sitting at the hotel bar during a recent food allergy conference I was surprised–no, shocked– when two mothers of food-allergic children told me that adults shouldn’t need help coping with their allergies. They were wondering why I was at the conference. Now before you get angry, let me explain their side. They assumed all adults with food allergies had developed them as children. Hence, by adulthood, food-allergic folks should be experienced–physically and emotionally–at handling restrictions and reactions.

Imagine! I had no idea some people thought this way! Of course, I quickly took this opportunity to tell them how wrong they were.

I explained people can develop food allergies and celiac disease and other health issues requiring food restrictions at any time in life. I shared that my symptoms started in my late thirties, though it took nearly ten years to find out multiple food allergies, celiac disease, and eosinophilic esophagitis were the cause.

My kids ate everything–and I mean everything!–when they were little. Their food issues developed as teens. My oldest son realized dairy and eggs were off-limits in high school, and my youngest started showing signs of celiac disease his first year in college. I also mentioned one of my adult friends couldn’t eat dairy and gluten due to Crohn’s Disease and another developed life-threatening reactions to many foods in her thirties. Oh, and by the way, one of my favorite attendees at the conference was a spunky senior citizen with over 40 recently diagnosed food allergies and intolerances.

Adult with 40+ Allergies

After we were all on our second glass of wine, I may have suggested that getting diagnosed with food allergies as an adult may actually be more difficult than being diagnosed as a child. What I was trying to say is the food-allergic adults needed the conference as much as the parents of food-allergic kids did.  Figuring out all the foods containing soy, dairy, gluten and corn fell on my shoulders–I didn’t have mom and dad to guide me. My young adult sons taught themselves how to negotiate school cafeterias and participate in social activities with peers who didn’t get that food could make them horribly sick. My oldest even figured out how to eat dairy- and egg-free in Italy, the land of pizza and cheese.  After years of not needing to worry about allergy-friendly menus, or planes with peanuts, or explaining to family members why they couldn’t double-dip, becoming  “the weird person who can’t eat anything” is like being a foreigner in a new land–yet the doctors don’t offer any counseling.

I think the women were kind of tired of me by then. They wanted to get back to talking about preschools and camps. But this conversation opened my eyes to how some people may view adults with food allergies.  Will a waiter or chef who thinks I’ve managed celiac disease all my life  have a false sense of security that I know what I’m doing when ordering my food? Will my co-workers and friends not believe me when I become sick from food; after all, shouldn’t I know how to eat by now? My own mother doesn’t understand my health issues because I didn’t have food allergies as a child, so how can I expect strangers to understand?

Fortunately, there are those out there who do get it. The next few blog posts will focus on resources for teens and adults, starting with Erica Brahan’s “A Teenager’s Perspective on Food Restrictions: A Practical Guide to Keep from Going Crazy.” Gotta love the title.

Please be sure to let me know of any resources I miss. And remember, I do know how difficult a later-in-life diagnosis is–I am here to help.

We Didn’t All Grow Up with Food Allergies first appeared at Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.