Sorry for the radio silence these past couple of weeks, life has been a bit hectic and I have also been busy working on a draft for an upcoming post about taste. I’m still working on it and won’t post it until it feels perfect so in the meantime I’ll post some other stuff.
For this post though I’d like to talk about something that affects everyone with a food intolerance of some sorts, like lactose or milk protein intolerance, egg allergy, coeliac disease, soy allergy etc. Namely, eating out at a restaurant.
We’ve all been there. Trying to find a restaurant that will fit our desired budget while being able to cater to our needs and not cause us to leave the venue feeling horribly sick because someone forgot to check all the ingredients in a dish or thought that “it’s just a tiny bit, surely that can’t be too bad?” Well, in case you’ve ever been that person to have that thought here is a news flash: for some it can be near fatal.
And we as sufferers don’t always want to make demands because we don’t want to be seen as “difficult”. The trouble is, once we start seeing ourselves as “difficult” we stop living our daily lives and quit putting pressure where pressure should be put: on the restaurants, cafés and coffee houses. We are not difficult just beacuse we want to eat food that is safe for us.
I have coeliac disease and I am one of those who don’t experience symptoms when I accidentally eat gluten. I might feel a little tense but nothing more. On the other end of the scale I have my sister who gets terrible stomach problems when she eats milk protein.
When I first got my diagnosis I was deflated and though that I would never be able to eat out again. Today we go out to lunch or dinner every other week and it works totally fine. If you’ve suffered from a food intolerance/allergy for a long time you are probably, like me and have devised a routine for going out to eat. If your diagnosis is new, however, you might find these tips useful:
- Call the restaurant prior to making a reservation and ask what can be done in regards to your particular intolerance/allergy.
- State you allergy/intolerance when making the reservation. Some restaurants have an option where you can leave a special message after choosing party size, date and time, others will want you to send them an email if you have any special requests.
- Remind them on arrival and let them know who it is who has an intolerance/allergy. They don’t know that when you’re making the reservation (unless you write “I” instead of “One of us”) and it makes things easier for everyone when ordering your food.
- Ask about the menu! A good (even decent) restaurant should be able to either recommend which dishes you should go for or what could be tweaked in order to make it safe for you. While some things will be difficult to adapt to your specific requirement, other things will be perfectly safe. But if you don’t ask you won’t for sure. Knowledge is the key to everything, never forget that.
I also always check out the menu (if it’s available online) prior to the visit. Although this is mostly because I’m curious about what they have and what I might be in the mood for, it also helps me rule out dishes that I know they won’t be able to fix for me.
Eating out should be an enjoyment for everyone, no matter what you can and can’t eat. Restaurants are constantly getting better at seeing and understanding food intolerances and we as sufferers need to be better at letting them know what we want from them. If we don’t communicate they won’t be able to learn and improve.
And to all you chefs and restaurant owners: please don’t see us as a pain in the ass. All we want to do is to live our lives the same way everyone else does, and that includes eating. We want to have the same experience as all your other guests, nothing more. While I understand that easy route is to just remove the particular allergen, more often than not it is apparent that this is the easy way out. I want to be able to taste all the different textures my dinner company is tasting. Crunchy crumbles usually can be replaced with something else that’s crunchy, such as nuts and seeds. I don’t want to feel that something was left off my plate because it was “the simplest way to fix it”. Please ask us if you’re not sure what can be done. When you’ve had a diagnosis for a couple of years you learn things and we’d love to communicate our experience with you so the next customer will feel as happy as we did.
I love to go out to eat and will keep doing that for the rest of my life. And I look forward to see the restaurant world evolve and make it easier for us with food intolerances and allergies to eat out.
Dessert at Ekstedt, June 2016, almond cake (instead of honey cake) baked in the wood fired oven with raspberries, birch ice cream and buttermilk cream.