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Every thought you have when you’ve got food allergies and you eat somewhere new

If you’re planning on inviting me out for dinner, there’s something you might want to know about me: I have a nut allergy. Now, if you don’t happen to have a life-threatening food allergy, you might think ‘OK, well, just don’t order peanuts I suppose? Calm down Sophie, we’re only going out for a bit of food mate’. But if you’re in the same camp as me, you know. YOU KNOW. The stress, the planning, the menu-researching, the stress (yes, I added it twice).

There seem to be so many food allergies flying around out there that some people brush it off as fussy eating. Like the guy in a restaurant in Hamburg who, when I told him I’d asked not to have pine nuts on my pizza because I’m allergic, took it back to the (open) kitchen to pick them off. I watched him use a fork to remove them one by one, ask a colleague to give it a once over and then walk the very same pizza straight back to my table. Luckily, I’d seen the whole thing and told him I’d need a whole new, freshly made one.

Almost everyone I know with a food allergy has had a near miss (or three) like me, and if that’s you, then I know exactly what goes through your mind when someone says, ‘shall we try that new place?’

Do we have to?

Why can’t we just go back to one of my pre-approved restaurants where I can have one of my pre-approved meals made by a person who won’t accidentally make me really, really ill? You don’t say that, of course, because you don’t want to be that person so you go along with it and pretend you’re looking forward to it just as much as everyone else.

Where’s the kitchen? Can I see into it?

At least if there’s an open kitchen you can see exactly how careful the chefs are when handling different foods. Closed kitchen = new restaurant nightmare.

Wow, this food all looks amazing! Oh wait…

Nope. No. Can’t have that. That’s off the table. Big no. Double no. Aaaabsolutely not. Wonder what’s in the bread…?

It has to say it on the menu, right?

You look out for the little allergen key on the bottom of the menu to tell you what you can and can’t have. But you trust that 0%. Zero. Percent.

Better ask just to be on the safe side.

Yeah, I’ll ask. To be safe. Should I? I should ask. Shouldn’t I?

What if they think I’m being a diva?

You can just imagine them going back to the kitchen, rolling their eyes and sighing, ‘ugh, another food allergy’.

What if, worse, they think I’m lying?

I’ve heard of people who do that. What if they think I’m one of those people?!

I don’t want to ask for the allergy menu, I don’t want to ask for the allergy menu, I don’t want to ask for the allergy menu. Fine, I’m going to have to ask for the allergy menu.

Why is it so big? And so sticky? Where do they keep it?

OK, so I’ve got three whole options.

Everything on the menu looks beyond amazing, but here you are stuck with the tiniest selection ever.

Does that smell like [insert allergen here]?

Pretty sure that smells like [insert allergen here].

Shall I ask someone to taste it?

Just to be on the safe side.

Wow, this is actually pretty tasty.

Like, REALLY, tasty.

How long does it take to have a reaction again?

No one will notice if you have a quick google it on the sly.

Have I got my Epipen with me?

You’d better check again, because you might have been mistaken the first 372 times you checked.

Ok, no itching. Throat feels distinctly non-closed. Skin looks clear. Maybe this is fine.

Yes! I’m fine! I’m eating out at a new place. No reaction or anything!
Is this how non-allergic people feel all the time?

Trying new places to eat is great! Might do this every week!

Probably won’t though, tbh.

Eating out when you’ve got a food allergy is tough but it’s so important to look after yourself. Check, double check and check again. Trust me, I learnt the hard way. Remember:

– Restaurants are legally obliged to provide information on allergens. If they don’t have them to hand, don’t eat there.
– Tell the server about your allergy before you order.
– Ask them to tell the chef to avoid cross contamination.
– If in doubt, ask for an allergy menu or a list of allergens.
– Don’t let anyone persuade you to ‘eat around’ something.
– If you have to carry an Epipen, make sure you always have it with you.
– You are NOT being fussy. Your health comes first, every single time.


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