Monday, May 24, 2010

Are you dead?

When someone asks you, "Are you choking?" the cardinal rule is that if you can answer with words, you're not choking. Right?
This past Saturday, NAH and I went out to dinner with friends, to a local Italian restaurant that has great food. It had an enormous menu, and having done my research ahead of time, I was certain that it would be an easy, safe meal.

I ordered one of their special entree salads without the cheese, dressing on the side, and specifically asked the waitress if there would be tomato on the salad, as it was not listed. She said no, that all ingredients for each salad were listed on the menu. "Great!" I said, "because I'm severely allergic." NAH and our NAFriends ordered their meals, and we sat around gabbing before they arrived. When the food arrived, the tomato sauce on everyone's plates smelled incredible, and my salad looked really nice, EXCEPT FOR THE LITTLE RED SLICES OF EVIL ON THE LETTUCE, AND UNDER THE CRAB MEAT...
"Wait a second. Do you see this?" I asked the waitress, somewhat incredulous. Her eyes grew really wide.
"Oh my god, I'm so sorry, he must've thought that he should replace the cheese with something."
"OK, Here's the new problem. You have to ensure that all of this is thrown out. I cannot eat anything on this plate once it's touched the sliced tomatoes. Please, NOTHING can be rinsed off."
Off she went. I looked at our friends and NAH and insisted that they start without me, as theirs were piping hot. It took about 10 minutes, and we didn't see our waitress at all in those 10 minutes. When she returned, it was the perfect salad, exactly as I'd ordered it, and then she said those magic words. "Sorry I've been neglecting you guys, but I wanted to stand back there with the chef to make sure that no part of her salad was reused."

Trust issues gone, and it looked incredible. I started eating. About three minutes later I caught her peering around the corner of our booth. "Are you dead?" she asked.
"Nope. Still good," and I found the comment as sweet and hilarious as it was tactless. When she brought our check, she shared with us that she suffers from an anaphylaxis to something, and is scared to death to eat in restaurants because of it, so she wanted to make sure I would be alright (having previously glanced at the offending tomato? I'm still not sure, but it was sweet).

Thankfully, our friends were both content and kind enough to let me sit and eat long after they'd finished (a 10 minute head start is sizable in a restaurant setting). To be fair, this friend and her husband once sent MY food back three separate times when it wasn't up to my allergy standards (I am often done and too nervous to eat after one failed attempt). They're keepers :).

Dinner was wonderful, and the waitress completely earned my trust. We'll be back!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

vacation confessions...

My good friend K. and I are trying to plan our joint birthday trip this year. We've been planning this since we graduated college, putting away money a little bit at a time, hoping that when we hit the next big milestone birthday, we'd be at a place in our lives where we could pick up and escape for a weekend without too many concerns.

Well, the summer of our birthdays has arrived, and we have begun the planning (or at least the thinking). I wrote to a dude ranch last week at which we were interested in vacationing (because nothing says girls' weekend and birthdays like boots and a cowgirl hat), and asked if they could accommodate my allergies. Then, I held my breath. I've gotten a wide variety of responses with these sorts of inquiries, so I never know what to expect.

I received this...
Dear XXXX,
We'd love to have you and your friends come and stay with us at the XXXX Ranch. Since I don't know the extent of your food allergies, it's hard for me to answer your question. We usually are able to accommodate some food allergies. But if you can't have food, for instance, that is prepared in the same kitchen that we may prepare tomatoes or have bananas, then there would be a problem. If it's just a matter of avoiding those foods, it would be a good idea to contact our cook, through our manager, in advance to discuss your allergies.Please let me know if you need anything else.

Now, to be fair, that's a perfectly reasonable and responsible answer, which is why I've crossed out their name. I harbor no animosity toward this ranch, nor would I want to encourage my allergy friends not to visit. My concern, and the reason for this posting, is that I have no clue what to make of this letter. Does this mean they will cook for me in separate dishes? Does it mean that I have to have my food sliced on the same cutting board as a previously sliced tomato? Will I have the cranky chef who sneakily rubs a banana on my plate in an effort to send me to the great beyond?

Again, they were timely, and polite, and offered their assistance, but I think we'll go elsewhere. I look for certain confidence-inspiring words in correspondence, and they were not here. Before you suggest that I contact them for further questions, I'm too much of a skeptic. Even if I could get them to agree, if I have to instruct them in allergy-safe procedures, I'd be too nervous to eat any of the food that they prepared. On the flip side, maybe a dude ranch vacation where I can lose 10 lbs. is just the ticket....

Your adventure vacation experiences/suggestions welcome...
Your Allergic Diner