For friends and family who have ever gone to a restaurant with me, the article below is one they might be able to relate to. Further, they might gain a better understanding as to why I go to some great lengths to avoid soy as well as gluten…
You see, I’m one of those people with a true soy allergy, for even the smallest amount of soy can cause me the same respiratory congestion, facial and throat swelling, and/or heartburn problems that my dear friend gluten can provide. I’ve had immediate reactions so strong to my first few bites of restaurant food that my esophagus literally closed up tight for about 35-40 minutes while I suffered debilitating chest pain. (In hindsight, my allergist told me I should have used my EpiPen and gone to the nearest emergency room, but that’s quite another story.) And so, due to my avoidance of soy, gluten, and a more recently identified allergy to egg whites, I can be quite the pain in the neck at a restaurant when it comes to placing a food order.
I’m always putting wait staff through their paces, literally, as they run back to the kitchen to speak with the chef about ingredients of various items on the menu. As you might imagine, this complicates and certainly delays the ordering process. It used to be embarrassing for me, though thankfully I am not quite so alone anymore. Nowadays there are other restaurant patrons who also have food allergies or intolerances, and many restaurants are starting to respond appropriately by providing allergy information on their menus or on a separate sheet. There’s a bit less running back and forth now by more experienced waiters who know their stuff!
But not all restaurants are “with the program.” Not quite a year ago, my entire family decided they really wanted to celebrate a birthday gathering with a good sushi dinner and so, not to disappoint them or be left out, I went with them to a well-known restaurant. Clearly people with soy allergies don’t go to this particular restaurant very often, for when I told the waitress about my allergy to soy she just looked at me with utter surprise and told me up front there wasn’t much I could order! With a chuckle, and my having expected this, I ordered some plain white rice and a green salad with lemon juice for a dressing. My family took the situation in stride too, for they were quite used to their mother’s food issues by that time. They ordered a few appetizers that I could sample without dipping them into the provided soy-based sauce. Of course, I took an antihistamine with my dinner that night—just in case!
All in all, the restaurant industry is slowing responding to the needs of those with food allergies. I was quite impressed with a particular Open Table experience I had earlier this week, when a hostess greeted me by name and showed me to my table. While following her, she explained that they had reviewed my food allergy notes and that my waiter and the chef had already been briefed about them. Wow!
Lucky for me, there are a few establishments in my general area that are totally gluten-free though I admit I haven’t yet had the nerve to invite anyone to go. Maybe I will in the future. In the meantime, I’ve discovered this same restaurant’s take-out food items and I regularly succumb to their decadent, gluten-free bakery items at Christmas time and again at Easter. I guess there are some things that are just worth the drive and expense, for I don’t always want to cook them myself from scratch and this place is amazing!