How to Manage Dining Out With Food Sensitivities
A columnist with EDS and allergies shares recent restaurant experiences
Wow, I continue to be overwhelmed by everyone’s responses to my previous two columns about food sensitivities! I had no idea that what I knew was an issue for those of us with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS) was so prevalent. While these sensitivities can be frustrating at times, it certainly helps to know that others are out there managing similar issues.
While I’ve become quite adept at cooking for myself, dining out can be challenging. Large restaurant chains are required to disclose the eight major allergens, which include milk but not mammalian meat, and I’m allergic to both. So when it comes down to it, I’m on my own with that.
I love eating at small local places, which sometimes is easier on me and other times more difficult. Because they’re not required to list ingredients, I have to ask about each dish, and with dairy or even gelatin often hiding in breads, sauces, and many other items, it’s not always a straightforward question. And I wouldn’t expect the server to know if there’s dairy in their homemade buns, so if the chef or owner isn’t available, I might not be able to get an answer.
A dining dilemma
I work with juniors and seniors in high school on their postgraduate plans, and we recently had a big work event where we invited a group of college representatives to campus to kick off the college search process. We did a panel program in the evening and then took them out to dinner before they worked with students the next morning. We went to an amazing local restaurant, but when I looked at the menu online, I realized there wasn’t anything on it that I could eat.
I wasn’t sure what to do.
I hate drawing attention to myself (for any reason, not just EDS), and while most people are super helpful and accommodating, I don’t like asking. I hemmed and hawed about what to do, and finally made up my mind to call the restaurant ahead of time. I asked to speak to the manager and said I completely understood if they couldn’t accommodate my allergies, but I wanted to check.
She was so kind and said of course they’d accommodate any allergy, and if there wasn’t something on the menu that worked for me, they’d make me a different entree. It was such a small thing, but it made me happy that I could be included in a big work event without having to sit awkwardly without food while everyone else ate.
I’m starting to realize that many people are kind and caring with this type of situation and are genuinely happy to be able to help if I just give them the chance. The person I spoke with seemed just as happy that they could accommodate me and allow me to take part in a special evening with colleagues as I was!
I’ve found that while it’s easy for me to try to avoid the issue, sometimes it’s OK to ask. I don’t expect everyone to be able to accommodate what I can’t eat, but if I don’t ask, I have no way of knowing. The worst that happens is that they’re unable to help, which leaves me exactly where I’d be if I hadn’t inquired. And if they can accommodate me, I get to enjoy a great, and safe, meal.
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