As someone who loves food but who has severe allergies to nuts, tofu, soy and shellfish I find it challenging to love restaurants and cafes as much as I do. There have been times when I’ve had allergic reactions to the food ordered by myself or someone I’m with. They range everywhere from uncomfortable to paralyzing. In these moments the reactions of the staff can also range and that’s where this post comes from.
I’ve compiled a list of the responses of restaurant staff when I’ve had an allergic reaction (although this is not an exhaustive list). Given that the responses give an indication as to the level of care for the customer. I feel that it is only fair to the establishment and its customers that I name them. I won’t name the staff, mostly because I can’t remember them but also because it isn’t their problem (in the bad cases). Their employers should be training their staff to have a caring, compassionate attitude in crisis moments like an allergic reaction.
I am an idiot! Most of these situations could have been prevented by me. All I needed to do, in most cases, was simply abstain. No food, no allergic reaction. I also try to remember to bring Benadryl and my Epipen. Sometimes I forget and sometimes the EpiPen prescription is waiting to be filled. So, please, don’t worry I am fully aware of my idiocy. However, I do believe that just because I am sometimes a foolish foodie it doesn’t mean that staff shouldn’t help keep me alive.
Jane’s on the Common’s (Halifax, NS)
I know that the restaurant closed its doors at the end of 2012 but the business is now operating as a catering service and similar situations can occur. Once I had a reaction to the crust of a cheesecake that my girlfriend let me sample. When we asked to make sure that there weren’t any nuts the waiter told me that I should have told them that I had an allergy. No offer of water and no questions of if I had an EpiPen or needed an ambulance. This turned me off the restaurant. The last thing you want to see when your throat is closing is some insensitive waiter waging his finger.
Flavor Downtown (Sydney, NS)
My second time eating food by Flavor Downtown was from a catered event that my work hosted. There were leftovers and we were encouraged to eat them. So, I had a chicken wrap. Now, Flavor looks like a fine dining establishment which automatically sets of a red flag (maybe a topic for another post). I checked their online catering menu and I found the item I was about to eat and there was no indication of nuts at all. Turns out they decided to put thin slivers of almonds. Restaurants need to have accurate descriptions of their food including any allergy information.
Java Blend (Halifax, NS)
One time a friend offered me a taste of his oatcake. The oatcake was sold as an oatcake, not a peanut butter oatcake (there is a difference). Both of the baristas were super concerned. They both asked if I needed an ambulance and one checked their first aid kit for Benadryl (there wasn’t any). Luckily, my friend works for the armed forces and knows exactly how to act in times of crisis. He got me to the emergency room faster than an ambulance.
Stella Luna (Ottawa, ON)
I had a reaction to one of the flavours of their irresistable gelato. It started mild and so I went to the washroom to wash out my mouth and throat as best I could. As I was gone my girlfriend rushed to the nearest pharmacy to get some Benadryl and the employees all focused on helping me like the pit crew changing a formula 1 car’s tires in the middle of a race. They were apologetic and asked me to clarify in the future. Unlike Jane’s, I always give Stella Luna rave reviews and tell people to go when they are heading to Ottawa.
This is just a slice of my culinary journey with allergies. If you’ve had an allergic reaction in a restaurant feel free to share it in the comments.