Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Making a Fuss

It's not often that I use my blog to rant about something that makes me angry, but sometimes, you just gotta do it!

After a conversation last night about cross contamination/food allergies/making a fuss, I found myself both incredibly angry and puzzled as to how some people can be so uncaring about people who have really severe allergies/intolerances.  The issue came up because we were talking about a burrito restaurant where it's not at all uncommon for cheese and other dairy products to fall into the tubs of ingredients like lettuce, salsa, and guacamole.  For someone who is very lactose intolerant, this is a problem.  I am one of those people.  You know how some foods have a warning on the label, something like "made on shared equipment with dairy..." - those trace amounts are more than enough to make me very sick for days.  Gut wrenchingly, disgustingly sick.  We're not talking tummy ache, we're talking seriously sick.

So it always amazes me how careless people can be at restaurants when it comes to cross-contamination, especially when such a huge percentage of the world population cannot process things like lactose.  The argument of "oh, it's so hard to make food fast, so cross-contamination is bound to happen" just doesn't cut it with me.  I've seen people who are very good at their job, who clean off areas that have been contaminated with dairy, who are very careful about keeping their station clean.  I've also had people making burritos offer to bring out a fresh tub of ingredients because of contamination.  So it is indeed possible to be really good at your job and to do your best to not make people sick!

The other part of this issue is the idea that you shouldn't make a fuss, that you should just take what you're given because it would be horrible to inconvenience the person you're giving money to in exchange for food.  God forbid you should send food back!  I've sent back more meals than I can count because of carelessness - I've had noodle dishes that had ricotta dropped in it for example (and no, just picking it off is not an option).  When you have insane allergies, food becomes complicated.  I have to look through the entire dish when I get my food to make sure it doesn't have anything in it that it shouldn't have.  And often, it does, and it goes back.  Am I worried that the staff will talk about me, will think I'm being difficult?  No.  I could care less in general what people think about me, but especially when it comes to me protecting my health.  The key, as always, is to be as nice as possible about it.  It never pays to be unkind, and it's just, well, rude!

I think the point I'm trying to make (in my own rambling sort of way) is never ever be afraid to make a fuss, especially if you're trying to protect your health.  Don't be afraid that you're "being a bother" at restaurants.  You don't have to be demure and take what you're given if you're given something unacceptable.  Make a fuss!  But try to be nice about it :)

Do any of you guys have experiences with food allergies or other issues that require an occasional fuss?




Jennifer said...

Food allergies are a very serious thing! While I am lucky to be allergy free, my father is deathly allergic to tree nuts. I grew up well aware of what can happen to someone with a severe allergy and when I am having an event at my home, I always make sure there are options for those who have certain food allergies (a nut-free cake/dessert, for example). I've experienced my father having a reaction because someone was lazy and put mixed nuts on a sundae instead of the peanuts he asked for. He needed to be rushed to the hospital because his throat was closing up. That experience especially has made me hyper aware.

When we were planning our wedding and talking to caterers and the cake person, I must have repeated the whole "absolutely no nuts or extracts" dozens of times. Not only is my dad allergic, but so are two of his brothers and one of my best friends. Luckily, the people we were working with were very understanding and accommodating. The last thing we all wanted was someone being rushed to the ER because of contamination!

Thanks for writing this post, Kala!

Chelsea said...

I was not paying that much attention to that part of the conversation, but it still managed to give me an actual nightmare last night! (Someone had made homemade speculoos (that cookie butter from TJs) and I took a spoonful only to discover there were giant 2" pieces of bacon in it, and the maker was baffled - nay, offended! - that I ran to spit it out.)

I don't know why compassion can be so absent from people you know are better than that. :(

Flan said...

I'm really glad you posted Kala! I was a little shocked last night, but couldn't quite put it into words. It took my a long time to realize that you had a food allergy in addition to being vegan, and it made me that much more sensitive to it. I was super careful before, but until I was buying wedding ice cream, I'm not sure I had processed the shared equipment thing!

Either way, neither allergies nor other food restrictions are something to mess with!

JFibers said...

You know I support you and your food stuff a bunch! Even though I'm not as sensitive as you are about food allergies, I still have a few (carrots and cantaloupe-strange orange things apparently)... Anyway, not a huge deal but listen to this story about "food."
My family and I were out for "drinks" and I ordered Hot Chocolate- PLAIN... as you know, I don't drink alcohol and there may have been a chance that I was pregnant. When the drink arrives, I take a sip and think... there's Bailey's in here. I ask the waitress if she's sure there's no alcohol and she assures me there isn't. I say, are you sure?!?!?! She says, let me check... she asks the bartender and then comes back and assures me there is no alcohol in the drink. I think, well, they must just use flavored hot chocolate. I continue to drink it and am suddenly not feeling the best and think, there MUST be alcohol in this drink. I have mom and Grant and Arnie taste it and they agree, there's liquor in it. I again bring it up to the waitress and she checks one more time and sure enough- BAILEY'S in my hot chocolate. ARE YOU KIDDING ME!?!?!?!? The manager comes over and apologizes, I drink about a gallon of water, and then we leave after we paid the bill!!!!!! WHAT?!?!?!? I tell the manager that I may be pregnant and that she should probably make sure that things are done accurately from now on and we still PAY the bill!!!! I can't believe the waitress AND bartender both messed up and we had to pay the bill! And who is the one that suffers? MILES, that's who!!!!! The unborn kiddo........good thing he's so cute and nothing happened!!!! p.s. The establishment has since closed- wonder why?

JFibers said...

make a fuss... make a big fuss....

Lisa said...

Oh, boy, do I have thoughts on this. First of all, it's food you have agreed to pay for, and since you ask questions in advance, it's your prerogative to require that you get what you asked for. I'm vegan now, but I've always been Jewish, and have never eaten bacon or shellfish or meat w/ my milk, etc. So I've been asking ingredient questions my entire life.

One of my biggest pet peeves is when a menu lists the items in a dish. Seven or eight items, and somehow leaves out the one that shows up front and center when the dish arrives.

Perfect example, we're currently in Las Vegas. The Wynn is very vegan friendly, as Steve Wynn is a vegan himself. Well, at least they used to be. The buffet, which is VERY pricey, always had a ton of stuff we could eat. Went there twice in the past week. Once today, for lunch. There might have been five vegan things on the entire buffet line, and none were marked vegan, we had to inquire. One item which appeared vegan was a potato salad, and it said "citrus vinaigrette". Score! That means no mayonnaise. Upon further inquiry, we learn that there is bacon in the salad. WTF? Bacon? It was so small you couldn't even see it. And why not list it on the tag?

There are TONS of people, especially at a resort in Vegas, that DO NOT EAT THE PIG. It really does infuriate me.


lilirious said...

I think it's one of the highest forms of disrespect to ignore some one's eating preferences. For me it doesn't make a difference if there's an allergy, principality or religious reason behind why some people can't eat certain things. To me it means they simply cannot eat that particular thing.

If you're paying for your food you have every right to send it back. Even if you have to send it back 10 times. You are paying for your food. If a restaurant/ server can't help/ understand your preference, then to me that means that it's a very poor restaurant.

Thank you for posting this. Though I'm not allergic and eat everything myself, many of my friends are vegetarian/ vegan and they encounter a lot of stupidity from a lot of people...

Ana said...

Oh boy. This is a big issue for me too. I am allergic to bell peppers and hot peppers. I recently got into an argument with the management at my office because they kept ordering food with peppers in it for mandatory lunch meetings. Note: they have a list of everyone's food allergies in the office, so it wasn't like they didn't know. I asked them repeatedly to please provide an option that I could eat, and they told me there was nothing they could do about it. Eventually I escalated to the company partners, who finally took me seriously.

Everything these days comes with peppers, and it's a huge problem for me. I always ask before ordering food, but more than half the time, the waiters are just wrong. I once ordered a salmon and rice dish, which they promised me didn't come with peppers. My rice came full of diced jalapenos. The one bite made me violently ill.

There is definitely a problem with the perception of allergies. A lot of people assume I just don't like peppers so I am pretending to have allergies. I once had a boyfriend sneak peppers into food I was cooking. He asked to put them in and I said no, explained that I had allergies. So he snuck them in when I left the kitchen. When I got sick later, he confessed what he had done. His explanation? "I thought you were just being a bitch and just didn't like peppers."

Amanda said...

This is a major one for me as well. My grandfather has a severe allergy to red meat and pork (and he has Alzheimer's so he doesn't remember to avoid these items) and it involves a lot of investigating and insisting on my end to make sure he gets food that won't send him to the hospital.

Waitstaff who might normally roll their eyes at my questions (I'm vegan and mildly lactose intolerant) do take it a little more seriously when I point out that if they bring us tortillas with lard or soup made with beef stock, my elderly grandfather will puff up, erupt in hives, and struggle to breathe.

It's definitely a frustrating thing. I empathize.

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