Thursday, April 18, 2013

Restaurants and Food Allergies

I'm terrified of all restaurants.  With the number of Bee's allergies (and the severity of many of them), eating out is very rarely an option.  It should be obvious - but restaurants scare me to death.  We often don't find it worth it to eat anywhere.

We once tried to eat at a little gluten free, earthy, health food type place.  That didn't go well at all!  They seemed so knowledgeable and accommodating over the phone.  We ordered Bee some gluten free spaghetti with some veggies and they put cheese in her pasta!  It was a miracle that I was the one who cut up her spaghetti and that I actually noticed the little strings of melted cheese that had been stirred into her pasta.  When I confronted the staff they were totally apathetic.  They asked me, "Ohh does she get itchy or something?"  I'm not sure I was even able to answer them.  No, she doesn't get itchy.  She could die.  We didn't eat out for months after that experience.

When we do feel brave enough to eat out, I always call ahead and talk to the manager and, if possible, the chef.  You can usually get a pretty good idea of how allergy-friendly a restaurant is by those conversations.  Once I had to explain to a restaurant manager that butter is in fact dairy.  Another time I had to explain that gluten was not glucose and that our allergies had nothing to do with diabetes.  And these are people in the restaurant industry!  Crazy!  We didn't eat at those restaurants.

Thankfully, many restaurants are rolling out a gluten free menu and are becoming more aware of food allergies.  We have had a few experiences eating out that made me relax my death grip on the EpiPen just a little bit.  Some of the managers, chef, and staff were so sweet to listen to all our allergy concerns and work to find the safest option for Bee to eat.  So, in the past 3 years, we've eaten out a few times - not many but I'm hoping that one day most restaurants will be able to accommodate those with multiple food allergies.  I'm always encouraged when I talk to a restaurant staff member who is educated about food allergies and the severity.

But, when we need an emergency meal we usually drive through our local Chick-fil-A and order the same meal every time.  Bee eats a grilled chicken filet (no bun) with fries and a lemonade.  It's not exactly healthy but it helps when we're short on time or if we're out of town.  Our new restaurant stop is our local Chipotle where Bee can eat the burrito bowl (taco salad) with rice, beans, chicken, and veggies (if only she'd eat the veggies!).  Those are our two allergy safe restaurants that we've found.  We haven't branched out much beyond those two.

For now, we'd rather just eat at home.  Then I don't have to worry about cross-contamination or any mix-up in the kitchen.  I know exactly what's in the food and where it's been and who prepared it!

Restaurants also bring out the irrational fears in me.  The last time we went to a restaurant these were my top 2 worries - that the bathroom door handle would be contaminated or that a server would drop a tray, spilling food on Bee.

I was afraid for her to touch any of the door handles.  Bee is an independent little preschooler and she wants to "do it myself" so that's a problem sometimes.  I tried to jump in front of her before she opened any doors.

And then at our table I sat her in the middle away from the walkway where the servers passed by with trays of food.  I almost had a heart attack when we walked near the kitchen entrance because I was so worried something would be spilled on her.  Wow!  I need to relax but I don't see that happening anytime soon!

Restaurants are scary places!  I think we'll stay home as much as possible for now!  I'll take the dirty dishes and messy kitchen if it means safety and peace of mind.........

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