Eating out with food allergiesBanana pancakes


About Jackie Mitchell

Jackie Mitchell is a journalist and public relations consultant with over fifteen years' experience. She works with small businesses and charities providing PR services.

With a background as a features writer in the media, Jackie has worked on national newspapers, websites, consumer magazines, trade publications and radio stations all over the UK. For some years, she worked abroad - in Australia, Hong Kong and New York. After returning to London, she worked as an account director at several major London agencies.

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September 01st, 2010

The challenge of eating out with food allergies

Welcome to the first world “eating out with allergies” challenge. Take one fifty something man with over 20 food intolerances – Ray - and his wife Jackie (that’s me), who is wheat intolerant, as they face the challenge of eating out, whether it’s a coffee shop or five star dining. What about eating at friends’ houses or, even more scary, being invited to a wedding or social occasion with a sit down dinner or buffet? So we have begun our journey into how to cope with eating out with these food intolerances and I don’t just mean in restaurants – I mean at friends’ houses, at functions, weddings, work events, everywhere.

Have you ever tried eating out with a food allergy? Ray suffers from food intolerances, but most people don’t know what “intolerances” are, let alone waiting staff in restaurants. So we generally use the term “allergies”, which seems to be understood universally.

The foods Ray can’t eat include lemon, oranges, grapes, melon, strawberries, blackberries, rhubarb, gooseberries, celeriac, parsnips, raspberries, apricots, blackcurrants, cherries, peaches, broccoli, celery, spinach, cucumber, peppers, tomatoes, ice cream, eggs, butter, milk, cream, margarine, cheese.

So you might ask – what exactly can he eat?

Fruit – only apples, pears, bananas, dates and figs (but only cooked figs); Olive oil instead of butter and salad dressing. Generally he can’t have any sauces because they tend to have cream in them.

Eating out in restaurants in a real lottery situation – some are sympathetic, while others clearly don’t care. I will always ring up in advance and explain the challenge. There are two extremes – either total incredulity at the end of the phone or someone who understands totally and assures me they can cater for these food intolerances.

When we turn up at the restaurant, however, it’s often a different story. They can deny all knowledge of the phone call. You learn from experience which restaurants to avoid – like the ones who serve Ray a steak with butter (after having been told Ray is intolerant to butter). We sent it back again – only for the same steak to reappear again minus the butter. We know the butter has simply been scraped off. How? Ray has to gallop to the lavatory after 20 minutes after the leaving the restaurant!

Enough said. It’s got to the point where I will taste something on his behalf and see if I can identify whether there is any butter remaining!



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