In the last 6 days I have had one insanely close call with cross-contamination at a restaurant and a severe allergic reaction yesterday afternoon. It’s been quite a week. And my trust in labels and restaurants has dropped drastically.
I am so fortunate to have family and friends who have helped me through both of these incidents. The first incident occurred last Friday, at a family-friendly restaurant here in Victoria when I almost ate a chickpea that was in my Greek salad. I had taken as many precautions as I possibly could have, and the kitchen messed up. Here are the precautions I took:
1) Called the restaurant ahead of time to discuss my severe food allergies – They assured me it should be just fine, we have people in with allergies quite often and accommodate, and that all I would need to do was talk to my waiter. After that response I felt comfortable eating there.
2) Told the waiter the minute he came for our drink order - I told the waiter immediately when he came to the table for our drink order that I had life threatening food allergies and his response was, “ok, I’ll get that later when you order your food”. Not too reassuring, however when he took our food order he did go back to the kitchen with my list and reassured me everything in the Mediterranean salad – with no feta or bread would be ok.
3) Wrote a list of all my food allergies and gave it to the waiter - I always give a list to my waiter with all my food allergies. I wrote “deadly” next to the 4 things (peanuts, tree nuts, soy, legumes – peas, beans) that could send me to the hospital. And wrote “sensitive to: dairy and gluten” so as not to confuse them.
Now, everyone’s meals arrive together and another waiter or staff (not our waiter) places a salad in front of me with feta cheese on it. I call our waiter back immediately and say “I told you I cannot have feta”. He says “yes, I am sorry the kitchen made a mistake I will get you a new one right away”. I feel comfortable enough that the next time everything will be safe. Well… The next salad came and everything looked ok. No feta on this one. I tested the salad dressing to make sure I didn’t react to it (as soy is often found in dressings) and it was fine. So I started eating. The salad was good and we were having great conversation, when all of a sudden, I realized there was a chickpea in my salad. I was terrified! They called the waiter back immediately and we told him about the chickpea and I told him that I had specifically warned him about my life-threatening allergies and that this chickpea would have sent me to the hospital. The manager spoke to the kitchen staff and sorted it out. They made a brand new salad from scratch and made a new chicken breast for me and didn’t charge us for the meal. The whole car ride home, I worried about a delayed reaction from the fact the chickpea had been in with the salad that I had eaten. I took antihistamines and stayed up for a few hours with my boyfriend in case I would have had a delayed reaction. I didn’t.
I am now scared to trust restaurants with my food. It has traumatized me. How could such a thing happen when you take so many precautions? I don’t plan on eating out for a while.
Have you had any close calls?