Why a Food Allergy Card? It Helps you Own Your Condition.
I have had multiple food allergies all of my life which has provided me with a complicated relationship with food. As I’ve gotten older and more confident, or perhaps more comfortable with all of my restrictions, I’ve started embracing food more. I think I’ve gotten to a point in my life where I want to truly enjoy food – just like everybody else.
My journey of becoming more empowered over eating both safely and well, has two sides. On one side is learning how to be a better cook and baker at home. I’ve been experimenting a lot in the kitchen and learning so much about food, substitutes, flavours and combinations. I have failed too many times to count. However, failing in the kitchen is one of the richest learning experiences. You learn that baking isn’t magic – and that there are exact reasons why things turn out well, and why your cookies turn into a soup of buttery goop.
The other side of my food journey involves dining out. This has been tougher as it involves much more than just checking an ingredient list in my pantry. Dining out all of a sudden invites several other people into the chain of hunger à eating. This is where things get complicated.
I’m allergic to peanut, tree nut, egg, fish, shellfish and mustard. When I look at a restaurant menu, my first thought is not “what can I eat?”, but rather “can I even eat here?”. I know that many chefs are willing to customize and make it work for allergic guests, so it’s important for me to at least have a conversation before writing any place off.
When I give my spiel to the wait staff, I can already see them scrambling. It’s too many allergies to remember. They literally need me to back up to the beginning and re-frame me as non-average customer. At that point, I realize I need to meet them half way. Yes, they can write down all of my allergies, but I still don’t fully trust they will write everything down, and convey that info correctly to the person who needs it most: the chef.
An allergy card puts it all in writing, and correctly. It provides a professional cue card to what I cannot eat, and why it’s so important. It reminds about cross-contact, and that a severe reaction could occur. These are things that all chefs should know, but research unfortunately tells us isn’t true. Plus, everyone is busy in a restaurant and things can easily fall through cracks. A food allergy card or dietary restriction card helps ensure this critical info is noted and understood.
When I give my customized food allergy card to wait staff or a chef, they show a sign of relief and appreciation! I’ve actually just made their job easier. They love them and have asked if they can keep them!There is something empowering about that exchange that has helped me become more confident dining out. The more I use my card, the more I see how much restaurant staff truly appreciate it, appreciate me as a customer, and truly want to help cater to my food allergies correctly. If anything, it shows that I am serious about my food allergies, and they react by
taking them seriously too.
I created Equal Eats to help people be understood and taken seriously, so they can truly enjoy food and not be riddled with anxiety when dining out. The cards are all professionally translated and available in 50 languages, so when you are ready to dine out in a foreign country, you can experience dining with that same confidence.
When talking about “owning” your allergies or dietary restrictions, it’s not an overnight process. It takes times and practice. But whether you are learning to bake in the kitchen, or learning how to advocate for yourself in a restaurant, you can take control of your relationship with food, and get to a point where you can truly enjoy food, everywhere.