Monday, May 16, 2011
A note on food allergies...
I love going out to eat. Truly, I do. It feels like some great reward to go to someone else’s place, sit down, and be served. No cooking, no cleaning – just enjoying the meal with those I love. Don’t get me wrong, I love to cook! But I love eating without the work better.
Okay, so this is clearly not something we can (or should) do all that often. I’d prefer if it were reserved for those times when it can be a fun experience that we can look back on with gratitude. I do recognize, of course, that convenience has its place. (I’ve always postulated that this is what makes McDonald’s et al. so popular in the first place.) However, I simply cannot justify the cost (or the calories) of eating out with a great deal of frequency.
This became a great point of discussion in our household last fall when we took a hard look at our monthly restaurant habit and decided that we needed to tighten our belts (figuratively and literally). Difficult as it was to stay disciplined, this turned out to be a real blessing because we learned, a couple months later, that our little guy has an allergy to cow’s milk. (No, it’s not lactose intolerance – it’s an allergy. And for those who don’t know, cow’s milk and all its evil little minions are in everything.) So, in a way, that actually made our “fast food fast” that much easier. It’s one thing to say “no” to eating out because “we really should watch our budget;” it’s another thing entirely when such a prospect can make your child sick.
But we haven’t given up restaurants entirely, and haven’t intended to. It’s just that it takes quite a bit more planning. For the most part, we do need to stick to chain restaurants because these places actually recognize that a great deal of people have food allergies and can usually provide some kind of accommodation. Unfortunately, two recent experiences have just about convinced me that we can’t ever go out to eat again – ever!
Yes, I’m being a bit dramatic. Sort of. One such incident occurred last night, when I had actually gone to the trouble of calling a couple of the local restaurants to ask about their menu items that might be dairy-free. One of them said, “No, we don’t have that, but that’s a really good idea.” The other said, “The only items we can guarantee won’t have dairy are a grilled chicken breast and salad.” Right. Because my toddler just *loves* salad. So we opted for the chain that had the allergen info available online. But when you get to a place that actually has a food allergen menu, and it even highlights the “kid’s menu” items, but doesn’t actually serve *any* of those items, the whole process seems a bit ridiculous, not to mention a colossal waste of time.
Seriously? Yes, seriously … it wouldn’t occur to me to make this up. I spent about 5 minutes looking back and forth between the allergy menu, the adult menu, and the kid menu, trying to come up with some combination of food that one of us parent-types would actually want to eat so that we could share with the little one and he wouldn’t get sick. My DH asked if I thought we should try somewhere else (even though we had already gotten our drinks), and I said no, because where else would we go? We run into this problem virtually everywhere. We settled on a salad that was topped with grilled chicken (he could have the chicken) and opted to let him share a few of his sister’s fries. Except he only wanted the fries. The chicken had apparently been cooked in some form of child repellant, while the fries were, I’m sure, cooked in candy.
French fries for dinner, eh? Yep, I can see that “Mother of the Year” award looming in the distance. He did eventually have a few bites of the chicken, but only after making quite a scene. So much for that “relaxing, no-fuss, this-will-be-a-treat” dinner option. I guess this is where that whole “offer it up!” part comes in, right?;-)
What about you? Any challenges/successes you want to share? (I could use all the help I can get!)
***For all those individuals out there with food allergies – and their families – you have my empathy and understanding!***