A Pizza Pain
By Emily, age 15, allergic to tree nuts, peanuts, legumes, sesame, and some fruits
On a summer mall outing with my friend, we took a pizza break in the food court. Shoppers in front of us looked at the menu, placed orders, and received slices.
I looked at the menu, and grilled the waitress on the safety: Have any ingredients changed since I was here many months ago? Is there pesto here? Do you use gloves? Any nuts? Does this slice have any seasoning? What seasoning? Is there sesame in the bread? Only then did I place my order and receive my slice.
The next day, I was shopping with my mom. This pizza place is the only safe place for me to eat in the mall, so we stopped for another snack. I started to ask about the ingredients, just for caution’s sake. After all, I had just read a story by a boy named Ryan on FAAN’s teen website about reacting to pizza from his dependable store.
The same waitress was there, and she instantly cut me off. “No peanuts, sesame, or peas. You’re fine.” A few weeks later, she recognized me once more.
I was embarrassed, not by my food allergies, but by my lack of anonymity. Food allergies can mean never just being a customer — instead being a hassle. The kind waitress will never remember the shoppers in front of me, but I would not be surprised if I am always a familiar face at the store.
My Misinterpretation Complication
By Marissa, age 22, allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, sesame, and kiwi
My most embarrassing moment dealing with my food allergies occurred when I was recently traveling with a friend in Paris, France to visit a friend. My Parisian friend really wanted to eat dinner at his favorite restaurant, and when I asked him about the type of restaurant it was, I was fairly certain that I heard him say American.
I assumed that a restaurant with an American cuisine would have staff that spoke English and would most certainly have menu options that would be safe for me. In fact, I assured my friend that I would be able to find something to eat, and was looking forward to seeing the French interpretation of American cuisine.
Much to my surprise, I had misunderstood my friend when he said the restaurant was American — he had actually said Moroccan — and there was actually nothing on the menu without tree nuts or sesame ingredients. I had to explain to my friend that I had misheard him when he said “Moroccan” and thought he said “American,” which was why I was so certain the restaurant would be safe for me. I was definitely embarrassed that I had heard him incorrectly and that I was so quick to assume he would want to take his American guests to American restaurant.
Fortunately, my friend knew the owner of the restaurant and was able to explain the problem to him in French. The owner said that he would alert the chef of my allergies and discuss possible options with him since nothing on the set menu was safe for me. Ultimately, the chef prepared a special meal for me and assured me that he would take proper precautions to make certain that there would be no cross-contact. While I could not partake in enjoying the dishes my friend highly recommended, I was still able to share the experience so in the end I was satisfied, although my problem was merely caused by my misinterpretation of my friend’s accent.
A Babysitting Experience
By Melissa, age 16, alllergic to milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, and shellfish
I’ve always loved kids. The smallest things make them happy, and making children smile has always brought me so much joy. I had wanted to babysit for a long time; when I got my first job, I was ecstatic. When I sat down in the car, the dad told me how excited the girls were for me to come. They were waiting by the front door when I arrived, and I knew the night was going to be perfect.
As I walked into the kitchen, however, I began to feel a bit nervous. I had briefly told the children’s mom about my food allergies over the phone, explaining that I would prefer bringing my own dinner. Seeming to understand completely, she assured me that she would prepare their food before I came. Not everything went as planned, though, as the parents’ friends arrived early to pick them up. The mom asked me if I could just make the girls some microwaveable macaroni and cheese. I had never prepared a frozen meal before, but I didn’t want to make a bad first impression. Right after the parents left, the girls had a surprise for me. That afternoon they picked out a special frosted cookie for me at the bakery!
I made them their dinner very carefully, making sure not to touch my hands to the cheese itself. Though the girls probably thought I was crazy for taking such a long time to make macaroni and cheese, they said it tasted better than usual! As we ate, I kept hoping they would forget about the cookie. They did not; rather, they would not stop asking me when I was going to eat it. I could not bear to see the disappointment in their eyes when I told the girls the truth, yet I knew I couldn’t eat the cookie because of my food allergies.
When I told the girls the truth, they completely understood. I know they felt bad, but I explained to them that it’s always the thought that counts. Of course, the mom asked me why I had not eaten my cookie as soon as she returned home. I explained to her what I explained to the kids and how I felt so bad not eating it, and she felt terrible about it. I’m not sure who felt worse!
I still babysit for this family, and they truly are great about my allergies. In the event that I do have to make the girls dinner, I keep a pair of plastic gloves in my bag. From this scenario, I’ve learned to always be upfront about my allergies. Had I not told the family the truth, it would have made for a very awkward future. While explaining your food allergies might not always be the easiest or most fun thing to do, it is more important to take care of yourself than to worry about hurting someone else’s feelings. If someone is worth your time, then he or she will understand your allergy.