Out to Breakfast with Food Allergies

Yesterday morning I went out to breakfast. The “Breakfast Place” was just that, a small diner style breakfast restaurant. My friend and I walked in, sat down, and browsed the menu. The pancakes were the only dish advertised on the menu that contained nuts. One of my favorite breakfast foods is an omelet, which seemed like a safe option. I chose one with veggies that sounded good, then was ready to order. The waitress approached with a frown already imprinted from what must have been an already endless breakfast shift. “I would like to order the Western omelet with no broccoli and American cheese. Do you know what oil they use with the omelets or if they just use butter? I am allergic to all nuts and nut oils.” The waitress said she was pretty sure it was just butter, but that she would go check in the kitchen. I gave her my chef card so there was no confusion. A few minutes later the cook came out to our table. “Who has the allergy?” he asked as he looked at me. “We don’t use any nuts or nut oils but I can’t guarantee that there isn’t any cross-contamination from one of the utensils in the kitchen. We do use walnuts in the pancakes. I’ve never seen a card like this, and it seems very severe, so I don’t think that you should eat here. I don’t want to be responsible for something happening.” I felt bubbles of frustration form but I took a deep breath and said, “As long as you use clean utensils and are as careful as possible, it should be fine.” The cook confirmed that he was not responsible, but would be careful. I realized then after he went back to the kitchen that my friend was nervous about eating there. I wasn’t worried though and told him not to worry. It turned out fine. The omelet was good, and I had no allergic reaction.

The moral of this experience is really to stick to your own comfort zone. If I was really concerned about cross-contamination I would have left, but I wasn’t, which is why we stayed. Breakfast food is more often than not a pretty safe choice as long as no bakery items are involved. I felt confident about my choice to stay and eat there, and was glad that they were at least being honest, even though they were concerned about liability. The worst part of this experience for me was having my friend sitting across from me checking in multiple times to make sure I felt comfortable enough to stay. It is especially difficult when I make new friends who are not used to my food allergies. The best way to handle it though in my experience is to be smart about my decision and confident with whatever I decide. It is also important to be aware and slightly cautious when trying foods at different restaurants for the first time. If I ever have a gut feeling I shouldn’t eat something, I won’t. Having the confidence in my decision making process to make those decisions is what I find to be most important.

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