Dealing with Food Allergies When Dining out

AlmondsThe Atlantic features a thoughtful piece on the many challenges dining out presents for people with food allergies. The writer, Alyssa Rosenberg, suffers from an allergy to tree nuts, and navigating a menu is a perilous process as the wrong order could potentially kill her.

Ms. Rosenberg isn’t alone; according to The New York Times, more than 11 million Americans are estimated to suffer from food allergies. Naturally, then, I (and probably you, too) have a few friends with food allergies. Mick, like The Atlantic’s contributor, is allergic to tree nuts (thankfully, he can eat peanuts, as they are a ground nut). Dave is lactose intolerant, but he can indulge in dairy if he remembers to arm himself with some Lactaid pills. Claire can’t eat seafood, so we’ve never been able to eat at my favorite sushi restaurants together. Nancy, who is in my book club, was diagnosed with Celiac Disease a few years ago, and she has to steer clear of all gluten proteins, which are found in many grains. This means she must eschew flour, which figures into countless restaurant recipes, so she has to ask an array of questions about virtually every menu item.

The best experiences for diners with food allergies are those in which the server is both knowledgeable and patient. To be sure that a dish doesn’t have any verboten ingredients, the kitchen staff may have to be consulted – more than once. And, in the future, concerned restaurateurs and chefs will probably begin addressing this issue on their menus, as our appetite for dining out isn’t diminishing.