So you tell the world you’re in a slump, it sends you to a new resto.The resto wasn’t exactly new to the city or me; I had been once before, last year pre-watching Capote with Isabel and her beau. However what happened there yesterday underscored why I’m writing Allergic Girl in the first place.
I arrived a bit early on purpose: to have a discussion with the chef/waitstaff about whether they would be able to accommodate my allergies. The chef was unavailable, making a delivery they said. So the general manager came over. I told him “I’m allergic to fish and to nuts and no wheat. Is that something you can accommodate?”
He scanned the menu and said, “What about a salad nicoise?
“That has tuna.”
“It’s only canned tuna. You can eat canned tuna.”
I will stop this bad movie right here to point out two things that are already problems: he did not listen and his statement implies that he knows my body, my allergies, better than I do. Completely unacceptable.
At this point I should have left. Really. But in this circumstance I didn’t. I was meeting my dear friend and literary agent Stephanie for a social/work meeting and finding another place might have cut into our meeting time. So I felt I needed to make do for the moment but this will be one of the reasons I NEVER go back and recommend you do never go either. Ok, restart the movie.
“Tuna? I just told you I’m allergic to fish, I can’t have tuna.”
“You can’t have tuna?” Look of disbelief and incredulity crosses his face. “Everyone can have tuna.” He digs the hole even deeper.
“Listen, I am allergic to fish. Which means if I eat it, I might have to go to the hospital. I am not saying I don’t like fish nor am I telling you that I have allergies because I just don’t want it. This is an allergy not a preference.”
That he seemed to get. Or not. He recommended the skate. And then the escargot. This is where I realized he’s not mean; he’s just a complete boob. We finally settled on the gazpacho, completely vegetarian. And a side salad. This was after he asked, in a mocking tone, if I was allergic to olive oil too. Jerk.
Whilst I usually don’t encounter someone this thick, or rather I hadn’t in a while, it perfectly illustrated to me the dining issues people with food allergies and intolerances face on a daily basis. We have to constantly deal with people who: do not listen to the diner’s needs as clearly articulated; outrageous presumptions and wrong assumptions about the diner, in this case some old fashioned “I’m a man and I know better what you need than you know woman” attitude; a poor and unhelpful attitude toward the diner; and some overall, generalized anti-allergies bias.
This kind of conversation happens all the time. As Allergic Girls and Boys and Women and Men it is up to us to educate those around us to be better partners, co-workers, waiters, flight attendants, better everythings. And we need to do it one person at a time. Or in this case with Mr. Le Singe Verte: educate, communicate and then eliminate.