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Oct 5, 2007 04:41 PM

How common are food allergies and aversions- really?

I keep seeing posts about accomodating people with food allergies- it seems to be incredibly common that any given person will have loads of friends that cannot eat this or that.

More posts than that are about unadventurous eaters- folks who's palates are so limited that it veritably holds their dining companions hostage.

Don't get me wrong, I freely acknowledge that real allergies exist, but..... I can't tell you how many patrons I've had that are "allergic" to one thing or another- a favorite was the customer allergic to casein, so can only eat sheep's milk cheese. Well, sheep's milk is highest in casein compared to cow and goats milk (cow's milk: 2.9-3.5%, goat's milk: ~3.75%, sheep's milk: 5.6-6%). She was a charming woman, and I happily accomodated her delusion. I really wanted to share the above info with her, but did not for fear of making her feel silly. I don't doubt that most people believe these things, but sometimes it's just not credible.

Do all of you know people that have, for lack of a better term "food issues"? I ask because in my personal life, other than one friend in another state that is gluten intolerant, I never even think about this when putting a menu together, and I've had numerous dinner guests, and made all sorts of foods. When I invite people over, I never ask guests what I'm allowed to make, and I've never put in requests to hosts.

So, how common is this really? How many people in your close circle do you have to accomodate because of food issues? And not to leave out the other side- if you have an allergy or aversion, how do you deal with it?

This is not meant to be hard on people with real problems, please don't see it as such- I'm only trying to figure out how common it really is, seeing as it essentially doesn't exist with people that I actually know and socialize with. All my friends are ultimate omnivores.

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  1. My daughter has odd nut allergies, only to pistachios, cashews (severely), walnuts, pecans, macadamias, pine nuts less so, and to red dye #40, fine with all other dyes. In the beginning I'd go into details if people asked but it was often too confusing so now I'll just say she's allergic to nuts and dye with casual acquaintances. No one in my family or my husband's has food allergies to anything. It is challenging to deal with because most people don't understand how severe the reaction can be. My mom doesn't think twice about quickly rinsing out a large cashew jar and filling it w/ rice and that could cause an anaphylactic reaction.

    When my daughter was younger, she also had seafood allergies. We were invited to a chinese banquet where every course had seafood and they didn't serve rice (which is usually my backup plan). It was really awkward when the hosts found out she couldn't eat anything because they felt bad (though I think they were kind of doubtful about the whole thing). I still don't know when or if to mention her allergies when we're invited somewhere. I think it's too bad that people pretend to have allergies which makes others discount any allergies.

    1. at the age of 50 i developed an allergy to all nuts (notpeanuts). prior to that i would eat every cashew in site, pile my plate with chestnut stuffing and have every nut in chocolate dessert imaginable. Then THUMP after a half a can of almonds I broke out in a HUUUUGE rash at dinner, drove myself to CVS and guzzled 4 benedryls. How do i deal with it? I deal with it. I tell servers aboutthe allergy and hope nothingslips through, i avoid nuts totally and stare at hershey with almonds and cadbury bars and eat more fruit and cremes.

      I do not impose on others when i go to their houses and always ask guests if they have allergies since my antennae are more tuned. it's very easy and very polite to ask to be a gracious host.

      It's all a matter of awareness and consideration.

      What bothers those of us with real allergies are all the people who tell restos they have allergies when they don't like an ingredient. Their insensitivity to a true medical issue puts those of us with allergies at risk. i wish thy would stop. If they do not like something just say it, don;t hide behind those of us who would go to the ER if the restos lower the standards.

      1 Reply
      1. re: jfood

        While I feel for your food allergies... I gotta ask...Whats with the first person? I'm completely thrown off!!!

        Truly, the people who fake allergies really make it tough for people who really have them. All servers (or at least those who care about their jobs) want you to be as safe as possible and want you to enjoy your meal. If you don't like something please let me know and I will do my level best to seethat you don/t get it. Don't lie to me!!

      2. I've had life-threatening sea-food allergies since infancy (lungs swell shut, breathing stops, body suffocates, death ensues). I had a friend in university say it was all in my head. On the one hand, people without allergies don't understand those that do. On the other, even I have a bit of measured doubt as to some of the claimed allergies these days.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

          My shell fish allergy only reared it's ugly head after my 30th birthday. I break out in hives and get other nasty reactions.

          1. re: KTinNYC

            Mine began when I was pregnant with our first son. Since then it has gotten steadily worse. I carry an EPI pen and when traveling in places where I may be mis-understood, I carry Benedryl as well and Mr CF is my taster. He says its a tough job but somebodys gotta do it.

            I wish I could have a freshly shucked oyster.

        2. Between my parents and in-laws, there is one that is allergic to beef, (and sensitive to nitrates and sulfates), one to wheat, and one to scallops. Plus 2 of them can't tolerate spicy food. I hope this is not a sign of growing old!

          1. I know three people with actual allergies: one to scallops, one to strawberries, and one to butter and cheese.

            I know 5 diabetics in my immediate friends and family circle, so I know their real food issues. One of those has IBS, so I have to be aware.

            FEW of these people ever make a fuss, and if they do, with pretty good reason (in restaurants).

            I am lactose intolerant (along with most adults in the world, acording to data I've seen but cannot cite off the cuff). I am also hypoglycemic, with puts me at odds with the high sugar desserts pushed by others in my family.

            I also know scores of pople with food aversions, otherwise known as "dislikes." Reasons vary. In my anecdotal reportage, MOST of these people make fusses.

            Allergies, sensitivies and aversions are all real, but how individuals deal with them are - wow - so varied. If a friend requests no strawberries as a garnish for her lunch plate and the kitchen disregards this, to her allergic peril, I think of that as a bigger issue than if another friend gets bent out of shape because the hostess served BBQ wings instead of Chinese wings and the bent person *doesn't like* BBQ. I personally deal with lactose intolerance very quietly, by eating only small amounts of dairy and then only those that work for me. I deal with hypoglycemia by avoiding sweets, and trying to be gracious with the dessert pushers.

            There's a big difference between "cannot eat" and "does not like." Both are valid, but the fuss levels need to be somewhat appropriate. Yes, I know there are all kinds of passive aggressive idiots who know their mother-in-law hates liver and so serve liver all the time - that's not what I'm talking about. Those with real food allergies and sensitivities sometimes get lumped in with all those who, say, just don't like garlic. And sometimes those who just don't like cucumbers piggyback on the allergy issues for convenience.

            Most of the people I feed and eat with are reasonable about both their allergies or their dislikes and (usually) it's not a pain. I just really, really hate it when a dislike is couched as an allergy.