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food allergies.....ask or tell?

you're hosting a dinner party.

1. when, if at all, do you request information about food allergies or dislikes?
2. do you expect the guess to tell you without you asking?
3. does your response vary with the number of guests to be served?
4. on a buffet, do you label ingredients for major allergies, like "contains peanut butter"?
5. have you ever said you were "allergic" just because you didn't want something?

6. finally, have you ever had a guest with an allergic reaction to something you cooked?

edit based on linguafood's post: when you all were growing up, were there so many allergies? not in my neck of the woods. i'd never heard of them until i was pretty much an adult in the larger world.

were they just undiagnosed? geez, peanuts? gluten? a cross-look? you name it...

actually, literally, name it (if you care to list your allergies, do so).

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  1. While, for some odd reason, food allergies aren't *nearly* as widespread in Germany as they are in the US (and I'm not even going to attempt an explanation without getting snarky), I do ask my *American* guests about allergies --

    I can't remember this topic ever coming up in an exclusively German outing, don't recall having to ask anyone beyond whether they're vegetarian (yea, I know that's not an allergy, but it certainly has an effect on what I can or can't serve), and don't recall anyone informing me of a laundry list of allergies to consider.

    19 Replies
    1. re: linguafood

      as a transplanted Brit in the USA I totally agree with you lingafood. I have never heard so many people loudly tell me at restaurants, at work etc what they are allergic to since I moved here three years ago. I used to do dinner parties often in England and never once heard of any food allergies. On a diet or vegetarian or kosher but never allergies or what they do or don't like to eat.

      1. re: linguafood

        As an American I agree with you. I think the vast majority of "allergies" are really about preferences.

        I ask guests (new guests, our regulars I know their preferences) about their likes and dislikes. Fortunately we don't have any vegetarians, or people who are counting calories, carbs, etc. in our peer group.

        1. re: Janet from Richmond

          Allergies to nuts can be fatal. And allergy to shell fish can cause skin swelling. They are definitely not "preferences".

          1. re: PeterL

            I am fully aware of that as my own mother had the shellfish allergy. But I believe that many "allerigies" are preferences. Suffering from allergies seems to be the latest greatest thing "to have" in order to make one special.

            1. re: Janet from Richmond

              hmmm.... If you know of any way to throw the allergies off to become unspecial, for god's sake, tell me...!!!

              1. re: Caroline1

                Let's see if jfood can help Janet with what he thinks she is trying to convey:

                - ""allergies" are really about preferences" - She, hopefully, is not stating that having an llergy is the preferred path, but that many people in the US are hiding behind the term "allergy" when it is merely a preference.
                - "Suffering from allergies seems to be the latest greatest thing "to have" in order to make one special." - Many people will use the allergy reason to be given special treatment.

                JR - please weigh in if jfood has characterized injcorrectly. He hopes that you are not saying that allergies are preferred. Thx

                1. re: jfood

                  You characterized it perfectly jfood. Of course there are those who have true allergies, but there are many who use the guise of having an allergy for preferencial treatment.

                  1. re: Janet from Richmond

                    Maybe it;s a "thing' in the bay area, but in my experience there are more people who don't tell about their allergies (and get into trouble because of it) than there are people who claim to have them so no one will make them eat their string beans. Pollution, highly processed foods, too frequent exposure to allergen containing foods and, yes, even blood transfusions are all valid reasons why more and more people are developing allergies. Because allergies can be so very very serious -- sometimes deadly serious -- if someone want to tell me they're allergic to string beans because they don't like them, I'm comfortable with that. I just think people who do that are in the minority, and I'm unwilling to judge for fear of being wrong.

                    1. re: Caroline1

                      And that is what the attention seekers are counting on (no insult to you....my response is directed at those who fake it to get their way or for attention or for whatever reason). And those who state an allergy when it's an actual preference are the one who are minimalizing the seriousness of true allergies IMO.

                      My Mom lived when allergies were rampant and I believe that is one reason why it was taken more seriously. She was hospitalized twice before the culprit (the iodine in shellfish) was determined.

                      1. re: Janet from Richmond

                        It won't let me edit but that should be "were not rampant"

                        1. re: Janet from Richmond

                          What I'm really wondering here is whether it's a regional thing, or maybe something that's far more common among people who eat out or entertain a lot. I do eat out a fair amount of the time, but I don't hear what other diners say to the wait staff. There's also an age difference between the two of us, which means I'm leaning toward too damn lazy for big parties any more, so I don't have casual acquaintances over for a big do who tell me they're allergic to stuff they're not.

                          Your statement about your mother having allergies when allergies were rampant makes me wonder why you think there are fewer allergies now?

                          On the other hand, if you're basing your observations on your experiences with restaurant diners, well... Not to defend them too strongly, but I have had wait staff and/or chefs/cooks ignore the hell out of my special requests for food omissions or substitutions to the point that I have a certain degree of empathy for anyone who is so frustrated by this kind of thing enough that they tell a waiter that they're allergic to something they just don't like in desperate hope that it will get the desired result. And if that's the reason people are falsely claiming to have allergies, then I think there should be more blame lain at the feet of restaurants than of diners.

                          1. re: Caroline1

                            The "were rampant" was a typo and should have been "were not rampant".

                            I find it less when eating out and more as a part of general conversation and for home parties.

                            I have no allergies and two BIG things I hate...boiled eggs and mayo (non-flavored). When I order a sandwich without mayo I try to be very lighthearted and give the waiter/waitress the heads up that any other thing I can take, but please don't bring any mayo near my place (hard to convey the tone I use here on the forum) and it works well.

                            1. re: Janet from Richmond

                              "Not rampant." That makes sense. If I had a dollar for each of my typos.... '-) God, I'd love to buy that Lamborghini I've been lusting after for years!

                          2. re: Janet from Richmond

                            dh is also very allergic to the iodine in shellfish. it is a big handicap for a chef to have, so he rues his allergy every day. doesn't help that he recalls thinking that crab was the most wonderful food in the universe at age 6. . . just before he discovered he was allergic to the most wonderful food in the universe. his skin reacts to iodine solutions also, and when he was hospitalized there was a large colored flag on his hospital bracelet. the doctors & nurses ignored it repeatedly and went to grab this same arm and paint it w iodine to draw blood & start i.v.s. i was like "hello huge allergy alert, health care professionals, maybe if we put it in larger print around his forehead, instead of his wrist, you might look at it!" doesn't give you much hope for medical care.

                            ime many/most chefs are much more attentive to allergy concerns, especially considering how many fakers there are out there-- i.e. the lady the other day who refused three different vegetable offerings due to so-called allergies and ran the staff around, then we overheard her talking to her dc and she was worried about farting and/or her breath smelling funny. despite chefs doing their best to accommodate, considering how busy kitchens get, how many people they serve, and how miscommunications can happen esp in multilingual kitchens, i think it's easy to see how occasional mistakes happen with food. i think that anybody who has a serious allergy should carry an epipen. sure it's the kitchen's job to accommodate the allergy, but the diner owes it to her/his own health to be vigilant as well.

                            1. re: soupkitten

                              I just want to clarify this mention of iodine and shellfish allergy. That is complete bunk. People that have had previous reactions to contrast media do not have cross reactions with "iodine" in shellfish. This is an old belief that has been disproven. That is not to say that you can't have allergic reactions to both but it is different mechanisms involved. The major allergen in the majority of shellfish is tropomyosin. Despite disproving this long-held belief of the iodine reaction with shellfish, most radiology forms still ask patients about shellfish allergy. The allergy community has not done a good of educating the radiologists.

                      2. re: jfood

                        Jay, you seem to have trouble believing it but, honest to god, I CAN read!

                        1. re: Caroline1

                          "I'm unwilling to judge for fear of being wrong."

              2. re: linguafood

                I adore pineapple, potatoes and corn. Unfortunately, according to my bloodwork, I am allergic to all three. I hate that so much that I eat corn and potatoes anyway and hope that I'll only have minor reactions... I also take Zyxal, Singulair and Nasonex daily, as my doctor prescribed (allergic to grasses, trees, certain animal dander). I do NOT eat pineapple though, because the last time I did, my tongue swelled, I had difficulty breathing and needed a cortisone shot immediately. Just because you're allergic to something doesn't mean you're allergic to the same degree as something else. My two nephews have had to go to the ER several times each for being exposed to peanuts... not even eating them. Allergies are real and scary.

                1. re: lisafaz

                  Just because your blood work states you have allergic antibodies (IgE) does not mean that you are allergic. Immunocap (RAST) testing is notoriously imprecise at identifying food allergies. It is a much more useful test for ruling food allergies out. In cases of positive tests, patients are able to tolerate the food in about 50% of cases. For the most common food allergens (like peanut, cow's milk, soy, fish, etc.) there have been threshold values set that identify those with a greater likelihood of reacting. With rarer food allergens who knows what a the positive value means.

                  In your case, lisafaz, I would obviously avoid pineapple given your previous reaction. If you have eaten potatoes and corn before without problems, the test most likely mean nothing. Also, how high your IgE to a specific food means nothing in terms of how severe an allergic reaction may be.

              3. 2. While you should expect guests to tell you about allergies, I don't make the assumption that they always will. So I always ask. And I never expect a guest to tell me a dislike. If they did, I would think they're rude.
                3. If I have a lot of guests (6+), I'll ask about allergies and whether or not there are vegetarians, but will not ask about dislikes. I just can't deal with that at that point. If 6 or under, I can handle dislikes and will ask.
                4. The most I've ever cooked for is about 15 people. So I knew about people's alleriges/vegetarian beliefs/dislikes and would let each person know ahead of time. If I was cooking for at least, let's say, 20 people or more, I'd probably label it as it's too much for me to keep track of.
                5. No.
                6. No, thank goodness.

                1. 1. I tend to ask a generic "Any food restrictions?" if I have never entertained the invitees before. Most common I have come across is no meat. With close personal friends, I tend to know before the invitation. I have a friend who is allergic to hazelnut (she could die), so I never prepare anything with hazelnuts when she is coming. (BTW, try traveling in Europe with an allergy to hazelnuts! They are everywhere.)
                  2. If it is a matter of life and death, I would expect the guest to speak up before hand. If it is a matter of preference, I tend to serve family style (or buffet) and would expect a grown-up to quietly avoid things they don't like without making an issue of it.
                  3. When I have a lot of people, I tend to have a lot of dishes (rather than making a huge amount of a few things), so I worry less about it, figuring that the guests can work it out. If one couple joins us, and I have only a few dishes, and one guest can't eat anything I have prepared, it is a bummer, so I tend to worry more about small dinner parties than large ones.
                  4. I never label anything on a buffet, I figure it should be caveat emptor. Once again, if someone has reached adulthood they should have enough survival skills to figure it out or ask if they have life-threatening allergies.
                  5. Never.
                  6. Never, although I came close with a friend who has severe migraines that are triggered by chocolate by serving a dense chocolate torte for dessert. She ate it knowing she would get a headache, but took total responsibility. I now serve fruit based desserts when she comes over (which I prefer anyway) to avoid tempting her!

                  When I was growing up (in the sixties) food allergies were not such a big deal. I personally went through a phase when orange juice gave me a little rash around my mouth. My mom just avoided letting me have it for a few years and I outgrew it. I have no idea now why allergies seem so much more prevalent and dangerous (I mean, kids who might die if they smell a peanut?).

                  Even though I love food, I do try to remember that Miss Manners says the point of entertaining is to entertain, and it is okay if not everybody loves every dish I serve. I am not a restaurateur, where the meal is really all about the meal, at my dinner table it is supposed to be all about the company. And I try not to obsess about what or how much my guests eat. Although, I remember one memorable meal where I managed to hit upon every food dislike one guest (extended family) had. Who would have thought a simple meal of grilled salmon, asparagus, salad, rice, and strawberry shortcake would be completely distasteful to a guest? I mean really, to strike out on every course takes a kind of genius.

                  8 Replies
                  1. re: dkenworthy

                    I hear you on dkenworthy (and others) on the overabundance of allergies in the last few years. WTF happened since I was a kid that the new generation of kids are all allergic to peanuts?

                    1. re: Brogan

                      In most cases it's really an allergy to the mold, aflatoxin, which grows on peanuts so probably something to do with monocropping/processing/storage/shipping has changed.

                      1. re: lgss

                        I don't think it's the aflatoxin as not all peanuts have it. And aflatoxin can be found in other items like pecans, grains, etc.

                        1. re: Miss Needle

                          Like most toxins, alflatoxin causes liver damage, but as far as I know it's not an allergen. The allergen in peanuts is a protein. Even though they're not closely related botanically, tree nuts have similar proteins, which is why tree nut and peanut allergies often go together.

                          1. re: jlafler

                            I'd been told that tree nut and peanut allergies often go together because they're likely to be processed in the same plant.

                            1. re: littlegreenpea

                              it is probably necessary to separate the two though. Jfood is allergic to nuts, but not peanuts (as evidenced by the number of jars of peanut butter in his house). So you could be allergic to one and have a cross-contamination by the other.

                              1. re: littlegreenpea

                                As far as I know, the allergy itself doesn't have anything to do with whether foods are processed on the same machinery or in the same plant -- but it may have an impact on whether you trust foods that are likely to be processed in the same environment as the allergen. In other words, people who are allergic to peanuts may avoid tree nuts because they're not confident that the manufacturing process has excluded peanuts, not because they're actually allergic to tree nuts. Or vice versa.

                                If you look at almost any food label now, it will say something like "processed in a plant that also processes X, Y, and Z allergens." This is useless information -- it doesn't tell you anything about what's really in the food. It's mainly done for leagal reasons. It's completely infuriating.

                          2. re: lgss

                            The majority of peanut reactions are not to mold or anything else on the surface of the peanuts. The reactions are due to proteins within the peanuts. The major allergens have been identified (usually go by nomenclature ara h 1-7).

                      2. 1. I ask when I invite, so I can plan a meal that everyone will eat. I don't think I've ever cooked for more than 6 people outside my immediate family though.

                        2. As one poster said, if it is a severe allergy, they should let you know. Otherwise I think they would feel impolite mentioning it without being asked.

                        4. I do this for large pot-lucks (I usually disclose commonly disliked foods as well, like cilantro or anchovy, or just list the ingredients), but I've never hosted a buffet.

                        5. Yes. I am lactose intolerant, which is not the same as an allergy (and not the same as a dislike either). If I feel like the server/host(ess) is not going to take me seriously when I ask if something has dairy in it, I tell them I am allergic. It's important and I've been burned before by people who didn't want to look at the ingredients or bother the chef or figured I was just being picky. I also have a friend who is terrified of oranges (afraid enough that if she was served dinner with a small wedge of orange as a garnish she wouldn't be able to eat it, even if someone else removed it-- I know!!!) and she has often told restaurants she is allergic to citrus to avoid this.

                        6. No, but I mainly entertain friends whose allergies (life-threatening allergies to nuts, herbs, tomatoes, canteloupe, and a few other things in one case; wheat and soy in the other) I am well aware of.

                        1. Those with allergies should notify you but wouldn't hurt to ask. I'm a gluten-free vegan. I have a niece with galactosemia (rare genetic disorder causing/resulting in inability to digest dairy (significantly worse than lactose intolerance or milk allergy)) . My cousin's kid and my stepnephew-in-law have severe peanut allergy. My stepmother-in-law has anaphylactic reaction to kiwi and has been advised to avoid papaya, and pineapple. My uncle is allergic to seafood. We don't host dinner parties for multiple reasons. Those we have over for a meal are people whose allergies/special diets, etc. we already know. We label all ingredients on any food we take to any gathering and greatly appreciate it when others do the same.

                          1. I have a 72 old man as a guest this week, friend of my hubby's. I asked him if there is anything he can't eat. He dislikes brocoli but anything else he can eat. I always ask the guest and I don't assume people can eat anything if they do not tell me aboutg allergies or dislikes.

                            1. 1 - mrs jfood always asks, "is there anything you do not eat or are allergic too?"
                              2 - it would be nice
                              3 - no, an allergy is not to be messed with. wrt dislikes, if it is easy to prepare something, the jfoods always try
                              4 - nope, never lable food,
                              5 - jfood would like to slap people silly who do this. this is the ultimate self-entitlement situation. if you do not like something do not hide behind those of us with Epi-pens in the car. sorta like taking grandmas car by yourself to the mall and using her handicapped sticker to save walking a little bit.
                              6 - knock on wood, nope

                              jfood's allergies have developed over the years. now he cannot have nuts, major bummer at dessert time.

                              14 Replies
                              1. re: jfood

                                jfood: 5 - While saying you are allergic to something you are not allergic to may not be upright, this comparison is unfair. Lying about being allergic to something you do not like does not take anything away from a person with a severe allergy.

                                And although it's certainly no epi-pen situation, I have spent more than one night with cancelled plans and in severe pain due to a server's error in telling me that something does not contain dairy when it does-- because that person did not consider my reason for asking valid, and did not bother to actually check.

                                1. re: Manybears

                                  Paragraph 1 - when people say they are allergic and it's because they do not like it lessen the overalll view because view of the effects of true allergies. You take away the sensitivity not to mess with true allegies. Jfood does not like certain items and he would NEVER say he was allergic to kale. he would act like an adult and move it around his plate. It is absolutely necessary that people understand to ask about true allergies so an unfortunate trip to the hospital does not occur. And when the sensitivities are decreased, mistakes happen.

                                  Paragraph 2 - See above.

                                  1. re: jfood

                                    jfood-- for the record, I would never say I was allergic to something I just didn't like. My friend with the oranges is a little nuts (though I love her) and fortunately I don't have to decide what I'd do if I was that scared of oranges.

                                    The fact here is that servers are obviously already too casual about confirming or denying ingredients in things, and I am not going to guess at why that might be (though I do feel like it's getting better, generally). Those of us who cannot move the dairy from our dinner to another side of the plate, should it exist, need to make sure that there is no dairy in there. If the issue-- whether it be intolerance or allergy-- is serious enough for me to need to ask, then I feel like that my reason for asking should not be questioned by my server, and they should find out about whether a dish contains the item, but this doesn't always happen (as you know). I am not advocating lying about allergies in order to not have, say, cilantro on my dinner (which I hate but would just remove, I'm not a baby).

                                    I *in no way* mean to diminish how serious food allergies are or imply that not liking something, or being intolerant to it, are as important an issue. I'm just saying that sometimes I do say I'm allergic in order to make sure I don't get sick. No, I won't go to the hospital if I eat it and I won't have to use an epi-pen to save my life (and I'm grateful). But I would waste the rest of my night and my $70 on a dinner I'll probably throw up before dessert comes. If there was a way to explain the actual side-effects to my server-- who may have misconceptions about lactose intolerance-- in front of my dinner companions tactfully, maybe I'd do that, but I'm not about to ruin their dinner before it starts.

                                    Thanks for the link, enbell, I've been at this lactose intolerance thing for awhile now :-)

                                    1. re: Manybears

                                      Thanks M.

                                      Lactose intolerance or allergies, just tell the server "I can not have any dairy whatsoever. Could you please check with the chef." And jfood has never needed to explain the paricular effects of eating his allergy foods to anyone, why would he? If you feel that the server is not taking it seriously, ask for a manager, or if you prefer not speaking in front of your companions, excuse yourself and find a manager and ask.

                                      We are all responsible for ourselves and if you have the hair on the backof your neck go up, do not wait for EMS, find and correct before it happens.

                                      But people who diminish lactose intolerance, allergies diabetes or any other disease because they do not like something is putting you and me at greater risk by making that waiter less sensitive. "I am allergic to potatoes so can youplease subsitute the baked potato with pomme frites?"

                                      1. re: jfood

                                        I agree absolutely, jfood. Claiming an allergy when you don't have one really isn't necessary -- in the end, it's not really the server's business *why* you can't eat something.

                                  2. re: Manybears

                                    I agree with jfood on #5, probably because I also carry an Epi-pen and went through three last month due to "server error." Because of those individuals who lie about an onion allergy when they really don't care for them, when someone like me states an allergy, I am less likely to be taken seriously. So actually aside from the dishonesty that is FLAT OUT WRONG, it is actually to my economic advantage for my fellow diners to be honest about the difference between allergies and dislikes; it saves me 70 bucks (the cost of a single use Epi-pen).

                                    Manybears, I believe you are somewhere in the middle, and don't want to come across as attacking you. You have a physical reaction to certain foods that you cannot control, more like an intolerance.

                                    1. re: Manybears

                                      Have you seen this thread?
                                      It seems like it may provide a great deal of resources!

                                    2. re: jfood

                                      I feel guilty. I have to admit, I have a severe aversion to anything with cilantro in it. I don't think I'm allergic, but every time I've tried it, I get the very uncomfortable sensation that is similar to getting chlorine up my nose. I usually try to just say "I don't like/can't eat cilantro, so please make sure there are none in it", but many of the restaurants (Indian, Vietnamese), etc. that I keep going back to, don't seem to understand that no, I *really* don't want any cilantro in it. They seem to think a little bit is ok, but the problem is I can taste/feel it even if it's a little bit. Or they think it's ok if it's in the dish, mixed in with other things, as long as they don't put it on top as a garnish. So in these situations, I don't like lying, but I have occasionally resorted to saying "I'm allergic", b/c that is the only way they will take me seriously and actually check the ingredients or make an effort to really remove it. Often, there is a language barrier, but they understand the word "allergy". Usually, though, if they keep doing this, I might stop going.

                                      I agree with you that by saying this, it dilutes the situation for people who really do have serious problems. Maybe I can say "It gives me serious problems" or something like that.

                                      As for the original question,
                                      1. I usually ask beforehand. I usually lump into one query and ask something like, "Are there any food allergies/aversions, etc. I should know about?"
                                      2. If I had a severe allergy to something, I would tell them, but unless asked, I often feel rude telling people about my cilantro aversion and the fact that I don't eat meat, especially if I don't know them well enough. (Though I wouldn't mind it if people told me w/o being asked. For allergies, I'd like them to.)

                                      I remember when my old roommate had her first dinner party, she was excitedly telling me about this cilantro soup. It's her dinner party, so of course, I didn't tell her I don't like cilantro, and told her that sounded really good. I even tried some of it, but she noticed I barely touched it. :-P
                                      For various cultural or other reasons, they may not tell you, so I just ask.
                                      3. no
                                      4. If I'm taking a dish to a large potluck, then I label, especially if there are things like nuts that people may be allergic to.
                                      5. See above.
                                      6. Thankfully, no.

                                      And no, I don't remember so many allergies growing up. I wonder if it's a combo of lack of diagnosis (in the case of something like gluten intolerance), and people becoming more sensitive b/c of lack of exposure to germs, etc. I don't remember my parents being so vigilant w/ food as many new parents around me are today.

                                      1. re: anzu

                                        Go and sin no more.

                                        I share your palate sensitivity to cilantro. But in the future please never use the word "allergy" to describe it. Not only because it's wrong but because it will make you look somewhat foolish to hosts who are aware of the palate sensitivity issue (it's common - afflicting about 25% of people) and therefore know it's not an allergy.

                                        If someone asks me, I will tell them that my palate sensitivity to cilantro will generally cause it to dominate and obliterate any other flavors that might happen to be in the dish in which it takes a part. That's always been sufficient. But that's only if asked. If not asked, I simply eat a very small portion (one reason its always wise to snack before dining at the house of a host who is not aware of your food sensitivities, so that you can ably manage very small portions if necessary - the burden here is on the guest, never the host).

                                        1. re: Karl S

                                          Ok. Will do.

                                          For the record, my friends know my cilantro neuroses, but for people who don't know me, I never tell people either, if I don't get asked. I've become very deft at picking shards of it out. I've also learned how to say cilantro in 10 or 11 different languages.

                                          1. re: anzu

                                            Anzu, as has been pointed out before, there is actually a gene that causes an aversion to cilantro (Thank God I didn't inherit that one! My dad has it, I think, but it didn't express itself too much...he is averse to the smell of fresh cilantro but will eat it cooked in food...). So the next time you are trying to explain your cilantro issue, just tell folks its inherited!!

                                            (By the way, the Gujarati word for cilantro is "kothmir." :-)

                                            1. re: janetofreno

                                              I know. :) That is one of the ten languages that I know the word for cilantro. Ok, 10 is an exaggeration, but I know it in Japanese, 3 in English, 2 or 3 Indian dialects, Vietnamese, Chinese. You would think that this would have my grounds covered, but several times at Mexican or Indian restaurants, I've asked them (repeatedly, and using all 10 languages) for no cilantro. They get it right about half the time, and the other half, I end up picking out shards of it out of my food.

                                              1. re: anzu

                                                well, if you ever come to South Africa, we call it dhanya/dhania. Fancy people use the English, coriander.

                                                It reminds me of a tour in Italy, where several Americans told the tourguide, "We only eat white meat". The Italians view veal as white (technically, I suppose they're right!), and sometimes pork and rabbit too. Talk about lost in translation...

                                        2. re: anzu

                                          I have a strong aversion to boiled eggs and plain mayo. If I am ordering something with either of those ingredients, I make a point of saying in a friendly manner to the waiter/waitress "The most important thing here is no boiled eggs on my salad. It really grosses me out." They almost always chuckle and I have never had the ingredient included in my dish. Dh has the same aversion to mayo but simply states "please hold the may" and a small percentage of the time he gets mayo anyway.

                                      2. In our international community of Colombians and scientists from all over the globe and all our kids, I think I'm the only one with an allergy--severe, to shellfish. A vegetarian has come and gone. There are no vegans, lactose intolerant, no one on a gluten free diet, no one on an Atkins--in fact no one on a diet that I can think of. There are no nut or peanut allergies. The one real diabetic has retired. Other than one person who dislikes bell peppers, everyone eats everything and almost all drink too much.

                                        So, being the only one with an allergy, there is no problem when I'm cooking as often is the case. Otherwise I keep an Epi-pen handy and my allergy to myself. I was quite embarrased when at a recent dinner party the main was a shrimp dish. I tried to just eat the other foods, but was spotted by the hostess who insisted that chicken was on hand and could be whipped up in seconds. It was; and it was good.

                                        There are so few allergies and so much seafood in SE Asia that I often had the following conversation:

                                        "I'm sorry, but I am allergic to shellfish and cannot eat any of it"

                                        "Oh, you don't like shellfish?"

                                        "No, I love it, but if I eat it, my lungs swell shut, breathing stops, and death ensues!"

                                        "Oh, you don't like shellfish!"

                                        12 Replies
                                        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                          And an unreal diabetic would be....? :-)

                                          1. re: jlafler

                                            Most people with diabetes (and allergies) have enough sense to take care of themselves. Our diabetic friend refused to follow his diet or cut down his drinking, making all of us more careful so he didn't fall over dead after one of our dinners. Of course, we knew that he wouldn't literally keel over, but we didn'tlike being a part of him killing himself over the long term.

                                            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                              Been there, done that. Had two dear friends in El Paso I used to go to lunch or dinner with. Both would very carefully (and righteously) order things like a veggie burger, or a salad with sugar free dressing. Then the waiter would ask if we'd like dessert and BOTH of them would order something like a double fudge brownie sundae with extra whipped cream! I finally quit eating with either of them. Oh, and both were male. I still haven't quite figured out whether women take better care of themselves or if we're just sneaky and don't tell people if we're diabetic. '-)

                                              1. re: Caroline1

                                                I think women tend to worry more that people are watching and taking note of what they're eating. All the secret eaters I know are women.

                                              2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                I see what you're saying, Sam. I look at this kind of thing the same as smoking: I make my opinion clear, and then try to let it go. If people ask for help, I give it gladly. But in the end, you really aren't responsible for someone who won't take care of himself.

                                            2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                              "So, being the only one with an allergy, there is no problem when I'm cooking as often is the case. Otherwise I keep an Epi-pen handy and my allergy to myself."

                                              This is exactly why I ask. Some people won't mention it, and I would hate for them to be in this uncomfortable situation at my dinner.

                                              1. re: Miss Needle

                                                I count on it that people fortunately rarely serve only a shellfish dish.

                                                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                  Sam, you're a gracious man, and I can see why you've got your harem. ; )

                                              2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                Sam, I'm allergic to shellfish, too, with the same reaction, and I can't tell you how many times I've had that conversation! But then I'm from the Gulf of Mexico and my stepfather's family all worked on the shrimp boats so you can imagine what a situation that was.

                                                I scarcely ever mention my allergy, because, as you say, people rarely serve only a shellfish dish. My family's favorite Mother's Day out is at a seafood restaurant where it's nearly all shellfish - I happily eat bread and butter and don't mind.

                                                This only backfired once - I was sixteen and didn't know that not only can I not eat shellfish; I can't eat the food that has touched the shellfish. My very first boyfriend's mother had made dinner (and I was meeting her and the rest of his family for the first time) and she made a pasta primavera - with shrimp - so I picked out the shrimp and ate the rest, too shy to say anything. Needless to say, the fun soon ensued, and I ended up in the hospital - finally - but only after protest because I didn't want to make a fuss! I'm a little smarter about it now.

                                                1. re: auburnselkie

                                                  Yes, it is just so embarassing to need medical attention or to die on your host. You just want to say, "Please don't mind me; I'll just be in the back room; please haul away the body AFTER everyone has left! Lovely dinner, by the way".

                                                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                    <shrug> I was sixteen, and didn't realize how serious it could be. I'm better now.

                                                2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                  My first thought: I didn't know you were allergic to shellfish. Second thought: It's strange how well I assume I know an online acquaintance! I guess I just think of you as an adventurous, well-travelled eater who seems to have tried everything.

                                                  Boyfriend's diabetic, and is resigned to the fact there's hidden sugar in everything. Thankfully, he can taste it (no one's got as keen a palate for sugar as a diabetic!) and adjusts his insulin dosage accordingly.

                                                  His father is the descendant of traditional fishermen, grew up barefoot on the beach, living off seafood. One day as an adult, he developed an allergy to mussels, out of the blue.I guess his system had just had enough of them!

                                                3. I have asked about allergies as well as likes & dislikes for as long as I can remember. I've kept a Guest Likes and Dislikes, with true allergies highlighted in red, for many years. It comes in very handy with a houseful of guests and I need not bother asking over and over. I do limit "allergy" input to the real thing. If someone doesn't like onions or mushrooms, I expect them to say so straight out and not mince around.

                                                  On a boat in the Chesepeake Bay, I served an apricot-glazed apple tart to someone highly allergic to apricots and we needed an emergency Coast Guard helicopter airlift. Ever since then, I have been extremely respectful of the word "allergy". Blue-Gray isn't a good color for human faces.

                                                  However, I do not label food regardless of crowd size and I have fed the multitudes. I expect a modicum of personal responsibility from adults.

                                                  If I ever had a guest tell me they don't eat something without being prompted, I would consider it Strike One. I think it is rude. Honestly answering a question is different from volunteering personal dietary information. I don't care to hear about the workings of your digestive tract either.

                                                  Growing up, I knew no one with a food allergy. We had all sorts of classroom treats brought by kind mothers and there was never a thought of who couldn't eat something. The peanut allergy epidemic post-dates my youth.

                                                  At home, everyone was allowed one "No, thank you" food; something we were not required to eat. We were expected to taste everything else that was served. There was never a mandate to clean one's plate, however no food was available until the next meal. We did not snack except for weekends when all bets were off. We even got to eat in the kitchen instead of the dining room!. No school and casual eating -- no wonder weekends were magic!

                                                  1. Try having a "class meal" or even edible projects without first checking the entire school for allergies - beyond trusting students to make things that will not kill their classates.
                                                    If I go to someone's home for a meal, I always find something to enjoy or if questioned about not eating something I do gloss over, but I also have a severe form of IBS and keep kosher-style, so I always carry a snack bar when I go out with friends. It saves frustrations and a lot of questions. If someone pushes, I give them my list of "seven deadly sins" - the seven categories of things I cannot consume and then try to explain what treif is. After the glassy-eyes come, they stop asking and I can stop telling! My only problem comes when someone minimizes - just take the pepperoni off - or lies about what is in the food to "trick" me into eating it. It's an annoying way of finding who I won't go out with again.

                                                    5 Replies
                                                    1. re: TampaAurora

                                                      IBS, diabetes, allegies are all diseases that need to be carefully monitored when eating outside the home. Unfortunately IBS is an ugly step-child to the other two. Hopefully you just describe it as a "medical condition" if pushed since many people do not understand this disease.

                                                      On the other "Kosher-style" statement. What is that? Kosher in-home, not out-of-home. Only the foods you like that are kosher? Either you are kosher or not, in jfood's book. If someone were to say that to jfood, and jfood planned around this request and then saw that person downing the shrimp cocktail, he would be mighty peeved. So to help jfood understand this concept, could you please elaborate. TIA

                                                      1. re: jfood

                                                        Kosher-style usually refers to people who won't eat obvious treif (seafood, milk/meat, etc), but don't look for hekshers on everything or have separate plates, and would be willing to eat food prepared from your kitchen, despite the fact that you made shrimp cocktail.

                                                        1. re: jfood

                                                          Tto each their own. Whippet below has it. I have personal questions about how kashruth is practiced in the States, so while I prefer to eat in kosher establishments, I just try to stay away from pure treif foods like your shrimp cocktail or a bacon cheeseburger. Check out the "Kosher" section if you want to check out the variety of ways and levels to keep kosher....it is not just "you are or you aren't" - even in Hasidic homes. I have Hasidic friends who won't eat in someone's "kosher" home because they don't know if their neighbor is checking the lettuce as kosher due to bugs or if they have the proper kavanah (spirit) while making a blessing over challah to make it truly challah. As for IBS, I monitor myself very carefully, and do just go with "medical problem" unless specifically pressed which happens more and more often. I have had people ask me very personal details...as in "so this food does what to you exactly." In those cases, curiousity waits until after the meal.

                                                          1. re: TampaAurora

                                                            Thanks TA,

                                                            Jfood's aunt was a "kosher at home" eater and tried her best outside. Jfood had never heard the term "Kosher-style" before. Thanks to you and Whippet for the explanation.

                                                          2. re: jfood

                                                            IBS and Diabetes are actually the ugly step-children of Celiac Disease -- when it's undiagnosed and someone continues to ingest gluten -- they usually end up with all sorts of wonder auto-immune diseases.

                                                        2. At my tender age, I don't throw huge parties any more, but when I did, I always made sure there was enough variety that people with allergies and/or dislikes could eat their way around them.

                                                          Now, for more inimtate dinners, I always do the invitations by telephone and always share the projected menu, then ask if it sounds okay. If anyone has food allergies, I expect them to tell me right then and there! Do NOT accept the invitation, knowing what the menu is, then, when everyone is seated and I'm serving, tell me your allergic to dinner. THAT ticks me off. But I have had it happen... I just made her a peanut butter and jelly sandwich while the rest of us oohed and ahhed over the fettuccini carbonara and caesar salad.

                                                          If I sound hard hearted, it's because thoughtless guests have made me that way. People MUST accept responsibility for their own well being. I once had a sit down dinner for twelve. I had no idea one of the guests -- my husband's secretary -- was a diabetic. Nor did he. She ate THREE large slices of chocolate torte for dessert, and drank god knows how many glasses of a sweet dessert wine one of the guests had made. She went into a diabetic coma on her way home. And I was so angry I refused to contribute to flowers for her. And never invited her back. I have no patience with people who are that irresponsible.

                                                          3 Replies
                                                          1. re: Caroline1

                                                            If it makes you feel better, it's virtually impossible for three slices of chocolate torte and a few glasses of dessert wine to lead -- by themselves -- to a diabetic coma. That kind of uncontrolled eating could very well lead to high blood sugar, but the main consequence of high blood sugar is long term complications, not immediate ones.

                                                            There are several kinds of diabetic coma, and the only kind directly caused by high blood sugar is a hyperosmolar nonketotic coma, which usually occurs in people who are severely dehydrated due to an illness, and not simply due to overeating. (A lot of people think that diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is caused by high blood sugar, but it's not. It's caused by insulin deficiency, which makes it impossible for the body to metabolize glucose; fat stores are burned to compensate, and this results in a build-up of ketones in the blood, eventually causing coma and death. Insulin deficiency also causes high blood sugar, so people with DKA have high blood sugar, but it's a correlated symptom, not a cause.)

                                                            I suppose the other thing that could have happened was that she took a massive dose of insulin to cover what she'd eaten, overestimated how much she needed, and ended up with severe hypoglycemia. But that rarely leads to a coma.

                                                            Sorry, I'm a diabetes geek.

                                                            1. re: jlafler

                                                              And then there's one more possibility. She could have been flat out lying about the coma. But she DID end up in the hospital for several days. Nearly a week, as I recall. A real drama queen. Got my husband and the other engineers to take up a collection to cover her electric bill! And I was distinctly unhappy about me and my cooking being blamed for her totally irresponsible behavior. LOL! I seem to be still ticked off by it after all these years! Thank goodness I've never had high blood pressure. '-)

                                                              1. re: Caroline1

                                                                That was one way for her to not get invited for dinner again.

                                                          2. 1. I usually do not ask about food allergies or dislikes unless someone is staying for a few days.
                                                            2. I would like it if guests would tell me about their allergies without my asking. If someone has a severe allergy, celiac disease or the like I would expect them to, if they have a mild allergy then it is up to them. I am allergic to bananas, but I never tell anyone. It may be wrong or even hypocritical to say, but I just don't even think about it. My allergy will not kill me, and if I don't have dessert, oh well.
                                                            3. Yes and no...We have a big superbowl party every year, and if someone came to the party who suffered from celiac's disease or was highly allergic to peanuts then I would want a heads up so I could make sure they had something to eat. If I am having a small dinner party, then someone who is allergic to something obscure like soy cheese, for example, can tell me or not tell me. I will, however, probably change the menu so it is not a problem if they do tell me and for some odd reason I was planning on using soy cheese. When I plan a dinner party I usually have a general idea in my mind of what I want to serve. If someone were to throw a wrench in my menu I would consider it a challenge, not a headache.

                                                            4. I do not label buffet items, but I do not have kids. It seems with the way things are going, I wouldn't be surprised if labeling buffet items for allergies is the wave of the future.

                                                            5. Absolutely not! I do not eat chicken, but I would never say I was allergic just because I didn't want to be bothered with acting like an adult. Either state your preference or deal with the consequences. Just for the record, the only time I have ever reminded someone I do not eat chicken was when I was planning an Easter potluck with a close friend. Dealing with the consequences is what I do 99% of the time.

                                                            6. Thankfully no, but I have had a close call. I live in a coastal, tourist town, and I am extremely lucky to always have a good choice of fresh seafood. We had someone staying with us for an extended period of time, and he neglected to tell me he was allergic to shellfish. Thank God he told me before I served him something that could have killed him. Now I always ask.

                                                            I do not remember many people having allergies when I was growing up. In fact, I remember homemade treats on classmate's birthdays. I would really like to know if there is a good reason behind all of these recent allergies.

                                                            I also want to touch on servers for a minute...Having been a former server I have a theory as to why people may not be taken seriously when ordering. Growing up I did not know many people with allergies. When I was a server it was common to have people say they were allergic to something like garlic, only later to have them request garlic bread. Skip forward a few years, servers today are more likely to have grown up with birthday snacks being regulated due to allergies so maybe they are more likely to take allergy requests more seriously. I also want to add that I always took someone saying they were allergic to something seriously, and I think all servers should do the same, even if it means a trip back to the kitchen.

                                                            1. 1. *when, if at all, do you request information about food allergies or dislikes?*
                                                              Always. What's the point of serving guests something that they can't eat or won't enjoy? I usually ask something like "Any food allergies or dislikes I should know about?"

                                                              2. *do you expect the guess to tell you without you asking?*
                                                              Not really. It would be nice, but people often forget. Also, contrary to all the complaints about picky guests, I find it much more common that people don't want to be a bother and prefer just to avoid foods they can't eat without making a big deal about it.

                                                              3. *does your response vary with the number of guests to be served?*
                                                              Usually, no. If it's a *very* big group, e.g. an open house with dozens of people drifting in and out all day, I won't try to make *everything* I serve accomodate *every* allergy I know about. Except peanut and tree nut allergies, because I don't generally cook with peanuts or nuts (more below).

                                                              4. *on a buffet, do you label ingredients for major allergies, like "contains peanut butter"?*
                                                              I've been to potlucks where ingredient lists were requested, and of course I would comply. In that situation, I try to keep things simple by making a dish in which all the ingredients are visible and/or obvious. I would hope that if you're allergic to eggs, for example, you would know not to eat brownies, or at least to ask the cook before trying them.

                                                              5. *have you ever said you were "allergic" just because you didn't want something?*
                                                              Absolutely not. I would never, ever do that. Here's how strict I am: my daughter is allergic to peanuts, and her allergist also wants her to avoid tree nuts. But I would never say that she's allergic to tree nuts, even though it would probably be easier in a lot of situations. I say "she's allergic to peanuts, and she can't eat tree nuts" or just "she she's not supposed to eat peanuts or tree nuts."

                                                              6. *have you ever had a guest with an allergic reaction to something you cooked?* Unfortunately, yes. I forgot that a friend is allergic to bell peppers and served her a soup with peppers in it. Luckily she had a slight reaction to the vapor before she even tasted it, so she didn't eat any. And it depends on what you mean by "cooked," but I found out my daughter is allergic to peanuts when I gave her a little dollop of it at breakfast. A minute later her face was covered with hives.

                                                              7. *When you all were growing up, were there so many allergies?* I don't remember there being so many, but then, when I was growing up I didn't generally cook for anybody outside my own family.

                                                              People who are skeptical of allergies point out that Americans seem to be much more afflicted with allergies than other people, which suggests that at least some of it is imaginary. That's probably true. I have certainly met people who claim an allergy or lactose intolerance, but clearly don't know what they're talking about and do things that wouldn't make sense if they really did have an allergy or intolerance.

                                                              On the other hand, linguafood and smartie derisively imply that allergies are an American neurosis, and that they're less common and less talked about in Europe, yet EU labeling laws about allergens are much stricter than U.S. laws, and awareness of allergies seems to be pretty high, at least officially.

                                                              There are lots of theories about the current prevalence of allergies; the dominant theory seems to be the hygiene hypothesis. With peanuts, the issue may be the way they're typically processed in the West -- they're roasted, whereas in socieities where they're traditional dietary staples they're usually boiled. It's common for the prevalence of diseases to vary depending on medical advances and demographic and historical factors.

                                                              It's also probably true that historically, many allergies went undiagnosed (and still do remain undiagnosed outside the developed world). Kids with severe allergies just died, and nobody knew why.

                                                              9 Replies
                                                              1. re: jlafler

                                                                On your point about allergy theories, decades ago I had a *brilliant* (he saved my life!) allergist tell me that he was convinced, based on evidence, that the ever increasing spread of allergies throughout the general population is a direct reflection of how much the environment is damaged and/or polluted. That was around 1982. Based on the progression of things since, I would say he got it right on!

                                                                At that time I was basically allergic to "planet earth" as a result of blood transfusions. He taught me how to get rid of many allergies by avoidance and reintroduction after a lapse of time, as well as how to challenge both false negatives and false positives to scratch tests. When he was attacked and viciously beaten by a gang after making rounds at a hospital, he withdrew from medicine and retired to rural America. Very rural America. God, I miss him!

                                                                1. re: Caroline1

                                                                  Speaking of allergies, some may find NAET (allergy elimination treatment) helpful. www.naet.com

                                                                  1. re: Caroline1

                                                                    My nephew's allergist also told our family that pollution and allergies are linked. They live in Cincinnati, which (no offense... I even went to college there) is a pretty polluted city. Every few months, the boys go back for retesting. They have to do the scratch thing, then sit around for hours to see if they are still allergic, just in case they need epi-penned. Babysitting them as infants was kind of scary, knowing that they may need a shot over something you hadn't thought of. One Easter, my sister grabbed a kid's peanut M&Ms and threw them out a car window so her boys wouldn't be exposed!
                                                                    And at the time I thought she was kind of crazy, but if they were my kids, and I'd had to give them as many shots and trips to the ER as she has, I would be too.

                                                                  2. re: jlafler

                                                                    American medicine has had a bias in the past generation to complete elimination of many allergenic foods, and appears to be at the thresshold of joining much of the rest of the world in undoing that absolute approach. While not necessarily true for all allergens, it appears that for many the best way to make a mild allergy serious-to-deadly is to completely eliminate the food from the diet.

                                                                    That may help explain the disparate explosion of food allergies in the US.

                                                                    1. re: Karl S

                                                                      As you said, it probably isn't true for all allergies, but I personally witnessed a friend overcome an allergy to tomatoes on her own by refusing to give in to it. The allergy appeared when she was an adult, and it was duly diagnosed by an allergist. At first she stopped eating anything with tomatoes, then decided to try to reintroduce ketchup, sauce, raw tomatoes, etc. back into her diet. I witnessed several allergic episodes where her throat closed up, she turned red and couldn't breathe, got hives, etc. She carried an Epi-pen and used it when needed. But she persisted, and today, no more allergy. It was frightening to watch her go through the allergic episodes, but she was determined to test the limits, and for her it paid off. She still carries an Epi-pen but hasn't used it for years.

                                                                      1. re: lisavf

                                                                        Yes, there appears to be growing evidence (long given more due outside the US than within) that for many allergens, one should slowly build up exposure in a careful program rather than eliminate exposure completely, and that elimination worsens allergic reactions to those allergen.

                                                                        1. re: Karl S

                                                                          Are you talking about immunotherapy, aka desensitization or "allergy shots"? As I understand it, the problem with this therapy has been that it's a lengthy process with a relatively high failure rate, and there's no way to know whether or not it will be effective in a given individual without going through the entire course of treatment.

                                                                          If they have improved metrics for figuring out who will be able to benefit from the therapy, that would be fantastic.

                                                                          One complcating factor here (at least in assessing effectiveness) may be that sometimes allergies go away on their own, especially childhood allergies. I take comfort from the fact that my daughter's first cousin developed a peanut allergy at about the same age as my daughter (18 months), and outgrew it before she was 4.

                                                                          1. re: jlafler

                                                                            No, injestion of the foods themselves, in specified load combinations, as I understand it.

                                                                            1. re: Karl S

                                                                              Two to six months abstinence, then eating some of whatever I'd had an allergic reaction to is how my allergist and I did it. If I didn't react, I would have the food again, but only every ten days or so until I could handle shorter periods, but never every day. And the critical factor was to be sure that the day I tried the problem food I did not eat anything else that might have caused the reaction.

                                                                              If someone has food allergies, the best way to handle them is in cooperation with a really good allergist. Specially formulated allergy shots work wonders for some people. I didn't have much luck with them. Time and challenges work best for me. But everyone is different.

                                                                              Oh, and if a food has caused anaphylaxis, just forget about it. Not worth playing Russian Roulette.

                                                                  3. 1. when, if at all, do you request information about food allergies or dislikes? When I invite them (over the phone).
                                                                    2. do you expect the guess to tell you without you asking? I think they should, but I don't expect them to.
                                                                    3. does your response vary with the number of guests to be served? No.
                                                                    4. on a buffet, do you label ingredients for major allergies, like "contains peanut butter"? No buffets.
                                                                    5. have you ever said you were "allergic" just because you didn't want something? No.

                                                                    6. finally, have you ever had a guest with an allergic reaction to something you cooked? Not that I am aware of.

                                                                    1. Interesting thread, alkapal. No, I don't remember all of these allergies (I am of the age where treats, often homemade, wound up in elementary school classrooms and I never remember anyone not being able to eat them, nor do I remember anyone dying from them). I'm sure that this explosion of allergies is multifactorial (isn't almost everything?), with reasons including hyper-hygienic practices, degradation of the environment and foods we eat, and plain old hysteria. That said, I'll answer your questions in order:

                                                                      1--if I have new guests (who i haven't entertained for before) I will issue a general "Is there anything you can't eat" query (and I don't inquire about the reason, whether it's allergies, food dislike, veganism, etc). These are my guests and I will accomodate them, though I don't necessarily change my entire menu. Case in point: I threw a dinner party and the entree was a polenta-and-sausage-stuffed rolled pork roast. They didn't eat red or the other white meat, so I just broiled a few chicken thighs in a tasty marinade for them. Oddly, they didn't eat coconut either (coconut ice cream was served for dessert) but they happily devoured the mango sorbet I also made. But these were people I enjoy spending time with, so it was fine (they didn't demand anything--they would've been happy with just the side dishes, but I wanted to make sure they had a main course).

                                                                      2. I really think they should tell me, especially if it's major like vegetarianism or allergies. But since they often don't, see the answer to question 1. On a side note, I did once invite someone who said "I'm vegetarian and I don't want you to go to any trouble, so I'll bring something for myself". Of course, I said I'd be delighted to accomodate them, but I was really touched by this person wanting to spend time with everyone AND wanting to make it easy on the hostess.

                                                                      3. No.

                                                                      4. No--people will just have to ask (that said, I rarely do buffets anymore, but when I did, you just had to ask me)

                                                                      5. Never. I'd never consider that.

                                                                      6. No.

                                                                      1. 1. I do not request allergy info. I generally know my guests well enough to know if they won't eat something, and I generally don't cook things for dinner parties that people are uncomfortable eating or don't eat, such as lamb, fish, etc. Allergies are up to the guests to tell me about.
                                                                        2. yes.
                                                                        3. No
                                                                        4. No
                                                                        5. Yes. Years ago... as in probably not in 20 years.
                                                                        6. No

                                                                        1. I have celiac disease - which means I cannot ingest gluten. Interestingly, 1 in 233 people have this disease, but only 1 in 5000 are currently diagnosed in the USA (awareness is much higher in other countries).

                                                                          When I travel to some other countries I can go into a restaurant and tell the server I am "celiac" and they will know that I cannot have gluten and recommend items to me (or, as the case with Argentina, as an example, there have been laws passed which require restaurants to provide gluten-free menu items).

                                                                          Here in the USA, I am reduced to telling servers that I am "allergic to wheat" -- to which I have actually had more than one say "well, you can have the white bread then".


                                                                          I can't even begin to explain the amount of effort it takes to get servers to ascertain whether a dish has flour in it -- or soy sauce (which is made with wheat).

                                                                          I generally try to either let hosts know in advance -- or I eat before I go or I bring something I can eat that won't cause an issue. I don't find it to be the hosts responsibility to go out of their way to change their menu for me -- but, I do hate to arrive unprepared to discover that it's a pasta dinner with a side of garlic bread.

                                                                          11 Replies
                                                                          1. re: karmalaw

                                                                            Bless your heart! It's bad enough to have to deal with the disease, but to have the constant frustration of having to TRY to educate others is a double whammy! For what it's worth, I probably come across at times as an inflexible old broad that people wouldn't dare ask for concessions, but tha'ts not the case at all. If an invited guest gave me fair warning, I would be really hayppy to accomodate them. Depending on the circumstances, I would either change the entire menu, or if I'd already done most of the shopping, it would be no problem at all to come up with something just that one individual could have. Lovely dinner salads are fun and easy to prepare, if the guest likes them, and I always make my dressings from scratch. If I'm plannng some sort of pasta main course, It can be fun and delicious for everyone to make something creative using 100% rice noodles or even bean thread. And it's educational for me planning something to meet a specific need, and I do like to learn new things.

                                                                            When I invite someone, it's because I enjoy their company and want to share that with all of the other guests. It's never a burden to accomodate a guest's health needs! Now, if a guest comes to dinner, eats everything I present, then gets sick from doing that, THAT ticks me off...! People MUST take care of themselves, and I have no problem being party to that. And I expect that my attitude is more the rule than the exception on this subject.

                                                                            So my point to you, karmalaw, is try being a little more "generous" with your hosts about your health issues and don't be such a loner! '-)

                                                                            1. re: Caroline1

                                                                              I agree - as I host I really do want to know. I'd feel much worse having you arrive and not be able to eat the meal (though I'd figure something out for you), than I would knowing ahead of time and planning accordingly, To the contrary - as Caroline said - I find it a fun challenge. And there are small easy things that I've done - like buying rice crackers for canapes for those who can't eat wheat, rather than bread. I do always ask though, as I said above.

                                                                              1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                That's a good point about the challenge. And I've come up with some good new recipes when doing substitutions. For example, when adapting a meatball recipe I substituted some chopped up green olives for the pine nuts (I wanted something firm and slightly crunchy), and I ended up liking it better than the original recipe.

                                                                                1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                  You'd be amazed at how many people don't know that rice doesn't contain wheat and that bread does (what, exactly is it that they think bread is made of -- they've never been able to tell me)...

                                                                                  Thanks for the kind words -- I haven;t had to resort to being a loner yet! I often throw a box of dried pasta in the car (just in case) -- but, usually I can work with what is on the menu -- the only notable exception being a 3 day catered VIP event I went to (a 3 day concert) where they ONLY served items with gluten (other than a small selection of fresh fruit) and refused to allow you to bring in your own food. Even worse, they only served free beer -- no wine. So my expensive "VIP" ticket brought me little advantage other than a calm place to sit.

                                                                                  The catering director acted like I was a huge bother for asking for some salad without the dressing -- and some non-breaded, non-floured, non-soy sauced form of protein -- they had a full kitchen on the premises, and I didn't make any sort of "I need it NOW" type of demands -- there was certainly no reason that something couldn't have been done at least for the subsequent 2 days..

                                                                                  Needless to say, the event organizers received a few emails from me on the subject -- with a request that in the future they accommodate those of us with the problem or similar problems (at least let us bring in our own food - mine sat in the car because I was not allowed to bring it in).

                                                                                  1. re: karmalaw

                                                                                    maybe prod their conscience with a little chowhound exposure!

                                                                                    1. re: karmalaw

                                                                                      A good friend of mine has Celiac, and I've learned a lot from being around her. It is frustrating when there is nothing on the menu that is suitable for her. And it is pretty remarkable how often the phrase "no bread, no wheat" can be misunderstood/ignored in restaurants.

                                                                                      The fact that the catering director couldn't make anything happen for you at the festival is just ridiculous!

                                                                                      1. re: manraysky

                                                                                        Ha.. you mean like after one kitchen put croutons on my salad (the menu very clearly did not mention croutons and I was clear about not being able to eat anything with bread or flour in it) and the waiter argued with me trying to tell me that it "was NOT bread". I suppose he thought croutons grow on a crouton tree -- and are harvested and roasted.

                                                                                        1. re: karmalaw

                                                                                          My friend ordered a breakfast item and said she couldn't have any wheat, and that there could no bread on the plate. She got her breakfast served over toast, and a side of toast as well.

                                                                                          1. re: manraysky

                                                                                            hard to believe some people are so stupid.

                                                                                  2. re: karmalaw

                                                                                    Wheat is by far the most commonly used of the gluten-containing ingredients but rye, oats, barley, and spelt also contain gluten. There are an amazing number of people who have no idea that flour comes from wheat. www.glutenfreeregistry.com may be helpful.

                                                                                    1. re: lgss

                                                                                      yes -- but restaurants rarely use flours made from anything but wheat -- and if they do, they're usually more knowledgeable about their foods -- so, thankfully, I don't have to go through the entire list of gluten-containing foods when I'm out and about.

                                                                                      And yes, I'd say somewhere around 30 - 40% of the population working IN restaurants have no idea that the commonly used white flour is made from wheat. I have no idea how far-ranging the deficiency in that seemingly basic piece of knowledge is in the general population.

                                                                                      I do have to go as far as telling servers that they can not merely pick out the croutons from a pre-made salad (I can't tell you how many times that's happened to me -- I stopped counting). So, I have to sift through a salad before I eat it like a miner from 1849 -- scouring for crouton crumbs.

                                                                                      Wheat is in so MANY items -- that it's already a battle to find something on the menu other than salad or a broiled un-seasoned chicken breast (I don't even LIKE chicken breast -- god help the next person who thinks I want to spend my money eating out by munching on some cardboard and plain lettuce). There's even flour where flour shouldn't belong (like the server who told me that their chef rolls fresh sea scallops in flour to "hold them together" before pan-searing them and couldn't sear them without the flour).

                                                                                      On the other hand -- I can easily eat out at many ethnic eateries (the real deal -- not the americanized versions) -- because flour is rarely, if ever used -- for example: mexican, nicaraguan, balinese, guatemalan, colombian, vietnamese, etc. I also have a great time at Argentine parrilla style restaurants -- where the meat is flame grilled with just the addition of salt (and amazingly good ).

                                                                                      I loathe having to go to any of the chain sit-down restaurants -- they're the ones least likely to know all of the ingredients (many items come in pre-made and frozen) -- but, I've actually had servers drag the remains of some 25 or 50 lb bag of something out so that I could read the ingredient list (i.e. is there flour in those seasoned french fries?).

                                                                                  3. I have never asked my guests who is allergic to what, or other dietary limitations.

                                                                                    1. #1 I ask if they like seafood, if I am planning to cook it, #2 never, #3 no, #4 no, #5 no,
                                                                                      #6 - I can't eat raw carrots, the skin on most fruit, or cantaloupe, my throat gets super itchy, and it feels like it is closing up. But, if I put lemon on cantaloupe, I can eat it. Not sure as to why this works. EDIT - I never noticed so many folks with allergies when I was growing up - BUT, The fact is some allergies could be fatal for some. I know there are a few kids with peanut allergies at my children's school, and camp. My daughter took a 3 hour test that determined she is lactose intolerant. Peanut butter and jelly is a staple for her, but she would only get an upset stomach if she eats dairy, the other kid in her class could die if they ate peanut butter, so I don't give her PB&J anymore, and she takes a lactaid tablet with her cream cheese and jelly. I wish she could eat the PB, but I don't want to jeopardize another child’s wellbeing. It is the parent or the adult with (the allergy's) responsibility to ask questions about the food they are being served. A good friend of mine grew up with a girl who knew she had peanut allergies and was always very careful. On her honeymoon, she asked the server (at a Caribbean resort) the questions she normally would ask about the food. She ate what was served, and moments later died, the food had been cooked with peanut oil.

                                                                                      12 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: michele cindy

                                                                                        Michele Cindy: Has your daughter tried soy butter and jelly sandwiches? My nephew is not allowed to take peanut butter to school, so my SIL switched to soy butter (without the 5-year-old's knowledge) and the little one is fine with it.

                                                                                        1. re: RoxyB

                                                                                          Or cashew butter and jelly. Thomas Keller has a delicious CB&J sandwich on brioche that he serves at Bouchon Bakery.

                                                                                          That's a horrible story about that girl.

                                                                                          1. re: RoxyB

                                                                                            She tried almond butter and didn't like it, but maybe she would go for the soy. I will give it a try. Also, I now want to stay away from any tree nuts since I've heard that those with peanut allergies, may need to avoid them as well, so soy might be a way to go. I'll have to discuss it with her (she's 7).
                                                                                            Yes MN - the story is awful, I'll never forget it.

                                                                                          2. re: michele cindy

                                                                                            You might be the first person I've heard of who is also allergic to raw carrots! I used to be able to eat them, but I've gotten so I can't even pick them up without starting to itch/burn. And eating them makes my mouth and lips tingle, and I get hives. I used to think I was okay with cooked carrots, but after cleaning up a spill of carrot soup and getting a breakout on my hands, I know avoid those too. I'm not so allergic I can't eat food that has carrots near it, and I can eat around them. But I miss eating them sometimes.

                                                                                            1. re: manraysky

                                                                                              Wow - I am glad I am not alone on this one. You have it worse off then I do. I can eat cooked carrots. What about raw potatoes? Not that you would eat them, but I can't peel potatoes without having my hands breakout, and I even get the itchy feeling in my mouth and throat when I try to peel them. I where gloves now for peeling, but that doesn't help the itchy throat. Have you asked a dr. there thoughts on the carrots? I asked, and no one could explain why I react to some vegetables, and fruit while not others. I did hear that cantaloupe was somehow related to ragweed, or something like that, not exactly sure, but it was in that vein of thinking where the fruit was distantly related to something I know I and many others were allergic to, like ragweed.

                                                                                              1. re: michele cindy

                                                                                                Sounds like it might be a birch pollen allergy. See: http://www.inspection.gc.ca/english/f...

                                                                                                Disclaimer: I'm not a doctor! Don't take my word for it!

                                                                                                1. re: jlafler

                                                                                                  That's it! I had an idea on the ragweed/cantaloupe, but not the birch part. Thanks!

                                                                                                2. re: michele cindy

                                                                                                  I actually do eat raw potatoes! Always have, and no reaction.

                                                                                                  I discovered that I was allergic to carrots when I was working in banquets and cutting massive amounts of carrots at a time. Both of my hands had become painful and bright red, and I couldn't figure out what was causing it. I started noticing my lips were tingling when I ate carrots. And I remembered that a few months before a face cream enriched with carrots caused my skin to burn. Bingo! I went to my dermatologist and he told me very matter of factly, "You're allergic to beta carotene."

                                                                                                  1. re: manraysky

                                                                                                    Manraysky and Michele Cindy, you're in good company. I'm also allergic to raw carrots and potatoes (cooked ones are fine). Unfortunately I'm also allergic to raw celery which my allergist told me is tied to the carrot and potato allergy. (So watch out next time you're around raw celery)!

                                                                                                    I'm also rather unlucky in that my allergies don't stop there. In the past 8 years I've developed allergies to a number of fruit (raw only), peanuts, pistachios and soybeans.

                                                                                                    Given my strange allergies I always ask if there's anything my guests can't eat. I appreciate it when it's asked of me!

                                                                                                    1. re: comidaqueen

                                                                                                      celery for me too - but I sometimes eat it anyway, I put a lot of salt on it,. It's just uncomforatble, whearas too many carrots, and I can feel my throat closing up.

                                                                                                      1. re: comidaqueen

                                                                                                        Interesting. I have noticed a little tingling with raw celery, but not all time.

                                                                                                        When I'm asked "so, you just don't like carrots?" after I say I'm allergic, it's so annoying! I actually *like* carrots, but I can't eat them. And I don't pretend to have allergies I don't really have.

                                                                                                3. I always ask if people have any special diet restrictions and tell them to let me know if they have any foods they strongly dislike when inviting, no matter the number of dinner guests. It just seems like common courtesy, whether it be due to allergies, intolerances, or general aversions. All meals have been well-received to date.

                                                                                                  1. I used to not worry about them because my wife's allergy to shellfish and crustaceans was not something we needed to warn our friends against. The chances of these friends serving oysters (or even oyster sauce) or crab or lobster were significantly low. My food allergy list has become terribly long, though... Foods I handled with impunity as a youngster and through most of my adulthood now immediately turn me into a walking neon sign with hives. Most vine-berries (linganberries, blackberries, raspberries, boysenberries, and my beloved strawberries) have immediate consequences and among our friends seem to be served most frequently -- especially when they make special trips to Watsonville or score that stash of perfect berries. Avocados and walnuts also cause me to immediately create a scene reminiscent of "Alien." I have taken to asking the host privately about contents to prevent the above scenarios from happening. It sucks to have to do this because I often forget until the food's sitting right in front of me and I've taken a bite. The invites haven't diminished so I guess I've handled it right.

                                                                                                    Whenever we host a dinner social, because my list has so many limits, I will ask as we extend the invitation, "Are there any food allergies or aversions I should know about?" It's saved me from myself often enough.

                                                                                                    1. As the parent of a young boy whose has a life-threatening nut allergy, it is heartening that so many of you do ask and are concerned. As a hostess, I do try to be as accomodating as possible and do ask about allergies.

                                                                                                      I understand it is very difficult and when my son gets a birthday party invitation, I call right away to say that he has allergies and will not be having cake or ice cream and I offer to supply his treats. I figure that is the only way to ensure that he still gets invited.

                                                                                                      1. Let me tell you it is NOT a good feeling when you are told after the fact...

                                                                                                        Last Thanksgiving we had friends over who had been over many, many times before-and we've been out to dinner countless times. It must have never come up that S has severe reactions to walnuts. I was refilling wine glasses when she told me how much she was enjoying the stuffing and asked how I made it. I rattled off ingredients and when I pushed more onto her dish she took a thoughtful bite and said again how much she liked it, but she really couldn't eat any more because her mouth was going numb from the walnuts- she is "sort of allergic".
                                                                                                        Oh. Man. I flipped out "don't eat anymore are you crazy? Don't eat the mushrooms- I put crushed walnuts into the Turtle Sundae Pumpkin Pie- the cheesecake crust has crushed pecan sandie cookies in it, blah blah blah."

                                                                                                        I'm not allergic to any food. My hips however, are very fond of cookies...but I'd never lie about it.

                                                                                                        Seriously- I have one sis who developed nut and shellfish allergies when she was about 35, and another who can't eat bell peppers without breaking out in a rash. My MIL says she is allergic to iodine in shellfish (she says her suicide meal is fried calamari!!) but I'm not sure what that's really about, she also says she is allergic to milk but eats ice cream and gets upset if I only have Soy Milk in the house... BIL is allergic to bananas.

                                                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                                                        1. re: Boccone Dolce

                                                                                                          I think it depends how severe the allergy is. I know somebody allergic to shellfish. He gets a rash around his lips, but likes shellfish enough to endure it once a while. However, I'm sure if his reaction was something like not being able to breathe, he would be more vigilant about avoiding it.

                                                                                                          I have certain things that I don't react well with -- ie. blue-veined cheeses. But I love them so much that I have them about twice a year. I just get a bit itchy -- no big deal. But skate fish without adrenaline or massive amounts of Benadryl will have me heading for the ER. And I'm super careful about avoiding anything that has skate or has come in contact with it.

                                                                                                          1. re: Miss Needle

                                                                                                            I had a roommate who was allergic to the majority of fruits she actually liked. Sometimes she would buy them and tell me to eat the rest of the fruit because she just wanted a bite. I think most give her the itchy throat reaction and it is not too severe if she just has a bite or two.

                                                                                                            My only real issue is that certain types of chocolate will give me migraines. I'm thinking I may have some sort of shellfish allergy since I tend to get itchy after I eat them, but I'm so used to being itchy for environmental reasons that I still eat them anyway.

                                                                                                            1. re: queencru

                                                                                                              Ha! Just blame it on the environment if the offender in question is tasty. ; )

                                                                                                        2. >> when you all were growing up, were there so many allergies? not in my neck of the woods. i'd never heard of them until i was pretty much an adult in the larger world.

                                                                                                          i remember there being quite a few kids who were lactose intolerant in my (almost all white) kindergarten class and i had one friend who was wheat intolerant. i envied that the kids who were "allergic to milk" got to drink apple juice at snack time instead of milk.

                                                                                                          an anti-GMO, plant biology-literate friend of mine claims that wheat allergies, at least, are more common now because of Monsanto products.

                                                                                                          re: non diagnosed allergies, according to materials i've read a LOT of celiacs went undiagnosed in the past. a co-worker of mine in his late 30s is celiac, as is his mother. both lived with very severe symptoms (extreme fatigue, malnourishment from damage to the intestines, bone and enamel damage) since childhood, but were not diagnosed until they were adults (him in his 20s and her in her 50s).

                                                                                                          re: asking -- i know the likes and dislikes, allergies and intolerances, culturally or religiously prohibited foods of all of my good friends and family pretty well. i tend to cook for them in small batches (small nyc apt). if they bring a date i don't know well, i'll ask the friend, in advance, for the date's preferences / allergies.

                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                          1. re: cimui

                                                                                                            There were a lot fewer pesticides back when I was a kid...

                                                                                                          2. I am in the UK and I have NEVER been informed of an allergy - just 'intolerances' and dislikes, which I am happy to take into account. If I know the person I will assume they will tell me - if I don't know them I ask someone who does what they will not eat. The last thing I want is a guest to not be able or willing to eat what I have spent a lot of effort in making.

                                                                                                            I volunteer what I cannot and will not eat also. I do not eat meat and cannot eat mushrooms - everyone knows about the meat, but I find that the most common veggie options I am offered have mushrooms in them if I don't say somethng up front. I am then asked if I am allergic - and the answer is 'no - I would just be doubled up in pain for a few days'. Once this led to someone picking the mushrooms out of my portion (unbenownst to me) - resulting in a weekend of great discomfort.

                                                                                                            What I HAVE found annoying is when people's 'cannot eat' list changes - I've made more than one meal taking into account previously announced food intolerances only to find the person is happy to eat dairy/wheat now, and they eat food I had not catered for them.

                                                                                                            1. Most of the people I socialize with I have known for quite a long time. We are pretty much aware of likes, dislikes (they all know that no matter what your do to a Salmon steak or fillet not to waste the money on it for me), sensitivities and allergies. When inviting someone new I often ask and tell them what I am thinking about for a menu.

                                                                                                              I was at a dinner party once a few years ago and another friends home. She had invited a friend of hers to the menu most of us did not know. 4 of us prepared the meal, it was an auctioned meal for a benefit. The guest we did not know disappeared abruptly during one course. I asked about her later and it turns out she had a severe allergy to something and began to breakout in hives. I was sorry for her. I have a weird sensitivity to chickpeas. If I know it is humous or something else with them in it I pass on it. While that dish is very popular I find people are glad to get some baba ganouj for a change.

                                                                                                              1. 1. For a first time guest, I always ask...is there anything you hate or are allergic to? (see #6 as to why...)
                                                                                                                2. No. (see #6 as to why)
                                                                                                                3. Yes...for a large party, I will not alter the menu to accommodate one guest (but I will accommodate that one guest)
                                                                                                                4. No. I have had guests ask me the ingredients in a buffet dish, though.
                                                                                                                5. NO! That's horrible.
                                                                                                                6. Not react, just not eat, at a formal dinner party where magnificent scallops were showcased, and the guest of honor was allergic to, you guessed it, scallops. Which is why I now ask prior to inviting a first time invitee if they're allergic to or despise any food.

                                                                                                                1. I have a theory about allergies that might cause some argument, but that's why we post, right?

                                                                                                                  I think that those who observe more allergies in the US than in other parts of the world are probably correct. I think there ARE more true allergies here (as well as more complainers. In some parts of the world you either eat what you are served or keep your mouth shut about it...to try and dictate dinner would be very rude). I think it has to do with all of the hormones and antibiotics and other junk we use in producing food. I also think that the US has become obsessed with cleanliness and sterility. If you never get exposed to contaminants, you're more likely to react to them. The same is true for microbes that might reside in food. We worry about salmonella in our tomatoes, and about tomatoes imported from Mexico and other places...but lets be honest: are the people there dying of salmonella? Or are their digestive systems better acclimated?

                                                                                                                  Also, I think people here in the US tend to misuse the word "allergy." I am a health care provider, and when I ask people if they are allergic to any medications, they often say "yes, codeine." When questioned further, they tell me that codeine gives them stomach upset. Well, that is a common side effect, but its not an allergy per se. Just because something made you puke once doesn't mean you're allergic to it.

                                                                                                                  But I digress with this rant: in answer to the OP's original question: I ALWAYS ask my guests if they have any food allergies. I use a lot of peanuts in cooking, and I don't want any peanut reactions. I never expect guests to tell me. And I will make every effort not to serve foods that my guests can't or won't eat. After all, there are things I won't eat either...

                                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                                  1. re: janetofreno

                                                                                                                    I agree that the more complaining and allergies are probably true.

                                                                                                                    The number of people with allergies to a specific food increase with increased exposure to the specific food. The hygiene explanation is for childhood exposure to bacteria, parasites, dogs, and other children, so far as I gather.

                                                                                                                    I personally blame bad hygiene for increasing allergies. For example replacing wood cutting boards that wick bacteria into the center and can be sterilized in the sun with plastic cutting boards that leach chemicals.

                                                                                                                    Deep floor to floor carpeting that harbors dust mites is very common in the US and children with dermatitis have more food allergies. Forced air heating is also common. Countertops or furniture made of new materials outgassing chemicals not tested for long-term human safety or known to be hazardous and unregulated are also common.

                                                                                                                    Lax laws in the US for public safety. GM foods may have proteins of other plants inserted into a different plant. These proteins could be allergenic, are proven to be allergenic by ethical companies who performed testing in the past, and are tested at the discretion of the manufacturer.

                                                                                                                    The US has a worse ragweed problem than many other countries, that is a cause of certain food allergies or intolerances. Other people blame high-pollen landscaping popular in the US.

                                                                                                                    Dry roasted peanuts and peanut butter. The dry roasting process makes peanuts allergenic. People allergic to one thing tend to be at risk of being allergic to other things.

                                                                                                                    A common attitude in the US is believing that allergies or intolerances are psychosomatic and increased exposure will 'cure' it, or 'only a little bit won't hurt'. This leads to more vociferous and obnoxious complaining by people who suffer from allergies and food intolerances. Many people are disconnected from food and don't know where things come from, aren't treated properly by a doctor, aren't able to self-diagnose their food allergy or intolerance, and then they lie to protect themselves from pain. I don't approve of lying or exaggerating food allergies, but I understand why people do it.

                                                                                                                  2. As a hostess, I keep a mental note of who doesn't eat what in my group of friends. While I expect guests to act like adults if offered a food they don't like (politely decline, by all means, but don't pull faces please!), I want my guests to have a good time and enjoy the food I have prepared. I enjoy their enjoyment of it. So eating peppers when you really hate them isn't going to make me feel good when I find out later (as one invariably does). So I tend to ask about food dislikes when inviting if I'm not sure.

                                                                                                                    And unless the list of food dislikes is particularly lengthy (I know someone who only eats white foods - I don't ask her round for dinner!), it can be a fun challenge to try cook without eggs (a friend's girlfriend won't eat them for religious reasons), cilantro or whatever.

                                                                                                                    1. If I am having a small gathering, I'll ask about allergies and dislikes. If I am having a large gathering, I don't ask. I assume if someone has a severe allergy, they will speak up, or eat before coming. I have a close friend with celiac's disease, and she never mentions it, she just accomodates it when she eats out. As a close friend, I'll substitute a potatoes or rice for pasta for her, but she never expects her hosts to accomodate her. If she has questions, she'll sometimes ask what's in a dish.

                                                                                                                      For something serious like a peanut allergy, I really expect people to let me know, or at least ask if there are peanuts in a dish before eating.

                                                                                                                      1. 1. my husband does when he extends the invitation, if it's someone I'm inviting, we usually know them well enough to know
                                                                                                                        2. if it could kill them, yes!
                                                                                                                        3. yes, and by the type of dish the allergen/aversion is in - if it's a side that many people will enjoy; I add an extra side as an alternative. Main course, I will change, because I don't want to cook two. Unless it's my good veggie friend, who is perfectly happy with a collection of side dishes and realizes that most people expect meat in a main dish.
                                                                                                                        4. if the friend above is coming (or a few others), I label the veggie items, and usually the seafood ones.
                                                                                                                        5. not since I was 5
                                                                                                                        6. yes, but we knew about it beforehand - DH's best friend is a crab freak and OD's on Benadryl once a year so I can steam a bunch of Alaskan King Crab for him (he lives in Michigan) one year he must not have taken enough and we had to give him more afterward...

                                                                                                                        I, on the other hand, am apparently the only person in the world allergic to Rosemary. If it's a dish where it sounds like it would have worked well or would be expected (or I see a long green fleck) I ask. The reaction depends on how well it was cooked, so usually if it's so far gone I can't see it, I just get a hive or two (case in point the frozen kebabs I cooked myself last night that only listed "spices" on the label); but if it's still green, I get the hives and start coughing and have trouble breathing.

                                                                                                                        My friends know about it and avoid it (I have one that ripped out a plant by her front door so I wouldn't brush up against it!) and waiters are usually willing to go check with the kitchen for me.

                                                                                                                        5 Replies
                                                                                                                        1. re: Cowprintrabbit

                                                                                                                          Rosemary is an evergreen, and many people are allergic to plants related to pines. Like me. I visited the Grand Canyon recently and had a horrible time with my allergies due to the Ponderosa Pines everywhere.

                                                                                                                          1. re: lisafaz

                                                                                                                            Rosemary may be an evergreen herb in frost-free zones, but it's not an "evergreen" in the sense of pines, firs and spruces. Far from it. It's in the mint family, and is more closely related to lavenders, ash trees, lilacs and olive trees than pine trees.

                                                                                                                            1. re: Karl S

                                                                                                                              I thought it was related to lavender; which is strange because I love anything lavender and it has never bothered me - sachets, fields, lotion, sugar cookies.

                                                                                                                              Had another rosemary episode the other day - I guess until I learn to speak Hebrew better I am going to have to start carrying the Benadry bottle in my purse...

                                                                                                                              1. re: Cowprintrabbit

                                                                                                                                Good luck with Israel and a rosemary allergy! Some of my fondest memories of Jerusalem's Old City are from walking around and smelling rosemary. Heck, for Havdalah the spice mixture passed was rosemary! I'm waiting for a response for you on how to say you are allergic from a friend. Until then, la briut!

                                                                                                                                1. re: Cowprintrabbit

                                                                                                                                  Hebrew for I have a rosemary allergy..."Yesh li alergia le rosmerin."

                                                                                                                          2. In addition to allergies really being more common these days, it may also be that there are social factors that make them more obvious. I'm thinking mainly of the fact that we know so little about what's in our food, either because it's packaged/processed, or because it's part of an unfamiliar food culture. So you have to look at everything you eat critically, wondering if it will make you sick. If you grow up in a traditional food culture, you pretty much know what's in every food eaten by the people in your region. You don't have to ask what's in your food. It may still be difficult to avoid eating certain foods, but you don't have to ask, so it may go a little more under the radar.

                                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                                            1. re: jlafler

                                                                                                                              I was just thinking about that in relation to the athletes who will be going to the Olympics in Beijing. A chance to eat REAL Chinese food, but serious limitations on asking whether it contains anything you may be allergic to. Then there's allergy induced asthma (I have it <sigh>), which wouldn't bother an athlete in a fairly unpolluted environment, but Beijing's pollution is still about seven times greater than the maximum level it promised the world it would attain for the Olympics. If they have to keep postponing competitions because of pollution levels, these may turn out to be the longest lasting Olympic Games in history! They can clean up the inside air for gymnists, for example, but heaven help the poor cyclists and kayackers! All compounded by the fact that not every country has the budget to take all the food they need for their athletes from home and will have to rely on native grown eats.

                                                                                                                              But the logistics and food supply for any traveller with allergies can be tricky, even when just flying from one coast to another. The times we live in!

                                                                                                                            2. I think as a host I wouldn't even think to ask about allergies (except maybe, now I would). I would expect the guest to tell me if they had allergies. I have a friend who I know is allergic to a lot of things and I am careful not to serve anything that would provoke a reaction when she comes over. I'd gladly do the same for another guest! And at first I thought maybe it would feel funny to tell a host you're allergic to something, but I guess it really just depends on the circumstances. Sorry if that point went nowhere...

                                                                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                                                                              1. re: Chew on That

                                                                                                                                I have a lot of allergies. Luckily none of them are related to food, but I do get a lot of snide remarks about it. A few days ago, one coworker was telling me I should just quit whining and get allergy shots, even though I've been to allergists before and that was never recommended as an option. At any rate, I found it to be rather offensive and it does turn me off mentioning my allergies. I've had a few roommates with food allergies and since none of them were life threatening, they seemed to work around the offending foods.

                                                                                                                                1. re: queencru

                                                                                                                                  > [..] one coworker was telling me I should just quit whining and
                                                                                                                                  > get allergy shots [..]

                                                                                                                                  My Pettiness Gene kicks into overdrive with thoughtless loudmouths like that cow-orker. I'd snidely remark that I'd hope for him/her to experience one round of those shots. As someone that's had family and friends subjected to them throughout multiple decades they really aren't the panacea; desperation wouldn't even prod me towards getting them.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: The Ranger

                                                                                                                                    He's one of the lucky ones who had great success with allergy shots, but like you, I have plenty of friends who have had them and they are nowhere near allergy free to this day. Plus, the fact that I went to a very well-respected allergist and he never recommended it as an option indicates that it's not something that doctors really recommend lightly.

                                                                                                                              2. I have a severe (anaphalactic) peanut/tree nut allergy, and it's highly likely that I'd die if I were to eat one (or even a trace of one) and wasn't 5 minutes away from a hospital at the time.

                                                                                                                                People who don't have food allergies (like many other conditions) are fairly lucky. It's not like most of us can help having them, and even though mine sucks, it would still be much, much worse to have a severe gluten allergy. When I was going through school, we didn't have rules, and one time a kid even threw a peanut butter sandwich at me (then, I gave him a beating, today, I couldn't even imagine what parents would have done had it happened).

                                                                                                                                I grew up in Japan, where allergies are not acknowledged as something real. I've gone into restaurants where the owner or waitstaff didn't understand that someone could be allergic to something, though peanuts/nuts are not exactly common (luckily for me) in Japanese cuisine.

                                                                                                                                In Canada, where I currently live, it's difficult for me to find things in boxes that I can eat at a grocery store, and things I used to be able to eat I can no longer eat. At low/mid end restaurants, they also no longer guarantee that you can even eat in their restaurants. High end restaurants, though, I've never had a problem with. This has been a good thing for me, I guess, as I don't eat a lot of processed foods and cook nearly everything for myself at home (though I do eat out fairly often, but nowhere that I'd consider a risk).

                                                                                                                                I don't expect people to tell me when things have nuts in them, as it's my responsibility to ask and I don't mind (I usually mention my allergy when I make reservations, and again to the waiter, likely mentioning that I'll die if I consume them). I find it risky to eat at say, a bake sale or potluck since a lot of people use ingredients that may have come into contact with nuts (I can only eat one regular grocery store brand of chocolate chips here, and every brand of shredded coconut here seems to possibly contain traces of nuts, etc.). An extended family member once claimed her Christmas cookies were nut-free until I looked at them and asked if she used marzipan. I mentioned that marzipan is definitely not a nut-free product and she was angry about it.

                                                                                                                                1. Were I hosting a dinner party, I would definitely ask for allergies, but I would not expect others to. I would tell them upon receiving the invitation.
                                                                                                                                2. I would expect my guests to tell me, but I do know that a lot of people who are embarased to say that they have an allergy, and even some people who claim they don't but clearly do (ie: swelling after eating shellfish, hives after eating eggplant, etc.)
                                                                                                                                3. I would always cater to people with special dietary needs, since I know how it feels to be like them, but that's just me.
                                                                                                                                4. I would label all ingredients, again, because I would respect someone for doing that for me.
                                                                                                                                5. No, I would suck it up and eat around it. Having a severe allergy kind of puts these things into perspective.
                                                                                                                                6. No, thank the flying spaghetti monster.

                                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                                1. re: tjr

                                                                                                                                  There is no doubt that having a gluten sensitivity (not a true allergy) is much more restrictive to one's diet than say a peanut or tree nut allergy. However, with celiac sprue though, suffers don't have the immediate life threatening reactions that peanut allergic patients do. So, an accidental exposure isn't as dire.

                                                                                                                                2. 1. With new people I ask when I invite them. With my regular crew I know them off by heart...Nuts, eggs uncooked, strawberries, bivalves and crustations but not fish, one diabetic, a gluten free! Plus I always ask my nut allergy friend if she has her *pen* with her just in case.

                                                                                                                                  2. I do expect some one to ask me if they have any problems medical ethical or religious.

                                                                                                                                  3. Yes...with numbers I do very simple things and make them obvious and adaptable...bugers with no crumbs and buns optional.

                                                                                                                                  4. I don't really do buffet...but when bringing and item to a dinner or potluck I do make out a card with the ingredients.

                                                                                                                                  5. Not since I was a kid.

                                                                                                                                  6. Yes...it was terrible...my freind swelled up like a balloon! And had to call the ambulance. She knew she was allergic to prawns, but had never had a reaction to crab until that day. UGH.

                                                                                                                                  It's funny now...she is my good friend and between us the seafood platter can kill us. Crusteations for her, bi-valves for me! All turf no surf!

                                                                                                                                  1. . when, if at all, do you request information about food allergies or dislikes? I state what I choose not to eat and what I am allergic to and make it clear unfourntly I tend go be stuck with very little at some places because olives are placed in veggie tray their for I do to olive allergy I can not touch that.

                                                                                                                                    2. do you expect the guess to tell you without you
                                                                                                                                    asking? If your guest I am hope it's your responsibility to tell me what I know just like if I am your guest it's my responsibility to tell you

                                                                                                                                    3. does your response vary with the number of guests to be served? nope.

                                                                                                                                    4. on a buffet, do you label ingredients for major allergies, like "contains
                                                                                                                                    peanut butter"? No but I haven't done one in awhile. I have to ask when things are served buffet style when I can't tell what is in it I ask.

                                                                                                                                    5. have you ever said yo
                                                                                                                                    u were "allergic" just because you didn't want something? I would never I have had anaphylactic reaction to mulberries and witness several of sister's anaphylactic shocks most time cause of stinging writers but did to mulberries to.

                                                                                                                                    6. finally, have you ever had a guest with an allergic reaction to something you cooked? Nope.

                                                                                                                                    edit based on linguafood's post: when you all were growing up, were there so many allergies? not many but there where 3 of us in same school with a few food allergies between us 3 and 2 of us wear sister's I didn't know olives yet.

                                                                                                                                    were they just undiagnosed? often yes but also increase in population increases number of allergy cases peanuts? gluten? a cross-look? when allergic to olives(discovered as adult looking back maybe we should have known sooner) and anaphylactic to mulberries yeah always dirty look from wait staff can't say they were ever thrilled with sister's coconut allergy either