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Attitudes toward restricted diets - your experiences?

I'm diabetic, and rather than take tons of meds, I choose to control it through diet whenever possible. This means, quite simply: lots of animal proteins, lots of good fats, no bread, rice, pasta, or sugar. Following those guidelines, I eat a pretty tasty and varied diet.

However, I've found that explaining this to people is often more of a battle than it's worth, particularly WRT asking for restaurant recommendations. I get a lot of "Oh, but you must try the death by chocolate cake!" or "It's really too bad you don't eat bread" or "If you didn't have such special needs (said in scornful tone) it would be easier."

It's not a big deal. Give me something meaty and fresh, that isn't served on top of bread or rice or pasta, and I'm a happy camper. But the fact that I don't do sandwiches, pizza or dessert really seems to get under peoples' skins!

I think of it this way: if a vegetarian - a dietary choice, mind you, not usually a medical necessity - asks for recommendations, rarely are they faced with "It's too bad you don't eat meat."

Why the attitude toward medically necessary diets? Or for that matter, toward food allergies or intolerances? Wondering if others have noticed this problem, or am I just lucky?

Would love to hear your thoughts.

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  1. It might be easier to tell people that you are both diabetic and have celiac disease. Even though you don't have celiac, that would make people understand that you aren't going to eat gluten and give them a "reasonable" explanation so that they wouldn't harp on you about it, and the diabetes part is TRUE.

    People hate picky eaters and eating with them can be a real drag. Whether it should be like that or not or whether or not it's polite isn't the issue, the truth of the matter is it's irritating when, say, everyone goes to a churrascaria (brazilian steak house) and the vegetarian in the group is looking at everyone in disgust and piously eating their dry salad. People need a "reason" to latch onto that is acceptable to them socially so it doesn't just look like you're being difficult just for the sake of being difficult (which many people do). For example, taking someone who doesn't drink, or who hates wine to a wine tasting dinner is a total downer, unless the person says they are the designated driver. Then everyone is like Ohhh! Ok, and they don't comment to them all night, "oh, if you only drank, you would really like this. Oh, this wine really brings out the flavors of the chicken. Or Oh, you would like wine if you tried it enough times." It's a "socially acceptable" reason and they'll leave you alone. You need the same or you are always going to be the difficult person in the group.

    Yes I know you shouldn't owe anyone an explanation and you should be able to eat and drink what you want without it being anyone else's business, but eating together is a social occasion and it's natural for people to discuss with each other what they plan to order, what they're enjoying and why, if they've been there before, something they particularly recommend or are looking forward to, etc.

    I think it's a little of both - people who HAVE a "different" eating situation, whether medically necessary, religious necessity or just personal preference are hypersensitive to comments that would otherwise be innocuous "oh you must try the death by chocolate!" and the non-"different" diners feel the need to dig at the person who is being different from them. I think an acceptable and quick explanation such as celiac/diabetes would really be your easiest bet, otherwise you will get into a whole discussion with people every time about how their mother/sister/friend tried what you'er doing and it didn't work or how it's silly or whatever other nonsense.

    14 Replies
    1. re: rockandroller1

      You know, I've tried exactly that - actually gone one step further. When I know it's going to be an issue to explain, I say "I'm allergic to grains and sugar." Thing is, I'm terrible at lying and it makes me pretty uncomfortable.

      The funny thing is, with the exception of my *intense hatred* of tomatoes, I'm not a picky eater at all - in fact, I regularly eat things that many of my acquaintances won't touch. Things like pork, lamb, unpopular vegetables such as Brussels sprouts, etc. - yet the minute I turn down dessert, it's - you nailed it! - socially unacceptable.

      And yeah - you also nailed it re: the "mother/sister/friend tried what you'er doing and it didn't work" nonsense. I say, if it works for me, that's good enough :)

      Thanks for the feedback.

      1. re: Vaya Con Carne

        I definitely don't recommend lying about having celiac disease. The more people that lie (and do it obviously, in most cases) the less the disease is taken seriously. Ditto for allergies. You don't need to explain yourself to people, especially those who persist. If they push, give them a look and say "I'm sorry, but I can't imagine why this should be so important to you".

        1. re: purple bot

          Ditto on lying about celiac disease. I'm not sure why you can say that you're a diabetic who manages the disease through diet-- as you told us in the first sentence. Most people know that this is an option to insulin-- it's hardly a unique option. People are also sympathetic to the person who prefers not to have shots

          Of course, if you want to lie about gluten allergies, you can point out how it 'goes right through you' and give the TMI that puts a swift end to the interrogation.

          Oh wait, you're slagging off on brussel sprouts and lamb? I take my support back. :)

        2. re: Vaya Con Carne

          When it comes to desserts I think a simple statement of "I don't really have a sweet tooth" should work. I really don't have one, except once in a blue moon, and I pass on the birthday/wedding cakes by just saying that. Most people get it and leave me alone.

          I do have a stomach condition where I can't eat very spicy foods. A little spicy is okay, but not too much. This has developed in the last few years, so it's difficult with my daughters. They were raised with spicy and just don't get that I can't do that anymore. One of them makes this incredible salsa, but man alive! It is just too hot for me, but she will offer it to me and say that it isn't really that spicy, so then I taste it and it is too spicy for me! My stomach will start burning if I eat it, but she just thinks I'm being a wimp.

        3. re: rockandroller1

          I'm allergic to alcohol and you wouldn't believe what sort of crap I get about it. Every single friend I have hounds me about it like it just can't be possible. Maybe if I just get my tolerance up, I can be more normal, they say. "What about beer? You have to be able to drink beer. Come on! Not even wine? Maybe a nice mixed drink?" I'm to the point where I feel like I'd be better off pretending to be a recovering alcoholic because at least then people wouldn't pester me about every single time we went out.

          Even the smell of some types of alcohol is enough to trigger nausea, lightheadedness, and asthma attacks. I really don't want to attempt to "raise my tolerance," thank you very much. I don't think it's impossible that there may be some types of alcohol I could drink without becoming violently ill in a few sips, but at the same time I don't really care to risk it.

          1. re: queencru

            Queencru, I sympathize. I'm not allergic but I'm extremely sensitive to alcohol (Asian flush reaction!) so I rarely drink. My office, though, is full of bigtime drinkers, and the pressure is amazing. It's like they're all a bunch of dope pushers!

            For some reason, a simple "No thanks, I don't drink" usually works - they probably assume I'm an alcoholic, but whatever works :)

            Too bad a simple "No thanks" doesn't work when it comes to the ubiquitous birthday cakes that seem to make the rounds every few days.

            1. re: Vaya Con Carne

              I don't drink simply because I don't like to and I have no palate for wine. I find the "designated driver" line works like a charm. I never get a second comment after that. Usually it's true, though, since the Spouse really enjoys wine with dinner. Oddly enough, the Spouse almost always asks my advice on wine pairings and selections since I read a good bit about it. I just won't drink them.

              1. re: rockycat

                The "no thanks" is absolutely no problem when I live in areas where I have to drive, but if I'm living somewhere where I don't have a car, all bets are off. If you're not driving, it seems like there is absolutely no reason why you shouldn't drink to excess.

                1. re: queencru

                  It's amazing how people push to drink. I remember taking a month off to lose a little weight for the summer months and because I stopped drinking and I'm recently married, boy do you get the *wink wink* *nudge nudge*, got any news to share? line. Funny at first but annoying after awhile. Why is it possible just not to drink because you don't feel like it?

                  1. re: bdachow

                    It should be fine to eat, or drink, what one wants, when one wants. There will always be folk, who will think something else is happening. It comes with humanity, and there is little that we can do about it.

                    Though we dated for over 6 years, when my wife and I decided to get married, it was a little rushed, but we had to fit it in around limited vacations, etc. Oh, the tongues wagged - quick marriage, well it's gotta' be... After 37 years of marriage, there are STILL no children. Hope those tongues didn't fatigue too badly. It just happens.

                    Do what you want for your own reasons. There is really no need to explain why - it is not their body, and it is not their business.

                    Now, if I turned down fine wine in a restaurant, people would ask my wife, when she was committing me, but that's another story.

                    Hunt

          2. re: rockandroller1

            I really like your dissection and agree with lots of it ('cept I wouldn't say I have celiac if I don't have it--you'd be amazed--or not--at how many people believe that's a made-up condition anyway so it might get you nowhere). As someone who can't drink for health reasons, even I can't help but roll my eyes sometimes at people who are on restricted diets for reasons other than health and religion. Truth be told, planning a meal with some of these people, whether you're eating at a restaurant or at my house, can be a PITA.

            1. re: rockandroller1

              Absolutely do NOT lie about having celiac disease. It's an offensive and immoral suggestion.

              1. re: rockandroller1

                Please people, don't lie about allergies/intolerances/disease! You just undermine the seriousness of the situation for the rest of us. Seriously, you think you bring the level of nut or gluten examination to the situation that the "real" folks do? Not at all. So you let things slide, and people get complacent.

                Not moral and certainly endangers the rest of us.

                1. re: Vetter

                  Thank you Vetter. We need more people preaching this from the Soap Box. It drives Jfood crazy when people lessen the level of allergy-sensitive restauranteurs due to their self-centeredness.

                  You would not believe the level of rationalization posters come up with. Jfood has a nut allergy and hates raw onions. Do you have any idea how many times he has told the server no onions, yet they are delivered? What does jfood do? He asks for a re-do if they cannot be removed at the table or he moves them to the bread plate and continues eating.

              2. I'm surprised that giving a medical reason doesn't get people to back off. Perhaps part of the problem is restrictive diets for nonmedical reasons are so widespread that some people think you're using diabetes as an 'excuse' for an unrelated diet choice? Especially since a low-carb diet isn't something followed by all diabetics (my partner's type 1 and his meds require him to have a certain quantity of low GI carbs with each meal).

                I'm not trying to excuse other people's actions, just trying to imagine reasons for some pretty silly interference on their parts. But honesty forces me to acknowledge that I secretly get very irritated with people who follow restrictive diets because they are the latest fashionable way to lose weight or from a food-is-medicine perspective (i.e. seeing food only as a source of nutrients/antioxidants, rather than a source of enjoyment too). I personally think that moderation is the key to a healthy lifestyle, and I'm surrounded by female relatives and friends who think 'all carbs are bad', 'I don't eat any dessert', or 'all fats are the enemy', etc, and then end up bingeing on whatever it is they avoid, crying about it and generally hating themselves (and food).

                Obviously this isn't your situation, since you're following a specific diet for medical reasons. I'm just trying to explain why others might be leery of restrictive diets in general, since they seem to be so widespread in our society. A bit like what purple bot and lizard said about fake allergies leading people to take allergies in general less seriously.

                4 Replies
                1. re: Gooseberry

                  The problem you're describing is 'orthorexia'. These restrictive diets, whatever they are, are often manifestations of an eating disorder, hence the discomfort (and the evident joylessness of the person's relationship to food)

                  I'm not saying this is the case for everyone. But I find a lot of it. There are some people who really thrive on the feeling of a restrictive diet and tend to jump from one to the other. I know some folks like that, who've gone from one extreme regime (including anorexia) to another. It seems to be more prevalent than ever, and I imagine it is also cause for the waning sympathies of food service professionals and certain chowhounds.

                  NOTE: I am NOT saying this is the case with posters here. I am simply giving a name to what gooseberry is describing.

                  1. re: Gooseberry

                    Vaya Con Carne, having done a modified Atkins 7 years ago, I found the same attitude. My conclusion? Jealousy about the discipline the dieter has. The herd mentality.

                    Nothing more.

                    Ignore them.

                    1. re: Gooseberry

                      Gooseberry, I think that's part of the confusion here - Type 1s and Type 2s have very different needs, but to those who don't know this, it's all just the same condition.

                      I agree re: moderation, except in cases where even the tiniest bite of something makes a person sick - for instance, me with sugar, or another poster with alcohol. And there's where things get tricky - to most of the country, "enjoyment" takes the form of, say, a cupcake. For me, "enjoyment" can come from a nice piece of grilled salmon or a yummy lamb kebab or even some well-prepared broccoli - with no ill effects, and some nutrients as well.

                      1. re: Vaya Con Carne

                        Hi Vaya con carne,

                        Yup, that's why I specifiedmy partner is a type 1. He sometimes experiences the reverse from you - people who asked in a shocked tone, "Should you be eating that pasta/potato/rice? You're diabetic!" Whereas the truth is, if he skips carbs with meals, the insulin he takes will put him into a coma. To prevent this, when he occasionally goes 'low' he has to eat something super sweet, like syrup or candy -which only confuses everyone more!

                        So if someone watched you eating, then watched my partner eat, and was told you were both diabetic - well, I can see where some of the confusion might come from!

                        As for the sugar thing, I have a lot of sympathy for you and him; I'm currently two weeks into eating sugar-free for medical reasons. I would kill for some chocolate or ice cream...

                    2. I prefer to say I am not in the mood for chocolate cake when pushed, or pizza, or a sandwich, or whatever I am not eating.

                      I didn't drink alcohol for about 4 years and just said no thanks, I'll have an OJ/soda. When pushed I just said I don't fancy a drink tonight. Conversation over.

                      Because one of the things I can't stand is a lecture from the person who doesn't eat meat, bread, sugar etc telling me why I shouldn't have it. I don't want to know the ins and outs of someone's food preferences and they shouldn't have to hear about mine.

                      1. Vaya Con Carne, if it makes you feel any better I am a vegetarian, (an admitted dietary choice and not medical necessity), and I get crap all of the time from people about what I do and don't eat. If they give it to me then I give it right back to them. If they are respectful of me then obviously I am the same towards them (in other words, I would never say anything about their food choices, regardless of what they are, as long as they don't insult mine). Good luck and try not to listen to others...it isn't worth your time.

                        15 Replies
                        1. re: Laura D.

                          Ditto what Laura says. I'm a vegetarian too (15 years now) and as long as others respect that choice without the snide comments, then I respect their choices. Heck, DH is an avowed meat-eater too (as are the majority of my friends) and I'm okay with that.

                          Unfortunately, your comment that <<if a vegetarian ... asks for recommendations, rarely are they faced with "It's too bad you don't eat meat">> is sadly incorrect. I get this regularly, sometimes from my own family members (curiously not from friends). I am also regularly faced with (again often from family) the "oh, we have to modify our plans to be sure that L has something to eat". Meanwhile, like you indicated about yourself, I'm not a picky eater and often there's more on some menus that I'll eat that others won't touch.

                          So I would think that your polite responses, whether about your medical condition or that you just don't want something, should be adequate and accepted. If they aren't, then by all means give it back to them! :)

                          1. re: LNG212

                            Wow, I'm surprised to hear that you get the "it's too bad you don't eat meat" comments. Before my T2 diabetes diagnosis, I was also a vegetarian for many years, and nobody ever gave me a hard time about it.

                            But then, I'm a lifelong, 4th-generation Californian, so friends and family are used to vegetarians :) Something about a preference for meat, though, really gets people around here worked up!

                            1. re: Vaya Con Carne

                              I don't eat meat in restaurants, but I never tell people that. I just order the meatless option, and never get comments about it.

                              However, I'm allergic to tree nuts. Like lips and eyes swelling, hives covering my body, throat closing allergic. Yet people are always saying "Oh, you must try this hazelnut-chocolate ice cream...it doesn't have any nuts in it!" I also have trouble with waitstaff, who don't seem to understand that I will end up being carried out on a stretcher if they try to scrape the nuts off the top of a salad (rather than just telling the kitchen to make another salad without nuts).

                              Like cowprintrabbit below, I try my best to just say "I cannot eat nuts" before ordering my food, and hope the authority in my voice means they'll remember to take me seriously.

                              1. re: RosemaryHoney

                                My SO is also allergic to nuts. My favourite comment in a store occurred last week:

                                "Has your salt water toffee come into any contact with nuts?"
                                "Nope, none at all. No nuts. Just peanut butter"

                                Or two weeks ago, when SO nearly died after eating some fish at a restaurant in Chicago. The chef assured him over and over again that there was no nuts, no nut oils, no nothing (even assured him there was no sesame, even though that's okay in SO's case) but forgot he had "added a little bit of peanut butter to the glaze".

                                1. re: sailrox

                                  The first answer is technically correct. Peanut butter is not made of (tree) nuts and since technically peanuts are in fact legumes (botanically they are not nuts) and many people think 'tree nuts' (which are nuts) when they hear the word 'nut', I think your SO should change his question to 'are there peanuts in the food?' or 'are there nuts or peanuts in the food?' if in fact he is allergic to both peanuts and tree nuts. A peanut allergy is not the same thing as a nut allergy, and it sounds like your SO needs to be much more specific.

                                  1. re: sailrox

                                    Susan is correct. jfood is allergic to all nuts, and eats a peanut butter sandwich almost every day. two separate allergies. some people have very bad luck, others just bad luck.

                              2. re: LNG212

                                I get the 'it's too bad you don't eat meat' regularly as well. Variations include 'You can eat that- it just has a little chicken in it,' 'Why can't you eat lobster? Lobsters are ugly,' and 'This was a vegetarian pig. heh heh heh.'

                                Some people can't let anything out of the ordinary (though unless they live under a rock, they must be aware some people exist who have dietary restrictions) go by without a comment. Ignore 'em and do what you have to do.

                                1. re: marmite

                                  marmite &sailrox You must have encountered my in-laws.Lots of folks get sooooooo stuck and never "get" the risk involved.Restrictions
                                  are not on their radar.They subsist/exist off the frozen and canned aisle
                                  It is what Mother in Law did,hated to cook.All health scare industry
                                  ancient history is still revered,"margerine"etc.If it is in the recipe file 3x5,can or frozen dinner MOM or they use,must be OK.Zero interest in
                                  sensativities,allergies,convictions or medical restrictions.Oh you must
                                  so fussy absolves all responsibility.
                                  Enter my house,lecture snidely about our food standards,eating habits
                                  and shopping.Fresh fruit $$$,butter,BACON,etc.You get a picture of the problem.Yet they eat all of this like sea gulls at a cannery when I
                                  serve it.Sad,these folks spend a lot of time in empty houses.
                                  They simply will off my food allergy,their Dad's diabetes etc.A total label disconnect.Wonder why my spouse the oldest is so healthy with
                                  none of their severe weight problems or medical conditions.

                                  ALL adult food choices,restrictions and allergies MUST be respected
                                  Someones health is more important.

                                  1. re: lcool

                                    "Yet they eat all of this like sea gulls at a cannery "
                                    I LOVE that comparison.

                                2. re: LNG212

                                  Hi LNG212, I was at a dinner party recently where the opposite took place, and I'm not sure it was an improvement! One of the women present was Hindu and doesn't eat meat, fish or eggs for religious reasons. So the well-meaning hostess made her a totally separate meal for each course, and put it in front of her with such flourish, and made such a big deal out of 'this doesn't contain EGGS' and "don't eat THAT. It has BACON in it' that I actually felt uncomfortable. The hostess thought she was being accomodating, but really, why couldn't we all have had egg-free pasta with our mains, or sorbet instead of ice cream for dessert? It felt like table segregation. Although the guest in question was charming and took it all in her stride.

                                  1. re: Gooseberry

                                    I don't know...you were there and in a better position than me to judge whether she was really being accomodating, but I've seen that type of behavior carried to the extreme, and it really seems like a form of passive-aggressiveness: a way to make the guest feel uncomfortable.

                                    What I do when I have some guests with restrictions is either cook to the restriction for the entire group or make two versions of the same dish (ie I might make one vegetarian lasagna and one with meat) and just offer both versions to everyone: "Hey gang, this casserole is lasagna with meat sauce; that one is grilled veggie lasagna, please help yourself to whichever or both, whatever you prefer."

                                    It just seems rude to single out one diner, and if it makes guests uncomfortable, it shouldn't be done, imo.

                                    1. re: Gooseberry

                                      I hear you on that one. My MIL has done that on occasion. And I've always gotten the feeling it's more about *her* and a look-how-great-I-am to be accommodating you attitude. It certainly does make a person feel on the spot. I try to be one of those people who will find something to eat (salad- fine; rolls- fine; don't worry about me); after all, it's only one meal and I can always eat something when I get home. I do appreciate those who go to any extra trouble but I don't want them to, don't ask them to, and certainly don't want to be made to feel like I'm causing everyone a fuss.

                                      As for Vaya Con Carne's situation - asking a few polite questions of a server or stating a preference to colleagues should never invite a host of personal questions, accusations, harrumphs, or whatever.

                                      1. re: LNG212

                                        You know, sometimes when I read the boards and people's searing accounts of the bad behaviour of others, the devil's advocate in me pops out. So please forgive me in advance:

                                        Like Susanc, I'd need to be there to see what is happening. What if someone was really anxious about a person eating forbidden foods (watch out, this has bacon, etc.)? What is that same person was really anxious about serving only vegetarian fare, and having the guests grousing about the lack of options or running to chowhound to post their 'VEGETARIAN ETIQUETTE!!!!' complaint about that horrible hostess who forced everyone to eat the same restricted diet? What if the hostess didn't feel comfortable enough with her vegetarian cooking skills to make the entire meal for everyone, and was also worried that she had not made anything good enough for the one guest?

                                        I'm not saying this woman wasn't the way Gooseberry describes, but wonder at the alternatives. It seems sometimes, when I read these boards, that people are damned if they do and damned if they don't. Darn Interweb!

                                        1. re: Lizard

                                          Hi lizard. I think it was less about passive-aggressiveness, more like LNG212's M-I-L. The hostess thought she was being very impressive by catering for a dietary restriction with an entirely different menu; I think she lost sight of the bigger picture, of being inclusive rather than segregating the lone lacto-vegetarian.

                                          I agree with you about the damned if they do, damned if they don't attitude. So much of it boils down to which side you're on in any given issue. In this case, I can only judge by my own ethics, which if I was the hostess would have lead me to choose a menu which didn't have egg in every course (which isn't impossible by any means).

                                    2. re: LNG212

                                      this is also my experience, to the point that unless i really have to, i don't like to tell people that I don't eat meat, because for one i don't want to have to explain all the reasons people immediatly ask for, but also because of those reactions. People freak out when i'm coming over to dinner, not realizing that i'm not a picky eater, and can and will be quite happy with a slice of bread, in the right company. And nope, i don't criticize anyone else for what they're eating, and have been known to cook it for them, including meat. I don't use the dinner table to launch a campaign against the eating of meat, or cruelty towards animals.

                                      And yep, I get the "OMG don't you ever crave a steak? ", "you don't know what you're missing", and "but you eat chicken right?" but i'm lucky that my family does understand this, and doesn't do the "oh well, nothing for you to eat here then!". My Mom and Dad even tailored some of my local dishes to omit the meat when i visit, and might I add, do a fine job of it!! That didn't happen overnight though, in the beginning i got a lot of lectures over how "thats what animals were put on earth for" and so forth.

                                      No one ever says a word to the "ewww onions" crowd, but i'm sometimes left blushing at the attention this choice gets me.

                                  2. VCC, I'm prone to reactive hypoglycemia, not nearly as serious - I try to avoid white flour and refined sugar. I went through tons of explanations before discovering that "I don't metabolize white flour or refined sugar properly" usually works. Not sure if it's too scientific and makes people's minds shut down, or if it just sounds authoratative, but it works for me.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Cowprintrabbit

                                      Cowprintrabbit, reactive hypo was the first sign for me that something was seriously amiss. That's so great that you were able to figure out the white flour/sugar trigger and do something about it!

                                      I'm going to try that approach. "Can't metabolize something" sounds a lot more clinical than "restricted diet" - and it's the absolute truth :)

                                    2. While I agree that medically necessary diets should be respected, it's not been my experience that vegetarians aren't faced with "too bad you don't eat meat." In fact, I would say the opposite is true. I try to not to mention the fact that I don't eat meat, skirting the issue whenever possible because of countless converations in which people have demanded to know my reasons for my choices, argued that my reasoning is incorrect and literally insisting that I should eat meat. I know from this board that my experiences are not alone.

                                      It would be great if we could all try to just respect each other's food choices and restrictions, whether for medical, religious, or ethical reasons.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: nc213

                                        David Chang recently said in an interview that he respects vegetarians, but just not at his restaurant.

                                        I think a lot of attitudes towards restricted diets has to do with lack of empathy. Just because you can eat Skippy peanut butter with no problem doesn't mean the person next to you can. I've seen this lack of empathy on the boards.

                                        And education also plays a role. It seems that celiac disease is widely understood in Italy, but not as much in the States. If you tell a waiter in Italy that you've got celiac, most likely he would understand your issue. If you tell one in the States that you've got celiac and can't have wheat/gluten, the waiter may assume that you're low-carbing or something. And while diabetes has been around the States for quite some time, I find that people don't understand the disease very well. A lot of people just think you need to avoid dessert.

                                        I am deathly allergic to one item. Luckily, I've never received the attitude that some people have. But according to this link, apparently some restaurant owners can be quite nasty:

                                        http://eater.com/archives/2008/08/cla...

                                        The thing that I found most interesting was not the owner's response (as he's known to be a prick), but the responses of the people who left comments.

                                        1. re: Miss Needle

                                          It's not only a lack of empathy, but the fact that cooks have been overwhelmed in recent years by an expectation on the part of more and more customers that restaurants are cafeterias where all menu items are merely fodder for short order items. This is much more common in the US than in Europe, where people still tend to understand that you are in a restaurant to partake of what the restaurant happens to offer rather than an opportunity to mix and match.

                                          Medical allergies/diseases and obligatory religious restrictions get priority over voluntary food restrictions and preferences. In other words, if its a matter of "I may die or be damned", that should get deferential treatment to the extent reasonably feasible under the circumstances, while "I really hate [x]" gets deferred to at the whim and risk of the restaurateur.

                                      2. I'm a T1 diabetic and when I'm dining out I don't notice what you've described. If they try and sell me the chocolate cake I just say "no thanks" and move on. I don't make a big deal out of my disease as I'm sure nobody is interested. I'm also a former server so I know how difficult people can be with their special requests, etc. Don't get me wrong, it's one thing to sub extra veggies for rice but some folks really go way overboard and create an entirely new dish and then never seem pleased with what they end up with.

                                        On a separate note, good for you Vaya Con Carne, on your efforts to control your disease. I wish you much success!

                                        12 Replies
                                        1. re: lynnlato

                                          Thanks lynnlato :)

                                          All of this is coming up in response to a rather dreaded business trip to a culinary wasteland, where it seems they just don't understand that I can't grab a quick sandwich for lunch, or eat fast food. I don't want to make a big deal about it, but yet I don't want to get sick while far from home either. I've just been shocked at how unaccommodating people are being.

                                          At least this thread is helping to make me feel like I'm not the only one. Thanks for the support, all!

                                          1. re: Vaya Con Carne

                                            I may be in the camp with you soon enough....long story but I have to have extensive blood work done next and likely there will be some Come to Jesus moments with my doctor in regard to my diet. I've already had to cut back on my cheese consumption (which is breaking my heart) and have a feeling other indulgences will be going by the wayside or at least drastically changed.

                                            1. re: Vaya Con Carne

                                              I'm not sure this is helpful but ... when I travel (esp to a place that is a "wasteland"), I try to bring along a few things that travel well (prepacked) and that I can keep discreetly, say, in my hotel room or purse or something. As a vegetarian, there are plenty of things that fit this bill.

                                              Is there something along this line that might work for you? Are you with these people all the time or would it just be for a lunch or two? For example, I always bring a nut/dried fruit mix or a sandwich of some soy product. Is there something that you could bring with you for the "lunch grab"? And then maybe if you're eating dinner on your own, you could find a place more accommodating?

                                              1. re: LNG212

                                                That's what's so hard - when the center of one's diet needs to be animal protein, not much is portable that isn't some kind of frankenfood :(

                                                I always travel with nuts and sugar-free protein bars, but that's about all that works.

                                                Yeah, dinner on my own will at least be something to look forward to.

                                                1. re: Vaya Con Carne

                                                  Chinese Pork Jerky will travel well. Moister than typical jerky and will give you at least an additional snack item, if not enough for lunch.

                                                  1. re: lgphil

                                                    That sounds delicious! I'll have to try to hunt some down. Thanks!

                                              2. re: Vaya Con Carne

                                                isn't it possible modify a sandwich or fast food to accommodate your diet? it may not be the tastiest, but it would get the job done. i often did that when in your predicament when i followed a low-carb diet years ago. eating just the middle of sandwiches or ordering them as salads (most places - even Subway will do it.) and even a lot of the burger chains will do a low carb burger wrapped in lettuce, such as in-n-out, carls jr, or burger king (they put the whopper patty in a box on a bed of shredded lettuce.) it's a pretty common dietary request...

                                                1. re: trishyb

                                                  Depends on the place. Most places, such as Subway, put some amount of sugar in their meats.

                                                  1. re: Vaya Con Carne

                                                    roast beef?
                                                    I guess tuna will have some in the mayo.

                                                    Have you looked at Diana Schwartzbein's books? there is usually room for a little bit of carb in these diets.+

                                                    Hard boiled eggs and tofu are helpful for packed lunches. If you have a refrig in your room and a stove or even an immersion coil you can put together your own lunches.

                                                2. re: Vaya Con Carne

                                                  Peanut butter is the perfect food - for everybody! Proteins, good fat, low carb, etc. Add a small apple (or celery) and voila, ideal snack. They now have little individual serving size packages. You could also get almond butter - yum.

                                                  Sorry about your dreaded trip to the wasteland. Hang in there!

                                                  1. re: lynnlato

                                                    except for people allergic to peanuts....

                                                    1. re: Karl S

                                                      Ok, well, I stand corrected. How thoughtless of me. So sorry.

                                              3. Most diabetics can order food consistent with their required diets off of the menu without causing a major fuss. And by proper, I do mean menu selections that INCLUDE carbohydrates which are critical for proper blood sugar management.

                                                What really irritates many chefs and restaurant operators is the few customers who come in demanding a special meal, generally without much notice and without telling the restaurant personnel of what they need.

                                                Believe it or not MOST restaurants are NOT familiar with celiac disease or what a gluten free diet involves. (I only know it as I worked for 10 years managing hospital food service operations - and some of the conditions mentioned even puzzle me.). And coming in during the rush on a busy Saturday is not the time to talk to the chef or manager.

                                                4 Replies
                                                1. re: jlawrence01

                                                  Vegetables = carbohydrates. I'll eat those, no problem - bring 'em on!

                                                  Bread, rice, etc. on the other hand - no thanks. In my case anyway, these definitely don't help in managing my blood sugar - they only "help" in sending it super high, then super low.

                                                  Rarely do I have trouble getting what I need - protein and veggies - in restaurants here in California. But I've come to dread leaving the state, because simply prepared, good quality meat and veggies seem impossible to find in a world of sandwiches, pasta, and pizza.

                                                  1. re: Vaya Con Carne

                                                    I'm a native Californian, living in the Midwest, and I have to say your attitude is bizarre. There's plenty of good ingredients, well-prepared, to be found throughout the country. And plenty of dreck in California.

                                                    1. re: pikawicca

                                                      With you re: the dreck in California, that's for sure! Seems as soon as I leave an urban center veggies go from being fresh, to being canned.

                                                      All I know is that for an upcoming business trip to a suburb of Denver, finding *real* meat and veggies is danged hard. Mind you, I don't consider the stuff they serve at, say, Subway to be "real" meat since it's full of sugar.

                                                      Turns out that in the most unlikely of places - California Pizza Kitchen, not a favorite but near where I'll be staying - they serve a plate of salmon with veggies, so I'm set :)

                                                      1. re: pikawicca

                                                        Agree with you. However, I find that the southern states are generally the easiest to eat a lower-fat meal with plenty of vegetables.

                                                        The only major advantage in California is that generally the portions are smaller than in the balance of the country and you get to pay more for the prvilege.

                                                  2. i can finally understand your pain. i have recently become diabetic on insulin due to my pregnancy. since I'm prego I have to eat a portion of carbs per meal but I skip dessert and all kinds of saucy types of dishes which i can't decipher the ingredients. when i go out to eat, i notice i get a slight attitude when i ask about ingredients and start asking for subs. yes, i think they're thinking "why don't you just stay at home and eat?" but the truth is it gets really boring to eat only at home all the time. just b/c one has restrictions I don't think they should avoid eating out all together just so the waitstaff doesn't have to make a few changes. when I waited tables I had my limits with rude people but my rule was that the customer is paying and so s/he should get what they want.

                                                    anyway, we went out to eat the other night and our server came over to offer dessert, coffee, etc. we just said "no thanks" and she just kept pushing the apple crumble saying something along the lines of "are you sure?? it's so good, you can share it and blah, blah blah" i just wanted to smack her and tell her to stop being so pushy.

                                                    being diabetic is not a choice but being a vegan is.

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: trolley

                                                      My husband can't eat garlic or cinnamon, and nuts only infrequently. If someone is rude enough to comment, he gets the full (very gross) description of what happens if my spouse eats the food in question. No more comments.

                                                      1. re: trolley

                                                        "i just wanted to smack her" - oh yes, I know that feeling well!

                                                        I know what you mean - it's easier to just stay home, or to just frequent the handful of restos that I know are easy to order at, but that does get boring. I've taken to calling ahead of time, during non-busy hours, when I want to try a new place, to make sure my needs can be met. Usually it's not a problem.

                                                      2. You have to get over other people's attitudes. a "no thank you" and a smile go a long way. If other people press you or don't get it, that's their problem.

                                                        I have diabetic, vegetarian, celiac, and nut-allergic friends and family. They never make a fuss in restaurants. They may ask the waiter one or two questions to seek assurance, but there's no big exposition about their medical conditions. They also sometimes ask things like "Could I have some extra spinach instead of the rice?" I think it may help when you can look at a menu and come up with a solution, rather than demanding that they accommodate you with every detail.

                                                        4 Replies
                                                        1. re: Kagey

                                                          i may be wrong but i think Vaya Con Carne is trying to say what happens when a simple "no thank you" with a smile doesn't seem to work.

                                                          don't get me wrong. I don't go into restaurants wanting the kitchen to reinvent their menu based on my dietary needs. I've been on the other side of the table as a server and can feel their pain. i try to make it simple and work with the menu as much as possible and not be crazy demanding. it's those servers who don't know a no means no and i also think it's a server by server case. i can't have any sugar at all as a gestational diabetic so when i was out eating the other day i asked what was in their balsamic vinaigrette. the person said "um, you know, olive oil and vinegar..." and she assured me they didn't use sugar in any of their dressings but I asked her to ask the kitchen and she left rolling her eyes. sure enough the dressing had maple crystals in it which is off limits for me and would have shot my glucose levels even with my insulin.

                                                          1. re: trolley

                                                            Trolley, thanks for that - that's exactly what I'm trying to say.

                                                            And to go a step further, it's scenarios like this one that I have so much trouble with:

                                                            Travelling on business, meeting with people who don't know me well. Break for lunch. Someone says, "Let's go to Subway!" (or some other equally un-navigable place) and I say "I'm sorry, but I'm on a restricted diet and can't eat anything there. You all go ahead, but can you point me in the direction of someplace nearby where I can get something simple, like grilled chicken and vegetables?"

                                                            That's when all hell breaks loose. I don't want to go into details, but it's always "Why no sandwiches (or whatever)?" When I tell them, I'm invariably met with "Just once won't kill you" or some such thing. Or accused of being picky, which irritates me to no end.

                                                            Yeah, their problem, not mine. I should get over it.

                                                            1. re: Vaya Con Carne

                                                              I agree that it is their problem, not yours. However, this description makes me wonder if there might be a slightly different issue going on in this circumstance: I wonder if part of the problem is that your business colleagues somehow feel judged for their choice (I mean, regardless of dietary restrictions, I don't think anyone would try to claim that Subway is healthier than grilled chicken and vegetables, and if you say you are going to eat that, they may extrapolate that you think their choices are unhealthy), and thus are reacting to that (in an way that is admittedly inappropriate). I know that you do not intend it this way, but I wouldn't be surprised if what they are hearing is, "oh, I don't eat that junk, I eat healthy food, but you all go off and do what you want, just direct me to the good stuff"...

                                                              Perhaps it would just be easier and avoid hassles for you to say, 'I'm sorry, I have other plans', and then go off and search on your own.

                                                              Or, much better yet, do research in advance so you don't have to either search or ask for recommendations: I don't think you should be relying on your colleagues to give you suggestions regarding where to eat, both because it may make them defensive if they don't want to change their plans and go with you, and also because you are likely to get better recs on CH and elsewhere through your own research.

                                                              I also understand that in a business situation one doesn't always have the option of going off by oneself. Is it possible in that situation to carry the fruit, veggies and beef or pork jerky, and just have an ice tea or some such while sitting with them at Subway? (at least until you get to know them better and can explain the situation without them taking it personally or getting defensive)?

                                                              Or try the following approach, which has worked quite well for me on numerous occaisons. I have used the approach just because, well, I don't want to eat lunch at Subway (or Applebees, or wherever), not because of dietary restrictions, but perhaps it could work for you as well.

                                                              First of all, do your research in advance and figure out a place with a suitable menu for your diet (CH can be a big help here), and that is near to where you will be working.

                                                              Then, when time comes for lunch, say something like, 'Hey, a friend told me about this GREAT chicken place (or whatever) in this town, and he says we should try it while we are here. Would you guys mind terribly going just this once to check it out? Its right up the street? We can go to Subway some other time..."

                                                              Once you are there, it shouldn't be nearly as much of an issue to order what you want.

                                                              And of course, if going out with these people that prefer Subway is optional, I'd go off on my own anyway :-)

                                                              1. re: susancinsf

                                                                Even CH has turned up very little in the area I'll be staying other than pasta, sandwiches, and truly awful chains. Part of the problem is that I don't have access to a car, so I'm limited to what's really nearby. But I've dug up a couple of options, and hopefully can either convince others to go there, or just head out on my own.

                                                        2. you really seem to be dreading this trip VCC. maybe you could post for chowish restaurant suggestions which could accommodate your needs on the board that covers the denver area, and also on the chains board-- re: low carb chain menu options, strategies, etc. i am sure there are others out there that have good tips to share. if your co-workers have an attitude problem about your dietary needs, i think maybe you should keep a low profile to avoid the "picky" or "person with issues" label, and just have a workable strategy for eating the way you need to. if you go into this trip thinking the area you're going into is a complete & total, non-urban-california culinary wasteland, that's probably what you'll find, but if you have a good plan (& then failing that, a plan b), you'll be fine.

                                                          3 Replies
                                                          1. re: soupkitten

                                                            Yeah, I am totally dreading it, because I've already done the research and (a) gotten the attitude from other CH posters, and (b) gotten pretty strong confirmation that I'm TSOL when it comes to healthy dining options. It's just three days, but I'm accustomed to making good food choices and feeling healthy, and would like to continue to do so if I can. I know, that's a big order :)

                                                            I've found a couple things that look passable, as long as the restaurants will leave off the sticky sugar sauces at my request. Therein lies the challenge.

                                                            1. re: Vaya Con Carne

                                                              if your main concern is maintaining a low carb/glycemic index diet, that can be done just about anywhere... it just may not be done to your standards of freshness, taste, cuisine preference, etc. when i used to travel a lot for work and followed a similar diet, often i had to simply eat to feed my body and not worry about finding food that met my taste preferences. that being said, i would accompany colleagues to pizza joints and eat salad and the top of a slice of pizza (no crust), fajitas with no tortillas at the tex-mex chains, insides of sandwiches at delis, etc. they weren't the most memorable or tastiest of meals, but they worked. it wasn't a big deal and if someone asked why i ate that way, i just said it was for health reasons.

                                                              1. re: Vaya Con Carne

                                                                I assume this is the thread you are referring to:

                                                                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/546148

                                                                I don't see any CHers attitude; (perhaps it was removed?)...I do agree with soupkitten that dreading it won't help, unless you want to fill your suitcase with beef jerkey as a preventative measure.

                                                                Even if you choose not to leave the hotel, clearly, you are not TSOL. Given the variety of restaurants at the Inverness, per their website, and the fact that you will only be there three days, and your work is paying for it, it looks like you can easily make healthy choices. A hotel of that caliber will have no problem leaving off sauces, any more than a restaurant would in any large metropolitan area. If you are really worried why don't you call in advance and ask them; that way you won't have to worry about it as much (if you haven't called them, I'd say you in fact do have more research yet to do).

                                                                The options at Baca at the Inverness include three mixed grills: since you say you like grilled meats, there are your three nights, covered. Or try the bison rib-eye, or the artisan vegetable plate, or the baked salmon, or the rack of lamb. Ask to have sauces left off. I doubt if anyone will even comment if you leave the potatoes or rice on your plate, unless you do. (better yet, when you order, ask if you can have a double order of spinach, or whatever, or perhaps some of those vegies, instead of potatoes.

                                                                )

                                                                http://www.invernesshotel.com/baca/pd...

                                                                or, as I said in another post, since work is paying for the meals, take a cab to get to the good stuff.

                                                            2. I will admit to getting irritated at people with restricted diets when I feel like they aren't trying to meet me halfway. For example, when going out to lunch with a group of people and one person has a restricted diet, he/she often will expect the group to come up with a suitable option without giving much input. I have no idea what exactly the person's restrictions are (because "no carbs" or "no meat" means different things to different people - some vegetarians will pick pepperoni off of pizza and some won't, some no/low carb people will order a sandwich - hold the bread, and others won't) and even if I understood the restrictions completely, I've never ordered food at any restaurant with those restrictions in mind. So I try to be helpful and come up with some options, only to met with irritation by the person with a restricted diet that my suggestions aren't right. Now, on the other hand, if a person with a restricted diet says - hey, could we go to X restaurant because they have a particular dish I love? - No problem. But that rarely happens.

                                                              As for the comments about trying cake or that it's too bad you don't eat bread - cut those people some slack! They are just saying what pops into their head - you ask for a restaurant recommendation, they think of their fav place with the awesome bread/cake/pasta/whatever and are about to say it when they realize that it won't work for you. Too bad, they think, that you don't eat cake/break/pasta/whatever because *they* do and they enjoy it and want to share a recommendation for a place they like to eat at with you. It's not the smoothest thing to say, but legitimate, I think.

                                                              1. No, we have not noticed any problem. Wife cannot do bi-valves. Most return restaurants seem to have notes on this, and always accommodate her, even on their chef's tasting menus. Never a problem.

                                                                Hunt

                                                                1. When I was a vegetarian, I found that as long as I did a little menu footwork myself to look for possible easy choices (salad and fries?), and restricted my questions to clarifications and/or, "I'm looking for a dish without [insert item of choice]; can you point me in the right direction?", I very rarely ran into attitude.

                                                                  Now, I'm seriously allergic to cow's milk (damn it!) and I use the same sort of strategy with much success and few negative reactions by waitstaff and/or restaurants.

                                                                  That said - I do always look for restaurants that meet my requirements. If a restaurant chooses to only offer milky options (Greens in SF used to be that way), I just don't go there. It's their menu to design and prepare. I don't agree with those that say all restaurants should meet all dietary restrictions. You can go somewhere else. And they can lose your business.

                                                                  1. Son who is now 19 is deathly allergic to nuts. We have always insisted on him informing the server about his "serious allergy" and listing all the nuts he's allergic to. Lately, he needs to be reminded to speak slowly and clearly. Restaurants are noisy places and servers are sometimes not paying attention. We have laminated 'chef cards" warning about the allergy and listing the tree nuts he's allergic to. Servers seem sometimes relieved that they have something to bring to the kitchen. I love restaurants that have menus online. If the kitchen has too many nuts in many courses, we find someplace else to go. Restaurants that claim to make everything from scratch are safer than places that use premade ingredients. Dining early when the kitchen is cleaner is best, and of course no dark candlelit spots, always inspect the food and ask about anything that looks not right.( "Excuse me what are those crunchy bits in the salad") We rarely encounter attitude and always tip well if the staff was especially attentive about checking ingredients. Makes it easier for the next allergic person that waitperson encounters.

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: meinNYC

                                                                      MIght want to have the list translated into Spanish, since so many line chefs (the people who really make your food, even in Asian restaurants) are from Latin America....

                                                                    2. I have a severe shellfish allergy. In Asia and Latin America, people almost always respond with, "Oh, you don't like seafood?". My standard response now is, "No, I love seafood. Just that if I eat any, my lungs will swell shut and horrible death ensues".

                                                                      5 Replies
                                                                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                        ah sam... always the master of understatement. i will have to remember that line next time someone tries to force some mellon on me ("surely just a little bit won't hurt"). i sometimes say that they don't want to see me flop around on the floor like a fish out of water.

                                                                        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                          Ahh Sam, I see you saying this with a huge grin on your face!

                                                                          We were once at a Korean restaurant with a friend with a very severe allergy to shellfish. I was a little worried, as Koreans throw shellfish into many food items, including kimchi (it is common to add some shrimp paste or oysters). I only found a few safe items on the menu, and I tried to communicate with the waitress about the seriousness of the allergy. My Korean is very limited, but for some reason I knew how to say "If she eats this, she will die, SHE WILL DIE", which I delivered in my most dramatic Korean tragedy voice, little Korean eyes bulging and forehead veins popping. The waitress gave a little shriek and assured me she would make sure the kitchen understood, and all went well.

                                                                          1. re: moh

                                                                            Well phrased! I can almost see this happening - in my mind.

                                                                            Wife has an allergy (not so severe) to bi-valves, and no chef has every blinked. Many restaurants have this noted on our dossier, so there is usually never a problem. If there ever is, I'll use your line, "SHE WILL DIE!," though do not believe that I could bring this off in Korean. Maybe Spanish, French and Portugese, but not Korean.

                                                                            Hunt

                                                                            1. re: moh

                                                                              While I understand not wanting to limit yourself to certain restaurants, if the allergy is that severe, I personally would not risk going to a korean restaurant. Like you said, they throw seafood into almost everything. I love to eat and I love korean food, but my life is worth more than a meal. Or at least find a korean restaurant where someone speaks excellent english and you can be sure about your communication.

                                                                            2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                              Oh, this happened all the time in Sicily to me. Thankfully, I'm not deathly allergic, merely prone to hives after ingestion of seafood, but....

                                                                              The best was when they went around our school group offering vast trays of fish and potatoes.

                                                                              "Oh, I'm so sorry, I'm allergic- I'll just nibble on the salad!"
                                                                              "You don't like fish?"
                                                                              "No, allergic, I swear, I'll be hideously ill!"
                                                                              "Have the potatoes!"
                                                                              (I examine the spoonful of potatoes. The potatoes have been swimming in fishy juices, and some appear to have scales attached. I go a little green around my own gills.)
                                                                              "No, really....salad! Basta!"

                                                                              (to be fair, I'm also vegetarian, the combination of which caused no end to confusion. It's okay! I love salad! Thank heavens I speak Italian though, or it could have been quite rough.)

                                                                            3. I have friends who are diabetic, vegetarian, carb-controlled, recovering alcoholics and have food allergies (everything from nuts to seafood to basil). My approach to dining with these folks is to find spots that can accommodate both our needs and not question the reasons they make their food choices. When I invite them to dinner, I see it as my duty as a good hostess to know about their needs (I often ask, if there is anything I should know before creating a menu, that's how I know about the varied concerns of friends) and make something accordingly. It doesn't bother me - at all.

                                                                              ON THE OTHER HAND, I don't appreciate a lecture from anyone making food choices about mine either. I enjoy food, I don't have diabetes, I love fish, dairy and meat, and bread and pasta, and lucky for me, I don't have to endure food allergies. What bothers me is when I try not to be rude to other's about food choices, but they so piously want to educate me on the "dangers" or "implications" of mine. "Do you know what your eating, there?!" (Yes, I know what I am eating, I too, made a conscious choice!) I don't want politics on my plate - I eat to enjoy, relax and engage with friends and family.

                                                                              5 Replies
                                                                              1. re: tsays

                                                                                Jim Gaffigan has a great comeback for the pious vegetarian who ask "Do you know what they do to those chickens?"

                                                                                "No, but it's DELICIOUS!"

                                                                                1. re: kmcarr

                                                                                  I prefer to keep dogma in my religion and out of my food. Way too many people have decided to transfer their dogmatic impulses once used in religion over to their relationship with food. Ugh.

                                                                                  1. re: kmcarr

                                                                                    I like it! And it is similiar to what I've said to someone who has tried to "school" me when I'm eating veal.

                                                                                    1. re: kmcarr

                                                                                      That's a way better answer than my usual one, which is to say with a large smile, "Shut the hell up."

                                                                                    2. re: tsays

                                                                                      great post.

                                                                                      I also have an issue with the folks who think their opinion matters about my diet choices. I dont care what they decide to eat or not eat for their own religious/medical/environmental/political/green choices, so it should work both ways.

                                                                                      I am a meat eater. Meat/seafood is the main component of every meaI eat, and I make no apologies for it.

                                                                                    3. A scenario presented itself in my restaurant recently and I'd love to get some Chowback on it.

                                                                                      It's a busy Friday evening. There is a table of twelve in one waiter's station. One of the women has Celiac's. The party had a reservation, but made no mention of this when they reserved. There was lots the woman could eat right on the menu, although the food would be simple (plain steaks, many types of veggies, etc). She said she could eat those things at home and the chef should prepare her something special instead, and she was adamant (I'll actually say kind of rude) about it. Should we have done/not done it?

                                                                                      10 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                                        This type of thing is typical and I would have just gone ahead and made her something combining whatever was available and hope she didn't come back.
                                                                                        I don't think refusing the request could result in any good. It's a pain and annoying and stupid and not fair, but so are a lot of other things that happen in the course of an evening. Fix her a kabob or something and call it done.

                                                                                        1. re: rockandroller1

                                                                                          She didn't want something simple, a la kabob. She wanted sauceS, etc.

                                                                                        2. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                                          I would say, as one who has never been in the business, if you were able to accommodate the diner without a deterioration of the food to your other customers, the kitchen should have tried to accommodate her, despite her rudeness.

                                                                                          1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                                            First question to ask her is to look at the entrees on the menu and see if there was a scenario of "could you make X without Y" versus playing the guessing game. Since she was being a PITA anything your server would suggest would not do, probably, so put the onus on her to come up with something.

                                                                                            Then if Ms Princess could not accomodate this request, ask her for a protein, then ask the chef if there was any way to do something and if that does not work, then apologize to the woman.

                                                                                            1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                                              Honestly, I would've improvised, but not really worked hard on it nor cared if it was amazing.

                                                                                              Like, for example, take a steak (which you have), some veggies (same), and, say, a sauce you have from a different entree. Voila! It's 'special'.

                                                                                              1. re: xanadude

                                                                                                Except those sauces all have flour in them, which she can't eat.

                                                                                              2. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                                                It always amazes me when people chose to be rude to the folks who will be preparing THEIR food.

                                                                                                This was discussed in a recent thread about Waiter Rant and resto staff spitting in food and what not. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/543560

                                                                                                1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                                                  i would react with the appropriate mortification:

                                                                                                  "oh i'm ***so sorry*** we didn't know about your requirements in advance! if we had even had a day's notice, of course the chef would have prepared a special meal for you. in fact s/he did a lovely rice-noodle breaded trout with wild rice and forest mushroom stuffing and ramp butter sauce for another guest with the same restrictions, just the other day, and it looked fantastic! we do take dietary restrictions *very* seriously here, and at this late date there are just a couple of options we feel we can offer you with absolute safety. please choose: a) b). thanks for your understanding, and please give us a little advance notice for your next visit, so that our chefs may prepare something really special for you!"

                                                                                                  then make sure to have the mod or chef bring out the special meal personally, and check up on the party. by the end of the evening, maybe the DR lady may have an inkling that she is the one acting like an a-hole. and i'm not trying to hate on the celiac lady-- there is a period lots of newly diagnosed folks (with all kinds of restrictions) go through where they have the mindset that they are just like everyone else, no problem, lah-tee-dah-- when the truth is that they have a very strict special diet, and other health requirements. they're fine when they're at home-- but they may not realize the extent to which they've adapted. the restaurant certainly doesn't have the gluten-free crackers etc they use at home. . . when they go out, they need to let others know about their requirements so that screw-ups that can severely affect their health *do not happen.* veteran, "pro" dietary restriction eaters are very vocal and clear about what they need, give plenty of advance notice, are polite, and are very easy to deal with. if this clueless lady has a positive experience at your restaurant, she may learn a lot about how to deal with hospitality establishments in the future. if she comes to trust your establishment's food, you guys may have a lock on all of her 12 person family special occasion meals for years!

                                                                                                  flip side: if you're mean to her, i guarantee she's gonna talk trash about the restaurant not being accommodating, not caring, bitchy staff, etc (poor me, i just had a special diet request, i'm just like everyone else, but they wouldn't even feed me!), and she'll continue to do the poor me routine in other restaurants with rudeness and issues toward their staff, and continue to "not get it," like, forever. . .

                                                                                                  1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                    @soupkitten - LOL!! I love your response.

                                                                                                  2. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                                                    I'd say that she was SOL. Now, with the courtesy of a call, things could have been very different. We do a lot of chef's tasting menus, and they always know weeks out, that wife has a few things that she cannot eat. Every one has accommodated her beautifully.

                                                                                                    When the house is pumping, the chef doesn't have time to do special dishes for one client, who did not have the sense to call ahead. When one has a dietary restriction, they should make it known beforehand.

                                                                                                    Things might be different with their "personal chef," but these restrictions should be covered, before the contract was issued.

                                                                                                    IMHO, too many folk think that the universe revolves around them. One must have a sense of grace and a decent sensibility. Not given that, were I the chef, I'd offer to validate that diner's valet parking ticket.

                                                                                                    Hunt

                                                                                                  3. People who don't respect their colleagues dietary choices should not be around other people period!!! Those people who push others to eat a food that might trigger a medical condition, or have an allergin or alcohol are the equivalent of drug pushers--at best they only care about themselves, not about the people with whom they deal. The victims (and I mean victims) have every right to call them names or even slap them in the face.

                                                                                                    Stand up for yourselves!!! Don't give into food pushers!!!

                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                    1. re: Braniff

                                                                                                      I have Celiac disease and studied abroad in Spring 2007. For our spring break, we went to Italy, and I managed to spend an entire week there without getting sick, which a lot of people didn't think I would be able to do. I was fine in Rome, but it got a little challenging when we went to Naples, and I got to spend 3 days watching all of my friends eat pizza for every meal. By the end of the trip, I was getting a little sick of this (although I was proud that I had managed to spend a week in a country that can bee a challenge to a celiac and not get sick at all) and it didn't help that a few of the people I was with kept going "oh come on, one little bite won't hurt you, will it?" It definitely helped that my roommate and one of our friends were sitting there telling me not to listen to them.

                                                                                                    2. Great thread! I have an allergy to vinegar (well, probably more the chemical catalyst used to speed fermentation, but that is way too much information for wait staff and not really the point when you are trying to avoid hives and asthmatic reactions!). I have become very good at avoiding vinegar over the years and hardly think about it anymore.

                                                                                                      I have rarely found it a problem to avoid vinegar in restaurants as most wait staff do not want you to blow up in front of them----off-putting for other diners and not conducive to good tips. When I ask using the word "allergy",they respond with information from the chef, if necessary and I get to run anything suspicious through the sniff test.(I am lucky in that consuming a tiny bit doesn't usually set me off.)

                                                                                                      And friends are pretty decent, too. They try hard and if they forget, its pretty easy to detect vinegar in most dishes before taking a big bite.

                                                                                                      But my in-laws (Mom and Dad and my husband's sisters) were the bane (literally-they tried to poison me!) of my existence for many, many years. They clearly thought I was just being a princess and would push the issue of pickles, salad dressings, pasta salads etc. "Just a bit, dear..." or "But Mom made the chutney especially for you".

                                                                                                      This went on for years--20 to be exact.I told my husband I suspected they didn't believe me, but he would just brush this off. (Let me say now that they were/are wonderful in ALL other ways-generous, funny and loving.)

                                                                                                      Then one day, we were traveling and all out together for dinner in Italy on the coast and I must have accidentally consumed some pickled fish appetizer...I didn't even realize I had broken out. My SIL and daughter were in the washroom with me when we all happened to be looking in the mirror together.Their eyes widened as we watched me blotch up from the neck up and down and start to wheeze...thats when my SIL blurted out: "Oh my GOD-you really are allergic! What should do???Oh, no-I am SO sorry" and she burst into tears.

                                                                                                      Ah-hah! Vindicated, at last! It was worth the itch and the blast of the asthma inhaler to watch her tell the rest of the family and see their sheepish looks...

                                                                                                      Needless to say, I never get family pickles pushed at me anymore!

                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                      1. re: LJS

                                                                                                        You poor dear! It is a tragedy that it took you breaking out in hives, after 20 years, to finally be taken seriously. People, especially family, can be so thoughtless when it comes to food choices. I'm glad you survived. Do you have an Epi-pen? You need one! I keep one, just in case. I am not going to die over food!

                                                                                                      2. I think that you're just encountering really rude people. I stopped eating red meat when I was about ten, and I stopped eating chicken and fish about five years ago. I also occasionally do a "detox" (caveat: I don't necessarily believe it eliminates toxins from my body, but it sure as hell makes me feel a million times better) that involves not eating wheat, gluten, dairy, nightshades, meat, fruit (except bananas), processed sugars, femented foods and caffeine. Nobody has ever had a bad word to say to me. When we go out for meals I usually eat a dinner-sized salad with mixed vegetables, pick out the nightshades and use olive oil and lemon juice as dressing. When I go to parties I bring my own sparkling water. Everyone I've eaten with has been really respectful and, in all honesty, a restricted diet makes me way less bitchy than usual so everyone wins! I detoxed for three months while I lived in Italy (yes, home to pizza and pasta) and even Italians were sweethearts about accommodating my preferences. You need to find new diningmates!

                                                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                                                          1. re: shaebones

                                                                                                            Nightshades are certain vegetables that are distant relatives of poison ivy and are thought to cause sensitivity in some people. Some examples include tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and zucchini (in other words, all my favorite vegetables!).

                                                                                                        1. I have a salad issue. Not sure if you'd call it an intolerance or allergy. And, actually I'm certain it is really the freshener spray many restaurants put on the lettuce and veggies, because I can and do love salads at home.

                                                                                                          No one has ever given me a hard time about it.

                                                                                                          Is someone ever does, I will let them time the 20 minutes it takes before I have to go to the bathroom, and that person can come keep me company while I get rid of the salad one direction or the other or both.

                                                                                                          Yeah. I'd like the salad, but I either give it to someone else or have the restaurant hold mine. Some restaurants offer cooked or grilled veggies instead which is nice, but I've never asked. I just smile and say, "Thank you, but I can't have salad."

                                                                                                          14 Replies
                                                                                                          1. re: CyndiA

                                                                                                            excuse me, but what the holy hell is salad "freshener spray?"

                                                                                                            1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                              CyndiA may be referring to Fruit Fresh.

                                                                                                              http://www.amazon.com/Bernardin-Fruit...

                                                                                                              I did my time in fast food as a teen, and we bathed the lettuce in it. It definitely tastes like...something. And I don't doubt that some people are sensitive to it. But I've never encountered it at any restaurant that wasn't a chain.

                                                                                                              1. re: small h

                                                                                                                wow.
                                                                                                                i have worked in indie places my whole life and have never heard of the existence of this stuff before now, much less encountered it. we just, uh. . . get fresh organic salad greens, store them properly, and like, use 'em right away. who knew there was another way!

                                                                                                                expletives fail me. i shall have nightmares about this product.

                                                                                                                1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                                  Oh, and I'm sure Fruit Fresh is also used in most salad bars. It seems normal to me 'cause I've known about it since I was 16. I don't want to ruin your good night's sleep any more than I already have, but...

                                                                                                                  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tbX9tR...

                                                                                                                  1. re: small h

                                                                                                                    aaaaaaaaauuuuuugh! my eyes!!!!

                                                                                                                    :)

                                                                                                                    uh. . . but what *is* it?-- i mean, it could be water-released chlorine plus heinous preservatives and colorants, or, it could be relatively innocuous vitamin c. maybe it doesn't have to be the creeping, slithering horror that i'm fearing it is. and, is the fruit stuff the same as the "freshening spray" for salads CyndiA's talking about? gahh!!! there are more over there! their heads! aim for their heads!!!!

                                                                                                                    1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                                      Apparently there are numerous products out there under the general category of fruit and/or vegetable "washes" that remove wax, pesticides, etc. and provide a "fresh" and "natural" flavor.

                                                                                                                      A quick google revealed that most advertise themselves as "all natural" - however, they don't seem eager to disclose their ingredients. One - on Amazon - lists the following:

                                                                                                                      "Purified Water, Oleic Acid (From Vegetable Sources), Glycerol (From Vegetable Sources), Ethyl Alcohol (From Corn), Potassium Hydrate (From Basic Minerals), Baking Soda (From Basic Minerals), Citric Acid (From Cornstarch & Molasses), and Distilled Grapefruit Oil."

                                                                                                                      Another noted that if used on spongy vegetation - such as mushrooms - a citrusy flavor may result (probably the grapefruit or other citrus oil). I'd guess there's a general light citrus flavor imparted to almost everything - so drown that salad in dressing!!! :)

                                                                                                                      1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                                        I do not work in the restaurant industry, so I don't know what they put on some salads. I've tried asking if salads have been treated or sprayed with anything and been told no and then had an upset stomach.

                                                                                                                        It took a while to link it to salads, but I'm 100% certain that is the problem food. So, I do not eat salads out now, since I can't be sure.

                                                                                                                        The reaction is stomach cramps (enough that they can be seen through clothes) and then the food eaten at the meal comes up one way or the other. Food looks undigested as well.

                                                                                                                  2. re: small h

                                                                                                                    So, just don't eat salads at fast food places.

                                                                                                                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                                                      I don't. But I think you intended to reply to CyndiA. Fruit Fresh has no effect on me - I just notice it.

                                                                                                                      1. re: small h

                                                                                                                        ooops, sorry, small h. I'm with you on both counts.

                                                                                                                      2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                                                        I don't eat salads out period as I stated in my post. I eat them at home but not out, because something they put on them upsets my stomach.

                                                                                                                        This is not unique to "fast food places." I don't recall ever buying a fast food salad.

                                                                                                                        1. re: CyndiA

                                                                                                                          I have the same reaction and have attributed it to preservatives. Many restaurants buy pre-washed lettuces and these bagged lettuces are the culprit. Fresh lettuces from the grocer or farmers market don't have any ill affects on my digestive tract - but those preservative laden ones wreak havoc.

                                                                                                                          1. re: lynnlato

                                                                                                                            Tks for the post. I did just reply to the OP about what I do about concerns, but I think others may want to look at the sprays on fresh foods.

                                                                                                                            It took me a while to figure out that salads did me bad. I kept thinking it had to be my imagination. But, I finally decided that was the problem when eating out.

                                                                                                                            I've never made a big deal out of it. I'll just ask to hold the salad back or ask if anyone would like the salad. So, no one has really questioned it except my Mom. She asked why I passed on salad, because she knows I do like salad. I explained the problem, and she said that my great aunt has the same reaction. They ate out at a high end restaurant (on a trip) where my great aunt thought it would be safe on the salad. Then, great aunt got very sick for 24 hrs and told my Mom she knew it was the salad.

                                                                                                                            Just recently I gifted my salad over to my brother at a steak house where I'd had the reaction before. He ended up in the bathroom there, and he said there was another place he eats often and has the problem and that he gets a salad with chicken on top. So, he plans to try a dish without fresh veggies there to see how it goes.

                                                                                                                            From this, I'm thinking we have a spotty genetic reaction in the fam to something that is common on salads or fresh veggies in restaurants. But, I felt sure it could not be so rare that others did not have this same issue. I am guessing it is kind of rare though, because anyone would have to be nuts to eat salads with whatever is on it if it does this. Not fun.

                                                                                                                            But, back to the OP, I've never had any rude reactions about passing on salad other than on Chow Hound here in the comments. The people I eat with never seem to notice that I am avoiding salad - except my Mom and then my brother when he had the bathroom issues after the steak house salad I sent his way.

                                                                                                                  3. re: CyndiA

                                                                                                                    I have it too. It's the preservatives that companies put on their greens. Actually, many restos buy their lettuces pre-packaged (mixed greens, romaine, etc) and the preservatives that these greens are treated with can reek havoc on one's intestinal tract.

                                                                                                                    The bags of lettuces in the grocery store are also treated. Which is why I always buy fresh, organic produce.

                                                                                                                  4. I've been vegetarian for 14 years, and I can tell you that the vast majority of times I ask a non-vegetarian for food/restaurant recommendations, I get a "it's really too bad you don't eat meat." So I don't think it's limited to medically necessary diets. In fact, it makes more sense to me that people say that to vegetarians, since most of us have a choice about it, while a medically necessary diet is, well, necessary. In any case, I agree with you- it can be frustrating.

                                                                                                                    1. I have gout, so I avoid beef, lamb and game. I make no secret about this, and I often explain to people what gout is and how these foods (and others) tend to trigger attacks. I've never gotten the type of comments the OP got. However, when I mention my allergy to specific shellfish, I do tend to get that type of comments. This discrepancy always seemed odd to me, because the shellfish allergy means a guaranteed reaction, whereas the gout only means a possibility of an attack.

                                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                                      1. re: dump123456789

                                                                                                                        I also have gout, though -- knock wood -- I haven't had an attack in years. I got comments all the time, but of a different sort. I found that many people think they knew more about gout than they actually do. I kept getting knowing looks and statements like, "Must be all that rich food, huh?" If I tried to explain about uric acid and purines, eyes quickly began glazing over....

                                                                                                                        People often assumed that shellfish were off-limits for me, and would give me strange looks when I happily ordered fried clams or shrimp scampi. (Scallops, on the other hand, would make me pay dearly, at least if I ate more than a couple. And don't get me started on certain types of mushrooms....)

                                                                                                                      2. I have an extreme limitation with respect to garlic/leeks/onions/shallotsk/even chives. I've given up, just try to judge the food myself or order something (I think) utterly safe--or just take the consequences--two tablets of omeprazole + whatever quantity maalox, and still an unpleasant or sleepless night. For a long time, I was disgruntled about waitstaff indifference/ignorance, but then came to the conclusion that, given the highly individual nature of dietary restrictions, there's no way one can expect any waiter to be knowledgeable about/sensitive to any given diner.