Thursday, December 3, 2009

Apple, or Death Sentence?

What do Snow White, Eve, (the Nudist from the Bible, not the pop star) and Chef have in common? To these three people, and millions of others, the apple, the humble fruit is down right dangerous. Lethal, in Chef's situation.

My darling Chef is deathly allergic to a certain protein found in raw apples, peaches, plums, cherries...all stone fruits. He developed this allergy as a child and it has grown progressively worse as he has aged. Chef had the chance to indulge in stone fruits in his youth, their wonderful tastes and juices, so he understands their flavor profiles well enough to use them in foods, although there is the occasion when he asks me try a cherry for sourness, or a plum for sweetness, in which I happily oblige him.

When cooked, he can indulge in these delectables, but I admittedly am nervous when he chooses to do so.
What if it is not cooked enough? What if he goes into shock? I don't have an Epi Pin! Why didn't he just order the chocolate cake?

The man can not even handle these foods raw without gloves...they make his skin itch. Needless to say, this is somewhat of a nightmare for a chef. Although, being a chef in this sense has its perks. He is a virtual library of recipes so he is quick to recognize a dish that may have ingredients that may be hazardous to his health.

When you have a food allergy dining out is always risky. It is important to alert your server regardless of whether or not you are ordering something that contains the lethal ingredient. This way the kitchen can safeguard your food against all possible contamination. All it takes is the juice of an apple on a knife then used to cut an orange used in your dish to trigger a reaction.

I have a friend whose Uncle croaked in a restaurant due to ingesting pineapple. He was in his late 40's and wasn't even aware he had an allergy to pineapple. Fate just had it in for him. He left a wife and two young children.

So what is a food allergy? A food allergy is when your immune system tweaks out and attacks a food protein by mistake thinking it is something dangerous, rather than something nourishing. It is like a biological version of "friendly fire." In reaction to the mistake your body produces histamine and other chemicals, or antibodies, which cause all the terrible symptoms associated with allergies.. itches, swelling, even death. It is estimated that 1 in every 25 Americans have a food allergy and there is no prevention or cure...the only way to beat it is through abstinence.

What if you just really don't like something, like lets say you despise cilantro? You are not alone, to many people it tastes like soap, but whatever you do...don't tell your server if you are dining out that you are allergic to it. I know that this little white lie for many is the only way to be sure cilantro does not sneak its way on to your plate in a restaurant, but let me tell you what a restaurant kitchen has to do if they are under the false impression that there is a food allergy at table 9.

In the middle of service the cooks preparing food for your table have to stop what they are doing. Scrub their cutting boards, clean their knives, get clean utensils, and have the dishwasher produce fresh untouched pots to cook your food because a food allergy is a life or death situation. It is taken very seriously by a kitchen. It is a major endeavor, so please unless you have an actual allergy just drill it into your server's brain to write in big black letters on the order "no cilantro at all" and save the kitchen the stress.

Just a lil' insider's tip.

1 comment:

Christina Catinella said...

Thank you Nan! I think this happens far too often and I'm sure everyone remembers the story of the boy who cried wolf. When a restaurant finds out someone lied about their allergy they could become numb to the "allergy excuse" and not take these extra precautions you've mentioned above. I know any restaurant should take these precautions no matter what, but my point is that the liars make it more difficult for the people who really do have allergies.