Food Allergies and Travel, aka Bitchfest

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I have mentioned that I am allergic to dairy. Not an anaphylaxis allergy, but every tissue swells. I feel wretched for weeks. I am literally unwell for a solid week, joints hurt for weeks, and I’m not entirely “normal” for a month.

That being said it’s understandable that I avoid dairy with vigor. When I travel I plan. I pack food. I do everything I can to avoid a random chain restaurant. I have learned from experience that sometimes waitresses and cooks are too apathetic or just not knowledgeable. I had a baker at Cosi tell me there was no dairy in the bread only to have my throat swell 30 minutes after eating. I’ve also had waitresses return to my table claiming to have spoken to the cook but come back with no information, and another who swore the wheat bread (which had dairy) was rye (which did not). Stay away from Borrelli’s, that’s where the waitress was too lazy to actually ask the chef; she yelled at me for ordering too quietly as well. I met my now fiance’s family while trying not to panic about my flushing face and swollen throat. Also stay away from the Waffle House. It should be common sense, but I lacked it. Their poisoning made for a long drive to Washington DC from NYC with a blurry mind, aching joints, and swollen throat.

Bitching aside, there is research into the restaurants and several visits to happycow.com and urbanspoon.com to find a vegan or vegan friendly restaurant before I go anywhere new. (I do write in the passive voice!) I am in Stratford, ON. It has beautiful food, just not very much for a vegan. At least not very much advertised. I made a reservation at The Parlour, and emailed asking if I could have a lunch item for dinner because there were no vegan dinner entries other than a modified salad. They didn’t reply but when I got there, they were extremely gracious and the owner came out after speaking to the chef, and offered me something nowhere on the menu. I had absolutely delicious lo mein with tofu. This is a shining example of how I think things should be done. They knew what was in their food, and they were understanding about my food allergy.

Tonight however, we went to Downie Street Burgers, this was much less pleasant. Our B&B innkeeper told us they were vegan friendly, and he thought that every restaurant in the area catered to vegans and gluten-free folks. I’m sad to say he was wrong. Although my family had great burgers, it was a terrible food experience for me. I asked the waitress if I could eat the bread or the wraps because I had a dairy allergy, I told her egg was fine. She said she doubted I could eat it; I had to ask her to ask to the chef. Normally people don’t guess on that type of thing. When she finally came back to us, mind you at this point we were some of the only people in the restaurant, she asked if we were ready to order never having come back with the answer from the chef. When I asked her, she said he didn’t know either, but he thought it would be fine because the bread spoiled quickly. At this point I’m fairly prickly. My sister, more reactive than myself, was ready to walk out. However, I knew from reputation they had very good food, and I was the only vegan. I sucked it up, and ate a veggie burger with no bun. It’s sad such potentially amazing food came with such horrendous, apathetic service.

Canada has similar labeling laws as the US. Foods, even bakery foods, need to have the ingredients listed. I have worked as a waitress and for years in food service. If you care to look, the information is there. I’m not annoyed when I can’t eat anything in a restaurant. I’m annoyed when people are too lazy to look.

There is a coffee shop here called, Balzac’s. They have almond milk! Also they are open until 9pm. I couldn’t find their hours anywhere online. I had a fantastic drink that seems to be popular in Canada. It’s called a London Fog. It is earl grey tea with steamed milk and a shot of vanilla. Yum! The people there were so sweet as well. They were good about using different pitchers for different milks, and unlike many other places weren’t snotty when I asked if it was almond milk when handed my drink. Having worked at several coffee shops through my college years, I know how often mistakes are made. I can’t say enough nice things about the place.

I get “peopled out” after having to spend too much continuous time with anyone. Despite the impression I give as gregarious to people when they first meet me, I’m actually terribly introverted. My vacation from my vacation was my time with my London Fog, ipod, book, and lackluster vegan cookie that I am just grateful they sell.

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One Response to Food Allergies and Travel, aka Bitchfest

  1. Kinenchen says:

    My sister is allergic to milk and I’m sensitive to gluten… makes holidays a nightmare. Good to know I’m not alone. 🙂

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