We had lunch with a friend this weekend that has a severe food allergy. Not the “I’m allergic to gluten cause I fear carbs and can’t fit into my skirt, but then I inhale a loaf of bread hiding in the closet” type of allergy; but the kind where you actually carry an epi pen to save your freaking life. Hay fever is the extent of my allergies, so I’ve never had to deal with life and death situations when it comes to food (although once a month if I don’t get chocolate, someone will die).
Of course, as I do, I asked him a million questions about what it was like being allergic to dairy of all kinds (I’m sure he never tires of answering if he misses ice cream; we dairy folk are such sadists) and he agreeably took it in stride. By the time I hit the questions about colds and if he produces less snot than the rest of us and if someone kisses him with butter on their lips, would it send him into anaphylactic shock (yes, he had this happen, but the reaction was mild; of course, I had already written a film scene in my head and was giddy with the filmic possibilities), my husband gave me the look of 'OK, you're getting boring now.'
At the time we were eating at a Lebanese restaurant and when it came to ordering he casually looked at the waitress and told her he had an allergy to dairy. (If it were me, I’d carry printed memos in black bold print and a bullhorn, but that's me). On first blush, I swear I detected an eye roll on her part, which from where I sat was a tad worrisome. She then uttered back in a thick accent, ‘oh you mean gluten.’ Um, NO, I mean DAIRY and we’re talking about this man’s life here, so you better down an espresso, get a pen, and snap to attention.
This was when I thought to myself that dealing with the general fray when you have a life-threatening allergy must be a tedious reminder that you cannot trust anyone, especially the general public that can barely find Afghanistan on a map, let alone spell it – (that’s goat country, lots of dairy there I’m thinkin)… Yes, I’m jaded as h*ll, but I’ve had tellers at the bank that can’t even add, but that certainly doesn’t put my life on the line.
After we set her straight on the differences between gluten and dairy she started to take him seriously as to what could NOT be in his food. Of course, I kept uttering from my side of the table, ‘he’s serious, he could DIE’ just so she fully understood the repercussions (the kicker, he didn’t even have his epi pen on him, so I sat at the table debating how fast I could run to his flat in sandals if he fell over into his ‘dairy’ free meal). To her credit, she then committed fully to the cause and even brought him special bread with his hummus that the cook made with oil instead of butter. Tip for you, lady.
I credit this friend of ours for being so calm about his allergy, then again, he’s lived with it his whole life, he’s probably very used to what he can and can’t do and the idiots he encounters in restaurants that think double cream is a vegetable. If it were me, I’d probably never leave the house to eat, would have forced my mom to home school me and would bring my own food to dinner parties (those pesky trust issues again). But again, I tend to go a bit overboard at times in the precaution department.
And of course what did we do after lunch just to emphasize what good friends we were? We dragged him to ice cream of course and ate it in front of him. Such sadists we are.