Are we tired of anonymous non-food-allergic online commenters yet?
It’s always a double-edged sword when I read an online article about food allergies.
First, the article itself can either be accurate and informative or it can be poorly-researched and a huge community disservice (we’re still facing the fallout of the New York Times’ horrendous and inaccurate article on research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association — for article, click here; for my blog entry and reader comments, click here).
Second, however, there is usually an almost guaranteed negative — the anonymous online commenters. It’s so easy for cowards to be overly rude and aggressive when anonymous, a behavior that’s certainly not specific just to articles on food allergies. That being said, it’s probably a good thing that we know how a slice of the population really feels when they won’t tell us directly.
In any case, my ire was once again raised by reading the New York Times. This time however, the content of the Times itself was not an issue. In a Dining Q&A section called Dear FloFab, Florence Fabricant had an excellent answer to a food-allergic diner’s question. However, the anonymous comments once again got to me. To see the full article and comments, click here. For the abridged version, read on:
Dear FloFab: My Waiter Joked About My Food Allergies
Q. For people like myself with food allergies, going out for dinner requires a bit more research, such as viewing the menu online and calling ahead. I also attempt to choose dishes that would be easy for the kitchen to accommodate – for example, by leaving off the sauce. But how do I handle a wait person’s rudeness when he or she tries to belittle my request in a loud enough voice to catch the attention of the rest of my dinner companions? (“Oh, it only has a little butter – what’s the worst that can happen?”) I’m dying for a witty retort, without having to lay out a medical explanation, to keep the attention from being on me.
A. If a wait person is making you uncomfortable, I would get up from the table, go to the manager of the restaurant and very quietly explain the situation. And let the manager handle it. Obviously that wait person has been badly trained and the restaurant could use a wake-up call.
Of course, another option is to inform the manager and then leave the restaurant, but that would depend on the specific circumstances of whom you are with, what the occasion is, what your other options are at that time, etc.
In any case, I won’t reprint all the comments, but here’s a sample of the good, the bad, and the ugly:
- “Given that 99% of people who claim to have food allergies really are just picky eaters I support the waiter. This idea that people should be able to eat whatever they like in a restaurant is dumb. You go and eat what they cook not what you invent. If you dont like or cant eat what they serve, dont go.”
- “I’ve had servers belittle my allergy to sour cream, or question it. When that has happened, I’ve looked the server straight in the eye and said soberly, ‘If there’s sour cream in my dish, you get to call 911.’ Without fail, this gets their attention.”
- “Speaking from a server’s POV [point of view], I can’t tell you how much more money I can make pandering to a diner’s individual needs. Of course, it involves more work for me, and can anger the kitchen staff, but at the end of the day the chef is not the one who pays me, it is the customer.”
- “Bottom line: if you have a sensitive allergy that will send you to the hospital or kill you, don’t eat out.”
- “Allergens are proteins. People are not allergic to potatoes and tomatoes. This is just neurosis.”
- “In the restaurant industry we take allergies very serious[ly]. The last thing we need is a paramedic rushing into the dining room in the middle of a Friday night. People have weird allergies, and to belittle them about it causes embarrassment, which in turn takes money from my pocket.”
- “I have worked in high-end restaurants in Manhattan for years. The joke the waiter made regarding the patron’s food allergy horrifies me. I always take the utmost care to respect the allergies, and even food preferences of those I have served. Unfortunately, some chefs are not on board with those concerns. I vividly remember walking out of a restaurant when the very prominent chef refused to tell me if there was garlic or nuts in a dish ordered by someone with an allergy to both (turns out the dish had both garlic and almonds). He informed me that it was none of my business what was in his recipe and he had yet to kill anyone. Honestly, the level of hostility that exists in most kitchens to allergies would shock most people.”
- “My favorite comment about food allergies in restaurants came from Kenny Shopsin, short order cook/guru: ‘Most of the times when a customer makes a special request, it’s not about the food, but rather his own desire to be in control and to establish his own specialness. Making people feel special through this kind of a**-kissing is one of the services that a restaurant can provide to people who need it, but it’s not a service that I want to provide… Some people tell me that they’re deathly allergic to something and that I have to make sure it’s not in their food. I kick them out. I don’t want to be responsible for anyone’s life-or-death situation. I tell them they should go eat at a hospital.'”
How’s your blood pressure? Are you as frustrated as I? I think this is the 3rd blog entry I’ve written quoting comments from anonymous online posters. Why don’t I stop? Because I think we all need to hear this, whether we want to or not, as a reminder that we have to continuously advocate for ourselves – firmly!
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