BLUF: How do you handle it when there are common foods you literally cannot eat?
I have a severe allergy to fish and shellfish (as in a prawn could kill me (anaphylaxis leading to my throat swelling up blocking my airway, I discovered I had the allergy the first time this happened) or at least put me in hospital over night). When I'm booking a business meal this isn't too much of a problem as I can make sure that where ever I book there's something on the menu safe for me to eat. But I've had issues where other people have booked meals, both suppliers where I am the guest (or at least one of the guests) and collegues where we are entertaining guests.
The root problem seems to be that many people don't seem to appreciate that allergies can be life threatening (I once had a manager who, when he'd booked a seafood resturant for a team meal and I asked if there was a non-fish option due to having an allergy, said "So you'll get a few spots, live with it!" and refuse to believe that an allergy could lead to more than a rash).
I've read the transcript of the meal etiquette cast and note that is says to not make a big thing about dietry preferences. I try not to, as I said if I'm booking the meal then I just make sure it's somewhere with something safe on the menu (I also contact everyone individually to ask about dietary preferences or needs, and often found that people are surprised that someone is actually willing to accomodate their nut allergy, religeous restrictions (e.g. Halal) or coeliac disease) and if someone else is booking I mention that I have the allergy and ask that there be a non-fish option. Strange as it might seem (it certainly seems strange to me) there are plenty of steak houses who will happily have a vegetarian option, several vegetarion options even, and quite a few resturants (certainly around where I live) have Halal options but asking about a non-fish option when a sea food fan wants to go to a sea food resturant is seen as a major transgression.
How can I (or anyone with food allergies) handle this more effectively (i.e. survive the meal and not give offense)?