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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)?

Stephen

tlhausmann's picture

[quote="stephenbooth_uk"]BLUF: How do you handle it when there are common foods you literally cannot eat?
[...]if someone else is booking I mention that I have the allergy and ask that there be a non-fish option. [...]

Stephen[/quote]

Based on what you write Stephen you seem to have handled it well. I plead guilty to boorish behavior when I was not aware of customs and allergies in the past. These suppliers, with time, will grow to appreciate their guests dietary restrictions when setting up meetings. The result will be meetings and meals tuned to their guests preferences--and guests will not end up in the hospital.

If your meeting is a small group you might ask "How about (The Other Place)? They have great variety and a prime rib sandwich that is outstanding!" A friend or colleague may then recall that you have food allergies, speak up, and support going to another restaurant.

Recently when arranging a meeting with a professional contact she replied "How about That Place -- they have great salads" and *click* I recalled from a dusty corner of my mind that she was vegetarian.

WillDuke's picture

I agree, it sounds like you're doing fine. I can't think of anything you're saying or doing that I would change. It's honest and sensitive. Well done.

Mark's picture

Let's not conflate dietary preferences with a life threatening allergy. Your boss who commented about the spots is a boor of the highest order.

If no arrangements can be made, politely, quietly, with a smile and great conviviality and conversational excellence ... eat a couple of rolls, and have a snack at home.

Never eat anything you are concerned about, AND never make the meal or even conversation of others be about what you are having or not having.

I think you're fine.

Mark

stephenbooth_uk's picture

Thank you for the advice, I guess I need to work on my conversational excellence.

Stephen

TomW's picture

[quote="mahorstman"]Let's not conflate dietary preferences with a life threatening allergy. Your boss who commented about the spots is a boor of the highest order[/quote]

As someone who's been in anaphylactic shock over a food... I agree!