When you have food allergies you can seem a bit obsessive compulsive to the uninitiated. I know I’m a little compulsive sometimes about making sure my food is allergen-free, because I have to be. If you hear me repeat after each course, "there are no nuts in that" it can sound a bit over the top.
As anyone with food allergies knows, even the most compulsive grilling of the chef or server doesn’t mean that there won’t be mistakes. Which of course feeds into the next experience with the next restaurant and the next compulsive questioning of the restaurant staff.
So I was particularly struck reading this article in the New York Times about obsessive-compulsive disorder and dining out. It seemed to me that someone with OCD faces very similar challenges dining out as someone with food allergies does.
“Sometimes the trouble is the element of public theater in the dining room, meaning we have to indulge in our often-embarrassing rituals under the eyes of so many strangers ...”
Have you ever felt this way when you are going through your food needs in front of a new friend, a work colleague or gasp! a new date? Going to a restaurant for someone with food allergies or intolerances or any special dietary need is a very public declaration of one’s needs. Some people feel embarrassed about asking the kitchen for so many “special favors” or “substitutions”. And then add to that the whole table’s conversation seems to stop when you’re going through your list.
The article continues. “Sometimes the trouble … might be worrying about the safety of the food and the people who serve it.”
Now someone with OCD and no food allergies would have a different take on this sentence but still, food safety is a food allergic diner’s number one concern. I can do without restaurant theater, hot model-type waitstaff, or gorgeously plated masterpieces. I really want Allergic Girl safe food. As Suzzy Roche said in “Crossing Delancy”: “…just give me scrupulously clean.”
The article continues: “To many of us with obsessive-compulsive disorder… We walk into a calm and civilized dining room and see things we won’t be able to control. This feeds directly into one of the unifying themes of the disorder: an often crushing inability to handle the unknown.”
Who with food allergies or food intolerances hasn’t felt that way?
What do you think?