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Debbie Downer

Sometimes I feel like the Debbie Downer of the taste bud world.

“Hey, want a cookie?”

“No thanks, if I eat that my child will scream in agony for days.”

Cue the music.

When I first decided to try this diet, other moms told me they got by ordering plain chicken and vegetables at restaurants and packing peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for dinner parties. 

Ugh, I can actually feel my taste buds wilting.

Not to sound selfish, but I wouldn’t last two days on a strictly blah diet.  I need flavor!  But this can be a tall order when you’re not cooking your own.  I find people fall mainly into two camps when offering you food: the nonchalant and the over-zealous.  The nonchalant person is the one to fear most.  If they say, “you should be alright” when you ask if there is dairy or soy in it be afraid….be very afraid.

But the over-zealous person can be equally dangerous (to your taste buds).  They try to eliminate everything from a dish – even salt and pepper – to avoid any offending allergens.  Problem is, this also eradicates flavor.  But hey, I appreciate the effort.  I usually just smile, make a joke about how high maintenance I am and (if I’m in a restaurant) see if they can help me find a more taste-worthy option.

A little reconnaissance work goes a long way when dining away from home.  If you’re headed to a chain restaurant, see if they have allergy information posted online.  I Google “restaurant name allergy info” because sometimes it’s hard to find on the restaurant website.  If it’s a local joint, call ahead and ask if they accommodate food allergies.  They can usually put you in touch with someone in the kitchen or a manager.  You’ll still need to inform your server, but you can at least figure out what to order beforehand, which cuts down on the nine million questions you usually have to ask.

Eating in people’s homes is a little more tricky.  If you know them fairly well, try to find out what they’re serving and how you can “fill in” for taboo items, i.e. bringing chips and salsa for an appetizer or a small thing of rice instead of mac n’ cheese.  If you don’t feel comfortable asking, plan to eat beforehand or brown bag it.  I’ve even been known to check food labels at friend’s houses, but I know that can get a little awkward.

I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again: don’t just ask someone, “Does this have dairy or soy in it?”  People usually don’t think about (or know) all of the hidden sources of these tricky ingredients.  When at a restaurant, I go through every aspect of the dish.  If it’s a sandwich, I ask if the bread was made with milk or if they butter it.  Always ask if the sauce has dairy or soy in it or if the vegetables have butter (they usually do). 

If it’s crazy busy or the server falls into the nonchalant camp, I’ll sometimes just wander over to the kitchen.  There’s usually a manager or kitchen staffer milling about.  I tell them I don’t want to “bother” the server with this since they’re so busy and see if they can help me pick something out that’s safe to eat.  A smile goes a long way.

All of these things take a lot of effort, but if you’re a fellow foodie they’re worth it. 

And if all else fails, there’s always peanut butter and jelly.