How @OMSI doesn’t love people with food allergies and why people with food allergies shouldn’t eat at OMSI.
Posted on December 11th, 2014
Disclaimer 1: If I blogged about food allergies (mine, pH’s) with any regularity, I would drive you crazy, which is why I don’t.
Disclaimer 2: I took klonopin before writing this post. I did! It had a lot more profanity before editing. (Disclaimer 2(a): I edited this post!)
Disclaimer 3: We have been OMSI members for years (FYI: they have a sale going on right now). I just checked my hash marks in pH’s education notebook: in addition to camps, pH and I have been to OMSI 21 times this year, not including movies and shows. I’m not sure if that’s a lot (I recently met a guy who goes to the zoo every day), but I know certain staff and volunteers by name, because, well, pH and I tend to do make friends. We can skip the paleo lab for months then pop in and be recognized. (Really: it happened today.)
Food allergy breakdown:
pH: Peanuts (anaphylaxis).
qH: Tree nuts (Anaphylaxis). Seeds (reaction depends on how many). Wheat (not celiac, it’s a wheat allergy). Dairy intolerance. Oysters. Amazingly, not peanuts, but see above. (I found a decent soy nut butter online.)
kH: None. (Bastard.)
FYI: many things which are “gluten free” (which is great for celiac but not necessarily the wheat allergic, but that is another post) use tree nut flours or other nuts and seeds. So saying a crust is “gluten free” doesn’t do me much good if I don’t know what flours are used. I can’t eat pizza anymore, anyway, what with the whole cheese business. (I recently ordered a pepperoni pizza for pH and kH from American Dream and when it arrived it smelled so good I went to my office and I cried.)
I eat a lot of sushi now. I order not-too-salty-wheat-free soy sauce online and take it with me. I like sushi, so this works out well for me. I probably need to be tested for Hg exposure.
If you go to Theory (the restaurant) at OMSI, you’ll notice it, like a lot of Bon Appetit-run places, has various food stations, and you can order this or that and they are very friendly, usually, and there is a blurb regarding food sourcing on the menu. Because Portland.
At Theory, in their beautiful case of food, you will also see items with blatant allergens–think peanuts or pecans–next to items which are otherwise, at least to us, benign. You have no idea how hard it is to tell a 7 year old that no, she can’t have the macaroon (or whatever) because it’s been sitting next to the thing with the peanuts on it.
Although the menu provides information about where the food comes from at Theory, I don’t care (sorry, Colin), as long as I’m not allergic to it. I set a low bar, because I really dislike 1) that itchy feeling in my throat and 2) going to the hospital. Also, I have nightmares about my daughter administering an epi-pen on me. We’ve practiced (with the needle-free version). My leg was bruised for a week.
We become regulars at restaurants not because we are the sort of people who like to be “Norm!” (although it’s nice and yes, we do become that family), but because as regulars I know what’s safe. If I’m not a regular, I scrutinize the menu closer than an insurance defense firm’s settlement language. I once had to go to the ER because someone used the same grinder for spices and tree nuts.
So going to a place week after week, like, say, OMSI (pH is now in a weekly class there) and having no “Norm!” relationship and having a menu that changes and only rarely has something I can eat…but only if this or that is left off of it–well, it’s not fun. I am apologetic. Usually people are nice. Occasionally people are nicer and go out of their way to make my half-assed version of whatever it was really fabulous. Well. That happened once. I haven’t seen that guy since.
(One time this summer, the only thing I could eat was a bag of chips…and I was taking a big chance that the safflower and/or sunflower oil was actually safflower. When I took pH to a movie recently, I realized my only choices were…diet soda and a banana.)
Today I looked at the menu and realized the only thing that was absolutely safe were the chicken breasts that could be added to the salads (which I couldn’t eat). I asked if I could just order those. I was told yes. I have in the past ordered sliders with just the meat, so it wasn’t totally weird.
I paid $6 for what were allegedly two chicken breasts, $3 for pizza for pH, and two drinks. With member discount, it was roughly $12. If I had a receipt I could tell you for certain, but I wasn’t given a receipt.
My daughter staked her claim at her favorite seat and not long afterward, her pizza arrived. Then the manager plonked my chicken breasts down. (I recognize the manager because he had an iPhone 6 right around the time it came out and had been showing it off to everyone. That’s the sort of thing I remember about people.)
Oh. The chicken breasts?
They were so cold that if there had been sun, I would have put them in the sun to try to warm them up. There was a plate for each “breast” but I only included the one with the fork, for scale. Colin was an AAA cup, I think.
Gosh. What is more appetizing than nearly frozen (though at least cooked) chicken? Well, maybe everything else?
It finally warmed up enough that I ate–hey, that turned into hate: thanks, autocorrect–most of it. But it was dry and gross (pH’s face when she tried it was priceless), and while I was waiting for it to warm up and for her to finish her pizza, I was sitting there watching a guy one table over drinking beer. (Before noon.)
It’s not his fault, but I was choking down dry, cold chicken, and so I hated the man with the beer. Hated. Him.
And everyone who doesn’t have food allergies. (Sorry!)
There are some wonderful (and not inexpensive) restaurants in Portland that, for all of the reasons I have listed above have an allergy/celiac menu. There are many inexpensive restaurants without special menus that are more than happy to work with me. I’m not a bitch about my allergies–I hate bringing them up so much that sometimes when I feel relatively safe…I don’t. I’m tired of having food allergies. But if I don’t bring it up, usually the friend (and it has been more than one) with whom I am out to lunch will do it for me, because she knows how important it is.
I can’t imagine the luxury that must come from being able to go out and just…order what you want because it sounds good. Or to be adventurous and try something new, just because.
I didn’t want to be eating cold chicken because the sides at Theory today were either noodles and cheese (allergy plus intolerance) or Rainbow chard, bacon, caramelized onions and balsamic reduction (it sounded nice, but I would have to ask about how the onions were caramelized and the sourcing of the balsamic and what the reduction involved, and if there was a chance there were thickeners involved and what are their ingredients, and have I mentioned how tired I am of all these effing allergies?).
So, I’m done.
I have spent a lot of money in Theory.
Next week I will bring my soynut butter sandwich (I use rice cakes or rye crackers instead of bread and it is every bit as appetizing and desiccating as it sounds) and I will let pH enjoy her pizza and I will try not to smell it and I will try not to cry because I do believe I mentioned how much I miss pizza.
I’m pretty sure I’m not allowed to bring my own food into the restaurant area. I’m pretty sure that if anyone says anything to me about it, I will pitch a grand fit that will include the profanity I eliminated from this post.
(If you are wondering why I didn’t send it back, demand a refund, or whatever–that isn’t me. Also, the only reason I would have sent this food back to the kitchen is if the breasts had been sprinkled with a hazelnut basalmic reduction. I will rather not eat food I’ve paid for than send something back, because FSM only knows what happens then.)
You’re killing me. Or at least your menu is.