Since developing a severe allergy to shell fish a few years ago going out for dinner is a bit of a challenge, sometimes frightening and always embarrassing. My experience at my birthday dinner at Turtle Jack’s on Upper James in Hamilton was a delightfully different one and they deserve to have a big pat on the back for the way they treated me and my allergy.
Food allergies are no joke and can be deadly which those of who carry around $150 epi-pens which are supposed to be replaced every six months, know all too well. For me it is shell fish and the allergy is so severe that I cannot even stand in the parking lot of an all you can eat Chinese establishment when they exhaust fans are blowing out the fumes from cooking shell fish. If I can smell it I have to leave the building or within minutes the ambulance would have to be called. If I’m lucky and get out quickly enough I can get away with only using my inhaler and don’t have to use the epinephrine. If I were to ingest something with shrimp, or crab or lobster I might well die.
Some people do not take this allergy and others very seriously. There are people who just turn their noses up when a person says they have a food allergy. They treat us a bit like they might treat a spoiled child who is overindulged and wants special privileges. These ones worry me a bit because I think they might just put a little shrimp in something to see if I really am allergic.
Most restaurants are hesitant to promise that nothing will be contaminated. Others don’t think about what might be contaminated. For example, it is impossible for me to eat fried fish (and I come from Port Dover) in most places because they also fry the shrimp in the same grease.
When I go for dinner with friends it is very embarrassing because I have to ask everyone at the table not to order shell fish of any kind. I also have to instruct waitresses that if someone near me orders shell fish I will likely have to leave the building.
These are all considerations that most of us never have to deal with but believe me it is not something I would fool you about. Shrimp used to be my favourite food in the world and I can only hope the Doctor was right when he said the allergy could leave as quickly as it came. I would love to eat shrimp again. I went to a friend’s tonight where Caesars (Canadian drink with Clamato juice and vodka similar to a Bloody Mary)were on the menu and I had to put up all the warnings just for that.
So you say why does Turtle Jack’s get the big Kudo? It is because, when I went there for my birthday dinner the other night, not only did the waitress assure me it would be taken care of but the kitchen manager also arrived at the table to assure me extra care would be taken to ensure nothing that came in touch with my food would be contaminated and he made a little change to my food choice to make double sure of it. The deep fried onions which usually accompany the steak would not be included.
Thanks to Turtle Jack’s and to all the wait staff and kitchen staff who are learning to make accommodation for this and so many other allergies which are very real and very dangerous.