“How do you know if a person is vegan? Don’t worry, they’ll tell you.” Funny joke, but it really does ring true. And not just being a vegan, but most dietary requirements.
I have first hand knowledge of this, having worked in the hospitality industry for 10 years. From the local down the road to the very best restaurant in Sydney, when waiters walk to your table and ask, “Are there any dietary requirements I need to be made aware of?” don’t think they aren’t judging you. Do not think for a minute that they aren’t thinking, “Yeah right, you say you are vegan, gluten intolerant and have a sulphite allergy? Ooh how interesting you must be – do tell me more!” Don’t think that when they arrive in the kitchen to tell the chef that the lady on Table 21 has a ridiculous amount of allergies that the chef will nod and appreciate it. No, instead expect something more like “what the fuck, are you fucking kidding? Why even eat out?!”
As a reservationist for many of the top restaurants in Sydney (including one that happen to have a dessert on the finale of Masterchef, may have mentioned it), I was presented with an exorbitant amount of requests for food allergies. One in fact was an A4 page of what she can and can’t have. In that case, we had a week before their booking and had to ask the chefs if we could even accommodate her. She was very gracious about her predicament however I do not think that all people who have allergies or food intolerances are.
In fact, I think there’s a fair few “intolerances” that are just wolves in sheep’s clothing. You can’t eat gluten because it bloats you? No, you’re just vain. You say you’re a vegan but will eat red meat on special occasions – fraud. Can’t have potatoes? Well maybe you shouldn’t drink the vodka in your hand. You say you can only have organic artisan bacon made from monks in the hills of France because it is free of sulphites, which you are highly allergic to – no mate, you’re just fucking difficult.
And that’s where my problem lies. People who “choose” to have an intolerance or allergy or whatever, make the people who have an actual food intolerance look like a bunch of difficult, petty jerks. I know this, because I have lactose intolerance – for real. When I’m at dinner parties and the topic comes up, I see the empathy on your face as you exclaim “Me too! Don’t you just love Bonsoy?!” I will nod politely, but don’t think for a minute we are somehow comrades in arms, crusading against oppression – we are not. Don’t think for a minute I care that you can’t get a decent soy green tea latte down the road – I don’t. And I don’t want to hear about the great raw vegan recipe for cheesecake you have – no one does!
As I mentioned I was in hospitality for 10 years, I know what is said behind the pass about those with intolerances – I use to do it myself. And for the most part, they are legitimate and workable. Particularly gluten and lactose intolerances, there are numerous alternatives that make life so much easier. However when you mention that you can’t have gluten but then order a beer, maybe you have an intolerance to a hangover than an actual allergy.
Those who have an actual intolerance know what to order in a restaurant, don’t like to make fuss and know exactly what they can and can’t have. They will politely decline cake but will not shout it from the rooftop. They will ask for a cup of black tea save for explaining that they can’t have cow’s milk at a friend’s place. If you are going to have an “allergy,” perhaps do some research on what you can and can’t have before ordering the exact thing that you can’t have. We get it, you are highly allergic to milk but can have chocolate – ooooh yeah, tell me more about it!