My oversized handbag contains many items that I find useful in times of need, such as four packs of gum, three tubes of hand cream, two cell phones and a partridge in a pear tree. I also carry a wad of cards in the likes of business cards, credit cards and shopping discount cards that I get in the mail. Like Schneider from One Day at a Time, I carry items that get a lot of use, but not that much respect. But there’s one item in my bag that gets so much respect from people you’d think was the stolen prototype of the iPhone 5. It’s my allergy card! Yes, I do not jest. My super cool allergy card is like me – organized, direct and hot baby!
If you have food issues or allergies, my recommendation to you is this: you must carry an allergy card. My card gets me dialed-in to try and eat foods from the greatest Chefs and restaurants around the globe. Even stuff I thought I couldn’t eat because that’s where the experimenting in the kitchen begins. My card details all of the items I cannot have and could cause anaphylaxis. So it’s taken very seriously by restaurants and is a necessity to them. If you don’t carry one, well then you’re missing out on what the cool kids do. Especially if you are eating outside of your own home, as this applies even when you’re eating at a friend’s house.
I created my card because it’s a pain in the butt to rattle this long list off to someone every time. And as good as my memory is, I can’t afford to leave anything off when I’m discussing food with people that are cooking for me. The design is eye-catching and clear to anyone who reads it. I keep many copies of my allergy card in clutches, gym bags and laptop cases so I can be safe where ever I go, because I’m always hungry. Whether I’m popping in at a friend’s house for din din or hitting up the new joint down the street, my allergy card has been making it’s rounds on the circuit. People remember me and my card everywhere I go which makes me feel good about their being invested to help me handle my eating situation.
Anyone and everyone that is cooking for you wants this information. Time-and-time again cooks, Chefs and service staff are thankful to me that they don’t have to do any guessing work and tell me how they wished everyone who had food issues or allergies would carry one. Having this card allows these wonderful people to open the discussion on what I can and cannot have and the limits of each, therefore keeping me safe. And it allows me to enjoy the wonderful foods and experiences just like everyone else when I’m dining out. And that sounds like a win-win to me.
So here are some fun tips on making an allergy card for dining out. Because you know I like to have fun.
- Middle Child Syndrome. As a middle child I’ve often used the phrase ‘I’m so misunderstood mom!’. Many food allergy sufferers feels similarly, like restaurants are not serious about their needs. I say let’s teach them! But life is busy especially at a bustling restaurant. No one can remember nor memorize your allergy list, except you (and maybe mom). So go easy on them and hand them your card. After all, we are in this together.
- Size does matter. If your allergy card is the size of a business-card, chances are it will go in one hand and into a pocket, just like a real business card. I’m not saying you have to carry around a poster-size version, but don’t give the opportunity for a mistake to occur because the kitchen staff can’t read your seven-point font. Make it large enough to be visible on the kitchen line.
- Do you understand the words that are coming out of my mouth?? Chris Tucker asked Jackie Chan this question in Rush Hour, and was onto something. Clearly state all of your allergies, including medications, on your allergy card. And do not leave anything to the imagination. For example, if you have a peanut and a peanut oil allergy, list them both. Do not let anything be assumed, vague or misunderstood.
- Dissertations are meant for college. You don’t need to include the history of peanuts on your card if you have a peanut allergy. In a world of ADD, a restaurant’s kitchen line works fast and wants to know one thing ‘What you can not eat?’. Don’t have a conversation on paper and then hand it to someone. Use your card as the starting point to have that conversation with a live Server or the Chef about your allergies.
- Color me happy. Don’t make a card that screams ‘Goth’. Use bright colors and make a card that screams ‘Hey Chef, look at me’! It’s gotta capture the eyes, so the kitchen staff can read the important information on it. My card is printed on bright red cardstock and it easily stands out on the line of any kitchen, from any angle.
- Don’t cry over spilled milk. Cooking is messy, especially in a busy restaurant. So don’t let that spilled Béchamel run all over your card and cover the word ‘Dairy’. Laminate your card so spills can be washed away!
- What’s the 411 yo? Make sure to list your emergency contacts on the card including 911. People forget that in case of emergency you should call 911 first and then mom and dad. And that’s the 411, yo.
- Go on with your bad self! Have a great attitude, have fun with it and wear it proud! Don’t ever feel shy or scared to give someone this information. It will save your life and trust me they care. Restaurants would rather not have you die in section 2 on a Friday night when the Mayor’s in. We are all partners in this so that we can enjoy the yummy experiences together.
So what are you waiting for? It’s time to represent the real you! Go and create your very own VIP card and send me a picture! I might be jealous if yours is cuter than mine :)