Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Traveling for the Holidays and Eating Out

On one of my support groups recently there was a discussion about the possibilities of eating out with severe milk allergies. One member reminded us that when we go to restaurants and advocate for our child we are setting an example. Showing them how to manage their own food allergies and that we should continue to make that effort and not be afraid to walk out of a restaurant if we feel uncomfortable with the restaurant's ability to keep our child safe.

And she is right. Yet, I gave up eating out with our kids long ago because I hate the eye-rolling, the impatience, the way I am made to feel as if I am a terrible inconvenience for just asking questions.

Case in point, we were at the St. Louis Zoo the day after Thanksgiving. It was a cold day in Missouri and the zoo was not exactly packed. I stopped at a hot dog stand to get a diet coke. Max was by my side.

"I'm hungry" he said "What do they sell here?"
"Well," I answered "Hot dogs and pretzels."
"Are they safe for me?"
"I'll have to ask. Are you really hungry?"

So I begin to question the cashier. And let me set the scene. It is a cold day. The zoo is not busy. There is NO ONE else in line at this hot dog stand staffed by at least 6 people.

I ask what brand of hot dogs they are. Everyone keeps replying they are all beef hotdogs. I have to repeat myself several times to get the brand name. Farmland. I have never heard of it. I ask to read the label. One of the cashiers runs in the back to get the box. Max asks me about the pretzels. I look down at him and say it is most likely coated with egg or butter so it probably isn't safe.

I look up in time to see the cashier roll his eyes at me. He then turns and says something to the women behind him that I can't make out. They all laugh. Maybe I'm being paranoid but honestly why do people in the service industry think they can be rude to customers.

The other cashier returns with the box. I read the label and order two hot dogs without buns. Max wolfs his down and asks for another. In all he ate two and the half of Owen's he didn't want. He loves situations where he can feel like a normal kid.

And, though this is getting long, here is another example. Last summer we stopped at a hotel on our long vacation drive. We always choose hotels with indoor pools that allow dogs. This one also served breakfast. Traditional breakfasts are not exactly the safest of meals for us. But at this hotel they had out dry cereal in glass jars labeled Frosted Flakes, Fruit Loops and Honey Nut Cherrios. We can eat Frosted Flakes and Fruit Loops yet there were only two scoops on the table. Since I (nor would anyone) be able to tell which scoop had been used in which cereal, I went to the kitchen to ask if I could get Max's cereal directly from the box. The lady in the kitchen asked why so I started to explain about cross-contamination. She rolled her eyes, looked away, thrust the bag at me and said "Whatever." Later a woman at the table next to us stopped the lady from the kitchen and asked about my request. They talked in hushed tones and glanced over at me. I felt ashamed. Like I had made an unreasonable request. I know they are small instances and I shouldn't take it so personally but here in lies one of my own weaknesses. I hate conflict.

So, perhaps I should keep trying. For Max and Owen. For them to learn to stand up for themselves which I obviously have a hard time doing. Perhaps it will be a good lesson for me as well.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Traveling for the Holidays and McDonalds French Fries

It has been a month since I blogged. I don't think I've even logged in since then. Partly I needed a break and partly I have just been darn busy.

We traveled for Thanksgiving and we will travel for Christmas. Eating while traveling can be tricky. I have in general given up eating out with the kids. It is too complicated and too risky but sometimes, well, everyone is hungry. What do you do?

We eat at McDonalds generally. And honestly it makes my stomach turn. I used to love McDonalds now I can barely choke down my bland salad there. BUT we have never had an issue there. The kids eat hamburgers and french fires. I know, I know, there are those out there now protesting "But McDonalds fries contain dairy!" So here's my story and take on McDonald's fries. I think it was 3 or 4 years ago that McDonalds changed the labeling on the fries, not the recipe, the labeling. They discovered after FALCPA went through that the flavoring they were using was dairy "derived". So they changed the labeling to reflect this. People protested, wrote letters. There are long threads on POFAK (Parents of Food Allergy Kids) regarding this. McDonalds did testing and found that the dairy derived flavoring did not contain milk proteins. I think Max was 2 or 3 and we had been safely eating McDonalds fries for a couple years. I decided that since it was one of the few "treats" he gets I would continue to let him have them. I know other parents of milk allergic kids who came to the same conclusion.

We have had nary a hive at McDonalds.

If I was a newly diagnosed family or diagnosed since the whole fries brouhaha, I would probably see the labeling and conclude McDonalds fries are not safe. For this reason I don't go around touting our McDonalds consumption to other food allergic families because sometimes when you tell someone you do something that they consider risky behavior they get that tight lipped look like you just told them you let your children smoke crack.

Anyway, this post took a whole side track that I didn't mean it too. I will have to write what I REALLY wanted to say about travel in the next post.

(I used the word McDonalds 9 times in this post. Anyone googling it may get this instead. Hee hee)