Allergy Friendly Friday: Sharks and Walnuts


I’m writing this post from 36276 feet up in the air! I love GoGo!  I get in a solid 5 hours of work on my cross country flights now.

I am heading back to LA, back to real life, back to prepare my children to start school on AUGUST 14th. Horrors. These kids haven’t even had a full 2 months off. I’m a little bit worried.

How many others out there are now on this early August schedule in public school? It seems inhumane to me, given the blistering heat. If you have been on it, how has it worked for you? Interested to know….

So, a bit of trivia.  The shark attack on Cape Cod last monday happened right at the ocean beach that I go to. And in fact, my family and I were going to the beach right at that time, but happened to run into friends on the way, and got waylaid.  Just saying, near misses always freak me out. Not that if we’d been at the beach the shark would have bitten a member of my family instead, or anything, because quite frankly, I make them stay shallow.  This unfortunate fellow was 80 yards out and dangling his feet in the surf like shark bait, which is exactly what he became. For those of you who don’t know the story, the guy is alright, he was bitten to the bone on both ankles, but the shark must have realized he didn’t taste like seal and let go.

But like I said, near misses always freak me out. Being in such close proximity to danger raises my hackles. I had a different but emotionally similar situation last night. Yes, I’m getting there, this relates to food allergies.

Just as I love swimming in the ocean and will do so at the risk of running into sharks or rip tides, so too will I go to restaurants that are full of my allergens.  I pushed it to the limit last night, however, and was a little out of my comfort zone. I am a huge fan of the chef Ana Sortun, and went to her James Beard award-winning restaurant, Oleana.  I adore her cookbook Spice and have used it many many times, always with outstanding results.  Ana specializes in Eastern Mediterranean Cuisine. One of my favorite. But you know who also plays favorites with Eastern Mediterranean Cuisine? Walnuts.  Walnuts love Eastern Mediterranean Cuisine, and it loves them back. It’s a really solid affair. But walnuts do not love me.  Or perhaps it’s the reverse. But you get the idea. Walnuts could potentially kill me.

I had my epi-pen, and asked all the right questions. I told the waiter about my walnut allergy. I spied walnuts on either side of me, but took a deep breath.  I was with my father (a doctor/farmer), who sells his fruit to the restaurant.  We were well taken care of. In fact, too well taken care of. All of a sudden, a complimentary appetizer arrived at our table, a vegetarian lettuce cup, topped with… you guessed it, walnuts. I felt embarrassed that I couldn’t eat this gift from the kitchen, and quite honestly, I felt panicked, but I really didn’t want to show it.  It was I who put myself in the water with the shark.

So, here’s what I learned: Even though we’d told the waiter that I had a walnut allergy, this information had not yet made its way back to the kitchen or the hostess. I have Sloane Miller (AKA Allergic Girl) in my head right now, asking me why I didn’t ask to speak to the chef who’d be cooking my food that night. Never assume.

I was lucky that the hostess described the complimentary dish in detail. And I went on to eat a lovely, walnut-free, and gluten-free dinner.  Ana’s food is brilliant.  And I’m grateful I got to go to her restaurant. But I view this as a cautionary tale. Always speak to the chef directly, if you have a severe food allergy. And kindly. You are a team.

And don’t swim out too deep if there are sharks. What seems obvious isn’t always so.

How close to danger will you get? What’s your comfort zone with food allergies? We all have different perimeters. What are your’s? Let me know.

Just to remind everyone, I’m doing a new thing with my top weekly picks from Allergy Friendly Friday. I’m sharing my weekly picks on Pinterst too. See here, where I’ve featured this week’s top picks on my new ALLERGY FRIENDLY FRIDAY HIGHLIGHTS pin board.

Here are a few choice recipe highlights from the last Allergy Friendly Friday (on Saturday)