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PostPosted: Wed Jan 28, 2009 5:34 pm 
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Joined: Thu Nov 10, 2005 10:02 am
Posts: 116
Location: Gatineau
Hi everyone,

Pretty soon I'll be starting a new job and entering a new profession, one where socializing with clients and colleagues will be a regular occasion. Yikes!

Naturally, I'm nervous about handling lunches/dinners at new places with my allergies. I'm also concerned about appearing professional, and not making my allergies the center of discussion. It's not that I'm embarrassed about it, I'd just prefer to be known for something other than my difficult eating requirements. Of course, safety is paramount for me, and I wouldn't just eat something for the sake of appearing normal. However, I do want to make a good impression and want to be prepared for these situations so I can handle them gracefully.

I know this question has been discussed in many other contexts here, but have you ever had to deal with your allergies in a professional context? Have you ever simply not eaten when others do? How do you address the issue without those around you feeling uncomfortable or wanting to talk endlessly about all the details?

I have a lunch coming up this week and I'm considering doing a scan of the menu, and if I just don't feel comfortable, saying something like "would you mind terribly if I just had a cup of tea? I have some food allergies and I don't want to spend our time here speaking with wait staff, etc." Any suggestions would be MUCH appreciated.

Thanks! :)

_________________
ana to peanuts, nuts, eggs, shellfish, bananas
mild asthma and eczema, seasonal allergies


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 28, 2009 7:13 pm 
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Joined: Tue Mar 22, 2005 11:17 pm
Posts: 6490
Location: Ottawa
I'm going to move this to the Working forum, I think you'll get more answers there.

I have dealt with professional caterers (not through work but still...). Is it possible to get the name of the caterer in advance and contact them directly? I'm sure the caterer doesn't want you to have a reaction either.

By making a few inquiries in advance, you will be able to determine what if anything is safe to eat.

Food plays an important role in social functions so may be difficult to remove it completely. If you can become involved in the planning aspect of some social functions (involved in creating the menu and decorating but not necessarily food set up) you may be able to incorporate somethings that are safe.

There are often duties that take away from the meal portion of the event, ensuring that all attendees have arrived and are accounted for, handing out documents, checking audio/visual equipment, greeting guest speakers (by shaking hands befroe the food is served, you can limit exposure), dealing with last minute hic-ups. If this is an area where you can volunteer, you may turn your condition into a positive.

Due to the inherent dangers of being around your allergens, you may need to educate a few co-workers about your allergies and what to do in an emergency. Hopefully, you can wait a few weeks to figure out whom you'll want to trust with this information.

Try as best as possible to schedule time to eat prior to the function so you can focus on the event and not your knawing hunger. You may end up being a master at pushing food around on your plate.

_________________
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Daughter: asthma, allergies to egg, milk, peanuts, tree nuts, most legumes (not soy) & penicillin. Developing hayfever type allergies.
Husband: no allergies
Me: allergies to some tree that flowers in May
Cat: allergic to beef, pork and lamb


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 28, 2009 7:59 pm 
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Joined: Thu Nov 10, 2005 10:02 am
Posts: 116
Location: Gatineau
Hi Susan,

Thanks for moving the topic and for your reply, I really appreciate it. I agree with you completely - for events that I can be part of planning I will be sure to pick a place/caterer I feel comfortable with. Also, I'm sure that I'll get to know more places as I progress, so I can suggest those places often.

I guess I'm more worried about the spontaneous lunches, etc. with bosses/clients. I know this won't happen ALL the time, but this job is in a business/law/banking context where working lunches will be common, as will schmooze-type events. I feel nervous to make a good impression as it is, and wonder how I can best handle these eating out situations without drawing too much attention to myself.

_________________
ana to peanuts, nuts, eggs, shellfish, bananas
mild asthma and eczema, seasonal allergies


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 08, 2009 7:56 pm 
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Joined: Tue Mar 22, 2005 6:53 pm
Posts: 1454
Location: Canada
Dealing with this problem is tricky. I personally can't eat restaurant/catered food, so I just bring my own. I deal with it differently depending on the context. If it is a reception where people are standing and milling about I just eat in advance/afterwards and I generally don't say anything about it. I bring my own food to sit down dinners at conferences. If I'm going out to eat at a restaurant with one person, I do mention that I have allergies. If I'm eating with a group, I often don't say anything unless someone brings it up. (But I'm not sure if that is the best way to handle things. It might be better to mention the allergies.) I find that if I say I have multiple food allergies people don't tend to ask too many questions if they don't know me. (It would be rude. But it is *not* rude to be evasive/vague when people ask you questions. If they ask a lot of questions, you can try to change the topic in a polite way...by saying something brief--like "I have allergies to xyz' or vague -- like 'it's complicated' / 'it's a long story' --and then introducing a new topic of conversation.) Oh, and I always call the restaurant in advance to ask if I can bring my own food. Some restaurants won't allow it. Also, it is helpful if the waitstaff know in advance so as to avoid long explanations.

Good luck with dealing with all of this. And congrats on the job!


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 08, 2009 10:37 pm 
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Joined: Thu Nov 10, 2005 10:02 am
Posts: 116
Location: Gatineau
Thanks Helen! I appreciate your reply. At the beginning of the recent meal, I explained I had lots of food allergies and would have to be "strategic" when ordering. Everyone seemed understanding, and continued conversation while I spoke to the waitstaff in private (which I so appreciated - I hate when my restrictions become the topic of conversation). I was able to get away with eating a plain salad - literally, just greens. A few people seemed concerned that I hadn't had enough to eat, and I just joked "trust me, I eat lots!" and just said it was tough to eat at new places sometimes. They seemed satisfied with this answer.

Once during the meal I sort of panicked, and excused myself to use the washroom. It always helps me, for some reason, to excuse myself and just breathe for a minute when I feel on-the-spot in an eating situation. Somehow looking at my face, seeing I'm fine, just helps. And as far as they knew, I was just reapplying my lipstick! :)

This was the first time I had to raise the issue with this new job, so hopefully it will just get easier...! I suspect once I get comfortable I can suggest places that would be better for me, or just get more familiar with the go-to restaurants. It's just the combination of being nervous about food + nervous about wanting to impress that can really push things into the panic zone! :)

_________________
ana to peanuts, nuts, eggs, shellfish, bananas
mild asthma and eczema, seasonal allergies


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 09, 2009 7:36 am 
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Joined: Tue Mar 22, 2005 11:17 pm
Posts: 6490
Location: Ottawa
We've had luck bringing our own safe food and having the kitchen staff reheat it and plate it in restaurants. If you are attending a planned meal, is this an option?

Can you keep some emergency stash of foods at your desk (office fridge/freezer) for emergency lunch meetings?

_________________
Moderator
Daughter: asthma, allergies to egg, milk, peanuts, tree nuts, most legumes (not soy) & penicillin. Developing hayfever type allergies.
Husband: no allergies
Me: allergies to some tree that flowers in May
Cat: allergic to beef, pork and lamb


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 13, 2009 6:50 am 
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Site Admin

Joined: Tue Mar 22, 2005 11:17 pm
Posts: 6490
Location: Ottawa
There was an article on this very subject in Allergic Living's Winter 2006 edition.
On the Job with Allergies By Janet French, can be viewed in the achives.
http://www.allergicliving.com/features.asp?copy_id=18

_________________
Moderator
Daughter: asthma, allergies to egg, milk, peanuts, tree nuts, most legumes (not soy) & penicillin. Developing hayfever type allergies.
Husband: no allergies
Me: allergies to some tree that flowers in May
Cat: allergic to beef, pork and lamb


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 02, 2009 1:12 pm 
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Joined: Tue Mar 22, 2005 1:25 pm
Posts: 323
I've dealt a lot with caterors for conferences (from small to large) as I need places to be completely fish-free when I go (anaphylactic to even the smell :roll: ) and they do appriciate to be contacted in advance when it's a conference or big events like that as the food is pre-prepared and all. You have to check, double-check and even triple check sometimes to make sure that by lunch, all kitchen staff got the message but with one exception (I will never step foot again in that hotel! :evil: ) they are normally good at understanding. I take my lunch everywhere I go and I can say that some people ask a question once in a while but most just figure out you had your lunch as you forgot the lunch was included :lol:

As for restaurants, I can't say, I can't enter restaurants.


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