For the majority of my life, I have lived with allergies to eggs and tree nuts. My allergies began when I was around three years old, after grabbing a handful of eggs and promptly breaking out in hives. Then at age five, I was eating pistachios with my father, just as we did on most days, and the pistachios started to taste spicy. I quickly began to feel a burning sensation in my mouth and throat until, with the help of some Benadryl, the pain subsided. Later that night, my parents gave me some walnut ice cream, thinking it was safe for me to eat. However, the same burning sensation returned, and I then found myself in the emergency room less than an hour later, diagnosed with a tree nut allergy.
While the reasons why allergies develop are not yet fully understood, there are numerous studies and research efforts aimed at understanding how to prevent and manage allergic reactions. In my experience, the kitchen staff at Concord Academy has been exceptional in handling my allergies. As a freshman last year, I was still learning my way around the Stu-Fac when it came to food options. Fortunately, the kitchen staff have provided me with my own lunch everyday, which includes both a hot meal and a salad. They have always made sure that there is something that I not only could eat, but also wanted to eat. The staff is so attentive and dedicated to ensuring that I had safe and tasty food options, they have even chased me down to stop me from eating something that I had mistakenly thought was safe! I am extremely grateful for the level of care and attention the CA kitchen staff has provided me. Their awareness of food allergies and their dedication to handling them with care are more than I could have ever asked for.
This care, however, is not displayed at all places, especially outside of CA's dining hall. In some cases, I have been lied to about the ingredients in my food, or refused service entirely. For example, I once visited the Cheesecake Factory and was served some chips that I was told were safe for me to eat. However, when I ordered the same dish a few weeks later, I was told that the chips were not safe for my allergies. Another instance of inconsistent practices regarding food safety has occurred at Einstein’s Bagels. Now, I love Einstein’s Bagels. However, I very often will have to explain to the person preparing my bagel how to avoid cross-contamination. While it is nice to know that some places, like CA, take allergies seriously and are willing to go above and beyond to ensure safety, it is clear that more needs to be done to raise awareness and educate people on how to handle food allergies. Inconsistent practices and lack of knowledge can put individuals with allergies at risk, and it is important that we work towards changing the norms around food allergies to prevent unnecessary harm.