Food Allergy 101: Egg on your face—errr burger.
WHAT IF MY FOOD ALLERGY WAS A REAL, LIVE PERSON? AND WHAT IF I COULD TALK TO HIM ABOUT WHAT HE’S TAUGHT ME OVER THE YEARS?
Mr. A, my allergy, laughed as the waiter placed my dish in front of me.
I was out for dinner with a group of friends. It was more of an upscale restaurant, and I had had success there before. Today, I had ordered the special hamburger. I had talked to the manager about my food allergies when I arrived. I had confirmed everything with the server when I ordered. Hamburger on a bed of lettuce with bacon and a nice salad, pickles and onions on the side. I confirmed how they would prepare it. The manager and the server assured me that they understood cross contamination and that everything would be prepared safely.
When the meal arrived, there was an egg on my burger.
Mr. A was still laughing as the server placed the other meals on the table. "Looks like there's an egg on your burger," he whispers to me. "I wonder if it is safe. I wonder. I wonder..."
I watched the server continue to place my friends' meals on the table. Mr. A was still babbling in my ear. "The waiter already assured you that everything would be made safely. The manager assured you, too. You can't ask again if it's safe. You can't ask about the egg. You'll sound like you don't trust them. You'll look like an idiot."
Just as the server placed the final meal on the table, I called him over to the side: "I know you said everything would be fine, but I didn't realize there was an egg on the top. I just need to make sure the egg was made correctly."
Mr. A giggled. The server kindly told me he double checked everything with the cook when he placed the order. I thanked the waiter.
As my friends began to eat, I quickly examined the plate, as I always do. Mr. A nudged me: "How embarrassing to ask the waiter again and again and again. Instead of egg on your burger, it's like you have egg on your face. Embarrassing. Embarrassing. Embarrassing."
I ignored what he was saying, of course. Just as I was about to take a bite of the burger, the waiter ran from the kitchen. The manager was right behind him. "Wait! The cook made the egg with butter..."
They apologized profusely, of course, and immediately begin making another meal.
Mr. A. puffed out his chest and chuckled to himself.
"Stop laughing," I say to my allergy. "You've just helped me again. By making this meal unsafe, you've taught me the importance of advocating for myself. When you have a food allergy, you have to err on the side of being safe, even if you're worried about being embarrassed for checking again and again. I'd rather have egg on my face than an unsafe egg on my burger."
JJ Vulopas is a junior at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. An advocate for young people, JJ has lived with food allergies his entire life. He is the author of the children's book, Land of Not. You can read his daily blog at www.thelandofcan.com.