Hello “Allergians”**, lactards, fructards, gluten-intolerants, vegetarians, vegans, foodies and all others who for some reason or another are interested in my blog.
I am a 23-year old Melbournian with an anaphylactic allergy to peanuts, mild allergies to avocado, seafood and egg white, and a lactose intolerance. Note: I wasn’t quite born with this grand display of dietary limitations, but have picked up a few extras on my 23-year journey. In case this is not enough, I do not eat pork and I am a fussy eater (which I, perhaps somewhat unjustifiably, like to blame on my allergies).
I was the girl in school who was “allergic to everything”. And I am sure that I will forever be remembered that way. I like to refer to myself as dietary-challenged. This is partly due to the fact that my extensive dietary requirements developed long before the age of the fad diet or before gluten was declared the devil by many. But my allergies, whilst somewhat limiting my ability to eat certain cuisines, have never wholly restricted my ability to eat out in Australia, and I am generally inclined to stick to the less-nuttier cuisines (Mexican being an all-time fave). We are very lucky in Australia to have our streets filled with restaurants from all corners of the earth. But this is not so in many other countries around the world.
A scratch test at a young age determined that I had an anaphylactic allergy to peanuts before my brain had developed past the size of a peanut. This factor, combined with the fact that I was brought up by an allergy-neurotic mother, meant that I, too, am perhaps more cautious than my fellow Allergians are. But I didn’t wrap myself in cotton wool and instead I braved the world, allergies and all; armed with some life-saving (literally) tricks up my sleeve.
There has certainly been a shift in recent years as Australia’s “foodie” culture has developed, where more and more people are understanding and recognising food allergies and intolerances in a way that I have been accustomed to from birth. Yet as a person who has caught the oh-so-common “travel bug” (and no I don’t mean the sickness), I have become a seasoned traveller, which has shown me how advanced Australia has become in this sense.
This brings me to my blog. In recent years, I have travelled to Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Germany, Holland, England, USA, Thailand, Israel, Egypt and Fiji. I had to learn not only how to deal with the differing unique cuisines, but also the divergent cultural understandings of allergies, the risks of cross-contamination and how to translate the message of the seriousness of my allergies (language barrier and all). I am sure that you can all sympathise with the pain of trawling through restaurant menus or the agony of missing out on dessert because they “can’t guarantee there are no nuts”. [Don’t get me wrong.. whilst I might be overly cautious, this didn’t mean that I restricted myself to dry toast or fruit. I certainly indulged in the local delicacies of these countries (…paella, pasta, gyros, schnitzel and steaks …) and even snuck in some mouthwatering gelatos, crème brulees, stroopwaffels and ice creams.]
So from me to you, as a fellow Allergian, I am here to share my secrets and open up the floor for your own contributions. I will share my experiences with you all and hope that this blog makes your trip a little bit more carefree. I will give credit to those companies and restaurants which deserve special mention for going the extra mile for Allergians. This is not a blog aimed at blaming and shaming those who do not treat allergies well (and I will avoid naming them unless completely necessary to bring to the attention of fellow Allergians).
If you have any stories, experiences, advice or insights that you would like to share on this blog, please email your contributions to firstname.lastname@example.org, whether this be about travel generally or about a specific country, city or establishment. All contributions are welcome, but please focus more on promoting allergy-friendly places, rather than shaming places! 🙂
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** For those who are wondering, no.. Allergian is not an official word. It seems that words like “lactard” or “fructard” have developed, but I guess “allergtard” doesn’t quite have the same ring to it. Instead I have named us “Allergians”.