[Sca-cooks] Minor rant - allergies and following directions

Tre trekatz at yahoo.com
Mon May 7 22:25:06 PDT 2012

I copied this from my blog, because the final question is relevant here, and something I'm interested in some input on. When do I finally say "it's not my problem"? 


I'm the head cook for the upcoming Insulae Draconis Coronet 
Tournament this weekend. For those of you who may not know, at most SCA 
events in the UK (and generally mainland Europe as well, from what I can tell), food for the weekend is included in your site fee.

I am very concerned with making sure everyone gets enough to eat, and 
that the balance of nutrition available for each person is appropriate 
(i.e. making sure there is a reasonable protein option for vegetarians, 
not just a bunch of side dishes.) In order to accommodate this, I need 
to know ahead of time what allergies and other dietary restrictions I'm 
dealing with.

In the past, I've cooked for events where someone came up to me on the day and said, for example, "I'm allergic 
to onions; what's safe to eat?" Ack! Onions go in almost EVERYTHING! I 
then scramble to make an extra dish or two without onions (or try to 
find something that the onions haven't gone into yet to pull a portion 
out that is then safe for the allergy). This was someone who apparently 
had told the reservation steward for the event, and the information got 
lost along the way so I never received it.

I've gotten vague information from the reservation steward such as "Lady Gretel says she's allergic to Fructose". Fructose? What exactly does 
that entail? I know it's in fruit...so anything with any fruit, fruit 
juice, dried fruit...is it used as an additive...Ack! When I then go 
back to the reservation steward who then goes back to Lady Gretel and 
asks about it, I get an answer such as "I'm not really sure what all I'm allergic to, and it's not that bad anyway, so don't worry about it." 
Really? REALLY? So even if I "don't worry about it" and don't do 
anything different, I still worry a bit that something she eats will 
make her sick.

So in order to avoid some of this 
confusion and frustration, I've come up with a new method for getting 
the information I need all consolidated into one spot. I made a form 
through Google Docs, have it posted on the website (or e-mailed out on 
the group list or individually to people who have made reservations) 
with a plea to PLEASE fill out the form - because the cool thing about 
the Google Docs Form is that it consolidates all the answers for me onto ONE spreadsheet. I don't have to worry that I've forgotten to put 
someone's information in, or that the reservation steward missed 
someone. ALL the information for the specific event is on one sheet.

Since I write the questions for the form, I can even make sure that they are 
worded in a (hopefully) fool-proof manner to get the information I 
actually need. For example, one of the questions I have on the form is 
"Do you have any plant-based allergies?" With the explanation that "I 
sometimes cook with items which are not always thought of when listing 
food allergies, such as nettles and hedgerow berries." This means that I find out ahead of time if I have people allergic to nettles before 
mixing them into the cooked greens or making a nettle soup. (Honestly - 
if it's not listed in the name of the dish, how many people are going to look at an ingredient list for Nettles if they don't have any food 
allergies?) I can also ask, on the form, for the person's name and 
e-mail in case I have further questions regarding their dietary needs.

I don't know if people realize that this form is as much for my peace of 
mind as it is for their health and safety. Now, the reason for this rant is that - even after having a link to the form on the event website, 
and sending several e-mails to the group e-mail list and posting it on 
the Principality's facebook group, when I got the list of event 
reservations from the reservation steward, there are STILL people listed on there, with allergies listed that they sent on their reservation NOT on a form, who have not filled out the form so I have the information 

Granted, this is only the second 
event I've done the form for, but I don't think I could have been any 
more clear. I have people even in my local group who have said "you know my allergies, right?" and even though I've asked them to please fill 
out the form anyway, so it's on the combined information list, here we 
are four days before the event, and they still haven't done it.

I do have to say, though, that there is one lovely lady who has several 
allergies that I have gotten used to working with. She asked if she 
needed to fill out the form even though I have her information, and was 
quite understanding when I explained that yes, I did need it separately 
for each event, but that a "short list" instead of full explanations 
would be fine now. So basically now she can just write "no alcohol" 
instead of having to list "no alcohol, including wine vinegars, but 
cider vinegar is fine". We've worked out the specifics of her allergies, I just need the note so I remember that yes, she'll be there and if I'm making things ahead of time I know which vinegars went into which 
dishes, or I remember to cook the stew with broth instead of beer as a 

So, with it being four days before the event, and people still not filling out the form as requested...when do I just say "It's not my problem", even though they gave the information someplace 

More information about the Sca-cooks mailing list